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Journal of the International

Association of Buddhist Studies
Volume 28 Number 2 2005
Introduction ............. ..... ........................... ........... .............................. 235
Training Monk or Men: Theraviida Monastic Education, Sub
nationalism and the National Sangha of China .............................. 241
Where do Commentarial Schools come from? Reflections on the
History of Tibetan Scholasticism .. .................. ........... ............ .......... 273
Justin Thomas McDANIEL
The Art of Reading and Teaching Dhammapadas: Reform, Texts,
Contexts in Thai Buddhist History .. ....... .............. ............. ........ ...... 299
Jeffrey SAMUEL
Texts Memorized, Texts Peiformed: A Reconsideration of the Role
of Paritta in Sri Lankan Monastic Education ................................. 339
W. Blythe MILLER
The Vagrant Poet and the Reluctant Scholar: A Study of the Balance
of Iconoclasm and Civility in the Biographical Accounts of two
Founders of the 'Brug pa bka' brgyud Lineages ....... ...................... 369
Materials for a Miidhyamika Critique of Foundationalism: An
Annotated Translation of Prasannapadii 55.11 to 75.13 ................ 411
John Strong Relics of the Buddha by Richard Salomon................... 469
Report on theXIVth Conference of the International Association of
Buddhist Studies by Tom J.F. Tillemans, General Secretary lABS 473
IABS Treasurer Financial Report by Jerome Ducor ....................... 477
Announcement of the XVth Conference of the IABS ..................... 479
Notes on Contributors ...................................................................... 481
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Copyright 2005 by the International
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Printed in Belgium
COX Collet
JAINI Padmanabh S.
LOPEZ, Jr. Donald S.
SHARF Robert
The following essays by Thomas Borchert, Georges Dreyfus, Justin
McDaniel, and Jeffrey Samuels are among the signs of a growing inter-
est in education among scholars of Buddhism. In addition to detailed
accounts of historical and contemporary educational practices in Tibetan,
Sri Lankan, Yunnanese, and Thai-Lao contexts, these articles provide a
powerful point of departure from which to think more broadly and com-
paratively about approaches to the study of Buddhist education. Thomas
Borchert's essay examines the first Buddhist Studies Institute (joxueyuan)
formed in Sipsongpanna in 1994, after the Chinese government altered its
stance toward religious education (and the training of religious special-
ists) in the 1980s. This Institute is a formal educational center for the
training of young Theravadin monks in a geographical area at the inter-
section (historically, and in the present day) of the cultures we now know
as Chinese, Thai, Lao and Burmese. Borchert's essay discusses Chinese
governmental involvement in Buddhist education during the last two
decades, with special attention to the government's approach to Buddhist
education in minority communities. Against this background, Borchert
describes the curriculum - and some of the educational practices con-
nected to it - used at the foxueyuan opened at Wat Pa Jie. He attends
also to informal educational settings, such as sermons and work periods,
in which monastic students participate.
Borchert is explicitly concerned to explore the processes through which
'identity' is formed in education and, especially, the relationships between
Chinese, Dai-Iue, and Buddhist identities as understood by students and
teachers in Sipsongpanna. In doing so, Borchert examines the subjects set
1 I would like to thank T. Borchert, G. Dreyfus, I. McDaniel, and I. Samuels for their
invitation to compose this introduction. I am also grateful to the anonymous reviewer of
an earlier version of this short essay, whose comments proved very helpful.
Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies
Volume 28 Number 2 2005
out within the Institute's cuniculum as well as the ways in which actual
pedagogical practices blur the lines between subject areas, and provide
contexts for the articulation of more than one form of identity. For
instance, classes in Mandarin sometimes include Dai-Iue cultural infor-
mation, while the alphabet book foundational to dhamma instruction may
shape students' attachment to Dai-Iue language. According to Borchert,
fieldwork at Wat Pa Jie in the early 1990s revealed a 'sub-nationalist' Dai-
lue cultural identity, co-existent with Sipsongpanna Theravadin. monks'
self-identification as Chinese, and their engagement with educational
materials produced in Theravadin Southeast Asia.
Georges Dreyfus discusses the educational methods and topics privi-
leged within contemporary Ge-Iuk and non-Ge-Iuk educational settings.
In contemporary educational practices, pedagogical methods differ across
these settings. Debate is stressed by Ge-Iuk institutions, while commen-
tary is the central method for those connected to Nyingma, Kagyu, and
Sagya traditions. Despite this difference, Dreyfus argues that the topical
focus of education remains similar. Although tantra study is undertaken
at different points in the educational cycle, and in different institutional
settings, tantra is always engaged as supplemental to exoteric materials.
Moreover, common roots in Indian intellectual practices have led the
Tibetan traditions to share a preference for siistra over sidra in monastic
Dreyfus proceeds to develop a history of the difference between debate
and commentarial methods found in Ge-Iuk and non-Ge-Iuk educational
institutions. He argues that the contemporary identification of Ge-luk
training with debate and Nyingma, Sakya and Kagyu training with com-
mentary is of fairly recent origin. According to Dreyfus, non-Ge-Iuk
monastic and scholastic educational institutions distinctively oriented by
commentarial training are rooted in the non-sectarian movement of the
-century. This movement was, itself, a response to the ascendance of
Ge-Iuk patrons and institutions from the 15
century onward. The grad-
ual crystallization of Ge-Iuk forms of pedagogy, and growing Ge-Iuk
authority, triggered a response within non-Ge-Iuk circles. Tibetan Bud-
dhists involved with the non-sectarian movement sought the authority
provided by monastic educational establishments and their own distinc-
tive pedagogy.
Justin McDaniel develops a comparative study of the modes through
which the Dhammapada was transmitted (orally, and in a variety of tex-
tual forms) and received in the areas we call Thailand and Laos prior to
the Fourth and Fifth Reigns of the 19
century, and in the 20
Using evidence of Dhammapada transmission and reception as an
extended example, McDaniel argues that scholars of Thai/Lao Buddhism
have overstated the impact of print technologies and centralizing educa-
tional reforms originating in Bangkok. In doing so, McDaniel calls into
question common understandings of the 'westernizing' and 'modernizing'
trajectory of Siameseffhai-Lao Buddhism since the 19
century. McDaniel
does not deny the considerable emphasis on standardization and central-
ization characteristic of elite Bangkok approaches to education from the
Fourth Reign onwards. However, he questions the degree to which such
moves affected the ways in which a majority of lay and monastic Bud-
dhists encounter(ed) Buddhist texts.
McDaniel frames his detailed account of the varied uses and manifes-
tations of the Dhammapada in contemporary Thailand as an extended
argument for the study of reading practices. According to McDaniel, if
we focus solely on educational institutions and ideologies, we may fail
to see what people (lay and monastic) really learn, how they learn it, and
how it is transmitted. This essay argues that the activities of reading, lis-
tening, and sermon-giving found in contemporary Thailand bear a con-
siderable resemblance to practices of exegesis and homiletics found in
Thai-Lao regions prior to the 19
century. Such practices may be seen as
a bridge between pre-modem and modem forms.
In an essay drawing on recent Sri Lankan fieldwork, Jeffrey Samuels
explores the role of ritual practice, and especially paritta training and
performance, in the formation of monastic comportment and identity.
Samuels locates his work in relation to discussions of the role of text-based
education in the cultivation of monastic discipline and conduct. He argues
for the importance of ritual performance, and the observation of it, to the
processes through which young monks develop specifically monastic
behaviors and mental states. According to Samuels, young monks are dis-
ciplined through paritta performance, and they learn to be monks in part
by learning how to provide what their lay donors require of them. Samuels
suggests the value of looking more closely at the ways in which specific
Buddhist texts are used in instruction outside the classroorri and, especially,
in contexts of performance.
Samuels' discussion of par itt a performance and monastic education
develops through close attention to statements made by monastic teach-
ers and students. In doing so, Samuels attends particularly to the terms
used by junior and senior monks to describe acts of learning and per-
formance. These remarks reveal the centrality of vision - of seeing and
being seen - to the ways in which these monks describe the process of
becoming accustomed to the distinctive public exhibition of discipline
expected of them. Such expectations about monastic conduct are, accord-
ing to Samuels' informants, shaped by understandings of the relationship
between emotional states and merit-making. The observation and per-
formance of paritta teaches young monks about the mental and physical
conduct required of them in order to render efficacious lay acts of merit-
The richness and analytical range of the essays collected here should
teach us a great deal about how to approach further study of Buddhist edu-
cation, in varied regions and periods. One seemingly natural point of
departure for the study of Buddhist education, as the essays by Borchert
and Dreyfus remind us, is the examination of curricula. Which subjects
are taught at what levels to whom, through which texts, and in which
languages? A close look at curricula will often show the rather limited
presence of tipitaka and aUhakathii texts in Buddhist education and the
importance of a wide range of compendia ranging from medieval treatises
to contemporary textbooks. It will also begin to suggest ways in which
'non-Buddhist' subjects co-exist with those more obviously connected to
the dhamma, its language, and authorized styles of interpretation.
Looking for, and at, curricula also provides one way to gain an under-
standing of the terms in which knowledge and skill are organized in a par-
ticular context. This, in tum, if examined within a wider framework, may
also give some indication of the extent to which desirable monastic knowl-
edge in a given time and place is local knowledge, distinct in some fash-
ion from a broader, embracing, school, lineage, or tradition. An exami-
nation of a curriculum, however, raises further questions. For instance,
whose terms and categories are to be used to describe and analyze the cur-
riculum? What is accomplished by using emic, or etic taxonomies in such
accounts? The terms in which elements of a curriculum are designated,
as well as the temporal and textual weight attributed to each element, are
themselves evidence of educational emphases and the terms within which
knowledge and skill are organized. Reading such evidence carefully
arguably requires that one not move too quickly to offer a description of
a curriculum in terms external to it, whether those terms be taken from
tradition-internal understandings of canon and commentary or from more
distant frames of reference.
Gaining an understanding of the structure and terms of curricula, how-
ever, provides only partial access to the character of teaching and learn-
ing in specific contexts. The ethnographic evidence adduced by Borchert,
McDaniel, and Samuels underscores the need to examine specific edu-
cational practices of instruction and reception if one seeks to understand
the ways in which educational activities help to constitute what I call
'visions of collective belonging', as well as attitudes to particular texts
and rituals. Moreover, all three of these essays explore the intersection
between what we might call, for analytical convenience here, informal and
formal educational practices. Informal learning is that which occurs out-
side clearly defined teacher-student-classroom contexts and examinations,
involving activities such as attendance at sermons, independent reading,
performance of rituals, and other institutional work. This includes the
'action-oriented pedagogy' described by Samuels
, as well as many of
the acts of textual reception described by McDaniel in this volume, and
the monastic participation in sports and labor noted here by Borchert.
The study of student formation thus involves looking at activities within,
and outside of, the classroom with particular attention to the ways in
which formal and informal learning relate to one another, and to the spe-
cific texts and activities that mediate units from a curriculum.
The study of Buddhist education, of course, need not focus? on the
ways in which individuals are formed with respect to specific bodies of
knowledge and visions of collective belonging. McDaniel suggests the util-
ity of distinguishing between the study of institutions, ideologies, and
reading practices in the study of Buddhist education. That is, quite apart
2 "Towards an Action-Oriented Pedagogy," Journal of the American Academy of Reli-
gion, (2004), 72:4:955-972.
from the study of the transmission and reception of texts,' one may attend
to the history of educational institutions and their structure, as well as
the discourses that grant them authority, may also draw upon concepts
related to learning and education for a variety of purposes. In the essay
by Dreyfus we find helpful indications of how one might pursue the study
of educational institutions, as well as the place of reflections on desirable
knowledge and pedagogy in ideologies linked to institutions, lineages,
and traditions. Dreyfus' essay reminds us of the value of biographies and
lineage histories to institutional studies of Buddhist education. He is,
moreover, particularly concerned to explore the relationship between the
development of Buddhist institutions, the crystallization of distinctive
pedagogies, and instances of competition for authority and prestige. Drey-
fus has draws our attention to the ways in which the study of Buddhist
education may involve the study of representations of educational prac-
tice and desirable learning that are drawn into broader social relation-
ships of competition and definition. In this sense, educational practices
may offer symbolic capital. Particular pedagogies or curricula - or, even,
just a reasonably consistent discourse about them - may come to serve
as a 'signature line' or an 'iconic practice' for specific communities and
institutions. In such cases, recovering such patterns of reference may help
to clarify histories of Buddhist institutional formation well beyond the
specific sphere of education.
Readers will, undoubtedly, find still more of interest in these essays,
which should prompt further attention to the place of teaching and learn-
ing in the constitution of visions of collective belonging, obligation, and
motivation. Moreover, these essays signal the tremendous potential for
ethnographies of educational practice in contemporary Buddhist com-
munities, as well as for histories of education and educational institutions
that make careful use of our growing archive of local Buddhist texts and
It would seem self-evident that the purpose of monastic education is to
produce monks, or at the very least to produce good Buddhists. Boys and
men, girls and women study usually with monks and nuns as teachers,
learning dhamma. By watching and studying, they learn what it means to
be a monk or nun, what someone who has left home must know. Even if
the monastic path is ultimately not for them, what they learn is of use to
them as Buddhists, ritually and ethically. And to the degree to which
monasteries in general and monastic schools, of whatever form, remain
separated from the rest of society, this might conceivably the case. How-
ever, I take it as axiomatic that monasteries, monastic schools and sys-
tems of monastic education are not and cannot be separate from society,
and the larger concerns of the communities that build these institutions.
In addition, I would suggest that in many, if not all, formal monastic
schools, ordained students learn far more than simply how to chant or
meditate, study Buddhist history or philosophy. If this is the case, then
perhaps the agenda of monastic education is not necessarily as self-evi-
dent as it would appear, and that we need to inquire more directly into
the purpose(s) of monastic education. What are monastic institutions train-
ing their students to be?
1 This paper is based on fieldwork conducted between March 2001 and June 2002,
principally in the Dai People's Autonomous Region of Sipsongpanna in Yunnan Province
in the PRC. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the conference of the Inter-
national Association of Buddhist Studies Conference in Bangkok, December 2002 and at
the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in San Antonio, November
2004. I would like to thank Justin McDaniel, Jeff Samuels, Anne Blackburn and Tracy John-
son for their comments on earlier versions of this paper, and of course the monks and
novices of Sipsongpanna who graciously allowed me to ask them many nosy questions for
fifteen months.
Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies
Volume 28 Number 2 2005
I would like to bring this question to a consideration of monastic edu-
cation in post-Mao China. In the late twentieth century, Buddhism more
broadly, but monastic education in particular has seen a real efflorescence
throughout mainland China, including the minority regions of China where
Tibetan Buddhism
and Theravada Buddhism are practiced. While the
first post-Cultural Revolution "Buddhist Institute" lfoxueyuan) was
opened at Fayuan Si3, outside of Beijmg in 1980, since thenfoxueyuan
have opened up throughout the country, though particularly on.the East
Coast of China (Chen and Deng 2000; Zhu 2003).
Raoul Birnbaum has discussed these schools in terms of the peda-
gogical ambitions of Taixu, the early twentieth century reformer of Chi-
nese Buddhism. According to Birnbaum, Taixu sought to found a sys-
tem of modem Buddhist Institutes that would train Chinese men to be
both monks and modem men. Although Taixu's envisioned system would
maintain the traditional practice of "life-long texts study by participation
in extended lecture series presented by famous masters," (Birnbaum
2003: 133; Welch 1968: 110-114), the contemporary foxueyuan of the
People's Republic of China (PRC) are more akin to the public colleges
and universities of the rest of country. Their three or four year courses
require those hoping to matriculate to take an entrance exam. Moreover,
for many of these schools, the student-nuns, -monks or -novices are
required to have completed their high school education
Indeed, while
most of the study at these foxueyuan is focused on Buddhist matters,
2 Regardless of the legitimacy of Chinese rule in Tibet, the fact remains that Tibet is
under the political control of the Chinese government. Moreover, the Chinese government
sees it as a minority region, and has constituted the parts of Tibet formerly under the con-
trol of the Dalai Lama's government as an "autonomous region." Thus, the Sangha is sub-
ject to the force of the Chinese government. While this may be a deplorable situation in
many ways, it strikes me that the principled decision to not discuss Tibetan Buddhism as
part of the religions in China today, as was done in a recent volume on religions in China
by China Quarterly (Overmeyer 2003), to be highly problematic.
3 The Buddhist Institute at Fayuan Si was actually reopened in 1980. It was first estab-
lished in 1956 and closed down in the mid-1960s, after approximately 100 students had
finished the undergraduate program there, and another handful had completed postgradu-
ate degrees. See Long 2002: 190.
4 While graduation from high school is required for matriculation at the more com-
petitive of these Buddhist Institutes, many of these schools have less stringent require-
ments. Long 2002: 194-5.
roughly a third of the pedagogical efforts are spent on non-Buddhist sub-
jects (Long 2002; Borchert 2003a).
Despite the fact that two-thirds of the pedagogical time at these fox-
ueyuan is spent on acquiring Buddhist knowledge and skills, we might
imagine that other agendas also drive the pedagogical actions of the
schools. Darui Long in his study of several different schools in Sichuan
has noted that according to their charters the aim of these schools is to
"train Buddhist nuns who love the country, and support the Party lead-
ership and socialist cause" (Long 2002: 192). Another school's charter
was slightly more expansive, saying that its purpose was "to train Bud-
dhists who are patriots and faithful to Buddhism so that they become
knowledgeable and able persons for the development of Buddhism."
However, it goes on to say that:
Students should support the leadership of the Communist Party of China.
They should be patriotic and faithful, with good virtues and abilities. They
should observe state laws. They are trained to be managers of the monas-
teries and researchers for Buddhism. (Long 2002: 1999)
Lest we think that this type of statement is limited to China's interior,
a set of regulations from a foxueyuan of Shanghai has a similar pointed
focus. In the first rule out of more than one hundred and thirty, the doc-
ument states that students should "Fervently love the socialist motherland,
support the leadership of the Communist Party, defend the unity of the
Nationalities, and support the unification of the motherland."5
We can read these statements in the broader context of religion in
China. In the early 1980s, the Party's official post-Mao statement on reli-
gion was set forth in a still relevant document entitled, "The Basic View-
point and Policies on Religious Issues During Our Country's Socialist
Period." This document repudiates the active effort on the part of CCP
officials to eliminate religion from the People's Republic of China, espe-
cially as practiced during the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath.
Instead, it argues that religion will disappear eventually and naturally
5 Reai shehui zhuyi zuguo, yonghu zhongguo gongchangdang lingdao, weihu minzu
tuanjie, yonghu zuguo tongyi. I received this set of regulations at Wat Pajie, in Sipsong-
panna, shortly before a group of graduates from Wat Pajie traveled to Shanghai in order
to study for a year at one of the Buddhist Institutes there. I was told that it was sent from
Shanghai in order to inform the students what was expected of them.
with the proper development of socialism and cornmunism
There is also
a grudging recognition that the morality and works of "normal religion"
(such as the preservation of historic temples and relics, reforestation and
the academic study of religion) are beneficial to society (Document 19:
16). Most interesting in this context, however, are the statements about
education and the need to train new religious leaders. Given the possible
benefits normal religions offer to society, Document 19 suggests that the
government should pay attention to religious actors, particularly the lead-
ers, and to "umelentingly yet patiently forward their education in patri-
otism, upholding the law, supporting socialism, and upholding national
and ethnic unity" (Document 19: 16). It later notes the importance of
training "patriotic religious personnel," and that the govermnent should
help set up seminaries to train them. Document 19 goes on to say that the
"task of these seminaries is to create a contingent of young religious per-
sonnel who, in terms of politics, fervently love their homeland and sup-
port the Party's leadership and the socialist system and who possess suf-
ficient religious knowledge"(Document 19: 20).
The order of these two goals is not accidental. While the Chinese gov-
ermnent (in this document) recognizes as legitimate the interests of (what
it views as "normal"7) religious communities in having adequately trained
religious leaders, it is most interested in directing the actions and beliefs
of these leaders in specific directions. Pitman Potter, in a recent article
on politics and religion in China has suggested that the Chinese Com-
munist Party's official policy on religion in China needs to be understood
in light of an agenda in which political loyalty to the Party-State is given
in exchange for a greater degree of autonomy in certain social spheres.
6 "Document 19: The Basic Viewpoint and Policy on the Religious Question during
Our Country's Socialist Period." Translated by Janice Wickeri and printed in MacInnis
(1989), 10. Citations will be made in the text to "Document 19."
7 In general, this means those religions that have a relatively long-standing history on
the Chinese mainland. Thus, the government recognizes Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholi-
cism and Protestantism as the legitimate religions of China. Legitimate religions, in the eyes
of the Party-State, have five characteristics: a long history, a mass base, national and inter-
national aspects and complexity (Document 19: 5). Although there have been some impor-
tant shifts in the category of religions and its others ("superstition" and "evil cults") since
Document 19 was first published in 1982 (notably in the late 1990s as a response to the
challenge raised by the Falun Gong), Document 19 still retains relevance for understand-
ing the "religion problem" in China in the early twenty-first century. See Borchert 2004.
There is a tension within the sphere of religious practice, however, due
to the potential threat posed by religious beliefs. There is a fear, Potter
argues, that loyalty to the religion will supercede loyalty to the state, and
so, there remains a strong "discourse of control" regarding religion in con-
temporary China, despite recent suggestions about liberalization (Potter
2003: 18). Fenggang Yang and Dedong Wei have also recently suggested
that since the mid-1990s, there has been a hardening of the official posi-
tion, such that religious actors have much less leeway to act outside the
official Party position (Yang and Wei 2005).
These statements change the possible range of interpretations that we
might attribute to the stated purposes of the Buddhist Institutes. The stated
educational aims of the Mahayana Buddhist Institutes of China are clearly
political in that they seek to create monks and nuns who are patriotic and
law-abiding citizens. These monks and nuns will in tum become the
abbots of local temples and the leaders of local Sanghas. Nevertheless,
the way the language of the charters echoes the official language of Doc-
ument 19 is interesting. Most of the charter documents that I have seen
are unsigned, or are attributed to a committee with input at least from the
Religious Affairs Bureau and the local Buddhist Association (BA). In
other words, they are documents produced by government agencies. To
the degree that they are written by monks, we must ask if the political alle-
giance that is expressed is anything more than a politically savvy throat
clearing. That is to say, if these temples do not state that they support the
leadership of the CCP in this manner, they will get in trouble. Put dif-
ferently, Buddhists (and other religious actors) know that paying appro-
priate respect to the leadership of the Party is an important way to avoid
being hassled by the Chinese state.
Yet just because a Sangha's stated goals may reflect those of the state
for political expediency, this does not mean that we should assume that
these statements are only political expediency, or that there might not be
other political agendas which fit with the religious agendas. Monks might
very well, and legitimately, believe in the importance of educating monks
who are also patriotic. Alternatively they may want to produce students
who have other agendas and wish to hide it from the state under the guise
of patriotism. In other words, we should not presume that these charters
allow us to know what a certain monk or nun believes regarding the rela-
tionship between religion and politics, or the role that a'Sangha should
play in the constructing the Chinese nation. Monks can be nationalist,
and this can spill into their Buddhism, or not. However, I would suggest
that reading the charters cited above from the Mahayana Buddhist Insti-
tutes alongside Document 19 alerts us to the fact that these foxueyuan
are constructed within an environment that is rife with political concerns.
In other words, while these charters direct us to look beyond the simply
religious to discern the agendas of monastic communities, they do not
reveal whether or not there are other agendas behind a project of monas-
tic education.
This is equally the case with the monastic education of minority com-
munities in China. The schools discussed above are affiliated with
Mahayana Sanghas of the Han majority of China, but China also has
Tibetan and Theravada Sanghas, and for these other Sanghas, the devel-
opment, or redevelopment, of monastic education after the Maoist period
has been even more complicated. The degree to which these minority
communities see themselves as belonging to China, and the degree to
which the Chinese state and the Chinese people see the minority Sang-
has as Chinese raises an entirely different set of concerns. This is most
well-known in the case of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism, where many (but
not all) Tibetans view the Chinese as being illegitimate invaders. The
Chinese state is equally suspicious of the Tibetan Sangha, particularly in
the Tibetan Autonomous Region (Schwartz 1994). This has meant that
towing the party line in such a way that it is recognized by the Chinese
state is often difficult and efforts to reestablish monastic education have
met with considerable difficulties
Although there are some reports of suc-
cess in opening institutions for monastic education outside of the Tibetan
Autonomous Region (in so-called "ethnic Tibet"), such as in the Labrang
monastery in Gansu and at Sarthar in Sichuan (Germano 1998; Eckholm
1999), the crackdown on the latter in 2001 (Faison 2001) shows the sit-
uation is still quite volatile.
8 Melvyn Goldstein details some of the efforts to reestablish the traditional monastic
education at Drepung Monastery outside of Lhasa in "The Revival of Monastic Life in
Drepung Monastery," in Goldstein and Kapstein, eds., Buddhism in Contemporary Tibet
(Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1998).
When we look at the Theravada Buddhist monks of Sipsongpanna in
Yunnan Province, we see something akin to what we saw among the
Mahiiyana schools of the rest of China. Each village temple in Sipsong-
panna has a poster of regulations provided to it by the local Buddhist
Association. This poster, usually hung in a semi-public place, states in the
first rule that:
Monks and novices must adhere to the precepts and ideals of the Buddhist
virtues, carry forward and develop Buddhist Dharnma, perpetuate a life with
Buddhist wisdom; respect the discipline, defend the law, love the country
and love the religion (italics added).
Noting that the Buddhist Association of Sipsongpanna (the authors of
the rules, even if by committee) is staffed completely by Dai-lue monks,
this would seem to indicate that they are largely in sympathy with the char-
ters noted above. Is this the case? Do these minority monks in fact view
their goal and purpose to encourage their fellow monks and novices to love
China even as they are living a Buddhist life?
In the last decade, the Theravada monks of Sipsongpanna, have opened
up their ownfoxueyuan, with the blessing of and a modicum of funding
from the local government. In this paper, I want to examine this particu-
lar foxueyuan, this "Buddhist Institute," and its educational agendas in
relation to its position as a minority - both ethnic and religious - within
the Chinese political landscape. I would suggest that the point of the char-
ters and Document 19 within the Mahayanafoxueyuan discussed above
has been to focus the political aspects of religious training in a particu-
lar direction, to produce religious specialists who are lovers of the nation.
Do these same processes work within the monastic schools of a minor-
ity community? Moreover, this allows us to begin to ask how we can tell
when training monks and novices is not actually about - or principally
about - making proper Buddhist leaders? To what degree is monastic
education about making monks? And, in the end result, what is it that
novices are being trained to be?
Theraviida Buddhism in China
Although historically China is closely associated with East Asian
Mahiiyana Buddhism, at least since the founding of the People's Repub-
lic in 1949, both Tibetan Buddhist and Theravada Sanglias have come
under the purview of the Chinese state. In contrast to the situation of
Tibetan Buddhism in China,the situation of the Theravada Sanghas is not
well-known. There are in fact two Theravada Sanghas in China; both
located in border regions of the southwestern province of Yunnan. Both
of these Sanghas are populated by Tai minorities of China: the Dai-neua
of the Dehong Daizu-lingpo Autonomous Prefecture (Dehong Daizu-
lingpo Zizhizhou) and the Dai-lue of Sipsongpanna (Xishuangbanna Daizu
Zizhizhou)9. Viewed by Chinese governments as being part of a single eth-
nic group, the Daizu, in point of fact, the Dai-Iue and Dai-neua had min-
imal contact with one another prior to the middle of the twentieth cen-
tury (Giersch 1998; Hsieh 1995). Indeed, it is only in the last twenty
years or so that by processes of what Dru Gladney has called "ethno-
genesis" the Dai-Iue and the Dai-neua have come to see themselves as
belonging to a single ethnic group (Gladney 1991; Hsieh 1995)10. Nev-
ertheless, outside academics have generally viewed these groups as linked.
Chinese ethnographies about the Dai people dutifully contain a section on
the "Xi-Dai" and the "De-Dai," and while Thai discussions of the Tais
of China are far more likely to discuss Sipsongpanna (which is often seen
as some sort of older sibling of the Thais), there are some which talk
about the Dai of Dehong as well
9 A brief comment about names and languages is in order. The people that I am dis-
cussing here are referred to by the Chinese state as the Dai-zu, the Dai people. Most of
the time, these people refer to themselves as "Dai" or occasionally "Lue." "Dai" in this
contexts links these people to other Tai groups of Southeast Asia, as well as to other Tai
groups in China; "Lue" distinguishes them as a particular subset of the Tai. I refer to
them her as "Dai-lue" because it helps keep in focus the fact that these people have impor-
tant relationships with both China and other Tai groups of Southeast Asia. I refer to their
home by the Dai-Iue name, Sipsongpanna, and not the Chinese name, Xishuangbanna.
10 Tan Leshan, a Chinese anthropologist, has told me that it was only in the late 1990s
that his Dai-Iue informants in Sipsongpanna began to ask him about Dehong and the Dai
people who live there. Personal communication, Kunming, China, August 2001.
11 For Chinese examples, see Zhao and Wu 1997 or Wang 2001. Note that Thai texts
are more likely to discuss Dali, a city to the West of Kunming in Yunnan Province, because
it was the capital of the Nanzhao Kingdom. It was common at least into the mid-l 990s for
Thai scholars to refer to the N anzhao Kingdom as a possible birthplace of the Thai peo-
ples, although the historical evidence seems to be against this view. See Princess Galyani
1986 or Sarisakon and Sucit 1991. For a discussion of Chinese and Thai academic repre-
sentations of the Dai-Iue and Sipsongpanna more broadly, see Borchert 2003b.

People's Republic
of China
While I will only discus the monastic educational practices of Sip-
songpanna in this paper, it is important to understand that for many cen-
turies both of these regions have been in extensive contact with Han Chi-
nese settlers and governments (whether imperial, republican or
communist), other ethnic groups of the regions, as well as other Tai com-
munities of Southeast Asia (even if not with one another). Natchli Lao-
hasrinadh has commented that Sipsongpanna was referred to as a nit song
fay-fa, a "state under two skies." Similarly, several Dai-lue informants
noted to me that historically, haw bin paw, mon bin mae: "China is the
father and Burma is the mother" of Sipsongpanna. I take from this that
although we might tell a story of the twentieth century as one in which
the borders of this region become clearer and harder as the "geo-body"
is formed (Thongchai 1994) nonetheless, even now they remain quite
porous. In other words, a reasonable discussion into the'background of
the Dai-lue and Sipsongpanna in the twentieth century must necessarily
be a back and forth between cOntact with China and with the Tai com-
munities of Southeast Asia.
Although Sipsongpanna is part of China, and has been since the 1896
Anglo-French treaty that divided the middle Mekong region between
France, Britain, Thailand and China, it is on China's southern edge. Sit-
uated in Yunnan Province's deep south, it borders the modem nation-
states of Myanmar and Laos. The Mekong River, which provides the
border between Laos and Myanmar, flows through Sipsongpanna into
Southeast Asia. Prior to the 1953 occupation of Sipsongpanna by the
People's Liberation Army, it was a semi-independent kingdom, sand-
wiched between the Chinese and Burmese empires. Occasionally over-
run by armies from the south and the north, it was able to maintain a high
degree of independence through its remoteness and savvy politicking
with its more powerful neighbors. The region was an important stop on
trade routes between China and Southeast Asia (Natchii 1998: 21; Hill
1998), but the paths passing through the mountainous region of South-
west China precluded speed or large numbers of troops. Even in the
1950s, Chinese ethnologists engaged in the ethnic classification project
of the Chinese state (minzu shibie) required more than a month to get
from Yunnan's capital, Kunming, to Sipsongpanna's capital, Jing Hong.
This distance, little over 400 km, is now handled in about forty-fifty
minutes by fifteen to twenty daily flights between Jing Hong and Kun-
The dominant people of Sipsongpanna, the Dai-lue, were (and are)
Thbraviida Buddhist and the kingdom was similar to other minor states
of the middle Mekong region, such as Chiang Mai, Luang Prabang and
Chiang Tung of the Shan States. The social system and political structures
were highly stratified, with a traditional king, the Lord of the Earth (cao
phaendin), and a state council composed of related "aristocrats" (Tan
1995). Although the cao phaendin, whose palace was constructed on a
mountain outside of modern day, Jing Hong, is said to have been the sole
possessor of all the land in Sipsongpanna (Natchii 1998), the region would
be more properly understood as something of a federation. The cao of the
various meuang of Sipsongpanna were largely independent figures who,
while they owed. fealty to the eao phaendin, also had their own agendas
and bases of power. This meant that the Dai-Iue and the eao phaendin did
not always present a unified face in their dealings with the Chinese (Gier-
sch 1998). At the same time, while Theravada Buddhism was certainly
important within the social system, it would be a mistake to think of it
as having quite the same importance in terms of the rule of the region as
it is said to have had farther south. Most Dai-Iue men of Sipsongpanna
ordained for at least a period (it is said to have been necessary in order
to get married), but Theravada Buddhism seems not to have played the
same role in the control of the eao phaendin's state as it did in Ayuthaya
for example (Natcha 1998). Indeed, Ann Maxwell Hill suggests that Sip-
songpanna was not only smaller than the galactic polities to the south, but
also that the the local territorial spirit cults were of far greater importance
in the control of the local polity than the Buddhist-Brahmanical ideolog-
ical ritual complex that undergirds the "galactic polities" of Burma and
Thailand (Tambiah 1976; Hill 1998 : 147). Another way to say this might
be to suggest that while Theravada Buddhism was central to Dai-Iue soci-
ety, it was not in any wayan established religion.
This social structure dynamic began to change in the mid-1950s, when
the consequences of China's 1953 invasion of Sipsongpanna began to be
felt (McCarthy2001; Hsieh 1989). Most dramatically, over the course of
the first fifteen years of the PRC's colonization of Sipsongpanna, the Dai-
lue social hierarchy was legally abolished. A number of Dai-Iue aristo-
crats were co-opted into the Communist Party and the local government,
which significantly eased the transition into the Chinese national body.
The region underwent a variety of different periods of land reform
(McCarthy 2001), and starting in the mid-1960s, the monasteries were
closed and Buddhism was abolished. Monks were either forced to disrobe
or fled to Southeast Asia. While Dai-Iue were permitted to practice Bud-
dhism again starting in the late 1970s (a practice which became wide-
spread several years later), a generation of monks was lost, and the cost
to local knowledge and knowledge practices (non-Buddhist as well as
Buddhist) is literally unknowable.
Less dramatic in the short term than these changes to the social struc-
ture, but equally important was the inclusion of the Dai-Iue into the Chi-
nese national imagination as members of the Daizu. This process began
in the late 1950s, when Han Chinese ethnologists came to Jing Hong
from Kunming to categorize the groups of people in Sipsongpanna. This
grand ethnic classification project recognized fifty-four shaoshu minzu,
ethnic minorities, as part of the Chinese nation
. Yunnan was and is a
province rich in ethnicities, having twenty-four; Sipsongpanna is itself the
home to fourteen different nationalities. The Chinese ethnologists were
to classify different groups onto an evolutionary scale ultimately deriv-
ing from the work of Henry Louis Morgan and using Stalinist criteria to
distinguish groups of people!3. Despite efforts towards scientific rigor,
the classification of ethnic groups often relied just as much on folk clas-
sifications and the remnants of Imperial Chinese classifications. Accord-
ing to these criterion, the Dai-lue of Sipsongpanna were categorized as
"feudal-manorialist" (jengjian nongnu zhidu) and lumped together with
several other Tai groups of Yunnan (notably the Dai-neua of Dehong dis-
cussed above), despite having little knowledge of or interaction with these
other groups.
Like the other shaoshu minzu of China, the Dai-lue have been subject
to the developmentalist projects of the Communist Chinese state ever
. Like religion, this ethnic identity in China is something that is sup-
posed to wither away with the increased modernity of a given group of
12 China is actually now a "multi-ethnic state" with 56 different nationalities: a 55
minority group was recognized in the late 1970s. There are a number of other groups who
have applied for recognition as shaoshu minzu, in part because it makes them eligible for
certain privileges (such as having a second child). While at least some of these applica-
tions are still in process, I have been told by academics in China that it is unlikely that
other groups will achieve the status of independent ethnic minority (as opposed to being
recognized as a branch of an already existing minority group). The western academic lit-
erature on China's minorities is vast and growing. For useful introductions, see Blum 2002
and Harre1l1995a. Schein 2000 and Gladney 1991 have extensive discussions of the CCP's
ethnic classification (minzu shibie) project.
13 These criteria were: a common language, a common territory, a common economic
life and a common psychological make-up manifested in common specific features of
national culture (Gladney 1991: 66). Harrell (1995b: 98, 103) helpfully points out that these
criterion were presumed to be objective and comparable. That is to say that what makes
a minzu in one place is the same as what makes a minzu in another place. This is impor-
tant because it enables the "objective" ranking of minzu on evolutionary scales, and estab-
lishes criterion for paternalistic policies.
14 Or in Stevan Harrell's felicitous phrase, the "civilizing projects" of the Chinese state
(Harrell 1995a).
people. Thus although Chinese policies have fluctuated over the last fifty
years, they have generally been directed towards modernizing minority
groupS such as the Dai-Iue, bringing them closer to the developed stan-
dards of Han/Chinese modernity_ As James Ferguson (1990) has argued
with regard to states and development in Southern Africa, these devel-
opmentalist policies have generally resulted in greater bureaucratic intru-
sion into the lives of local peoples and cultures. Educational projects, and
in particular the effort to produce minority citizens who speak: Mandarin
Chinese, have a central role in these civilizing projects, as is evident from
the citations above from Document 19 (see also Hansen 1999). These
projects have at best been benignly paternalistic, though many have also
been accompanied by the often-violent voluntarism of the Communist
Period's "high red" periods (such as the Cultural Revolution). This is
not to say that all of these projects have been resisted by all shaoshu
minzu. To the contrary, while the civilizing projects of the Chinese state
(educational and otherwise) should be understood in terms of "symbolic
violence" discussed by Bourdieu and Passeron (1978), the responses to
them have been diverse and have often changed across time and space.
Not surprisingly, questions of the breakdown of traditional culture and
assimilation pervade western scholarship on China's minorities in par-
ticular. However, I would suggest that more productive ways of articu-
lating the relationship of China's minorities to its majority can be found
in a dialogicaVcultural studies model, articulated well by Dru Gladney:
Ethnic identity in China .. .is not merely the result of state defInition, and .. .it
cannot be reduced to circumstantial maneuvering for utilitarian goals by
certain groups. Rather, I propose that it is best understood as a dialogical
interaction of shared traditions of descent with sociopolitical contexts,
constantly negotiated in each political-economic setting (Gladney 1998:
Among the Dai-Iue of Sipsongpanna, this dialogue and negotiation has
played out in important ways in the realm of education. Prior to 1953, the
education of most boys took place in village temples, in what we might
think of as an "apprentice" mode of pedagogy (Blackburn 2001: 45).
Here Dai-Iue boys, all ordained novices, generally gained knowledge and
skills necessary to be considered full Dai-Iue adults. In addition to the all-
important Dai-Iue script, and the basics of Buddhism (both in terms of
knowledge and ritual matters)15, some of them also knowledge
which was less strictly Buddhist (medicine and astrology, e.g.)16. Indeed,
while it was not necessary for all men to learn these things, it was nec-
essary for all boys to become "cooked" in the temple for some time.
That this is the case has long been a thorn in the side of the PRe's gov-
ernment in Sipsongpanna. While under the ideology of "autonomy" for
shaoshu minzu the government has acknowledged the legitimacy of tra-
ditional knowledge, local Board of Education officials in particular have
often complained that the traditional education in temples has obstructed
Dai-Iue boys' efforts in the Chinese public schools. This in tum has meant
that these boys have remained (at least in the eyes of the cadres) unable
to fully participate in Chinese modernity (Hansen 1999).
Not surprisingly, from the perspective of many Dai-Iue people, the sit-
uation with regard to Chinese public education is not quite so straight-
forward in at least two different ways. First, public education is supposed
to be mandatory through junior middle school (grade 9). There are sig-
nificant barriers to many of the Dai-Iue students fulfilling this responsi-
bility, however. While many boys do finish elementary school, they must
pass entrance exams to enter middle school (both junior and senior mid-
dle school). For many of the students these tests are prohibitively diffi-
cult, not least because of the inadequate level of the elementary educa-
tion. In addition to this, while it is public and compulsory through grade
nine, Chinese education is not free. Students must pay tuition and a vari-
ety of other fees. Thus, even for those who do manage to pass the exams,
middle school can be prohibitively expensive. The second complication
is the attitude of parents towards these schools. Mette Hansen reports that
a number of the parents she interviewed in the mid-1990s about public
education were quite ambivalent about its utility. The majority of Dai-Iue
families are still peasants, and most boys (even now) will be peasants
15 What they leamed was probably largely similar to what Tambiah describes in North-
east Thailand (Tambiah 1970: 121).
16 This does not mean that all knowledge passed through the wat (temple). Women
were (and for the most part still are) excluded from the literate text and temple based
knowledge practices, but they possess(ed) their owu knowledge practices, among which
were both medical and religious knowledge. The religious'life of women in Sipsongpanna
remains a woefully unexamined topic,
when they become adults. For these parents, the value of a traditional
education in village temples was clearer than the public school alterna-
tive (Hansen 1999: 112-113). Both of these factors, I would suggest have
conspired to make monastic education remain relevant in Sipsongpanna.
Thus for reasons of the persistence of tradition - the Dai-Iue are
after all by the definitions of the Chinese state believers in Theravada
Buddhism - and the dynamics of the Chinese-Dai-Iue relationship,
monastic education in village temples has persisted. A glance at the demo-
graphics of the Sangha over the last fifty years makes it clear that ordi-
nation (and thus monastic education) remains an important aspect of Dai-
lue society, even if it is not quite as important as it was prior to the
Cultural Revoluation. fu the 1950s, the Sangha had a population of roughly
6500 (900+ monks and 5500+ novices), out of a population of perhaps
105,000. These numbers were basically zero in 1965. Starting with the
"religion fever" in the early 1980s (Hansen 1995: 109), the Sangha pop-
ulation had essentially recovered by the early 1990s when there were
about 550 monks (one per temple) and 4500 novices. These numbers
have slowly crept up over the last ten years. The most recent numbers that
were reported to me (Spring 2002) were that there were about 650 monks
and over 6500 novices. At the same time, however, the overall Dai-lue
population is currently reported at about 300,000.17
This rebirth of the Sangha though has had some unforeseen conse-
quences for the continuity of monastic education. The novices of the post-
Mao generation are principally trained by the abbots of their temples, as
has always been the case (though often these abbots are scarcely older than
the novices they train). Yet abbots are not the only teachers in wats: his-
17 For population figures, see Tan 1995: 193 and McCarthy 2001: 172-3. Both of these
scholars supply official Chinese statistics. I would raise the possibility, however, that in
the 1950s, the time of the first Chinese census in the region, Chinese penetration into the
region was not sufficient to get an adequate count of either the monastic population or the
larger Dai-lue population. This does not mean that the general trend is wrong, just that it
is necessary to take the severity of this shift with a grain of salt. There are also no num-
bers kept as to what percentage of the Dai-Iue male popUlation ordains for some period
during their lives. These remain problems to be studied. Also, we need to be cognizant of
the fact that the monastic population constantly fluctuates, due to the practice of tempo-
rary ordination. This does not mean that there is no stability to the numbers that I reported,
but this is why I have given round figures. By the time the Sipsongpanna BA reports the
number of novices for a given year, the fignre is already inaccurate.
torically novices have also been trained by other monks (or, more com-
monly, older novices) and especially the khanan, former monks who are
among the most important men in the village (religiously at least). Yet
as mentioned above the Sangha has lost the generation of older monks and
khanan who were the principle carriers of knowledge and important train-
ers of the younger generation. In the beginning of this crisis during the
1980s and early 1990s, many temples were staffed by monks invited up
from Southeast Asia. These were mainly from Lue areas of either the
Shan States or of Thailand), and a large number of novices and monks
have traveled particularly to Northern Thailand for further education.
Nonetheless, these could only be stopgap measures for two reasons. The
fIrst is that while the Chinese state has generally been supportive of monks
traveling from Southeast Asia to act in this capacity, they are highly sus-
picious of foreign influence within religion (Document 19: 16). Thus the
official position is that these visiting monks must register with the Pub-
lic Security Bureau and Religious Affairs Bureau, and that they may only
stay for a relatively short period of time. Generally, this has meant between
one and four years. Occasionally, the local government has caused for-
eign monks to return to Southeast Asia. As for traveling to Southeast
Asia for an education, the opportunities are limited by both the resources
of the local Sanghas and the willingness of the Southeast Asian states
(and in particular Thailand) to support these novices. Thus, the senior
monks and laity of the Sangha of Sipsongpanna decided that they needed
their ownfoxueyuan.
This Buddhist Institute was opened in 1994 at Wat Pajie, a temple
destroyed just prior to the Cultural Revolution and rebuilt in 1990, ini-
tially with money from the Chinese government. Wat Pajie is in many
ways the ideal place to open afoxueyuan in Sipsongpanna. Although sur-
rounded by villages, unlike the other more than five hundred temples in
Sipsongpanna, Wat Pajie is not connected to any single village. It is
instead the central temple of the region, from the perspective the Dai-Iue
people, but also from the perspective of the Chinese government. The
local offices of the Buddhist Association are at Wat Pajie, and the abbot
of the temple has two different titles: he is both the head of the Sangha,
the sangha-nayok, and the head of the Buddhist Association (fojiao xiehui
zhang). This temple, which was reestablished at the request of local vil-
lagers and monks (Davis 2003; cf. Thepprawin 1998), had been a royal
temple, though not the home temple of the cao phaendin himself. How-
ever, since its reestablishment and the opening of the school in 1994, it
has become a center of gravity for Buddhism in Sipsongpanna. Waf Pajie
has not only attracted a large collection of monks
8, many of whom have
received advanced Buddhist training in Thailand or the Shan states, it has
also attracted the support of foreign Sanghas and Buddhist foundations.
Patronage from the royal family and Sangharaja of Thailand enabled the
construction of a Thai style ordination hall (1998); Japanese and Singa-
pore foundations provided money for the temple to buy land and both
local Han businessmen and wealthy Mahayana Sanghas on China's east
coast enabled the construction of a massive new kuti (residence hall) for
the abbot (2001).
Monastic Education at Wat Pajie
As should be clear, Buddhism in Sipsongpanna, and in particular
monastic education must be understood in light of dialogical relation-
ships with both the Chinese state and the Sanghas of Southeast Asia. This
is indexed by the fact that the sign in front of the school at Wat Pajie is
written in three languages, Chinese, the traditional Dai-lue script and
Thai. While most of the financial resources that have gone into recon-
structing Wat Pajie have come from Buddhists, the Chinese state is a key
actor here, because the monks and lay leaders affiliated with Wat Pajie
needed official permission simply to open the school. The senior mem-
bers of the Sangha wanted to open a full school that would be different
from the training which takes place in village temples. However, as should
be clear from Document 19, the Chinese government is not really inter-
ested in producing rivals to its authority, so it took over four years of
applications and assurances before these Dai-lue were able to open afo-
xueyuan at Wat pajie. Significantly, permission was contingent upon the
school teaching Chinese to their students at thefoxueyuan (Hansen 1999:
18 During the course of my fieldwork, there were usually between ten and fifteen monks
in residence.
Despite these concerns with the Chinese government, it is probably
more accurate to think of this foxueyuan as a hong heyn pa pariyatti tham,
a dhamma school, using the monastic schools of Thailand as a model. It
is more limited than the Thai schools, both shorter in duration, but also
in the scope of its program. Instead of six years, it is only three, and it
only trains students in dhamma-seuksii (the Buddhism course) and in a
handful of secular subjects (discussed beloW). There is, for example no
Pali instruction, though there have been recent efforts to add. it to the
school's curriculum. Nonetheless, the nak-tham curriculum (i.e., the Bud-
dhist subjects) largely hails from Thailand and uses textbooks that have
been translated either from Thai or imported from the Shan States. More-
over there are a series of exams at the end of each fall, based on exams
from the monastic secondary schools of Northern Thailand, which test the
student-novices in the Buddhist curriculum. While the school teaches
non-Buddhist classes, in the eyes of the Chinese state, it is the nak-tham
curriculum that is primary. Thus it is that the governmental office which
oversees the school at Wat Pajie is not the Board of Education, but the
Minority Religions Office.
Up until this point, the school has generally been successful, although
it has also struggled financially. Each cohort of novices has consisted of
one class of students. This class has consisted of some 30-50 students at
the beginning of the first year, and over the course of the three years, the
number shrinks to 20-30 students. The attrition is mainly due to failure
in the dhamma exams, though a handful of students in each class decide
that they are simply not interested in studying at Wat pajie. The number
of cohorts present has varied. While the school is equipped to handle up
to three classes, when I conducted fieldwork in 2001-2002, there was
only one class. I was told that the monks had limited the size of the school
not for lack of interest, but for lack of resources to pay for all of the stu-
dents. As of this writing perhaps seven cohorts have finished the pro-
gram at Wat pajie. One of the reasons for the temple's financial strug-
gles is that the fees for receiving an education at Wat Piijie's Buddhist
Institute is quite low. A novice's family pays the temple 600 yuan for the
three-year course (by comparison, public junior high schools might cost
600 a semester. This fee only covers tuition, and does not include the
various extra fees that rural Chinese schools are forced to charge in order
to remain open) .. This fee is largely a nominal one, since it barely pays
for educational supplies over the course of three years. For this fee, the
students received two meals a day19, books, and instruction, as well as
occasional cash to catch a bus home. Not too surprisingly, the salaries of
the teachers (only some of whom were monks) were minimal

During my fieldwork, the class studying at Wat Pajie was nak tham tf,
first year dhamma students. These student-novices ranged in age from
thirteen to twenty-two, though the majority of them were between the
ages of sixteen and nineteen. The educational background of the student-
novices in this class divided relatively evenly into thirds: about a third
had finished lower middle school, a third had graduated from elementary
school and a third had only finished third or fourth grade. Their reasons
for leaving the Chinese schools were various, ranging from financial to
religious; a handful left because they had conflicts with their Han teach-
ers. All of the student-novices were fluent in spoken Chinese, even if not
fully literate, and when I taught them English, Chinese was the medium
of instruction. Most were from peasant families, all but two were still
novices and all but four were Dai-Iue.
This raises an interesting point about the relationship of Buddhism and
Dai-lue identity. In the history of the school at Wat Pajie, there have been
a handful of non-Dai-Iue students. Some are Bulangzu, another Theravada
minority group of Sipsongpanna historically viewed as servants (kha) by
the Dai-Iue. In the group that I taught and researched, there were no
Bulang students, but there were four novices from Dehong. They were thus
Tai, and Daizu, but Dai-neua instead of Dai-Iue. While we might read
these "others within" as disrupting the relationships between Dai-Iue
identity and Buddhism, stressing its universality, I would suggest instead
that these boys are for the most part not treated differently than the oth-
19 An evening meal was also provided, but it was generally not referred to as such. This
meal was usually a snack of noodles and was not treated by either the monks or novices
as a real meal (monks generally did not partake of this snack). When the dinner bell rang
around six p.m., I would ask the novices if they were going to eat dinner, and they would
respond, "No, we're just going to have noodles."
20 During the course of my research, I taught English to the student novices on a reg-
ular basis. In exchange for this, the monks taught me Dai-Iue and it also gave me a legit-
imate reason (in the eyes of the local Public Security Bureau) to be at the temple on a daily
ers, that in fact their difference is erased in needing to speak Dai-Iue just
as much as it is in the uniform of the shaved heads and saffron robes.
Nonetheless, the presencebf these non-Dai-Iue student-novices points to
a still deeply understudied aspect of the contemporary Sangha in main-
land Southeast Asia: the dynamics of ethnicity and religion with regard
to those who are already in the robes. There is an ideology of equality or
universal respect towards those in robes, but it remains to be seen if this
is actually the case

Curricula and Educational Projects at Wat Piljie
In order to understand more clearly the educational projects at Wat
Pajie, I want to examine what it is that the students actually study over
the course of their time at the school. The student-novices at Wat Pajie
have two or three two-hour class periods a day for most of the year. The
pedagogical methodologies of the classroom are straightforward and of
the "read-lecture-regurgitate" variety. The curriculum of the school can
be divided into three components which are generally studied simultane-
ously: Buddhist studies, Chinese or perhaps secular subjects, and Dai-lue
cultural studies, each of which I will discuss below. Although I will con-
centrate on the formal curriculum of the school, I will also briefly discus
the informal training that takes place outside of the classroom (what Jeff
Samuels (2004) has helpfully called "action-oriented pedagogy").
21 In the 1970s and 1980s, work was published on the use of the Sangha in matters of
"national integration" in Thailand, particularly among the "hill tribes" (see, e.g., Keyes
1971; Tambiah 1976; Somboon 1993. This work however addresses this question solely
from the perspective of the state, and does not interrogate how non-Thais understand these
efforts or their experience as minority members of the Sangha. While teaching English at
a monastic school in Chiang Mai in 1994, I met a young Burmese man who had recently
disrobed. He told me that he had come to Chiang Mai for an education. Once he had dis-
robed, he said, he had been persecuted because he was not Thai, and that while no one
had actively been disrespectful to him when he was a monk, they had also not treated him
as an insider either. Obviously, this one man's experience should not be generalized with-
out reason. Nevertheless, it does suggest the possibility that social hierarchies and cleav-
ages from the outside world continue to be present within the Sangha, and that further
inquiry into the relationship of nationality and ethnicity for those in robes is needed. For
an inquiry into the persistence of caste-based relations in the Sri Lankan Sangha, see
Samuels 2006.
Buddhist Training
Buddhist training at Wat Pajie consists of three classes studied over six
months for three years. In these classes the student-novices study
Dhamma, Vinaya and the life of the Buddha. The information that the tem-
ple wants the novices to learn is straightforward and fairly basic. From
the exams that these students took during my fieldwork, we get a pretty
good sample of what is deemed important. In the life of the Buddha, the
students were asked questions on the names of the Buddha's grandpar-
ents, the names of the Buddha's frrst disciples and the person who donated
the wihiin (worship hall) at Veluvana. Questions on the Vinaya exam
asked students about the requirements to prepare for ordination, or the cat-
egories of particular types of offenses. For the Dhamma exam, they were
asked about the marks of a good and bad person, some of the character-
istics of a Buddha's psychology, and how many types of anger there are.
The textbooks used are in the traditional script of the Dai-lue language
and either come from Takhilek in the Shan States or have been translated
from textbooks used in the monastic high schools of Thailand. In either
case, these texts provide a distillation of materials; the students do not read
texts in the original Pali for study. Rather, the point of this training is for
them to acquire general Buddhist knowledge; it is not to train the students
to be ritual specialists.
The students take a fourth exam, which they call supphiisit. Supphiisit
are various aphorisms, usually said to be the words of the Buddha, and
the exam itself is an exegesis of some of these. The student-novices gen-
erally do not practice this exegesis in a formal classroom setting. Instead
several Sunday evenings a month, after the evening service, they practice
giving short sermons based on these aphorisms in the wihiin (during my
fieldwork, this was usually done under the guidance of one of the younger
monks who had a good reputation for speaking). Occasionally, I observed
the monk-teacher taking time in a Dhamma class to practice the exege-
sis of supphiisit. This was done in the form of writing essays, however,
not sermons, and these essays were graded for grammar as well as con-
There is also a less formal (though no less important) pedagogy at Wat
Pajie that should be discussed alongside the more formal Buddhist cur-
riculum. It takes place outside of the classroom, generally in the wihiin
or in doing the labor of the temple. In the wihiin, the students come twice
a day (at 6 AM and 6 PM) and pay their respect to the Buddha, chant an
evening service and sit in meditation for ten to twenty minutes. In the
evening, they are often lectured to by one of the senior monks on the
way they are acting, behavior they need to correct, or matters they need
to think about. These are not dhamma talks per se, because the monks are
not actually discussing the dhamma directly, just how the student-novices
should act. In addition to this twice-daily worship of the Buddha, the
novices provide most of the unskilled labor for the temple: cutting the
grass, cleaning the buildings, building and taking down stages for festi-
vals and of course the all important sweeping. This labor.takes place
daily, but it is also effectively used as a punishment (for example, when
students miss the morning worship on account of oversleeping). Both the
students and the head teacher told me that there was no direct pedagog-
ical meaning to the labor the novices did. Nevertheless, the novices learn
a great deal in doing this labor: not only do they gain an understanding
of how an appropriate temple looks, but they also learn what kind of
responsibilities a monk or novice is required to undertake.
Two notable absences to the training of the student-novices at Wat
Piljie during my research were PilIi and significant training in meditation.
Chinese/Secular Training
The second major curriculum of the students is a series of classes in
secular subjects. First and foremost, the students study Chinese. As I
noted above, teaching Chinese was a condition for permission to open the
Buddhist Institute in the first place, but none of the teachers or students
that I worked with viewed this as an impediment to other studies. To the
contrary, most of the student-novices were pleased to have the opportu-
nity. Unlike the Buddhism classes, the student-novices study Mandarin
Chinese year-round and there is no formal exam required for promotion
to the next grade, though of course they took unit tests. The textbook
used during my fieldwork was one produced by the Yunnan Provincial
Board of Education for adult learners of Chinese as a second language,
and it was not particularly well-liked by the monks. However, the texts
had been donated, and so the school used them. In addition to Chinese,
the students study Thai (though for only a few months), and a year of math
as wel1
. They study English whenever there is a researcher (such as
myself) or a tourist present and willing to teach, though this is not some-
thing for which they actively plan. Finally, they also learn word-pro-
cessing in Chinese, Thai and Dai-Iue, on the temple's I-Macs and old
Macintosh computers23. All the training in this curriculum was in the
classroom, and the monks were quite explicit that the point was to give
the novices the skills they would need to be competitive within China. Or
perhaps to give them the skills that the Sangha would need to survive
within China.
Dai-Iue Cultural Studies
What I am calling the Dai-lue cultural studies component of the cur-
riculum of Wat Pajie is actually quite diffuse. With one minor excep-
4, there are no classes specifically directed towards Dai-lue culture,
but rather all of the classes (with the exception of my ESL class) are suf-
fused with aspects of Dai-Iue culture. It begins with the Buddhist curric-
ula. At the beginning of the first year, the students spend several weeks
22 Hansen (1999: 115) reports that there were plans to teach the students geography as
well. However, to the best of my knowledge, this has not been taught at Wat Piijie. More-
over, the students' geographical knowledge is quite poor; or perhaps more accurately, their
geographical knowledge is guaged to their needs and not modem/map oriented geography.
Once in English class, I was teaching and had a map of Yunnan on the board. The stu-
dents could not tell me (in English or Chinese) where Thailand was in relation to Yunnan.
Nonetheless, some of them could tell me how to get to Thailand.
23 These computers were donated from Thailand, as there are very few Macintosh com-
puters in China. The temple uses them because a font of the traditional Dai-Iue script was
developed for Macs; the only font available on Windows-based machines is a simplified
version developed at the Yunnan Nationalities Institute. However because it is the simplified
and not traditional script, the monks have no interest in using it. For some of the politics
of the use of scripts in Sipsongpanna, see Hansen 1995.
24 The exception is Dai-Iue history. Hansen (1999: 114) reports that the school planned
to teach history, but in point of fact that has not happened. This is not because of a lack
of interest. Both the students and the monks would like for the novices to study Dai-Iue
history. Indeed at a follow up visit in December 2002, I saw that the class schedules had
been revised to allow for the possibility of Dai-Iue history. However, the novices told me
that they had yet to begin to study it. The monks have told me that the real problem is that
they lack a usable textbook.
studying a Dai-lue alphabet book, Baep Heyn Akkhara; published by the
temple from the template of a similar book from Meng Y ong in the Shan
The students of course are all novices and on average have been
so for at least four or five years before they arrive at Wat Pajie. All of
them have already mastered the Dai-Iue alphabet. However, the Bud-
dhism class teachers use this little book to standardize the pronunciation
of the students. At Wat Pajie, the monks told me they do not use the book
for its content, they just chant it. However, it is worth our paying atten-
tion to the contents of this book
Very briefly, many of the lessons in
this book clearly state one of six points: 1) Studying and acquiring knowl-
edge is good; 2) It is good for moral development; 3) More importantly,
it is good for the Dai-Iue people; 4) The survival of the Dai-Iue people
and culture is at risk; 5) To defend them, it is necessary to defend the lan-
guage and the religion (i.e., Buddhism); and finally 6) Buddhism is nec-
essary for the survival of the Dai-Iue people. In other words, this little
alphabet book is very much a pro-Dai nationalist book, and even if this
is not spelled out to the students, they understand much of what it says.
It is not irrelevant that this is what starts their education at Wat pajie.
There are some other ways that "Dai-Iue cultural studies" infuses the
pedagogy of the school. The Buddhism class is almost always referred to
as daiyu ke or gam dai - Dai-Ianguage class, not Buddhism class. The
Dai-Iue teacher of the Chinese class would regularly insert tidbits of Dai-
lue culture into his Chinese class. He told me he did this because he knew
the students were interested and they were not getting the information in
other ways. Ironically, much of his information came from a Chinese lan-
guage textbook he had studied in college
A third infusion of dai-Iue cul-
25 The title of this book means "the book to study letters." This is the sarne book I used
to learn Dai-Iue.
26 There are two comments to be made regarding this text First, it is used in many places
beyond Wat pajie. While not all village temples use it, I encountered it in temples through-
out the autonomous region being used to instruct novices in the Dai-Iue script. Much of the
time this alphabet book is used solely as a copy manual. However, and this is the second
point, the language used in the book is for the most part straightforward, everyday language
(there are some words in Pili, as well as more obscure words). Thus, even if monks do not
directly teach the meaning of the text, many students are able to understand it anyway.
27 In one class, he provided the Chinese names of the 44 generations of the 'cao
phaendin. In another class, he gave a short lecture on the history of the Dai-Iue new year,
Song kiin pi mai (Ch. poshui jie, or "water splashing festival").
ture has come in the form of physical education. The abbot of the temple
feels strongly is important for the novices to get exercise, and so he
has had them build a small basketball court and a soccer field. In addition
to this, the monks came up with the idea to institute a Dai-lue martial arts
class, . so that every afternoon, while half the novices perform labor in the
temple, and the other half study traditional Dai-Iue martial arts. The monk
told me they did this so that some younger people would learn the mar-
tial arts forms. Finally, the entire point of the word processing part of the
secular curriculum is to enable the students to help in the text and knowl-
edge preservation project that is the other major effort of the temple.
Conclusion: Daizu and Dai-Iue: Creating Dai-Iue men and/or monks in
Before discussing what this tri-partite curriculum tells us about the
pedagogical agendas of this Buddhist Institute, I want to briefly return to
the set of regulations posted on the walls of all village temples that I
mentioned at the beginning of the paper. These regulations were written
and distributed by the Buddhist Association of Sipsongpanna, the office
of which is staffed by the monks of Wat Pajie. That is to say, the monks
who devised the curricula described above and who are concerned with
the problem of producing monks are the same ones who sent out this set
of rules. I mentioned above the first regulation which states that:
Monks and novices must adhere to the precepts and ideals of the Buddhist
virtues, carry forward and develop Buddhist Dhamma, perpetuate a life with
Buddhist wisdom; respect the discipline, defend the law, love the country
and love the religion.
I also mentioned that this poster is written in both Chinese and Dai-
lue. While the basic gist of the Chinese and Dai-Iue versions are the same,
it is worth looking at the Dai-Iue version as well. It states:
Monks and novices must act in accordance with the Dhamma and the Vinaya.
The noble Dhamma enjoins [them] to teach the matters of the Lord Buddha,
to propagate the teachings of the Buddha, to make Buddhism flourish, civ-
ilized and thriving, for another 2000 years in the future. [The monks and
novices] should act according to the regulations, to love the land (prades-
biin-meng), love the people (cheua), love the nation (chat), to love the teach-
ings of the Buddha (pha-puttha sasana).
There are two comments I would like to make abounhis. The first is
that unlike the Chinese government, the Sangha of Sipsongpanna is not
looking for the gradual disappearance of the religion. To the contrary, it
enjoins the monks to act so that they might preserve the Buddha's teach-
ings, the sasana. The second is to think about the meanings in the dif-
ferences of the Chinese and the Dai-lue version of these rules. The Chi-
nese version says that these monks should love the country, guojia, and
love the religion, zongjiao. The Dai-lue version says that the mOr:ll<:s should
love the land (prades-ban-meng) and the religion (pha puttha sasana), but
it adds that monks should love (and thus care for) their lineage or people
(cheua) and their ethnic group or nation (cheau-chat). Note, though, that
this chat is not a nation that includes a state; there is no call for a sepa-
rate state. Significantly, the Chinese version does not have an analogous
call to love the minzu, the Chinese word for nationality or ethnic group.
Similarly, while there is some ambiguity in the termprades ban meuang,
in that it could refer to the country, most of the time when people refer
to nation in Dai-lue, they say guo, using a Chinese loan word. In other
words, I am suggesting that prades ban meuang in this context refers to
Sipsongpanna, in contrast to the Chinese version, which refers to China.
What is going on here, and how does it relate to the education of Dai-lue
I would suggest that the regulation poster and monastic education at
Wat Pajie have a similar hidden agenda. Both want to foster a greater
love for the ethnic group in monks and novices who are already within
the system. In both cases, this agenda is hidden in a script that is inac-
cessible to the vast majority of people. The number of Han Chinese peo-
ple who can read Dai-lue is miniscule, and the number of Dai-Iue men
who can read it is also limited, especially in comparison with the num-
bers that can read Chinese. When a boy ordains, he can not read Dai-Iue.
Thus to the extent that anyone reads this regulation poster they can only
read the Dai-lue portion of it after they have been novices for several
years, and decided that the life suits them. Similarly, while much of the
Dai-lue portion of the curriculum, might be viewed by an outsider as
being nothing more than the maintenance of cultural forms, that part
which is most explicitly pro-Dai, the Baep Heyn Akkhara, is, again, only
accessible to people who have already decided to participate in the sys-
tem. Members of the government literally do not know how to read this
text. They have no idea about its nationalist sentiment.
Even if they could read these texts, however, this "hidden transcript"
would not necessarily bother them because both of these texts, the" regu-
lations of the temple and Baep Heyn Akkhara, direct our attention to what
we might think of subnationalist, not nationalist sentiment. That is to say,
there is no independence movement in Sipsongpanna, Buddhist-based or
otherwise. The monks' statements in regulations and alphabet study-guides
are not nationalist in terms of advocating for an independent Dai state,
but rather in terms of the need to protect the coherence of the Dai-lue com-
munity within China. There is no call in these texts for the return of Sip-
songpanna even to the semi-independent status it enjoyed prior to the
twentieth century. This has consequences for the way that we understand
not just the makeup of monastic education - to which I will return in a
moment - but also the way we understand the fundamental nature of.
Buddhism in Sipsongpanna. It is tempting to argue that the Buddhism of
Sipsongpanna is fundamentally other to China. After all, Dai-lue monks
are Theravada monks, the senior monks of the Sangha were all educated
in Southeast Asia, and the majority of their practices, relationships and
allegiances are all directed towards the Sanghas of Southeast Asia. In
other words, this argument goes, the degree to which Dai-lue monks are
Chinese must be considered an imposition and not an essential part of their
makeup. Yet to make this in many ways reasonable argument would be
to fundamentally miss the way that the Chinese state has successfully
colonized Sipsongpanna. That is to say, we should not think of Dai-lue
identity, Theravada Buddhism and China in terms of either/or, but in
terms of both/and.
An anecdote from my experience teaching the nak tham tl class at Wat
Pajie English might help clarify what I mean. Early in my fieldwork (and
thus in my teaching of the students), I was teaching them to answer yes
and no to simple questions: are you a monk? "Yes, I am" or "No, I am
not. I'm a novice." Sometime during this set of lessons, we talked about
nationality. I asked them if they were American, and of course they
responded that they were not. Are you Thai? No, we are not. Are you Dai?
I asked, and they responded that they were. All was well and good. I then
asked them if they were Chinese, and though I fully expected a negative
response, they answered just as loudly and clearly as when I asked if they
were Dai, "Yes, we are." My surprise at this moment is clearly based on
the fact that I was conceptualizing Chinese identity in simplistic terms,
conflating being Chinese with being a member of the majority Han. In
fact, these boys are citizens of the People's Republic, and while they are
often viewed as inferior in some fundamental ways (Hansen 1999) and
do not always view their citizenship as valuable, we should not underes-
timate its consequences.
Perhaps it might be better to think about this in terms of habitus. The
home that the Dai-Iue inhabit, politically, is dominated by the Chinese
state. The political forms and many of the social forms are similarly
designed by the Chinese state, and since these people, monks or other-
wise, live inside China's borders, they are subject to their strictures, their
laws, their public educational projects and also their benefits. In addition,
no matter how this situation began, most Dai-Iue people, monks included,
see their relationship with the Chinese state in complicated ways. They
are not simply a colonized minority; rather they are Chinese citizens,
which has both costs and benefits (particularly when they compare their
situations with their friends and relatives in the Shan States and Laos).
But this also means that the agendas of these monks, and thus the pro-
grams of the schools they build, must be similarly complicated.
Thus we return to this initial question: What is it that the novices of
Sipsongpanna are being trained to be, and to what degree is monastic
education about making monks? I asked many of these monks the ques-
tion in a somewhat different way: Is the point of Wat Pajie to train monks
and novices to be Dai-Iue men, or is the point to train Dai-Iue men and
boys to be monks? Most of the time, the monks avoided the stark con-
trast of my question, telling me instead that the preservation of Dai-Iue
culture was the main reason for the existence of the school. This would
seem to imply that the real work of the school is to train monks to be Dai-
lue men. However, I think their answers actually avoid the stark contrast
of my question and caution against assertions that the true work of this
Buddhist Institute is either religious or ethnic; both agendas are present
in the school in fact. Let me put it another way: The abbot of Wat Pajie
regularly said that the survival of the Dai-Iue people depended on the
survival of the Dai-Iue language (a la the alphabet book), and that with-
out the Dai-Iue people, Buddhism itself would not survive in Sipsong-
panna. In other words, it is not that the monks believe that Buddhism is
unimportant, but rather that it is only by preserving the frame - Dai-Iue
identity - the Sllsanii can survive. However, if the frame disappears,
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In describing Tibetan Buddhism, it is customary to draw a sharp distinc-
tion between Geluk: (dge lugs) and non-Geluk: schools. The former, which
traces its origin to Tsong Khapa (tsong kha pa, 1357-1419) and his direct
disciples, is often described as clerical, emphasizing the role of studies
in the religious career of its members. It is contrasted with the other main
Tibetan Buddhist schools, the Nyingma (rnying rna), Kagyu (bka' rgyud)
and Sagya (sa skya) traditions, which are supposed to be less scholastic,
stressing the immediacy of personal experience. Furthermore these tra-
ditions are often characterized as being tantric whereas the Geluk school
is presented as being essentially limited to the exoteric or sutra aspect of
In this essay, I examine the degree to which this dualistic view of
Tibetan Buddhism holds true within the realm of Tibetan monastic edu-
cation by studying one its most typical institutions. At first sight, it may
appear that the present state of Tibetan monastic education confrrms this
dualistic picture. There is a sharp contrast between the two models of
scholastic education that subsume the field of Tibetan monastic education.
The Geluk: model, which is found in the three great monastic seats (gdan
sa) of Sera, Drebung and Gaden, is characterized by a strong emphasis
on debate that contrasts sharply with the educational model of the non-
Geluk: institutions, the commentarial schools (bshad grwa). The education
of these institutions, which are found in all threenon-Geluk traditions, puts
less emphasis on debate and instead stresses exegesis as its central prac-
1 For such a view, see: G. Samuel, Civilized Shamans (Washington: Smithsonian,
Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies
Volume 28 Number 2 2005
In this essay, I argue that this dualistic picture of Tibetan monastic
education as being composed of two entirely separate traditions is mis-
leading, for it masks the commonality that exist among these traditions.
My argument focuses on the non-Geluk educational model of the com-
mentarial school. I start with a brief presentation of some of the general
features of Tibetan monastic education, focusing on the actual curricular
models and delineating their main characteristics. I argue that despite
very real differences, Geluk and non-Geluk curricular models share very
strong similarities, especially when contrasted with other models known
in the Buddhist world. I then examine the rise of the non-Geluk com-
mentarial school model of monastic education, showing that this model
is a recent creation, the result of the complex interactions of the non-
Geluk traditions with the dominant Geluk scholastic model of the three
monastic seats. I further argue that in fact both scholastic models are
transformations of the common classical model from which they both
derive. But before I can proceed with these historical considerations, I need
to say a few introductory words about the general structure of Tibetan
monastic education and briefly describe the main features of Geluk and
non-Geluk educational models

The Basic Structure of Tibetan Scholastic Education
The education of Tibetan monks can be seen to conform to a general
model in which three stages can be distinguished. 1) Education begins with
memorization and the acquisition of basic literacy, which constitute the
heuristic and obligatory aspect of the process. Mter monks have memo-
rized a sufficient amount of liturgical material they may continue with the
central hermeneutical practices of 2) commentary and 3) debate. This
structure is common to all existing Tibetan Buddhist traditions, underlining
the crucial role that memorization and basic literacy play in the forma-
tion of Tibetan monks.
Mter learning how to read, Tibetan monks start their most basic edu-
cational practice, the memorization of an often large number of ritual
2 The first two sections of this essay are derived from my Sounds a/Two Hands Clap-
ping (Berkeley: University of California, 2003), which the reader can consult for a more
detailed examination of these topics.
texts. This is the essential and obligatory element of the disciplinary prac-
tices on which Tibetan monasticism rests. It integrates monks to the
monastic community by allowing them to take part in its collective ritu-
als, which are the central activities of the monastery. Unlike the higher
scholarly training, which is reserved to the minority of those who are
ready for many years of intense dedication, memorization concerns all
monks. It inculcates in them a sense of discipline born out of following
a daily routine under the supervision of their teachers. This cannot but
greatly strengthen the sense of obedience that young monks develop
toward authority, an important element of most monastic structures. But
the most important disciplinary role of memorization is the training of
monks as efficient members of the ritual community. This is the main
function of monasteries in Tibet, providing ritual services to sponsors.
Typically, upon entering a monastery, young monks (between six and
twenty), first memorize its liturgy (ehos spyod). Only then can they
become members of the monastery, partaking in its benefits and in its
common activities. Once they have memorized the ritual texts, they are
able to recite them in unison with the community of monks using the
same tune and rhythm. In this way, a powerful aesthetic effect is created,
satisfying performers and supporters alike. The monks can feel confident
of the value of such practices and sponsors can get the sense of religious
awe that allows them to feel justified in their support for the monastery.
After having memorized the prescribed amount of ritual materials,
monks may choose to pursue a higher monastic education and enter the
course of studies provided by the larger monastic centers of their tradi-
tion. Such a choice is individual and traditionally only concerned a small
minority, for most monks remained satisfied with their role as ritual spe-
cialist and never bothered with studies
The first task of those Who choose
to enter into the course of scholastic studies is to memorize the great
Indian treatises (siistra, bstan beos), the root (rtsa ba, mUla) texts, on
which the whole tradition revolves. It is the study of these texts that con-
3 This situation is changing to a certain degree. The onset of modernity has tended to
give greater importance to scholastic studies, which provide monks with an education that
allow them to retain their claim to being a cultural elite. Hence, many monasteries are
now providing some scholastic training to their young monks, thereby broadening the
number of monks who undergo the training I am describing here.
stitutes the tradition, for unlike modern institutions where studies are
organized according to disciplines, scholastic studies are organized around
important texts. These texts are assimilated through commentaries and
debates supported by memorization.
This model of monastic training is followed nowadays by all Tibetan
Buddhist traditions
. There are, however, differences in the curriculum that
is being studied in this way by these traditions. To greatly simplify, we
can distinguish the Geluk curricular model as it is found in .the three
monastic seats from that found in the non-Geluk commentarial schools
mentioned above. Let me briefly indicate the main features of these two
models, focusing mostly on the latter.
The Two Models a/Tibetan Scholastic Education
The Geluk model is well known and does not need to be explained at
length here
It focuses on the exoteric study of five great texts (gzhung
chen bka' pod lnga), which are considered the central element of the edu-
cation of monks/scholars. The study of these texts is preceded by a pre-
liminary training devoted to the mastery of the techniques and vocabu-
lary necessary to the practice of debates as explained by the Collected
Topics (bsdus grwa). Once they have completed this study, Geluk monks
are ready to examine the five great texts that are taken to summarize the
main aspects of non-tantric Buddhism as understood by the Geluk tradi-
4 It appears that there may have been other models of monastic education in Tibet, but
over time those have been replaced by one of the two dominant models we examine here.
For example, the monastery of Kathog (ka thog) in Eastern Tibet had its own scholastic
tradition going back at least to the 12th century. Its approach was based on the study of
the nine vehicles as understood by the Nyingma tradition, with a heavy emphasis on the
study of the esoteric lore. See M. Kapstein, Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2000), 99. The writings of Karma Pakshi, who was trained in the
Kathog tradition, suggest a kind of encyclopedic approach to education in which students
are exposed to a variety of topics with an heavy emphasis on the highest tantric teachings,
particularly those of the Great Perfection. KongtruI's Shes bya mdzod is another example
of this encyclopedic approach. See Blo gros mtha' yas, kong sprul, 1813-1899, Theg pa
sgo kun las bstus pas gsung rab rin po che 'i mdzod bslab pa gsum legs par ston pa 'i bstan
bcos shes bya kun khyab. Beijing: People's Publishing House (Mi Rigs dPe sKrun Khang),
5 For more details, see my Sounds of Two Hands Clapping.
The first text, the AbhisamayaiaY(lkiira attributed to Maitreya
, deals
with the nature and structure of the Buddhist path as seen from the
Mahayanist perspective. It is central to the education of monks, provid-
ing them with a coherent worldview that will support their religious prac-
tice. It also provides the occasion for the study of the Y ogacara tradition.
The second text is Candraldrti's Madhyamakiivatara
, which is taken by
the tradition to provide the most authoritative introduction to Madhyamaka
philosophy as understood by the Geluk tradition. Throughout this first
and most central period, which may take from six to ten years, students
also study Dharmaldrti's Prama1}avarttika
, which provides the philo-
sophical methodology of the whole curriculum. Finally, the whole process
is completed by the Abhidharma and Vinaya through the study of
Vasubandhu's Abhidharmakosa
and GUl.laprabha's Vinaya-sutra

Quite different is the curriculum of the non-Geluk institutions, the com-
mentarial schools which are our focus here. Their curriculum is also com-
posed of a list of texts that varies from school to school. There are the
thirteen great texts (gzhung chen bcu gsum) favored by several Nyingma
institutions, and the eighteen texts of great renown (grags chen bcu
brgyad) studied in the Sagya tradition
. Although these lists differ slightly,
they mostly conform to a common model based on the study of a num-
ber of texts significantly larger than in the Geluk tradition. Typical in
this respect is the curriculum of the Nyingma monastery of Namdroe1ing
6 Maitreya., Abhisamayiilarrzkiira-niima-prajfiiipiiramitopadeSa-Siistrakiirikii (shes rab
pha rol tu phyin pa'i man ngag gi bstan beos mgnon par rtogs pa'i rgyan zhes bya ba tshig
le'ur byas pa), D: 3786, P: 5184. .
7 Candrakirti, Madhyamakiivatiira (dbu ma la 'jug pa), D: 3861, P:5262.
8 Dharmakirti, PramiilJa-viirttika-kiirikii (tshad ma rnam 'gre! gyi tshig le'ur byas pa),
D: 4210, P: 5709.
9 Vasubandhu, Abhidharma-kosa-kiirikii (ehos mngon pa'i mdzod), D: 4089, P:5590.
10 GUl).aprabha,Vinaya-sutra ('dul ba'i mdo tsa ba), D: 4117, P: 5619.
11 The Sa-gya eighteen texts of great renown consists of the thirteen listed below plus
these five: Santideva's Bodhisattvaearyiivatiira (Byang chub sems dpa'i spyod pa la 'jug
pa, D: 3871, P:5272), which is studied but not counted among the thirteen; Dharmakirti,
PramiilJa-viniseaya (tshad ma rnam par nges pa, D: 4211, Ce, P: 5710); Dignaga,
PramiilJa-samueeaya (tshad ma kun btus, D: 4203, P: 5700); Sagya Pal).c;\ita, !Dom gsum
rab byed, in the Complete Works of Sa-skya Masters (Tokyo: Toyo Bunko, 1968-9),
V.297.1.1-323.2.6, and Tshad ma rigs gter, in the Complete Works of the Great Masters
of the Sa sKya Sect (Tokyo: Toyo Bunko, 1968), V.155.1.1-167.1.6.
(rnam grol gling), the exiled version of Peyiil (dpal yul), one of the six
main monasteries of this tradition. Its curriculum consists of three parts.
The introductory element is provided by the study of Perna Wangyel' s
(pad ma dbang rgyal) treatise on the three types of VOW
and of Santi-
deva's Bodhisattvacaryiivatiira
Once monks have been exposed to the
basics of the tradition, they move to the central part of their education,
the study of the thirteen great texts, an extensive list of some of the most
important texts of the Indian Buddhist commentarial tradition. Madhya-
maka is studied by examining not just C andrakirti' s M adhyamakiivatiira
but also Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakiirikii together with the other
four smaller texts belonging to Nagarjuna's collection of five reasoning
texts (rigs tshogs lnga) as well as .Aryadeva's Catul;!Sataka
. Similarly,
the study of the Abhidharma is not limited to Vasubandhu' s Abhidhar-
makosa, as in the Geluk curriculum, but also includes Asanga's Abhi-
, which is said to represent the Mahayana point of
view. Another important characteristic of this model is its inclusion of
the five treatises of Maitreya
, which are considered central texts,
12 The three levels of morality in the tradition are: bodhisattva and tantric.
See: Padma dbang rgyal, Rang bzhin rdzogs pa chen po'i lam gyi eha lag sdoms pa gsum
mam par nges pa zhes bya ba'i bstan beos Delhi: s.n., 1969.
13 Santideva, Bodhiearyavatara (byang chub sems dpa'i spyod pa la 'jug pa). D: 3871,
14 Nagarjuna. Prajfia-nama-millamadhyamakakarika (dbu ma rtsa ba 'i tshig Ie 'ur byas
pa shes rab ees bya ba). P: 5224; Aryadeva, CatuJ:zsataka-Siistra (bstan beos bzhi brgya
pa), D: 3846, P: 5346. Padma mam rgyal of Zur mang explains thatPrajiiamilla contains
the basic conceptual presentation of Madhyamaka, which is commented in the most author-
itative Prasangika way, whereas Aryadeva's CatuJ:zsataka is more concerned with medita-
tion. gZhung chen beu gsum gyi thabs dang mtshan don 'grel pa blo gsal ngag gi rgyan
(Delhi: Dodrup Sangye Lama, 1976),5-6.
15 Asanga, Abhidharma-samueeaya (ehos mngon pa kun las bstus pa), D: 4049, P:
5550. Padma rnam rgyal explains that the Asanga's text presents a Mahayana view of the
basis, path and fruit commonly accepted by all Buddhists whereas Vasubandhu's text
focuses on the Hfuayana view. gZhung chen beu gsum gyi thabs, 5-6.
16 The four other treatises of Maitreya are: Mahayanottaratantrasastra (theg pa chen
po'i rgyud bla ma bstan beos), D: 4024, P:5525; Dharma-dharmata-vibhanga (ehos dang
ehos nyid mam par 'byed pa), D: 4023, P:5523. Madhyanta-vibhanga (dbus dang mtha'
mam par 'byed pa), D: 4021, P:5522; Mahiiyana-siltrala1!1kara-karika(theg pa chen
po'i mdo sde'i rgyan gyi tshig le'ur byas pa), D: 4020, P:5521. Padmamam rgyal explains
that the fIrst contains the experiential view of the ultimate (to be contrasted with the con-
ceptual presentation of Nagarjuna) whereas the next three contain the presentation of the
Cittamatra view, meditation and practice. gZhung chen beu gsum gyi thabs, 22.
whereas the Geluk tradition tends to focus mostly on the Abhisamay-
These texts are studied with their commentaries, fudian and Tibetan.
Throughout the curriculum, other texts are used as well, texts that are
important for understanding the history of the commentarial school.
Mipham Gyatso (mi pham rgya mtsho, 1846-1912) wrote some of the
treatises that provide the main doctrinal standpoint of the Nyingma tra-
dition, much in the same way that Goramba's texts are central to the
Sagya. But even more impOltant for our purpose are the works of Kenpo
Zhenphan Choeginangwa (gzhan phan chos kyi snang ba, otherwise
known as Zhenga, 1871-1927), particularly his literal glosses on the thir-
teen fudian texts. These texts have been central to the formation of com-
mentarial schools, providing the support and methodology for the exegesis
of the fudian texts, as we shall see shortly.17 Through out this part of the
curriculum, a variety of other auxiliary topics (grammar, composition,
poetics, history) are also examined.
Finally, the third and last part is the esoteric curriculum, the study of
tantras. It focuses on various texts that are not part of the thirteen texts
and whose precise enumeration is beyond the purview of this brief intro-
duction. Particularly important among the texts that are studied in the
context are Yonden Gyatso's (Yon tan rgya mtsho) commentary on Jik-
may Lingpa's ('jigs med gling pa, 1729-1789) Treasury o/Qualities (yon
tan mdzod)ls, various commentaries on the Guhyagarbha-tantra
and the
two Trilogies of Longchen Rabjamba (klong chen rab 'byams pa, 1308-
17 gZhan phan chos kyi snang ba, gZhung chen bcu gsum gyi mchan 'gre! (Debra Dun:
Kocchen Tulku, 1978). His works are also used by Sa-gya scholars. In the Sa-gya tradi-
tion, the works of authors such as NgakchO (ngag dbang chas grags, 1572-1641) and
Tukje Belzang (thugs rje dpal bzang, a direct disciple of Goramba who wrote complements
[kha skang] to the latter's commentaries) are also used.
18 Yon tan rgya mtsho, Yan tan rin pa che'i mdzod kyi 'grel pa zab don snang byed
nyi ma'i 'ad zer, Gangtok, 1969.
19 As, for example, Mi pham, gSang 'gre! phyags bcu'i mun se! gyi spyi don 'ad gsal
snying pa.
20 kLang chen rab 'byams pa, a.k.a. klang chen pa dri med 'ad zer, 1308-1363, Ngal
gsa skar gsum. Gangtok: Dodrup Chen Rinpoche, 1973, and Rang grol skaT gsum. Gang-
tok: Sonam T. Kazi, 1969.
Before proceeding any further, we may want to reflect on some of the
differences between this Nyingma curriculum and the Geluk model we
examined earlier. One of the central and obvious differences concerns
the early inclusion of the study of tantras in the Nyingma curriculum.
Whereas the Geluk curriculum seems not to include the study of tantras,
the Nyingma tradition includes such a study at an early stage. Although
it may seem that this justifies the clmm that Geluk tradition is exoteric
and Nyingma esoteric, the reality is more complex. First, one should keep
in mind that even in the Nyingma tradition, tantric texts are not part of
the standard curricular list. They are not included among the thirteen texts
that compose the core of the curriculum, a fact that reflects their esoteric
status. Second, it is a mistake to assume that the Geluk curriculum is lim-
ited to the exoteric domain and that the study of the five great texts marks
the end of the training. Geluk monks often start their study of the esoteric
tradition privately while studying at the great scholastic centers. After
they finish their exoteric studies they are expected to stay at a separate
institution devoted to the study and practice of tantra, often one of the
two tantric monasteries of Lhasa
There, they are trained in the differ-
ent aspects of tantra: practice of rituals, construction of ritual imple-
ments including offerings and maIJ<;!ala-making, and the study of the phi-
losophy of tantra. They also study the main tantric texts of their tradition,
which revolve around the practice of three meditational deities, i.e.,
Guhyasamaja, Yamantaka, and CakrasaIpvara. They particularly focus on
the former and study the main texts concerning this practice, particularly
its Root Tantra (gsang 'dus rtsa rgyud), The Fourfold Commentary Cgrel
ba bzhi sgrags), and Shayrab Sengge's Commentary on the Root Tantra
(gsang 'dus rtsa rgyud kyi tzkii)22.
21 Lower Tantric Monastery (rgyud smad gra tshang) and Higher Tantric Monastery
(rgyud stod gra tshang), now relocated in India. In the Labrang monastery of Arodo, monks
who have studied in the Monastery of Philosophy (mthsan nyid gra tshang) become Geshes
upon passing their bka' rams examinations. They are then required to spend three years
in one of the five tantric monasteries, the Lower Tantric Monastery (rgyud smad gra
tshang), Higher Tantric Monastery (rgyud stod gra tshang), the Hevajra Monastery (kye
rdor gra tshang), the Kalacakra Monastery (dus 'khor gra tshang), and the Medical
Monastery (sman pa gra tshang). Similarly, one of the four monasteries in Tashi Lungpo
is tantric.
22 Geshe Sopa, Lectures on Tibetan Religious Culture (Dhararnsala: Tibetan Library,
1983), 64-65.
. Thus, I would argue that in all Tibetan Buddhist traditions tantra func-
tions relatively similarly, as the supplement that is supposed to remain
secret but is nevertheless central and hence quite widely diffused. What
changes from school to school is the way this supplement is approached.
In the Ge-Iuk tradition tantras are studied privately or in separate institu-
tions, the tantric monasteries, and hence may be studied quite late in the
life of monks. By contrast, in the Nyingma tradition, monks study tantras
at a much earlier stage within the context of the commentarial schools.
Tantric concepts are introduced quite early on, during the preliminary
stage when the differences between sutras and tantras are laid out, a topic
formally discussed by Geluk scholars only much later. Thus, there is a clear
difference in the priority given to the study of tantra in Geluk and Nyingma
traditions, but it is simply not the case that the former can be identified with
the exoteric and the latter with the esoteric realms of Tibetan Buddhism.
Furthermore, it is a mistake to attribute this difference to some kind of great
Geluk vs. non-Geluk divide, for the practice of not including the study of
tantras in the official curriculum of educational institutions is also fol-
lowed by the Sagya tradition. Most Sagya commentarial schools do not
officially include the study of tantras, which are studied outside of the
curriculum within the confine of a guru-disciple relationship.
Another obvious difference between Nyingma and Geluk curricular
models is the number of texts that are being studied. Whereas the Geluk
tend to focus on the five texts, the Nyingma curriculum includes many
more texts. This difference is clear in the ways each topic is studied. For
example, Madhyamaka is studied by examining not just Candraklrti's
Madhyamakiivatiira but also Nagarjuna's Miilamadhyamakakiirikii as well
as Aryadeva's CatulJsataka. Similarly, the study of the Abhidharma is
not limited to Vasubandhu's Abhidharma-kosa, as in the Geluk curricu-
lum, but also includes Asanga's Abhidharma-samuccaya. Another impor-
tant characteristic of this model is its inclusion of the five treatises of
Maitreya, which are considered central texts, whereas the Geluk tradi-
tion tends to focus mostly on the Abhisamayiilarrzkiira. We may then won-
der whether this reflects a difference in the content of the education?
The answer to this question is again complex, but to simplify greatly
I would like to argue that the main difference here is not one of content
but one of pedagogy. If we group the study of Buddhism as it is done in
these traditions, we can discern five main areas: the study 'of the view (both
Madhyamaka and Yogacara), logic and epistemology, the study of the
path, monastic discipline and tantra. Both curricular models cover these
five topics, the main difference being in how the curriculum covers these
matters. For each topic the Ge-luk curriculum tends to focus on a single
text, which is then supplemented by further commentaries and monastic
manuals (yig cha). By contrast, the Namdroeling curriculum covers each
main area by examining several of the relevant texts. For example, when
the Yogacara tradition is studied in the Namdroeling curriculum, all the
relevant works of Maitreya are examined, whereas the Geluk curriculum
studies similar topics within the context of the study of a single text, the
Abhisamayalarrzkara. Similarly, when the Mahayana path is examined,
the Geluk curriculum focuses on the Abhisamayiilarrzkiira and does not
explicitly examine other texts such as the Mahayanasutralarrzkara, as
does the Namdroeling curriculum. Thus, what separates the two tradi-
tions are less the areas covered than the number of texts studied for each
area as well as the ways in these areas are understood. What we have
here are two distinct scholastic pedagogical approaches examining simi-
lar subjects in different manners and coming, at times, to different con-
clusions. The dialectical style of the Geluk tradition focuses on a few
texts and emphasizes the practice of dialectical debate as the central
method of education. As a consequence, this tradition has tended to limit
the textual basis of its studies and stress the in-depth analysis of each text
through debates. By contrast, the Nyingma tradition as exemplified by the
Namdroeling curriculum is less dialectical and more textual. It emphasizes
exegesis over debate, and offers a more rounded education that also
ificludes some literary as well as dialectical skills.
This methodological difference becomes even clearer when one exam-
ines the schedule of the two kinds of institution as well as the pedagogy
they follow. This is obviously not the place to go in any detail into this
topic, which I have treated in detail elsewhere
, but a few points will suf-
fice here. When one looks at the schedule of commentarial schools one
cannot but be struck by the central role of exegetical practices and the lim-
23 For more details on the schedules of scholastic institutions, see The Sounds of Two
Hands Clapping, 132-137, 246-248.
ited role of debate, which is typically practiced for only one hour a day,
when it is practiced at all
Most of the day is devoted to the practice of
commentary, which revolves around the morning class when students
learn new material. This class consists mostly of an explanation of a root-
text with a few debates. After lunch, students review the material covered
in the morning, checking their understanding of the material and prepar-
ing questions. Later during the afternoon they reconvene with another
junior teacher to review the material covered in the morning and make
sure that they understand the text. Thus, throughout the day, there is com-
paratively little focus on an in-depth exploration of the topic, though ques-
tions are raised in preparation for the evening debate. The overwhelming
concern is the development of the ability to explain the text and provide
learned glosses and textual clarifications. After dinner, students review
their lessons again following the same approach in preparation for the
dreaded part of the day, the morning examination.
This examination is one of the practices most characteristic of the com-
mentarial schools as they exist nowadays. The exercise typically takes
place in the morning when the abbot designates the student who will have
to explain and summarize the lesson of the previous day in front of an
assembly. A name is drawn out and the student thus designated has to
explain and summarize the lesson of the previous day in front of his class-
mates or even the whole school. He starts by explaining the point reached
in the text and proceeds to comment on the text line by line. This exer-
cise, which takes from twenty to thirty minutes, can be rather trying.
Good students do well with practice and are able to refresh the memory
of their classmates. The experience of less adept students or beginners can
be quite different. Left to their own devices, their performance can range
from incoherent and clumsy explanations, to bits of explanation painfully
sandwiched between long moments of silence, to the inability to articu-
late a single word.
This pedagogy is very different from the one followed by the Geluk
monastic seats. There, the overwhelming emphasis is on debate, which is
practiced for hours (in pre-1959 Tibet, up to ten hours a day!). The prac-
24 Kenpo Abey reported when he was at Dzongsar (see below) in the 1950s there was
no debate taking place, except when J amyang Loter Wangpo ('jam dbyang blo gter dbang
po), who was so fond of debates, was there. Oral communication, Fall 2005.
tice of commentary, which students learn through the teachings of their
tutors, occupies a smaller proportion of the day and is clearly less impor-
tant than debate, though itis still central to the educational process. Sim-
ilarly, the control of knowledge revolves around debate rather than com-
mentary, contrary to how things are done in the commentarial schools.
Thus, the main difference between the various existing Tibetan monas-
tic educational traditions is less a matter of content than one of method-
ology. These traditions share a large degree of overlap in the content of
their education but follow a different approach. The commonality in con-
tent becomes even clearer when we contrast this curriculum with the edu-
cational model of other Buddhist traditions. One of the striking features
of Tibetan educational models is the small role that the reading of the
sUtras plays. In both curricular models, the students encounter the inspi-
rational words of the Buddha only on rare occasions, through quotes and
glosses, but rarely are the actual texts fully read. In fact, except for an
occasional reading of the the main encounter between
the students and the Words of the Buddha
occur with the study of the
root tantras of the tradition such as the Guhyagarbha in the Nyingma tra-
dition and the Guhyasamiija in the Geluk tradition

Thus, a clear and common feature of Tibetan scholastic education is
the de-emphasis on the reading of the sfitras and the privileging of a sys-
tematic study of their content as summarized by the great Indian trea-
tises. Tibetan curricula almost entirely consist of these treatises, which
offer systematic presentations of the Buddhist teachings. These texts are
not part of the bka' gyur, the Words of the Buddha, but of the bstan gyur,
the translated treatises
We could almost say that Tibetan scholasticism
25 My describing these tantric texts as the Words of the Buddha is obviously not meant
as a historical claim but as a reflection of the way these texts are considered by the tradition.
26 I am referring here only to the readings that are part of the curriculum. Monks do
read some of the siitras, particularly those belonging to the Peifection of Wisdom category,
on their own, but in my experience, this happens mostly when they are senior. As they
progress through the curriculum, self-study becomes more important and careful reading
of great texts may replace some of the excitement of debate. The picture of Geluk monks
as being limited to the study of textbooks (yig cha) fits the beginners but is a crude cari-
cature of the practice of more seasoned scholars.
27 For a discussion of the Tibetan canon, see: P. Harrison, "A Brief History of the
Tibetan bKa' 'gyur," in J. Cabezon and R. Jackson, Tibetan Literature (Ithaca: Snow
Lion, 1995), 39-56.
has opted for a different set of canonical texts, the great Indian treatises
as contained in the bstan 'gyur, rather than the siitras of the bka' 'gyur.
This choice, which seems unique in the history of Buddhism, is less sur-
prising when placed it in its historical context, the transmission of Buddhism
from India. In the early phase, Buddhism developed in Tibet under the
patronage of a strong dynasty, which drew its Buddhism from several
sources, India, as well as China and Central Asia. In such a situation, the
influence of Indian Buddhism, though obviously strong, was not as exclu-
sive as it would become later. Then, the study of siitras dominated, as is
clear in the respective number of siitras and treatises translated during this
period. This situation changed during the later period, when the transmis-
sion occurred in the absence of any strong centralizing authority. In this
new context, Tibetans adopted to a large extent the models they received
from India rather than develop a more synthetic approach, as had been the
case during the earlier period. In the scholastic domain, this meant the
adoption of the shastric methodology used by late Indian Buddhists, with
the resulting focus on the study of basic treatises rather than on the siitras.
This shastric methodology is clearly in evidence in the late Hindu traditions
where basic aphoristic summaries of a tradition's scriptural basis playa cen-
tral role, following the methodology developed in Patafijali's grammatical
tradition. For example, the meaning of the is summarized by the
Brahmasiitra, which is in turn further explained by commentaries. In the
late Indian Mahayana tradition, these basic texts are not called siitras, a
name reserved for the teachings of the Buddha, but treatises (siistra, bstan
beos). They fulfill the same function as their Hindu counterparts, that of
summarizing, systematizing and explaining the meaning of the basic scrip-
tures. Such texts are intended to serve as the basis of further oral and writ-
ten commentary. They would be read in relation to a or a vrtti
(' grel ba), a commentary often written by the author of the root text. Those
in turn could be supplemented by a vyiikhyii or tikii (' grel bshadf8, a more
detailed gloss used to supplement the flrst commentary29.
28 A brief examination of the Tibetan catalogues of the bstan gyur suggests that the
Tibetan translation of these terms is far from systematic, the word bshad pa being used to
translate a vyiikhyii as well as a See, for example, P: 5555 and 5565.
29 L. Gomez, "Buddhist Literature: Exegesis and Hermeneutics," in Encyclopedia of
Religion (New York: McMillan, 1987),11.529-540,532.
Existing Tibetan curricula all share this focus on the treatises rather than
the Words of the Buddha. They also tend to study the same treatises,
though there are differences, as we saw above. Thus, when seen com-
paratively, it is quite clear that their similarity in content greatly out-
weighs their differences. What separates them is, as we have seen, less
the topics they study than the methodology they follow. Whereas Geluk
centers of learning tend to emphasize debate, commentarial schools tend
to emphasize commentary.
This clear answer does not, however, close our inquiry, for it raises
other obvious questions: where does this difference come from? How
did these two methodologies develop? Are we dealing here with two sep-
arate traditions as the clear pedagogical differences seem to suggest, or
are these differences the products of the transformations of a single tra-
dition? In the next pages, I suggest an answer by examining the rise of
the commentarial schools. I argue that far from representing separate tra-
ditions, the debating institutions and commentarial schools represent late
transformations of a common tradition.
Dzokchen, Zhenga and the Rise of Commentarial Schools
In dealing with the history of an educational tradition, it is always
tempting to naturalize the present and assume that what one studies has
existed all along. This temptation also concerns the commentarial school.
It is tempting to assume that such an institution has existed for a long time,
perhaps as far as the foundation of Samye in the 8th century, as is claimed
by many in the Nyingma tradition. But this temptation must be resisted
and we need to inquire more precisely into the rise of this type of insti-
tution. When did it really come to be?
The answer is, as often, "it depends". That is, it depends on what one
means by "commentarial school." If we refer by this term to an institu-
tion where scholastic exegesis is practiced, the traditional attribution may
well be correct. Commentarial schools understood in this loose way may
go back to the beginnings of Tibetan scholasticism as it was created at
Sangpu and other similar institutions in the eleventh and twelfth cen-
turies, or even to Samye in the eighth century when monasticism and
scholasticism were first introduced in Tibet under guid-
ance. However, if one refers to the full educational institution that exists
nowadays, with classes and exams based on a clear pedagogical choice
centering on exegesis and contrasted with the Geluk stress on debate, the
answer is quite different, for this educational form came about quite late,
as an element of the non-sectarian or ris med movement that took place
in Kham (South-eastern Tibet) during the 19th century. Although this
movement was not primarily scholastic, it did involve an attempt to revive
the scholastic traditions among non-Geluk schools.
This scholastic revival was a way to reverse the massive decline in the
level of scholastic activities among non-Geluk schools during the 17th,
18th and 19th centuries. Although most non-Geluk scholastic centers did
not actually disappear during this period, they were put under restrictions
and consequently lost their importance. The monastery of Nalendra, which
has been well studied by David Jackson, is a good example of such a
It was put under the rule of the Dalai-Lama's government, where
it steadily declined, unable to compete with the fast developing Geluk
monastic seats. Its fate illustrates the decline of the non-Geluk schools in
the scholastic domain during this period, decline largely due to political
circumstances such as the loss of support and protection, which large
scholastic centers require to thrive. This is not to say that higher learn-
ing did not take place within non-Geluk traditions during this period.
There were scholars, but they were mostly operating outside of institu-
tional channels. Many of the non-monastic teachers belonging to a line
of tantrikas received their education within their family, studying scholas-
tic texts with their fathers or uncles. Others received their education from
the various teachers they could visit, often having to move from teacher
to teacher to learn the various parts of the curriculum

This decline was reversed during the 19th and 20
centuries when
under the impetus of the non-sectarian movement and its charismatic fig-
ures, non-Geluk schools started to reinvigorate their monastic and scholas-
tic institutions. The full story of this monastic and scholastic revival has
yet to be told but is outside of the purview of such a short essay. Here, I
30 D. Jackson, The Early Abbots of 'Phan po Na-lendra (Wien: Arbeitkreis fur Tibeti-
sche und Buddhistische Studien, 1989), 29.
31 A good example of this kind of educational career is found in the life of Dezhung
Rinpoche as depicted by D. Jackson, A Saint in Seattle (Boston: Wisdom, 2004).
focus only on a single aspect of this revival, the creation of the com-
mentarial school model. In the process I also make some more general
remarks concerning the overall evolution of the Tibetan scholastic tradi-
The story of the creation of the commentarial school model seems to
center mostly around a single institution, the commentarial school of
Dzokchen Shri Sengha (rdzogs chen srwi sengha), and one of its most
famous abbots, Kenpo Zhenga, the author of the literal glosses on the
thirteen great Indian texts we already encountered. Dzokchen Shri Sen-
gha had been founded earlier by a charismatic teacher, Zhanphan Thaye
(gzhan phan mtha' yas, 1800-), who wanted to develop the practice of
monasticism in the Nyingma tradition. In 1848, at his inspiration and with
the active participation of Do Kyentse (mdo mkhyen rtse), one of the great
non-sectarian teachers, a commentarial school was founded at a short dis-
tance away from the monastery of Dzokchen in a special location blessed
by the imprint of the magical appearance of Shri Sengha, one of the main
lineage holders of the Great Perfection tradition. A temple surrounded by
individual cells for around fifty monks and their teachers was built apart
from the monastery to mark the special character of this institution. Its
members were to devote themselves to monasticism and studies rather than
spend their time on the usual ritual activities of the Dzokchen monastery.
The purpose of this school was not, however, the study of the great Indian
treatises we examined above but the development of Nyingma monasti-
cism in Kham, a particularly important task at that time.
Up to then, the Nyingma tradition had mostly relied on non-ordained
tantric practitioners to transmit its teachings through authorized lineages.
The move toward monasticism changed this situation, putting a greater
emphasis on the respect of exoteric moral norms of behavior as a sign of
spiritual authority. This move participated in the logic animating the non-
sectarian movement, the revitalization of non-Geluk traditions so that
they could compete with the dominant Geluk school. Since the Geluk
hegemony was based on a widespread monastic practice, it was impor-
tant for the other schools to develop their own monasticism to rival the
dominant Geluk tradition. This seems to have been one the goals of Zhan-
phan Thaye in creating the Dzokchen commentarial school. There, the
practice of monasticism was combined with the study of the three types
of vows as well as that of the Nyingma tantric lore, particularly the Guhya-
garbha tantra and'its exegetical tradition.
The creation of such an institution with its emphasis on monasticism
was the first step in the revitalization of non-Geluk institutions. A further
and equally important step was taken a few decades later with the trans-
fonnation by Zhenga of this institution into a center devoted to the study
of the exoteric tradition. This step was decisive in creating a scholastic
model that could provide an alternative to the dominant model of the
Geluk seats and could train scholars who could hold their own against the
intellectual firing power of Geluk scholars. At this stage many of the
details of this transformation remain obscure. The only known biogra-
phy ofZhenga by Wontoe Kyemab (dbon stod mkhyen rab) has not been
found and hence we are reduced to the few indications provided by var-
ious monastic histories. What is clear, however, is the decisive role played
by Zhenga and his teaching career, which is reflected in his own com-
mentaries on the thirteen great texts mentioned above.
Zhenga's career started in the early years of the twentieth century when,
after the death of his teacher Orgyan Tenzin Norbu (0 rgyan bstan 'dzin
nor bu), he moved from Gemang to Shri Sengha, by then a well estab-
lished institution. Although the beginnings of his teaching were modest,
Zhenga gradually became an important teacher at Shri Sengha, drawing
many students and assuming the abbotship of this institution in 1909

During his tenure, Zhenga started its transformation into one of the great
intellectual centers in Kham. In fact, the creation of the commentarial
school as we know it now, with its particular curriculum and its peda-
gogical approach, can probably be traced back to the time that Zhenga
spent at Shri Sengha. Zhenga did not, however, stay there for very long
and moved to other institutions where he became abbot and taught exten-
sively. The reason for this move is not known to me, but its result was
the spread of the particular pedagogical approach developed by Zhenga
to other traditions, particularly to the Sagya tradition, which had been
one of the two foremost scholastic traditions but had by then lost its place
in the Tibetan scholastic world. Zhenga was particularly fond of this tra-
dition and its great teachers, Sapal). (sa skya palJcjita, 1182-1251) and
32 Jackson, A Saint in Seattle, 28.
Goramba (go ram pa, 1429-1489), whom he considered to be the most
articulate exponents of non-Geluk exoteric views
Many in the Sagya
tradition returned Zhenga;s affection for their tradition, some even con-
sidering him to be one of SapaQ.'s manifestations
After leaving Dzokchen, Zhenga taught at several institutions, the most
important being Dzongsar (rdzong gsar or rdzong sar) which he founded
as the first Sagya commentarial school in Eastern Tibet. Zhenga stayed
there four years (1919-1923), and during this time he trained a whole
generation of outstanding Sagya scholars who played a central role in the
revival of Sagya scholasticism. Zhenga's disciples created new com-
mentarial schools or revived older institutions, using the texts and method-
ology they had learned from him and thus spreading his influence through-
out the Sagya tradition. Particularly important was the creation of a
commentarial school at Sagya itself, which in tum led to the creation of
several other similar institutions in Tsang and Central Tibet. Also sig-
nificant was the creation of commentarial schools at Derge (sde dge ')
and Lhungpo Tse (lhung po rtse) by Wontoe Kyenrab, one of Zhenga's
main disciples and successors at the head of Dzongsar commentarial
school. Even older well-established institutions such as Tanak (rta nag)
and Ngor seem to have been affected by Zhenga's influence

Zhenga also influenced the Kagyu tradition as well, although there the
filiation may be more problematic. The first commentarial school in this
tradition was established at Pelpung (dpal spung) by Tai Situ Perna Wang-
chok (twa'i si tu padma dbang mchog, 1886-1952) in collaboration with
Zhenga, who taught extensively at this institution.
In this way, Zhenga
influenced a number of Kagyti masters, who spread his approach to var-
ious parts of Tibet by creating similar institutions. Nevertheless, his exact
influence on the Kagyu tradition is harder to establish than in the case of
33 In his meditational practice, however, Zhenga was a dedicated follower of the Great
Perfection tradition. Jackson, A Saint in Seattle, 28.
34 bsTan 'dzin lung rtogs nyi rna, sNga 'gyur rdzags chen chas 'byung chen rna (Bei-
jing: Tibetological Press, 2004),309. lowe a special thank to Jann Michael Ronnis from
the University of Virginia for drawing my attention and providing me access to this con-
temporary historiography of the Nyingma scholastic centers.
35 bsTan 'dzin lung rtogs nyi rna, sNga 'gyur rdzogs chen chas 'byung chen rna, 310.
Jackson gives 1918-1920 for Zhenga's tenure at Dzongsar. A Saint in Seattle, 30.
36 From 1910-1918, according to Jackson, A Saint in Seattle, 30.
the Sagya school.. A story depicts him as raving against the view of extrin-
sic emptiness (gzhan stong), presenting it in a public teaching as the worst
wrong view whose adoption is worse than killing all the Buddhas and
Upon hearing this tirade, many of the Kagyii reincarnated
lamas left the teaching never to return. Although it is hard to know what
to make of this story, which may reflect more a sectarian bias than an
actual event, it is clear that Zhenga's well known opposition to the extrin-
sic emptiness teaching, which plays an important role in the Kagyii tra-
dition, cannot but have contributed to create some frictions, though it does
not appear to have limited the influence of his approach in the tradition.
Beside the foundation of these major institutions, Zhenga seems to
have participated to the creation of other minor commentarial schools.
With the blessing of Jamyang Loter Wangpo ('jam dbyang blo gter dbang
po), another great figure of the non-sectarian movement, he became the
abbot of the Sagya commentarial school of Gakye Gumdo (rga skye dgu
indo). He also spent some time at the Sagya school in Jyekundo, which
he created, and contributed to the creation of a similar institution in the
. Drikung tradition. Thus, despite some uncertainties about the details of
Zhenga's life
, his contribution is clear and impressive. What we have
here is a figure single-mindedly bent on a mission, that of creating a non-
Geluk scholastic tradition based on a particular institution, the commen-
tarial school, with its well-defined pedagogy and curriculum.
This approach is reflected in Zhenga's own commentaries on the thir-
teen great Indian texts (gzhung chen bcu gsum gyi mchan 'greI). These
texts, which appear to summarize Zhenga's teaching activities at the many
institutions he directed during his busy life-time
, are neither intended to
37 This story was reported by several Nyingma teachers at Namdroeling during my
stay there in 1995.
38 The sNga 'gyur rdzags chen chos 'byung chen rna to which I have referred here
presents only his teaching c.areer and does not describe his training. Moreover, its presen-
tation seems to reflect a clear agenda, emphasizing and, hence, perhaps exaggerating the
role of Zhenga and of the Nyingma lineage in the revival of the scholasticism of the other
schools. Still, its information seems accurate and represents a valuable source for the study
of these important developments.
39 It is not clear to me how and when these texts were written. Several were written at
Lhundrub Dechen Ling (lhun grub bde chen gUng), a Sagya monastery in Kham. See, for
example, the colophon of his commentary on the Vinayasiltra: gZhan phan chos kyi snang
ba, gZhung chen bcu gsurn gyi rnchan 'grel, vol.1.643.
be original nor do to raise particularly controversial questions. They mostly
paraphrase the foundational Indian texts, using glosses gathered from the
Indian commentaries explaining these texts, and adding here and there a
few points gathered from Tibetan sources
, In that, Zhenga's texts are
very different from those of Mipham, the great scholar of the non-sectarian
movement who provided incisive and compelling defenses of the Nyingma
tradition and measured critiques of other traditions, especially but not
exclusively ofthe Geluk
. Zhenga' s texts offer nothing of the ,sort. They
merely comment on the great texts, explicitly refraining from raising the
kind of questions that are propitious to debate and are entertained by
thinkers such as Goramba or Mipham. Nevertheless, Zhenga's texts are
greatly revered by his followers as being of equal value and status to that
of Indian texts. This reverence seems to be largely due to the fact that these
texts enshrine the exegetical methodology followed by Zhenga and his stu-
dents in developing the non-Geluk form of education provided by the
commentarial schools they created. These texts were adopted by several
monasteries as their textbooks (yig cha), particularly by Zongsar. Hence,
they are often called the Zongsar Textbooks.
The creation of this new institutional form was a self-conscious attempt
to revive the three non-Geluk traditions in Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal
was presented as a return to the classical past when these traditions had
a flourishing scholastic tradition. For Zhenga and his followers, the way
to return to this past was the exegetical study of commentaries, the proper
object of scholarship. By downplaying the role of debate emphasized by
the Geluk monastic seats and stressing exegetical skills, they accentuated
the differences between these two traditions and provided a clear artic-
ulation of a non-Geluk scholastic tradition. In this way, they started the
process of reversal of the damage inflicted on the non-Geluk scholarly
traditions and created an alternative to the dominance of Geluk scholas-
ticism, which had often tended to present itself in Tibet as the sole inher-
itor and legitimate interpreter of the classical Indian Buddhist tradi-
40 gZhan phan chos kyi snang ba, gZhung chen bcu gsum gyi mchan 'grel, vo1.4.731.
41 For a study of Mipham's works, see: J. Petit, Mipham's Beacon a/Certainty (Boston:
Wisdom, 1999).
42 bsTan 'dzing lung rtogs nyi rna, sNga 'gyur rdzogs chen chos 'byung chen mo, 309.
The Catholicity of Classical Tibetan Scholasticism
The conclusion that the commentarial school as we know it, with its
curriculum, its pedagogical approach and its practices (such as the morn-
ing examination), is of late origin is not surprising. Because they highly
value their link to tradition, Tibetan scholastic institutions tend to attrib-
ute to their practices greater antiquity than they may actually deserve.
But the reality is that Tibetan scholastic practices have kept evolving
throughout most of the time in which they have existed. This is not just
true of non-Geluk commentarial schools but also of the Geluk monastic
seats and their focus on debate. It would be a big mistake to think that
this focus and the texts that support it came fully formed with Tsong
Khapa and his ftrst disciples. Although the exact history of this transfor-
mation remains to be explored and is beyond the purview of this essay,
it is clear that the Geluk debating institution, as we know it, is also a rel-
atively recent development. It arose out of the complex process of dif-
ferentiation through which the Geluk school was formed during the sec-
ond half of the 15
, the 16
and the first half of the 17th centuries. Prior
to this formative period, the education dispensed by the main scholastic
. centers of Tibet was quite different from what we can observe in Geluk
centers nowadays, even in those centers that were sympathetic to the
views developed by Tsong Khapa and his followers. This is quite clear
when one looks at Tsong Khapa's training as it is presented in his vari-
ous hagiographies.
These texts offer a partisan but intriguing view of a time that has often
been characterized as the classical period of Tibetan scholasticism
. This
period seems to have been characterized by a large degree of eclecticism
and fluidity of institutional organizations and affiliations. Monks went
from monastery to monastery, studying with teachers belonging to dif-
ferent schools in accordance with the specialization of these teachers,
without much regard for their sectarian affiliations. These differences
were not understood to reflect deep sectarian divisions but were seen as
individual variations between teachers. After having studied a certain
43 This characterization is based on D.S. Ruegg, "On the Reception and Early History
of the dbu rna (Madhyamaka) in Tibet," in M. Aris and A. Suu Kyi ed., Tibetan Studies
in Honor of Hugh Richardson (New Delhi: Vikas, 1980), 277-9, 278.
number of texts, scholars would tour other centers to be examined on
these texts.
Tsong Khapa's education reflects this eclectic atmosphere
Born in
Amdo, Tsong Khapa moved to Central Tibet at the age of sixteen to be
trained in the scholastic tradition that was by then well established in this
part of Tibet. He went to Tzechen (tse chen) to study Madhyamaka, logic,
epistemology, and Abhidharma witli Rendawa, (red mda ba, 1349-1412),
to Dewachen (bde ba chen) to study Prajfiaparamita literature and to Zhalu
where he studied the Heruka tantra. He also toured the great scholastic
centers of Central Tibet such as Narthang (snar thang), Sagya
, and the
Kagyii establishment of Densatel (gdan sa the!) to be exarnined
Khapa is described as taking part at the age of twenty four in the Spring
Session at Narthang
Hagiographies also describe Tsong Khapa's suc-
cesses in his scholastic tours, but even there the details are difficult to fig-
ure out. Scholastic tours (grwa bskor dam bca'), as the name suggests,
seem to have involved an explanation (bshad pa) of the texts on which
the candidate was examined, and a debate in which he would answer
queries concerning his explanations. Cha har dGe bshes bLo bzang Tshul
khrims describes these tours in this way: "Having asked the permission
of the teachers of the monastery, one sits in the midst of the assembly led
by these teachers. One then answers distinguishing the meaning [in the
questions] asked through debate by the scholars of this monastery." 48
Though it is difficult to know the details of his daily training, Tsong
Khapa does not seem to have followed the kind of routine that one can
find nowadays in the three Geluk monastic seats where monks debate for
hours every day. Tsong Khapa was not tied to a single monastery, as
44 mKhas grub, rJe btsun tsong kha pa chen po'i ngo mtshar rmad du byung ba'i rnam
par thar pa'i 'jug ngogs, in Tsong Khapa, Collected Works (Dharamsala: Tibetan Cultural
Printing, nd), I.1.a-71.b.
45 R. Thurman, Life and Teaching o/Tsong Khapa (Dharamsala: Library, 1982),8.
46 bSod nams grags pa, bKa' gdams gsar snying gi chos 'byung yid kyi mdzes rgyan
(Delhi: Gonpo Tseten, 1977), 24.b.4.
47 bLo bzang 'phrin las, 'Jam mgon chos kyi rgyal po tsong kha pa chen po'i rnam thar
(Kokonor People's Press, 1996), 148.
48 'dus sde'i bla ma dag la zhu nas bia ma rnams kyis gtsos pa'i 'dus sde tshogs pa'i
nang du bsdad nas dgon pa de'i mkhas pa rnams rim bzhin rigs lam gtong la gang dris
pa'i don phye ste Ian 'debs pa yin la!). Cha har dGe bshes bLo bzang Tshul k:hrims, rNam
thar, 96.
monks now are. Be was often on the move, going from monastery to one
another to study with various teachers, as was the custom then, and spend-
ing long period studying on his own

The impression that the classical Tibetan scholastic was an eclectic
and fluid tradition based on the practice of commentary with occasional
periods of debate receives some degree of confirmation from the ways in
which the institutions of the early Geluk school, or rather the Gaden
school as it was then called, are described by early histories of the tradi-
Quite revealing in this respect is Las-chen Kun dga' rgyal mtshan's
bKa' gdams chos 'byung gsal ba'i sgron me. This text was written in the
last years of the fifteenth century or the first years of the sixteenth cen-
tury, presenting us with a view of Tsong Khapa's tradition as it was con-
ceived in the last quarter of the fifteenth century. In this text we find
mention of the great scholastic centers of the tradition, but what is strik-
ing is the way they are called. For example, in describing the monastery
of Gaden, the text makes it clear that it was not originally founded by
Tsong Khapa as a scholastic center but that it was only transformed into
one by Kaydrub. The text then adds that Kaydrub "established a philo-
sophical commentarial school at Gaden" (dga' ldan du mtshan nyid kyi
bshad grwa btsugS)51.
This description of Gaden as a commentarial school is quite revealing,
for it shows that there was no division at that time between commentar-
49 The hagiography of another great figure of the time, Bodong, suggests a similar pic-
ture. See: 'Jigs med dbang po, Bo dong palJchen kyi rnam thar (Shinhua: The Old Tibetan
Texts Press, 1991),68-78.
50 How debate was practiced at that time is still an open question for me. Hagiogra-
phies do not provide much detail about daily schedules, and monastic constitutions (cha
yig) are often mute about the history of the schedules they describe. What is important to
remember is that even in the three Geluk monastic seats, debate was never practiced every
day before 1959, but only during the sessions (chos thog) that took place regularly through-
out the year (the rest of the time was spent memorizing and studying with one's teacher).
This is also likely have been the case during Tsong Khapa's time, but as time went by these
sessions seem to have become longer, becoming the center of the scholastic practices of
these institutions. By contrast, Tsong Khapa is described by the hagiographicalliterature
as spending most of his time studying on his own with his teachers and engaging only in
occasional debates. This difference marks an important shift in the focus of Geluk schol-
arly practices, which seem to have become increasingly focused on debate.
5l Las-chen kun dga' rgyal mtshan, bKa' gdams kyi rnam par thar pa bka' gdams chos
'byung gsal ba'j sgron me (block print, nd), 370.b.1.
ial and debating institutions. An institution such as Gaaen did not under-
stand itself to be very different from other scholastic institutions, despite
its allegiance to Tsong Khapa. Even in the second half of the frfteenth cen-
tury, there was a fluid and informal scholastic tradition present in vari-
ous monasteries where monks would come to study particular texts with
teachers who were renowned for their mastery of these texts. It is possi-
ble that various centers had different specialties but that these differences
were not understood as marldng deep sectarian differences. Thus, neither
Geluk debating institutions nor non-Geluk commentarial schools as they
exist now represent the original model. They both are the results of the
complex transformations that Tibetan scholasticism underwent after the
fifteenth century when Central Tibet and Tsang descended into a pro-
tracted civil war and the sectarian divide became rigid. The clear sepa-
ration that exists nowadays between the two distinct institutional forms
we have examined in this essay reflects this later transformation of a
much more catholic early classical tradition.
The catholicity of early Tibetan scholasticism should not lead us, how-
ever, to assume its universality. Although thinkers from several traditions
were involved in scholastic activities, it would be a mistake to think that
there was universal agreement about their value. In parallel with the for-
mation of a scholastic tradition in the 11th and 12th centuries and its
coming to maturity during the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, there arose
an anti-intellectualist tradition of thinkers such as Jikten Gonpo ('jig rten
mgon po) and Karma Pakshi (1206-1283), who opposed scholasticism
and its claim that reason can guide practitioners and lead to spiritual real-
ization. These thinkers were deeply skeptical of scholasticism, denying
much legitimacy to its claim to represent authoritative Buddhist thought
in Tibet
For these thinkers, spiritual realization does not just necessi-
tate transcending rationality, a claim accepted by almost all scholastics in
Tibet, but requires its radical rejection in favor of faith. In this perspec-
tive, scholasticism is not just limited, but is an actual obstacle to be
rejected, if not ridiculed. It ensnares people in the net of the concepts
they create instead of setting them free through the single-minded prac-
tice of meditation.
52 I am following here Kapstein's compelling description of Karma Pakshi as a skep-
tical fideist. See: The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism, 101-106.
The conflict between this anti-intellectualist tradition and scholasti-
cism is a well-known tension of Tibetan Buddhism that has surfaced at
various periods. It would be a mistake, however, to assimilate this ten-
. sion to the divide that exists nowadays between Geluk and non-Geluk
scholastic traditions. Like their Geluk counterparts, the non-Geluk com-
mentarial schools, whose rise we examined here, are based on the idea
that the study of the great Indian texts is a valuable preparation to Bud-
dhist practice. This appreciation for the role of the intellect differs pro-
foundly from the rejection of reason sometimes associated with a more
exclusive emphasis on meditative practice. This is not to say that this
anti-intellectualism has not some resonance within some of the non-Geluk
traditions and that the scholasticism of the commentarial schools repre-
sents a view of Buddhism unanimously accepted. There may be thinkers
who are uncomfortable with this approach within their own traditions,
but it is a mistake to conflate this tension with the differences separating
Geluk and non-Geluk schools. Interesting differences are often less the
marks of obvious sectarian divisions than the signs of the less obvious dia-
logue that takes place within living traditions.
Speaking of nineteenth century Buddhist reform in Thailand Charles Hal-
lisey writes:
"[B]eginning in the eighteenth century and continuing throughout the nine-
teenth century, there was a radical shift in the interpretation of Buddhist
thought, a process of reformation which was encouraged by leading mem-
bers of the Buddhist monastic order, and supported by the authority of the
Siamese throne ... [T]his process of reinterpretation included reform of the
Buddhist monastic order, an insistence on strict ritual, canonical funda-
mentalism, and purity of ordination ... [T]he fact that the Thai developments
were clearly not determined by the presence of antagonistic Westerners pro-
vides a useful reminder that we should avoid attributing too much force to
the 'West' (or Christianity, or Protestant assumptions, or Orientalism) in
the changes to Theravada Buddhism ... These developments also open up the
possibility that ... there may have been an equally productive elective affin-
ity between some European and some Theravadin responses to moder-
nity"(Hallisey 1996: 48-49).
Further, a general call for scholars to understand why certain Buddhist
texts endure while others disappear:
"[T]he survival of any particular text is not self-explanatory, but in fact it is
normally the case that the texts fade in their significance as social change
occurs, then we need to discover how those texts which do endure are main-
tained. In part, this will require us to look at the manner in which texts were
circulated - the technology, practices, and institutions which made their sur-
vival possible-but especially the processes by which certain texts were sin-
gled out as worth preserving. Discovering answers to such questions will
require investigations about the extent to which the production and survival
1 Prapod Assavavirulhakarn, Anne Blackburn, Thomas Borchert, Georges Dreyfus,
Michael Jerryson, Jeffrey Samuels, Ani! Sakya (Phra Sugandha), Peter Skilling, and the
editors at JIABS read earlier drafts of this paper and offered numerous corrections and sug-
gestions. I thank them.
Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies
Volume 28 Number 2 2005
of a text is both dependent and independent of the which receive
it. In the course of doing all of this we will inevitably end up having to rethink
our conceptions of Buddhism as a translocal tradition with a long and self-
consciously distinct history but which is at the same time a tradition depend-
ent on local conditions for the production of meaning"(Hallisey 1996: 51).
The present study takes up Hallisey's call (second quotation) with spe-
cific reference to the Thai reading and teaching of the Dhammapada. I use
the Dhammapada as a window into the changes and continuities of Thai
Buddhist education. Like Hallisey, I question the uniformity and perva-
siveness of "Western" influence on the local production of meaning.
However, I diverge from him (first quotation) by questioning the basic
assumption that Thai/Siamese reforms in the nineteenth century, espe-
cially in regards to Buddhist textual canonization and educational stan-
dardization, actually were "reforms" at all. For monastic education specif-
ically, I assert that the choice of texts did not "radically shift" in the
nineteenth century and did not reflect "canonical fundamentalism" in
practice. Moreover, the ways of reading and the pedagogical methods
used to teach texts have seen little reformation. Methods evinced in man-
uscripts from before the nineteenth century and those employed today
reveal a deep epistemological and methodological continuity in the Thai
approach to Buddhist thought. Major changes in Thai Buddhist education
have been primarily institutional and ideologica1
Institutions and ide-
ologies, though, are only part of a comprehensive understanding of edu-
cation. Often histories of education are written as histories of educational
institutions or the ideologies of the elite reformers. For me, studying the
history of education is studying the history of reading in shifting perfor-
illative contexts. Tracing the mediums and methods of Dhammapada
instruction over time will begin to expose the processes of textual circu-
lation and curricular development among Thai Buddhists. In the end, I
question the nature of a local Buddhist "text" and the way it is read. I
offer suggestions of ways to study the history of Buddhist textual educa-
tion and the art of reading with a pedagogical objective. This, I hope,
will begin to dust off and examine some of the field-wide skeletons Hal-
lisey has so carefully exhumed.
2 Thomas Borchert's suggestions were instrumental in revising this section of the paper.
Walk into most any Thai bookstore, look at most any ThaiBuddhist-
themed website, look at most any Thai Buddhist curriculum, examine
most any Thai manuscript archive and you will see the Dhammapada.
Some form of the Dhammapada has been wide-spread for at least 500
years. If we look at Thai, Mon and Kluner epigraphic evidence, some
form of the text goes back another thousand. Still, all Dharnmapadas are
not created equally. Despite its importance for students and teachers in
Thailand, the nature of the "text" of the Dharnmapada or how it has been
read, summarized, manipulated, expanded, anthologized and transformed
through various pedagogical methods and mediums has not been

At fIrst glance it would seem that the Dhammapada in modem Thai-
land is radically different from its pre-modem antecedent. There have
been several key changes in the text and the manner in which it has been
conveyed over the last fIve centuries. First, a pre-twentieth century empha-
sis on narrative commentarial sections as a pedagogical subject has been
replaced by a valorization of canonical Dharnmapada verses. Prior to the
twentieth century, the verses as a separate or complete collection had lit-
tle commerce among teachers and students. In the pre-modem period the
Dhammapada verses were rarely collected as one text. Second, manu-
scripts of some form of the Dhammapada are most often in the vernacu-
lar, not in Pali. The most common way to render and teach the Dharnma-
pada prior to the modem period was the nissaya method which is a
vernacular gloss and explanation of Pali words and phrases from the
source. Third, the manuscripts of the Pali Dhammapada and vernacular
Dhammapada translations, commentaries and glosses nearly always
include extra-canonical material and are often included in anthologies of
local and canonical material. The Dharnmapada grew and changed over
time in Thailand until the advent of the printing press which has slowed,
but not killed, its expansion. Expansion still happens when teachers read
in order to prepare an oral exposition. Fourth, the mediums for teaching
the Dharnmapada have changed in response to technological advances, the
3 Kevin Trainor is undertaking a larger study of the Dharnmapada and its appropria-
tions historically.
influence of Western ideas of the Buddhist "original canon," the rise of
the primacy of Pali over vernacular commentarial texts, and changing
social concerns; however, these changes need to be qualified based on the
audience and the manner of the instruction. These primitivist, textual,
cultural, and moralist biases have been well-documented in the study of
Sri Lanka Buddhism
. In more recent years the Dhammapada's role in
education has expanded into television programs, popular anthologies,
handbooks, websites, and avant-garde dramas. There are also abundant
copies of the complete Pali Dhamniapada (verses and commentarial nar-
ratives) thanks to the efforts of Thai royal family and Sri Lankan and
British Buddhist scholars who brought copies to Thailand in the late nine-
teenth century.
Although the mediums and content have changed significantly, the
methods used to instruct the Dhammapada have remained largely the
same since the sixteenth century. Instruction still operates on a system of
drawing selected Pali words from the text and offering expanded creative
glosses and analogies to contemporary issues. Reading, it seems, still
involves looking for the terms, themes, and narratives that are the best
vehicles for conveying a point orally. Moreover, commentarial narratives
on the Dhammapada are still the primary content for lecturers and sermon-
givers. Seeing how the Dhammapada is taught in an oral context is essen-
tial in avoiding convenient and facile reification of unrealistic barriers
between the past and the present and the East and the West. Lopez, Jory,
Obeyesekere, Ludden among others have astutely identified how the
"Western scholarly interpretation of Buddhism" was subsequently adopted
by Sinhalese and Thai Buddhists and became the official view of Bud-
dhism locally (Jory 2002: 893). However, as Blackburn emphasizes this
monolithic aping of the West can be over-emphasized and may remove
the multivocal, inconsistent, and dynamic agency of colonized Buddhists
It is wise not to over-emphasize this change lest we become blind to some
fundamental continuities in the various ways Buddhism has been taught
to Buddhists by Buddhists.
4 Prothero (1995) provides a summary.
5 See Blackburn (2001) for background on the post-orientalist debates in Buddhist
.There is certainly an "elective affinity" between the popularity of the
Dhammapada in Thailand and the West, where it is arguably the most fre-
quently translated and cited Buddhist text. Indeed, it was the first Bud-
dhist text translated into a Western language, Latin, "Dhammapadam ex
tribus codicibus Hauniensibus Palice edidit Latine vertit ... " in 1855, by
Viggo The history of the Dhammapada in the West and a full
bibliography is sorely needed, but that must be left for another day7. How-
ever, just because the text is popular among students and scholars in Lon-
don and Bangkok, Los Angeles and Chiang Mai, Sydney and Samut
Sakom does not mean that the text is taught and printed the same in all
contexts. As American historian David Harlan argues, studying texts in
their socio-historical context is not purely instrumental where "complex
texts are reduced to mere tokens and documents."8 One context is not
explanatory of how the text should be taught. Instead, texts are always
parts of multiple contexts, multiple readings and educational settings,
which, I argue, we would do well to compare. The context in which a text
was fIrst composed is not the only context of a text, and not even it's most
The author of the original text is not the only person's inten-
tion to which we need to pay attention. Our questions to texts need to shift
with shifting contexts. Intention is spread and shared across every reader,
teacher, every printer, every translator, every student who engages with
the text. Being attentive to the nexus of intentions, mediums, and meth-
ods in particular contexts is the duty of the historian of education. Offi-
cial canons of texts, elite ideologies, and the institutions where they are
promoted are part of big history and it seems that big history has domi-
nated the study of Thai Buddhism. Big history ignores the small encoun-
6 For good introductions to the text see Oskar von Hiniiber and K.R. Norman (1994)
and J.R. Carter and M. Palihawadana (1987). There are dozens of translations of the
Dhammapada in European and Asian languages. It seems as if new ones are published every
year. There are also many available on the internet. There are many Thai editions of the
verses and commentaries.
7 Hecker (1993) and von Hiniiber (1996).
8 This is quoted from Elizabeth Clark's (2004) study of Harlan in her sweeping overview
of the field of history. Harlan indicts the field of history and its allegiance to "context" in
The Degradation of American History (1997).
9 Hypertext editions of poems by Blake and Rossetti by of Jerome McGann, George
Landow, and others offer good comparative examples of reading texts across different
ters of students and individual textual passages, teachers and particular
classes. It ignores the conversations, arguments, and mistakes that take
place in monastic cells, royal corridors, vernacular manuscripts, and novice
I see the need to explore the relationships created between the text,
reader [teacher] and the audience when teaching as congruent with the
relationships formed between the reader and text when reading. I approach
the Dhamruapada as a "text" following Michel de Certeau whQ takes into
consideration both the espaces lisibles (discursive and material forms of
texts) and their effectuation (procedures of interpretation in changing con-
texts). He writes:
"Whether it is a question of newspapers or Proust, the text has meaning
only through its readers; it changes along with them; it is ordered in accord
with codes of perception that it does not control. It becomes a text only in
relation to the exteriority of the reader, by an interplay of implications and
ruses between two sorts of 'expectation' in combination: the expectation
that organizes a readable space (a literality), and one that organizes a pro-
cedure necessary for the actualization of the work (a reading)." 10
To this Roger Chartier adds:
"The dialectic [when reading and I would argue teaching] between imposi-
tion and appropriation, between constraints transgressed and freedoms bri-
dled, is not the same in all places or all times or for all people. Recogniz-
ing its diverse modalities and multiple variations is the first aim of a history
of reading that strives to grasp - in all their differences - communities of
readers and their 'arts of reading. ",
In this case, understanding the ways Thai Buddhist readers. and teach-
ers have creatively translated and taught the Dhammapada will provide
insight into how socio-historical forces have influenced the local reading
and teaching of Buddhism, and provides a more sophisticated way of see-
ing the changes and continuities of Buddhist exegesis in Thailand. This
is an approach that I hope will serve as a model of how to write a his-
tory (certainly not the only way) of Buddhist education without describ-
ing merely institutions and official curricula and the ideologies that spon-
sor them. This is an alternative to the institutional and ideological
10 See Michel de Certeau (1984): 174 and Roger Chartier's commentary (1994): 2.
approach. This study does not simply teach us more about Thai exegetes,
translators and instructors. In the end, I hope that it will force us to think
about how we read, learn, teach, and translate the Dhammapada in our
classrooms, libraries and offices, as well as what we choose to count as
historical evidence. There is much to learn from the ways Thais have
negotiated with the Dhammapada. We have much to learn from Thai
teachers about what counts as the Dhammapada. In this way learning
from the ways Thai learn the Dhammapada is not only a historical inves-
tigation, it is also an inter-textual and self-reflective projectll.
Instability and Freedom: The Pre-modern Vicissitudes of the Dhamma-
pada in Thailand
The Dhammapada is one of the oldest and best recognized texts of
South and Southeast Asian Buddhism. In pre-twentieth century Thailand
it was a central subject of commentaries, sermons and inscriptions
11 For example, Bailey and Mabbet (2003) use the teachings of the Dhamrnapada in
support of their thesis that early Buddhism was an ascetic religion in which the Buddhist
monk was primarily an ascetic who played a mediating role in society. Regardless of the
accuracy of their thesis or the intentions of the author(s), they use socio-historical evi-
dence to provide a clearer reading of the Dhamrnapada and the Dhamrnapada to strengthen
their sociological argument. It is an important, if somewhat convoluted, contribution, but
tells us nothing of how the Dhamrnapada was taught, how the verses were received, altered,
etc. in oral exposition. It tells us nothing about appropriation. The early Pali commentaries
reflect a wide diversity of interpretations of the verses, many not in support of the ascetic
life. These narrative commentaries expanded in Southeast Asia and became mixed with local
folktales, political agendas, etc. For a longer discussion on this topic and a bibliography
on Buddhist narrative transfonnations in Thailand and Laos see McDaniel (2000) and
McDaniel (2005). For a good model on how stories in India become intertwined see Insler
(1991: 97-139).
12 The diversity of Dhammapada and Dhammapada-Atthakatha manuscripts in the
region can be seen from the most cursory of surveys. For example, in Balee Buddharaksa's
catalogue of 89 Pali manuscripts from Northern Thailand there is a manuscript from 1583
from Wat Lai Hin with one phak (fascicle) and 42 folios, which is not complete, which
contains two stories (Velatthisisattithera and another unidentified narrative). There is
another manuscript titled simply "Dhamrnapada" from 1511 composed by a Lao monk from
Xaiyaburi, but found in Northern Thailand with 23 verses. Other Dhamrnapada manu-
scripts include: from Wat Doi Kaeo in Chiang Mai with one philk and 99 folios, from Wat
Kasa in Chiang Rai with one phak and 109 folios composed in 1647. These are all com-
mentarial narratives. There are also three rare manuscripts which contain only Pali verses.
These were used by Oskar von Hiniiber and K.R. Nonnan for their PTSedition. One from
ever, before the twentieth century there is little evidence that there were
many "complete manuscripts" of the Pali Dhammapada in Thailand

1786 has one phf1k, 57 folios, and was found at Wat Lai Hin. It is missing verses 319 to
343. Another is from 1611 (Wat Lai Hin) and is almost complete. The last is from 1827,
Wat Kasa, Chiang Rai has 109 folios. In the catalogues from the Center for the Promo-
tion of Art and Culture at Chiang Mai University there were over 20 Dhammapada man-
uscripts found in Phrae province alone, many from Wat Sung Men (although many were
probably composed in Luang Phrabang, Laos). Most are vernacular nissaya stories and not
verses. I examined many of these manuscripts myself at the monastery, but a complete study
is needed. These manuscripts are very diverse in size (one to 21 philks) and contain dif-
ferent content (different local narratives and collected, often mis-ordered narratives from
the Dhammapada-Atthakatha). In Lampang Province we find a great deal of Dharnma-
pada manuscripts from the early to mid-eighteenth century which range widely in size and
content. Most are vernacular nissaya type manuscripts with mixed local and Indic narra-
tives in idiosyncratic order. In Central Thailand (Siam) this diversity is also found; how-
ever, there are fewer manuscripts of the Dharnmapada from the Central region due to the
ravages of war and neglect. The manuscripts used to make the frrst tipitaka in Thonburi-
early BangkoklRatanakosin era (late eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries) came from
Ayudhya, Nakorn Sri Thanrmarat (Southern Thailand) and were edited and compiled at Wat
Rakhangkositaram in what is commonly known as the Wang Lang section of Thonburi
(properly Bangkok Noi). I am undertaking a study of early Dhammapada manuscripts in
Central Thailand. In the library of Wat Boworniwet in Bangkok there is a printed edition
of the Dharnmapada in Ariyaka script. Ariyaka is the script that was designed by King
Mongkut in the mid-nineteenth century. This edition does not seem to have had much
commerce among monastic students, but this is likely the frrst known printed edition of
the text. Phra Sugandha (Anil Sakya) was of much help in locating early printed editions
of this text. He recently published (2004) a new edition and introduction to the flIst Ariyaka
text produced (a small collection of liturgical and protective prayers called the "Suat Mon
Tua Ariyaka"). The first four texts, and as far as I can tell the only four, printed in Ariyaka
script were the Suat Mon, the Dhanrmapada, the Bhikkhupatimokkha and the BhikkhunI-
patimokkha. The last text is strange considering that there were no bhikkhuni (fully ordained
nuns) in the country at that time. For this paper, it is telling that the Dharnmapada (verses)
were seen as foundational to Thai Buddhist education and heritage. I also thank Phra
Mahasillapa Dhanrmasippo (Hinchaisri) for his assistance and guidance. Dharrunapada-
Atthakatha manuscripts dominate and the use of vernacular gloss is common. Many man-
uscripts I consulted for this paper were read in situ at various monastic libraries in Laos
and Northern Thailand. Many are also housed in microfIlm in archives in the region. There
has been no comprehensive catalogue for these manuscripts. A list of catalogues for the
collections (which certainly does not cover all extant manuscripts) appears in McDaniel
(2003) and a slightly different list in Skilling (2002). See also Skilling (2004) for more infor-
mation on vernacular texts.
13 In their introduction, Carter and Palihawadana (1987) note that little is known about
the "original" Dhammapada. There are several early versions in a Gandhan: Prakrit and
the Patna Dharmapada, as well as the Udiinavarga of the Sarvastivadins in hybrid San-
skrit which contains a large percentage of nearly identical verses to the Pali Dhammapada.
We can surmise that by the time the Dharnmapada was received in Thailand the 423 verses
While there are a few manuscripts that contain most of the 423 verses,
the text is found most commonly in nissaya form. Nissayas are bi-lingual
pali-Thai manuscripts used for the instruction and oral translation of Bud-
dhist texts. They almost never provide a complete translation of the orig-
inal text and in parts of the text are often found in numerous different
monastic libraries. For example, a manuscript found in one of the regional
microfilm catalogues has "Dhammapada mad #4" as its title. One would
assume that this is the fourth section or chapter of the Dhammapada.
However, this text is a Thai translation of several (disconnected) stories
drawn from the Pali Dhammapada-atthakatha. There is also extra-canon-
ical material included in this manuscript. Each section of the Dhamma-
pada is called a "mad." Each mad is of different length, ranging from 12-
42 folii or one-two fascicles (PhUks). From the available manuscript
catalogues there seems to be a total of 16 mad. These mad do not corre-
spond to the Pali Dhammapada's 26 vaggas (chapters) or 423 verses.
Moreover, there is not one monastic library that contains all 16. Each
mad seems to have been composed independent of the others by differ-
ent local scholars at different times in different places. I have collected
numerous mad. From my experience, many of these mads have been mis-
labeled, and often have numerous missing or severely damaged leaves.
In addition, one manuscript can have several pecia. I believe that any
attempt to collect "all" of the mads, place them in sequential order and
translate them as one text would be misleading to how they were com-
posed and collected. It would create a false sense of "completeness."
I am confident that these mad were not composed in order, by one author
at one place and ever bound together as one large manuscript. These ver-
nacular narratives and word commentaries seemed to have circulated inde-
pendently and never read as a "complete" (i.e. all 16 mads) text. I have
only found 16 mads in different places, this in no way means that 16 was
the total number of mads of the Dhammapada in any of these regions. In
addition to having several mads for the Dhammapada, there are also
numerous mads for the Dhammapada Nissaya. These scattered nissaya
of the Pali Dhammapada and the 299 commentaries of the PaIi Dhammapada-atthakatha
were relatively standard. However, there is very little evidence that the complete text of
either the verses or the commentary were read or taught widely as complete texts or bound
in one collection.
manuscripts were used for instruction and creative re-telling of particu-
lar stories from the commentarial sections of the Dhammapada. Nissayas
are evidence of the first Dhamrnapada guidebooks in Thailand. Finally,
it is very difficult to determine the actual content from the title of the
manuscript on the wooden cover, in the colophon, or in the margin on the
first leaf. For example, there are manuscripts with the title "Dhamma-
pada," but they do not contain the Pali verses. Usually they are vernac-
ular glosses (nissaya, vohiira, or niimasadda) of some stories from the
atthakatha and other local narratives

For the sake of space I will only discuss one example which I hope will
suffice to understand this reception and transformation between the six-
teenth and late nineteenth centuries. It is a mixed Pali and Thai manuscript
with the title: Dhammapada Nissaya (Northern Thai: Nisai Dhammapot).
The manuscript comes from Phrae Province in modern day Thailand com-
posed in 1836. It is a long manuscript over ten fascicles and 175 folios. IS
The title would suggest that this manuscript is a gloss and explanation of
the Pali verses of the Dhammapada; however, this is actually a nissaya
loosely based on the Khadiravaniyarevatatheravatthu from the Arahan-
tavaggo of the Dhammapada-Atthakatha. However, details and events
from another story seem to have become inserted in the process of trans-
lation. The main narrative is based on the ascetic powers and great devo-
tion of Revata and his ordination as a bhikkhu. The Pali story also relates
the Buddha's trip to the Khadiravana retreat. Revata was the youngest
brother of the eminent disciple Sariputta and was held back from ordain-
ing by his mother, because she did not want all her children to abandon
her for the mendicant life. However, Revata not wanting to marry and raise
a. family and take care of his mother (because he realized the imperma-
nence of all things) secretly ordained. After ordaining Revata displayed
his ascetic power by creating luxurious dwellings for the Buddha and his
followers while staying in the Khadira forest. The Buddha told the skep-
tic Visakha about the wonderful powers of Revata.
14 Vohtiras and ntimasaddas are closely related to nissayas in Laos and Thailand. I
describe the differences extensively in McDaniel (2003).
15 McDaniel (2003: 247-273). The catalogue number from the Chiang Mai University
Center for the Promotion of Art and Culture is: PHR 010200800. There as a good chance
that this manuscript was originally composed in Luang Prabang and brought to Phrae to
educate local monks in 1835.
There are numerous other narratives taken from the Dhammapada-
Atthakatha in these ten fascicles. The order of mad does not follow any
previously known order of the Pali Dhammapada-Atthakatha and the
choices of narratives to comment on and translate from do not follow the
order of stories or chapters in the Pali source text. For example, the last
narrative glossed in this manuscript (fascicles nine and ten) is the Culla-
ekasiitakavatthu which is not situated near the Khadiravaniyare-
vatattheravatthu in the canonical Dhammapada nor its commentary. How-
ever, it is also a story that involves VipassI Buddha. Since a number of
the narratives in this Dhammapada manuscript mention VipassI Buddha,
this may have been the underlying reason for grouping these seemingly
disparate canonical and non-canonical narratives together. This is further
supported by the fact that VipassI is emphasized more in these stories
than in the Pali versions. From this example, it is important neither to
assume that two manuscripts with the same titles have the same contents
nor to assume that the Pall title is anything more than a loose guide to
the actual contents of the largely vernacular text. In fact, this is rarely the
case and never the case with nissaya versions of the Dhammapada. The
narratives chosen by the authors of any of the manuscripts of this
Dhammapada not follow the order of the Indic Dharnmapada-Atthakatha
and narratives from different vagga (chapters) of the atthakatha are bound
together. The choice seems to be based on preference for certain stories
or based on plot or other similarities rather than any traditional translo-
cal order.
Looking directly at the Revata narrative, as the story progresses the
author gradually cites fewer and fewer Pali words from the source text.
By the end of the fascicle there is little to connect the manuscript to any
known Pali source and even the [mal verse in Pall is not cited. This author .
begins his translation through direct and sustained citations from a source
(whether present or in mind), but gradually ceases to maintain that con-
nection, although the basic and abbreviated contents of the story are still
present in the vernacular. In this section, certain details, like the mention
of the cities of BandhumatI and an unusual emphasis of the life of VipassI
Buddha (the nineteenth of 24) suggest strongly that the author was draw-
ing on material from the VipassI section of the Buddhavaf!lsa (21) and the
story of Dipankara and VipassI from the Durenidiinakathii of the Nidana.
The Nidiina is the introduction to the Pali iiitakas. On tlie one hand, com-
bining details and narrative events from stories in both the Nidiina of the
iiitaka and the Dhammap:ida-Atthakatha reveals that our author may have
had a very different collection of stories, called the Dhammapada, as his
source text. On the other hand, he composed this Dhammapada Nissaya
by using Pali trigger words and phrases, which would invoke a mixture
of different stories with similar characters, locales and events in the
process of oral translation. Hence, he might not have had a physical man-
uscript of the Pali source text. If he did have a Pali source text then this
is evidence that there was another recension of this story available in the
region different from the Sri Lankan recensions. It seems most likely that
the author did not have a Pali source text present and was not translating
but recalling a Pali story or parts of stories from memory and hearsay and
dictating them in the vernacular, since he does not directly quote any
lengthy passages and does not follow one story consistently. It would be
understandable if the author was using the Pali trigger words written and
glossed to combine details and events from these two stories. Both the
story of Dipankara from the Nidiina of the iiitaka collection and the story
of Revata from the Dhammapada-Atthakatha involve the Buddha VipassI
and Revata. Moreover, the fact that the city of BandhumatI is mentioned
in this text although it is never mentioned in the Dhammapada is because
it was the birthplace of VipassI. The Buddhas of the past where often
known by their tree, height, life-span, birthplace, and other basic biogra-
phical details. The author of our text seems to have been telling the story
of Revata using certain Pali words to anchor and order the narrative and
when Vipassl was mentioned as part of the Revata story from the
Dhammapada-Atthakatha. The author recalled or confused the two sto-
ries and added information about the life of VipassI not mentioned in the
Dhammapada-Atthakatha. If trigger or key words were used to translate
this manuscript they also might have been used to guide the collection of
narratives in this particular collection. If we see trigger words or partic-
ular details, like the names of cities, particular Buddhas of the past, cer-
tain acts of charity or ascetic power, present in previously unrelated sto-
ries as organizing principles then this might explain why two stories like
the Culla-ekasiitakavatthu and the Khadiravaniyarevatattheravatthu are
bound together in this manuscript. They both involve Vipassl Buddha.
Moreover, the plot details and characters of the former are found in ver-
sions in the Milindapanha, the Anguttara-atthakatha, as well as the
Dharnmapada-Atthakath1i. The version from the Anguttara commentary
takes place in the city of King BandhumatI, which may be another link-
age between this story and the Revata story. It is easy to see how the
events of two stories both involving Revata and VipassI may have been
conflated.This tendency to conflate different legends from the lives of one
famous holy man is very common in Thailand where legends and re-
tellings of legends in highly divergent forms are found in books on the
lives of famous monks and in sermons. Any speaker of Thai who has
spent time in the amulet markets and monastic cells in this region can
attest to the popular past time of relating the miraculous events of famous
monks living and dead, legendary and historical. Accuracy and sources
never seems to be a major concern to the story tellers. It is their power
as moral and ritual exemplars which have ethical and discursive force.
Where these stories came from is of little importance to our study, because
most stories in these collections are found in numerous narrative collec-
tions in Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese, etc. However, the organizing principles
in the mind of the author who combined these stories into one collection
are telling. For scholars to define the parameters of Buddhist, local and
India literature in Northern Thailand and Laos, they must understand this
creative anthologizing of stories as defining the idea of canon or cur-
riculum of Buddhists in the region. Since narratives are the most common
way Buddhism is taught in Southeast Asia and narrative texts are some
of the most prevalent in manuscript collections, examining what stories
were collected, how they were manipulated, expanded, contracted and
conflated provides a good picture of the subjects and themes of Buddhist
education. The intellectuals of the region did not simply reproduce, trans-
late, collect and preserve the Pali canon and commentary, but they cre-
atively engaged with that wide corpus and contributed to it through cre-
ative and expansive translation and anthologizing.
A brief selection from the manuscript will help understand how nissayas
work. Pali words are in bold:
"thoeng revatathera an yu pa mai sak phian hai pen het laeo dessana yang
dhamma dessanca an ill an phut Tuai atikalyal,la paddha gatha pat ton wa
game va yadi varaneni lae ayasma hi sariputto Tuai dae sariputtathera
cao ton mY ayu lao wai yang vatthfi khong thoeng gam an Tai 87 kfi kot
laeo meua lun pabbiijesi go rom yang ... gon lae phiang Tang revata nan
dao phfi Tiao yfi reuan lae luk nan phi wa ca puat" (approx.: folio
ka.recto-folio.kha.verso) [sic].
"This dessana meaning this dhammadessana is distinguished by being a
paddha gathii that is atikalyal}.a. This means [the verse] "game va yadi
varfieni" and "ayasma hi sariputto." This refers to sariputtathera, the
honorable one, [who] has reached ayu (proper age) and has already placed
down vatthfi (clothes), material goods, silver, and gold of all types amount-
ing to 87 kotis, after he caused to ordain ... [he brought together his three sis-
ters to ordain] Only Revata still lives in the house and this child, his older
[brother wants] to ordain" [SiC]16.
The decision of when to write out a Pall word and supply a vernacu-
lar gloss is idiosyncratic and depends on the author and the words which
he wants to mention and gloss. From the manuscript, this sermon-giver
wanted to emphasize the importance of gifts to the Sangha; however, a -
number of other themes could be expanded upon orally. Most nissayas,
including this one have approximately 5-20 percent Pali words. The vast
majority of Pall words from the ideal source are not lifted or glossed.
The standard hierarchy between the Pali source text, as well as Pali
words and vernacular glosses and translations is either neutralized or
reversed and the vernacular and the classical languages play together like
well-matched tennis players. In this match, the second-seed vernacular
upsets the top-seeded classical. This pedagogical method is a defining
feature of Thai and Lao nissayas in general. It would be going too far,
without evidence as to the conscious or sub-conscious intentions of the
llpthor, to say that he purposely attempted to de-value the Pall text. In fact
The opposite is more likely. He strung Pali words and phrases through
the vernacular to maintain a link with the prestigious and ancient Pall
source text, but used the vernacular to . communicate with and edify his
audience. The Pali text is invoked, but reduced to a bank of words and
phrases, not an intact, canonical or inviolable text.
What is not seen from this short selection is the degree of repetition,
for example, many words from this section are repeated ad nauseum.
16 The obvious orthographic anomalies are beyond the scope of this paper. I discuss
them extensively in McDaniel 2003: 270-273.
Clearly, they were used for emphasis in an oral exposition. They almost
form the chorus of the sermon that is returned to over and over again.
Despite this repetition, the actual narrative would be unclear and useless
for reading alone. It needs oral commentary and explanation. Theserepet-
itive words are triggers and clues to what the sermon-giver emphasized
for oral commentary.
It is difficult to determine if the author of the nissaya was drawing
material from the Nidiina or any other known source directly. It is more
accurate to say that the author was drawing from a common bank of
terms, names, and narrative sequences from various sources including the
Nidiina, Cariyapi{aka, Buddhava'l'lsa, local folktales, his own memory,
stories from his teachers, etc. There are only enough terms or the passages
to associate details and events from this manuscript with some version of
the Revata story, but this story should be seen as inspirational not pre-
scriptive. A great number of new jiitaka-type narratives were being com-
posed in this region, many including random bits of information, tropes,
characters, plot elements, morals, etc. The authors of nissayas were freely
borrowing details, characters and events from each other and from the col-
lective bank of well-known narratives (both canonical and non-canonical,
vernacular and Pali-Sanskrit). This free borrowing of whole narratives or
elements is certainly not unique to Thailand. The Dhammapada-atthakatha,
the Jiitakas, etc. possess many stories from Sanskrit narrative collections
such as the Pancatantra, Mahiibharata and the, or from Bud-
dhist Sanskrit and Hybrid Sanskrit collections. Many of these same sto-
ries, of course, worked there way into the collective memory of Persian
and European storytellers. Great stories are always stolen, always adapted
and always sharedP
Other Dhammapada nissaya manuscripts reveal that the authors were
not following any known source text, but is instead glossing a very few
selected words from the known Pali sources alongside hundreds of other
17 This supports the iikhyiina theory which has been a point of controversy for a num-
ber of scholars stndying early Buddhism. An iikhyiina narrative is composed during a ser-
mon, and I believe during vernacular translation, based on trigger words from a verse from
the Jiitakas, Dharnmapada or other collection. This seems to have been a common method
for attaching prose narratives to verses and may have had its origins in Rg Vedic literary
and exegetical practices. See Alsdorf (1974: 36-47) and von Hiniiber (1996: 113).
Pali words not found in the known sources. They are mostly anthologies
of stories drawing a few words and phrases from non-sequential parts of
the source, but representing themselves as the entire source. The authors
used certain known terms, names and narrative sequences as triggers to
compose their own texts
The introduction, titles of the chapters, etc.
served as anchors to the texts. If we trust the akhyanatheory then this is
the way that most Buddhist narrative commentaries were passed down
orally until recorded in manuscripts
This oral method from e.arly Indian
and Sri Lankan Buddhist authors is seen in written form in Thailand. The
authors of our manuscripts may be simply initiating or taking part in
. another stage of commentarial development. These are partly new texts
based on new ideas, new vocabulary, new creative anthologizing, new
audiences, a new stage of Pali, new intentions, and a new socio-histori-
cal context. Since these texts are in nissaya form, they were used as a
guide to an oral sermon/lecture. This is the way that most monastics and
laity were introduced to the Dhammapada. It is certainly the way most
Thais are introduced to the Dhammapada today. Sermons often draw the
first line from the story of the Dhammapada-atthakatha and occasionally
a verse from the text and then explain each word in the vernacular accom-
panied by stories, anecdotes, historical lessons, and links to contemporary
events. The source text serves the needs of the teacher, the translator, the
anthologizer, the politician, or the poet.
After seeing evidence from one manuscript one may ask if there is any
relation to the "actual" Dhammapada at all. Given that the nissaya only
draws selected passages, is repetitive, does not mention the "original" Pali
18 Orthographic, phonological, and philological evidence reveals that, in terms of
"authorship," these texts were most likely inscribed by scribes by dictation. A teacher
most likely orally dictated to a scribe in the form of notes to prepare a sermon. The scribe
could also have taken notes while a teacher actually gave a sermon. The abbreviated and
abrupt nature of these texts could be evidence of an early type of stenography. Finished
manuscripts in tum were used by future teachers as notes when teaching and therefore
were changed every time they were taught through oral exposition. Nissaya manuscripts
composed in the seventeenth century are stilI used by teachers today (especially in Laos)
when giving sermons.
19 The debate over the way early Buddhist texts were composed and transmitted orally
is stilI a point of contention in the field. Allon (1997), Gethin (1992), Collins (1992), Gom-
brich (1990), Cousins (1983), and Wynne (2004) offer good summaries of these debates,
but offer different explanations.
verse, has extensive vernacular asides, draws from multiple versions of
a story, and is useless as a connected narrative can this even be called text
is the Dhammapada lineage? I argue that since local communities saw this
as part of the Dhammapada tradition, the fact that most people in the
region (literate and illiterate) over time were taught that this text was part
of the Dhammapada (or even "the" Dhammapada), and that the nissaya
author was clearly drawing from some version(s) of the Dhammapada-
atthakatha, we cannot discount it unless we believe that texts should only
be read in the form of a critical edition or that context and reception are
of no use to historians, textual scholars, philologists, anthropologists, and
the like. Is the Dhammapada only valuable as a complete text? What
counts as a complete text? Who decides value? Is a partially oral text part
of a textual tradition? Can there be a partially oral edition?
The Rise of the Verse: The Dhammapada in Modern Thailand
From this one example (of which there are hundreds like it in the man-
uscript libraries of Thailand), manuscript evidence shows us that the
Dhammapada grew and changed in Thailand before the twentieth century
and the rise of the printing press and royally sponsored monastic reforms.
It also demonstrates that the commentarial narratives, not the verses, were
the primary vehicles for teaching the Dhammapada. These narratives were
creative anthologies of a bank of common stories, themes, terms, and
names, rather than a standard collection based on the normative Pali
Dhammapada-Atthakatha. Before the modem period it seems that these
versions of the Dhammapada-Atthakatha were presented to their audi-
ence as normative. In fact, in modem sermons, these anthologies are still
often called the "Dhammapada" and for the non-specialist we would
assume, and my interviews confirm this, that they are considered nor-
mative. From the mid-nineteenth century to the present a shift has occurred
in which the verses began to receive more prominence in terms of printed
editions, royally sponsored canons, websites, and anthologies. The nar-
rative commentaries have become more standard and have witnessed
changes in format under influence from the West. However, the use of
the Dhammapada in Buddhist education and homiletics has changed lit-
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries'it became more
common for the verses of the Dhammapada to be published separately
from the narratives of the Dharnrnapada-AtthakathlL This was certainly
a new phenomenon in the way the Dhammapada was rendered in writ-
ing. The several editions of the Tipitaka and Pali commentaries spon-
sored by the royal family between the 1780s and present separate the'
verses and narratives (although the content of the canons has shifted from
edition to edition). This separation of the verses and the narratives, as
well as the creation of a "standard" or "mattatan" edition of the Dhamma-
pada-Atthakatha in 1916 by the Liang Chiang publishing house in
Bangkok, changed the manner in which a teacher or student could pos-
sess the text. This mattatan edition of the Dhammapada's verses and nar-
ratives has been re-issued twice recently, once in 1972 and again in 1987
by Mahamakut press. There are six volumes in each paper-back set2. The
[lIst is based on Prince Wachirayan's nineteenth century edition and the
latter was translated into Thai by the novice Utit Sirivanna Parien, who
is now an American educated businessperson. Udit and another novice
named Adisak Thong Khwan Prian also published a small handbook for
the study of the verses of the Dharnmapada which helps students learn how
to translate the verses into ThaFl. Udit provides specific instructions on
the nature of verb endings, noun declensions, word order, and syntax not
seen in any pre-1902 manuscript versions. The main guide is for translating
the verses, while only the last two chapters mentioned methods of trans-
lating the narratives. In both six volume sets and the handbook Udit states
that he abides by the more authentic "blae doi payanchana" or "literal
translation method" versus translating for the spirit of the text. This method
was rarely employed in pre-1902 Thailand exegetical practice. However,
the standard is now "literal." To emphasize the superiority and gram-
20 This, of course, is not the only published edition of the text, but it is the most fre-
quently used by students. There are too. many editions to cite (indeed different editions
occupy an entire section of the Mahamakut bookstore!) but see for example Samanera
Udit Sirivanna Prian, Dhammapot Bhtik 1-6 Plae doi byanjana (Bangkok: Liang Chiang,
2530 [1987] and Prince Wachirayan's often reprinted Dhammapada-Atthakathaya
(Bangkok: Mahamakut Press).
21 There is a small "pocket edition" (chapap krapao) of this which is very popular
called the Gil meu kan plae dhammapot [Handbook for translating the Dhammapada].
Most recent edition: 2531 [1988].
matical integrity of the original Pali, the handbooks emphasize the eight
sub-methods used to translate the text: according the nouns, according to
the verbs, according to compounds, etc
The Dhammapada, instead of
an evolving and ever-changing part Pali, part vernacular collection of nar-
ratives has been limited to a translocal Pali text with literal Thai transla-
tion. The Pali original and the Thai translation are grammatically fixed.
The text is standardized and not available in multiple local scripts, and the
verses and the narratives are separate. Moreover, both the 1972 and the
1987 editions have changed the experience of reading the text through
formatting. The way the text has been formatted has changed the way it
is read. The verses are now printed in many modern editions in bold and
formatted separately from the narratives (or in bound as an edition with-
out narratives). There is a table of contents separating the stories. English
punctuation, not part of the Thai language, has been added, so there are
quotation marks, paragraph breaks, parentheses, periods, etc. copying
Roman font editions Western editions of the text. Included in the standard
printed editions are photographs of Bodhgaya, the stupa at Mahavihara
temple in Sri Lanka, the cover of one edition is from a nineteenth century
Sri Lankan painting. The only way to know that this text is Thai is the
script. The Dhammapada has been internationalized in Thailand. In man-
uscripts there was no way to know without reading through every story
(or more likely listening to every story) where one story ended and the next
began. There are no tables of contents, paragraph markers, punctuation,
or font changes. Colophons provide little more than the ritual dedication,
date, and title of the entire text, all according to local customs.
This internationalization is also reflected in new mediums used to
teach the Dhammapada, especially the verses. First, there is a nightly
television program called "Dhamma Sarnrap Brachachon" which high-
lights Dhammapada verses and then gives literal Thai translations. There
is no mention of the narratives. Also, ITV, one of Thailand's major tel-
evision networks ends its broadcast day with a picture of a Buddha
image and soothing new age music over which a Pali verse from the
22 This follows Kaccayana's grammar, known as Mill Kaccai in Thailand. For a study
on Pali grammatica and methods of teaching Pali grammar in Thailand see my "Notes on
the study of Pili grammar in Thailand" (forthcoming articles in honor of W.S. Karunatil-
standard Dhammapada is given. This type of daily affirmation or
chicken soup for the Buddhist non-soul style of presenting the Dhamma-
pada valorizes and promotes the verses in Pali and removes them from
the local tradition of teaching, binding, translating, and expanding on
the text. Avant-garde dramas, like Patravadi's "The Buddhist Bible"
(she uses an English title although her play is in Thai) invokes verses
from the canonical Dhammapada without touching upon the commen-
tarial verses. She told me she wanted Thais to see the true core of Bud-
dha's word made accessible to the younger urban generation. She also
reads the Dhammapada in English. There are also several Thai websites,
most sponsored by university Buddhist study groups, which emphasize
the centrality of the Dhammapada and promote its verses instead of the
narrative commentaries. For example, at Mahidol University group uses verses from the
Dhammapada, disconnected from their narratives, which claims to teach
students "the core truths" of Buddhism. A Thai real estate company run
by Luanchai Vongvanit has started the Dhammathai website in order to
provide the "essence of Buddhism" in an accessible manner. The web-
site provides the verses of the Dhammapada in English and Thai. There
is no mention of the narratives. This is a massive change considering
palm-leaf manuscripts rarely emphasized the verses.
Rethinking Reform: How do we trace changes in the history of Buddhist
. The rise of the Dhammapada verses and the creation of standard edi-
tions of the verses and narratives would seem to indicate a massive
shift in the modem period. This shift can seemingly be placed squarely
on the shoulders of the West and their intellectually colonized royal
and monastic admirers. However, neither did the Thai simply copy the
West nor do the apparent changes to the written text of the Dhamma-
pada and Dhammapada-Atthakatha (the difference between these two
texts was not clearly pronounced in the pre-modem period) reflect the
continuities in pedagogical methods, examinations, and sermon-giving.
In order to understand these important distinctions we need a short his-
torical review.
Beginning in the late eighteenth and continuing into the twentieth cen-
wry Siamese kings made great efforts to formalize the Buddhist ecclesi-
astical system and educational practices in Siam and in their spheres of
influence (or vassal states) in the north, northeast and south. The great-
est proponents of educational and administrative reform were Rama the
.. Fourth (Mongkut) and Rama the Fifth (Chulalongkorn). This was part of
the nation-building and social control process to suppress regionalism,
strengthen the country against foreign missionary influence, formalize
the curriculum, and "modernize" the entire education system. Siamese
ecclesiastical ranks, textbooks printed in Siamese script, monastic exam-
inations, the Pali Buddhist canon, and teachers approved from Bangkok
and Central Siam were disseminated to the rural and urban areas in Siam
and its holdings. Monks from the recently pacified north, northeast and
south were brought to Bangkok to study in two new monastic universi-
ties (Mahachulalongkorn and Mahamakut). Localized forms of expression,
language, curricula, script were considered irrelevant to this formalization
and centralization. One of the most significant features of Buddhism in
modern Thailand is its apparently well-organized and centralized institu-
tional structure. Since Siam (later Thailand) is the only country in South-
east Asia that was never colonized, the nation-building project in which
religious reform played a major part could be considered a success

Looking at the study of Thai Buddhist education, perhaps the most
common marker for change from the pre-modem to the modern are the
reforms of King Chulalongkorn and Prince Wachirayan culminating in the
Sangha Act of 1902. Yoneo Ishii (1986), Craig Reynolds (1975), Patrick
Jory (2002), and David Wyatt (1969) all invoke this royal administrative
act as the signal that Thai Buddhism was entering into modernity, or per-
haps that modernity was impacting Thai Buddhism. The main crux of
this act was the formalization and centralization of Thai Buddhist edu-
cation and administration.
Royal reform of Buddhism is not particularly modern. Consistently
from the earliest thirteenth century records to 1902 Siamese kings and high
23 The status of Siam never being colonized in hotly debated. What is colonization?
Many scholars consider Siam crypto-colonized. Most recently this debate was highlighted
by a panel at the International Thai Studies Conference in DeKalb, IL (April, 2005) titled
"Thailand: Anything but Never Colonized."
ranking monks had seen it as their duty to collect and edit Buddhist texts,
rewrite Buddhist history, purge the community of monks (Sangha) of Cor-
rupt persons, and rein in renegade, independent-minded practitioners. By
1902 these techniques had become more efficient and widespread. In
1902, King Chulalongkorn and Prince Wachirayan, who was an ordained
monk and who had become the Supreme Patriarch of the entire Thai Bud-
dhist Sangha, appropriated the role of the Sangha to educate the Thai
people and regulated the organization of monastic education. Those two
working with another half-brother, Prince Damrong (the Minister of the
Interior), released the Act on the Administration of the Sangha ("Acts of
the Administration of the Buddhist Order of Sangha of Thailand: 2445
[1902],2484 [1941], 2505 [1962]" See specifically R.S. 121 cited in Ishii
1986, 68). Before this Sangha Act, monastic education and administra-
tion in Thailand was neither formal nor centralized (See Wutichai 1995
and Reynolds 1975). It depended largely on the aims of the monks of
each monastery. The Sangha Act was designed to make those residing in
a monastery a "service to the nation" and to deflect criticism from Euro-
pean missionaries who denounced the poor and idiosyncratic state of Thai
Buddhist education and organization.
The details of the Sangha Act represent largely administrative rules
dividing the Buddhist ecclesia into formal ranks and assigning national,
provincial and district heads of the Sangha (Ishii 1986: 69). They are still
in effect today. Prince Wachirayan commented on the act, "Although
monks are already subject to the ancient law contained in the Vinaya
[Buddhist Book of Precepts], they must also subject themselves to the
authority which derives from the specific and general law of the State"
(Ishii 1986: 70)24.
In 1902, around 80,000 monks became subject to the law of the royal
government of Siam who controlled their admission to monkhood, the
right to ordain, the size and status of monastic ground, and the ranking
24 Each of the regions (north, south, central, and northeast) has a formal hierarchy of
monks and they all report to the Mahathera Samakom (Council of Elder Teachers) headed
by the Supreme Patriarch. Individual monasteries are still run by abbots (chao awat) and
deputy abbots (rong chao awat), but after 1902 they had to report regularly to their dis-
trict and regional heads. All monks had to be registered with a particular monastery and
were issued identification numbers and cards.
ofIIionkS. There was certainly sporadic resistance in the form of renegade
monks in the north like Krupa Siwichai and rebellions of holy men in the
northeast until 1924
Still, the suppression of the independent-minded
outer kingdoms was not cited as the main impetus for the State's monas-
tic reforms. Prince Wachirayan believed that reform was necessary to
ensure that Siamese Buddhism could purify itself. He believed, as did the
king, that Buddhism was simpler and more pure in the distant past. "True
Buddhism" was that designed by the Buddha himself in India 2400 years
earlier. The only way to return to that purity was to go directly to the Bud-
dha's words-the Pali Canon

Studies by Jory, Ishii, Reynolds, Tambiah, and Wyatt (among others)
which posit a rupture between pre-1902 and post-1902 Buddhist educa-
tion are certainly accurate if we see Buddhist education as royal, ideo-
logical, institutional, canonical, elite, and Bangkok-centered. However,
this approach has certain limitations. First, it focuses only on the changes
ushered in by the elite in Bangkok. Second, it does not examine the actual
impact institutional changes have on the reception of Buddhist learning
among students. Alongside this focus on institutional changes is a con-
flating of royally sponsored editions of the canon and the formalization
of monastic education. Although there were different and varied editions
of the canon produced in Thailand from the fifteenth century to the pres-
ent, these canons, as I have argued elsewhere, had little to do with the tex-
. tual monastic curriculum or the content needed to pass monastic exami-
nations (McDaniel 2002, 2003). Third, it does not offer us any real
understanding of the nature of Buddhist education before these institutional
changes. Wyatt and Ishii in particular only state that Thai Buddhist edu-
cation before King Chulalongkom's reforms was amorphous, informal,
idiosyncratic, and decentralized. While there certainly is little information
available about the specifics of institutional Buddhist education before
1902 outside the royal court there has been nearly no effort to look directly
25 See Collins (1998: 405-408). He lists several of the major studies by Keyes, Chatthip
and others on these revolts. See also two more recent studies by Yukio Hayashi (2004) and
Duncan McCargo and Krisadawan Hongladarom (2004: 219-234).
26 The founding of the Dharnmayuttika Nikaya (Tharnmayut Sect) in the mid-nine-
teenth century has been studied extensively as being tied to this rising purification and return
to the canon. This is beyond the scope of this paper. I question this in McDaniel (2006).
at the texts used in pre-modem education to discover possible rhetorical
styles, pedagogical techniques, and curricular parameters used generally
in the region27. Fourth, historians have classified the royal reformers as
monolithic in their thinking. King Mongkut, Prince Wachirayan; and King
Chulalongkorn for example were great patrons of monks, like Somdet
Buddhacarya Brahruararp.sI Toh, who were famous for their amulet pro-
duction and protective magic. They openly criticized local folktales in
Buddhism, but embraced similar tales in the Jiitakas and Dhammapada-
Atthakatha. They promoted a return to the canon, but did not necessarily
agree on what texts were contained in the canon. Furthermore, the monas-
tic examinations they approved and formalized were based primarily on
commentarial texts and locally produced anthologies. Knowledge (mem-
orization, translation) of the Dhammapada-Atthakatha is necessary to pass
one third of all the monastic examinations
. Locally produced commen-
taries, like the Mangala-atthadfpanf commentary from sixteenth century
Northern Thailand, is another major component of the exams. In addition
to this, and as will be discussed more fully below, examinations are taken
by very few monks and have little impact on everyday Buddhist educa-
tion in Thailand. Finally, the institutional approach avoids looking at the
27 Reynolds (1973) examines the famous Siamese cosmology, Traibhiimikatha, and its
popularity in the reign of Rama 1. He shows how it was incorporated into monastic edu-
cation. The pedagogical value of this text, in face of Western science, was questioned in
the late nineteenth century. I thank Michael Jerryson for stimulating conversations on this
28 Ishii (1986) and Wyatt (1969) describe the history of educational reform in Thailand
welL This institutional history (including a few haphazard efforts to reform Siamese Bud-
dhist education had been made by Kings Boromatrailokanat in 1466 and King Narai in
1688) are well summarized. The important thing to understand in this paper is that the texts
used for Buddhist examinations through out Thai history were largely non-canonicaL Ishii
provides a detailed list of texts used for these examinations. Many things have changed
since Ishii's book was published. However, these changes are primarily organizational and
technological. For example, the examination administrators gave me the CD-Roms which
include all of these texts. These CD-Roms are designed to make studying for the exami-
nations more efficient and less expensive. The examinations and results can be obtained
at the central monastic examination office in the Banglampu section of Bangkok. The
major text used for the actual examination is now called the "Reuang Sob Dham khong
Sanam Leuang Paneak Dham" and is produced (with changes) in two volumes every year.
The results are publically displayed on the outside bulletin board of the main examination
office and in other public places in the major monastic universities. I thank the staff at the
examination office for their help.
texts that were taught before 1902 and those that are taught in the mod-
,em period. The texts themselves reveal much about the oral context of
the teaching, translation and pedagogical practices, and epistemological
Generally I am asking why historians and anthropologists of the Ther-
avada tend to see a break between the pre-modern and modern without
offering detailed examples of bridges between the pre-modern and mod-
,em. The reasons for changes in education, political policy, healthcare,
literacy, notions of nationhood, and Buddhist practice from the pre-mod-
,em to the modern period have been discussed extensively by the leaders
,in the fields of Southeast Asian history and religion (or scholars choose
either to work on the modern or pre-modern period). Rarely are efforts
made to trace the connections between them. For example, Nicholas Tar-
ling, Milton Osbourne, Joginder Singh Jeesy, Sulak Sivaraksa, Yoneo
Ishii, David Wyatt, Fran90is Bizot, and others emphasize the changing face
of Theravada Buddhism based on the disruption of colonialism, capital-
ism, globalism, technology or Christianity. While massive changes are
undeniable, these are rarely explicitly coupled with detailed attempts to
see what meaning-making systems, literary tropes and themes, exegeti-
cal practices, indigenous systems of data compression, and conceptions
bf history and nation persist. What is lost and what is gained by looking
for ruptures between the pre-modern and the modern in the Theravada?
'While changes in elite ideologies (which are never uniform), institutions,
printing and media technology, national border formation, and bureaucratic
administration are undeniable theses types of changes are mapped onto
assumed epistemological changes in teaching, expressing, and learning.
For the sake of space, let me concentrate on one danger of the institu-
tional and ideological approaches. Scholars typically overestimate the
influence of the central Thai ecc1esia and the government's Ministry of
Religion and Culture on the practice of Thai Buddhism
. The central
29 The uniformity of the ideology of the royal reformers is also over emphasized. Wyatt
(1969) notes that there were many arguments and disagreements over the way to reform
monastic education. These disagreements have been unexplored except for Wutichai (1995)
who notes, among other nuances, that many educational reforms were influenced by the
Japanese as well as the British and the Americans. I spoke about these Japanese influences
as well as the tensions and shifting ideologies of Thai royal reformers in McDaniel (2004).
Thai government's sponsorship of ecclesiastical exanllnations, suppres-
sion of local religious practice (esp. Lao) and training of Thammayut
missionaries has had only limited influence over the past century. The new
Buddhist education created by the elite has little commerce among the vast
majority of monks and novices in Thailand today. According to national
statistics, of the 267,000 monks and 97,840 novices in Thailand in the year
2000, only 9,775 were enrolled in monastic universities. Of the 9,775
enrolled, only 351 are studying beyond the bachelor degree level and
only a handful are studying for their doctorates

Before monks and novices can enter monastic universities they study at
primary and secondary monastic schools. There are 31,071 monasteries in
Thailand, but only a small percentage of these monasteries actually run
schools. 3,554 have Rongrien Pathom (elementary schools). 78 percent of
these schools are in the North and Northeast. In Central Thailand only
1.66 percent have monastic elementary schools. The North and Northeast
have 21,629 and 160,991 monastic elementary students respectively, while
Bangkok and surrounding provinces have less than 8,000 students enrolled
at monastic elementary schools. The largest number of monastic students
in modem Thailand study in Pariyattidhamma Secondary Schools. In these
schools there are three major divisions: Paliseuksii study (Pali language,
liturgy and texts), Dhammaseuksii (ethics, general Buddhist history and
teachings) and Samanseuksii ("common," secular). On paper, most schools
teach only Buddhist subjects, but some also teach garuhat (householder
or lay subjects). However, in each school, an emphasis can be placed on
householder/common/secular subjects (mathematics, economics, political
science) by individual teachers. In fact, individual teachers, like in edu-
30 These statistics are published annually by the Ministry of Education in Thailand (in
Thai). The northeast, despite being the poorest and least populated of the four major regions
of Thailand, has the largest number of monks and novices in the country (over 40 percent
of the total). The north has 20 percent of the total. However, the northern seven provinces
and the twenty-six northeastern provinces produce the least amount of university students.
They sit for monastic examinations much less frequently than Bangkok monks and novices
even though Bangkok and surrounding provinces only supply 16 percent of the total monks
and novices in the country. The South has the least and only six percent of all the monks
and novices reside that region. A very small number of monks study specific subjects at
secular universities like Mahidol, Chulalongkorn, Khin Kaen, and Chiang Mai Universi-
ties. Some get independent tutoring, for example, I tutored several monks in Sanskrit gram-
mar outside of a formal institutional framework.
systems worldwide, often change the official cumculum to suit the
ileeds of their students, the pressures of parents, and their own political ruid
jiodal agendas. Even if monastic students are in institutions that only teach
;Buddhist subjects, they often can gain access to secular subjects in a vari-
ibtjr of ways. Moreover, many of these students are only in robes for tem-
p6rary periods and often disrobe in their late teens

statistics are striking because they reflect the sparse influence that
'the Sangha educational and institutional reforms---especially the text-
books, curriculum and examinations, of the late nineteenth and early twen-
peth centuries-have had on the state of Buddhist education in the coun-
fflT. Among the statistics found in a National Ministry of Religion report,
16ss than 30 percent of all the monasteries in the country have schools.

l" 31 See Borchert (present volume) for a more detailed description of Theravadin sec-
monastic education in Northern Thailand and Xipsongpanna. What he describes is
more congruent with practices in Laos than in Central Thailand and the urban
of Northern and Northeastern Thailand. Rural areas of Thailand are more infonnal
even though they are supposed to use the official curriculum their teachers often diverge
ffrom this curriculum based on the availability (and affordability) of textbooks, teacher train-
&mg, and willingness to stay within the narrow/examination focused national curriculum.
{Presently, I am finishing a study on monastic education in Laos and Northern Thailand
;;which will explore the relationships between rural and urban monastic education in greater
ipth. Besides these three divisions of primary and secondary religious education in Thai-
there are also "Buddhist Sunday Schools" (Rongrien Kanseuksa Buddhasasana
;Waniithit). The name for these schools was influenced by the popularity of Christian "Sun-
Schools" run by missionaries in Sri Lanka and, later, Singapore. Buddhists saw the suc-
;,cess at which Christians could teach basic Christian history and ethics to students in large,
government schools. They adapted this model to teach Buddhism. In 1958 they
were introduced fonnally to Thailand at Wat Yuwarajaransristi in Bangkok. They have
spread quickly to other monasteries throughout the country and have become very popular
ht rural areas where monasteries lack the facilities or teachers to run their own schools.
,They are usually funded by private donors who are dissatisfied with the purely secular edu-
cation provided by government schools. These local and independent Sunday Schools design
their own curricula, schedules, hire their own teachers (usually monks or lay volunteers),
and produce or purchase their own materials. For example, the Sunday School at Wat Sung
Men in rural Phrae Province has designed a curriculum which promotes the study of North-
em Thai culture, the old Yuan alphabet, Northern Thai manuscripts and history. The class
(two hours) is taught in the Northern Thai language and the abbot himself wrote and pho-
tocopied the textbook for his students (both lay and monastic). There are 1,239 registered
Sunday Schools in Thailand. 82 percent are in the North and Northeast. Less than six per-
cent are in Central Thailand. Sunday Schools continue to grow as government schools
Pecome less accessible, less funded, and more overcrowded, and as they provide less in the
way of an ethics-based education in a country dealing with the harsh effects of drug abuse,
prostitution, economic stagnation, and emigration of the youth to Bangkok.
Many novices and monks reside at one monastery and travel to attend
classes at another nearby. Many novices and monks have never attended
school formally and study with their abbots, older novices and senior
monks. They do not use textbooks, but rely on the notebooks or oral
expositions of their teachers and older students. If they do attend a neigh-
boring monastic school or government school, it may be only for 2-3
years. The vast majority of formally or informally trained monastic stu-
dents never sit for state-sponsored monastic nak dham or parian exami-
Of those who sit, even fewer pass the exams. The rise of Bud-
dhist Sunday Schools, as well as meditation centers, mosques, Christian
mission schools, and government schools further reflect the sparse influ-
ence that the Sangha educational reform has outside the elite monaster-
ies of Bangkok and a few other major urban centers. The reforms of the
kings and princes of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have lit-
tle effect on Buddhist education throughout Thailand today33.
A Modern Dhammapada: Orality and Homiletics as History
Most Buddhist educational reforms have remained ideological, insti-
tutional and relatively innocuous in the daily teaching of Buddhism in
Thailand. The same can be said of changes in the instruction of the
Dharnmapada. Certainly the text has been he standardized and fOJ1Ilatted
differently. It was set in several editions of the canon. Moreover, new
mediums and editions have emphasized the-verses over the narratives.
Still, the way the text is taught and its role in education have remained
: ,relatively intact
In the first two sections, we saw how the atthakatha,
32 Anne Blackburn (2001) makes the useful distinction between the apprentice (infor-
mal) versus curricular (formal) monastic education in Sri Lanka.
33 There are formal and informal sermon-giving training at monastic universities. For
example, at Mahamakut University students are asked to give mock sermons in froitt of
other students and the good sermon-givers are given different time slots to give sermons
to the public depending on the size of the audience.
34 Homiletic style is by no means rigid, proscribed, and/or universal. Even though the
nissaya/vohiira-mode is popular and pervasive, some sermon-givers like the nun, Maechee
Sansanee Sathirasut, Luang Pho Khun, and Phra Phayom Kalyano are famous for their own
unique styles of giving sermons which incorporate jokes and dramatic analogies and allu-
sions to contemporary news events.
. not the verses, are essential to the monastic examination taker. There-
fore, there is little change here accept for the institution of written exam-
inations in 1913 and the focus on standard and grammatically fixed edi-
tions of the narratives. Still, most laity, nuns and monks do not take these
examinations. Most come into contact with the Dhammapada-Atthakatha
through sermons and lectures at monastic schools or in sermon halls.
These sermons are where the nissaya pedagogical method and the creative
expansion and adaptation of the Dhammapada persist in Thailand.
The difficulty with studying the evolution of Buddhist texts in Thai-
land is that it is hard to define the nature of a text. I began my research
comparing manuscript versions of the Dhammapada (which include nis-
saya, vohara, namasadda, verse only, and Pali only narratives, the latter
two being rare and not widely circulated) to modern editions of the
Dhammapada (Pali verses, Thai transaltions of the verses, editions of the
Dhammapada-Atthakatha used for examination preparation, handbooks
to the grammar of the Dhammapada-Atthakatha). There was a great dis-
connect in content, medium, formatting, grammar, orthography, and
rhetorical style. However, listening to sermons and attending monastic
classes based on the Dhammapada or listening to teachers who invoked
the Dhammapada (verses and narratives) revealed a deep continuity
between the pre-modern manuscripts and the modern sermons. The prob-
lem was only comparing one type of "text." If scholars only compare the
palm-leaf manuscript versions of the Dhammapada (or any other text) to
the modem printed editions of the Dhammapada (or any other text) then
this reifies the common assumption that modern editions are simply newer
manuscripts using a different medium. This is an easy assumption to make
being that most of the time scholars read palm-leaf manuscripts in translit-
erated printed form or if they actually read the palm-leaf manuscript it is
from a copy made from a microfIlm roll and read in French, British, Dan-
ish, Australian, Japanese, or American archives, or in monastic libraries
and national archives in Thailand, Laos, Sri Lanka, India, etc. This read-
ing is done seated alone under electric light attended by dictionaries, con-
cordances, or CD-ROMS. The practices and experience of reading a
printed text alone is mapped onto the experience of reading a Palm-leaf
manuscript. The size and paper and the clarity of the script seems to be
the only difference. This is a very important part of textual and philological
research of which I am a practitioner, but this is not the only way to study
texts. This experience and practice misses the fundamental orality and
social experience of the study of, listening to, worshipping, and teaching
a palm-leaf manuscript. For many, the Dharnmapada is not read in a text,
but vibrates in the air between the sennon-giver or lecturer and the audi-
ence. It was/is an aural/oral experience. The context in which the pre-
modern Dharnmapada manuscripts (especially the nissaya versions) were
composed, copied, taught, and studied was oral and homiletic in nature.
It was part of the ritual, meditational and devotional life of a Thai Bud-
dhist as it still is. Therefore, it is of limited value to compare pre-mod-
ern manuscripts used in educational settings to modern printed editions.
Differences can be noted. Corrections to the past or to the present text can
be made. Chronological textual stemma can be created. Judgments of tex-
tual integrity can be made. To what end? What do any of these answers
tell us about how Thais have read and taught these texts and how that has
changed over time? What do we learn of appropriation? Of course these
endeavors are not useless. Indeed, I think they are fundamental in the
process of research. However, they are not adequate for tracing educational
history and defining the contours of a Buddhist reading and teaching cul-
In order to trace the history of Buddhist education and the texts used
in that education we must compare pre-modern manuscripts used as guides
to sennons, lectures, and training (ritual, monastic, astrological, magical,
medich-ml) to modern teacher's handbooks, sennon-guides, ha..'1dwritten
notebooks, audio/video-recorded sennons, etc. It would also help to com-
pare these to student notebooks and textbooks. We need to compare oral
text to oral text - educational context to educational context. These texts
are created for and in response to oral presentations, summaries, expan-
sions, and adaptations of source texts whether they are canonical, com-
mentarial, vernacular,. or classical. They exist in a group setting. They
are cues to unwritten oral expansions and asides. They are responsive to
contemporary events, personal biases, political agendas, idiosyncratic
wonderings, and audience reactions. These encounters may float above the
texts, but they are part of the history of Buddhist education.
By listening to sennons both in the city and at rural temples, reading
transcripts of sennons delivered by monks allover the country, or attend-
ing classes at monastic high schools and grammar schools which teach
the Dhammapada,. we can see the creative reading, exegesis, expansion,
and anthologizing of the Dhammapada witnessed in pre-modem manu-
scripts and through the nissaya method. In these sermons and lessons in
the non-elite monastic schools and sermon halls teachers most often do
not work from a standard edition of the Dhammapada, but instead tell sto-
ries from the Dhammapada-atthakatha and then "lift words" (yok sab)
from the story and offer creative glosses and expanded oral narrative sub-
commentaries. These sermons are becoming relatively standard as well.
They can be purchased through out the country in faux manuscript form.
One popular sermon-guide is the Nidiin Dhammapot published by Liang
Chiang, but different from their other mattatan editions and those stan-
dard editions published by Mahamakut press. It is an anthology of sto-
ries from the Dhammapada-Atthakatha. Like pre-modem nissayas the
collection of stories in this Nidiin Dhammapot edition are not identical to
the canon. The creative nissaya method of presenting the Dhammapada
stories orally lives on in this popular guide for sermon-givers. Its shape
mimics that of a palm-leaf manuscript and shows the importance of the
traditional manuscript that is to be held when a monk gives a sermon (the
text is the same width and length as a traditional palm-leaf manuscript and
folded into a libretto book). The "feel" of a manuscript is not only main-
tained through size, but also by weight, as the pages are made of stiff card-
board and make holding it similar to holding stiff palm-leaf. There is also
a space on the back of the text where the donor of the text can handwrite
in her or his own name. Therefore, new colophons are being created every
time this printed text is donated. It also comes in codex form as a two vol-
ume set, but this version is not as popular for sermon-givers. The title is
, it is not all the "stories of the Dhammapada' (nidiin (from
the word for story, not the Pali text Nidiina) dhammapot (Dhammapada)),
but actually short introductions to some of the stories. In the beginning
there are instructions on how to give a sermon based on these summaries
and a selection of important terms. The text has 12 phiiks or gan (Pali:
gmpjha English: fasicles). There is a list of techniques for giving ser-
35 ???
mons and its states that it is in the vohiira style, which is nearly identi-
cal to the nissaya style
. Both the nissaya and vohara methods use the
"yok sab" method of lifting Pali words and phrases from a canonical or
extra-canonical source text/anthology (or a bank of Pali words and phrases
in mind) and expand on them orally with a high degree of repetition for
emphasis and stylistic flow. It gives insight into the ways canonical texts
are anthologized and taught in the modem period. Here the Dhamma-
pada verses are not taught, but only 12 selected and abbreviated stories
from the Dhammapada-Atthakathii. For example, the MatthakUl:uj,a-
lfmalJapa story is introduced as good for teaching on various occasions
and this is followed by the story of Nang Kalfyab;inf. Here we see that
across the 12 phuks the stories that are chosen are mainly about the ben-
efits of giving to the Sangha or stories about how listening to the dhamma
cures disease and brings wealth. These were consistent themes in the nis-
saya Dhammapadas. At the beginning of each phuk there are instructions
to the monk using the text on how to give a sermon. Since the identical
instructions are at the beginning of eachphuk it shows that the phuks can
be used and shared separately from the set. This gives us an indication
of why we find so many scattered and shared palm-leaf phuks in pre-
modern Thailand. The instructions state that there are four techniques for
giving a sermon:
"sandassana is the sermon which helps the listener clearly understand that
which is (true); 2) samadapana is the adapting (drawing out/nom nao) of
meaning in order to help the listener use the teachings in practice; 3) samut-
tejana is giving the listener confidence and motivation in his/her practice;
4) sampahansana is the instilling in the listener a sense of happiness, joy,
hope and enthusiasm. "37
Following these are the five objectives a preacher should have:
"1) offer the listener something s/he has never heard before; 2) help her/him
understand things s/he has heard before more clearly; 3) help her/his doubt
abate; 4) help them develop right view (kwam hen tilk tong) according to
36 Many pre-modern manuscripts have titles like nissayavohara or voharanissaya and
often there is little distinction between these types of texts. At the 2005 IABS conference
in London I presented a paper specifically describing voharas.
37 These Pali terms are part of a string of terms from a common formula in the Vinaya
and Suttanta. Translated from the Thai and Pali.
. the dhamma; 5) help them liberate their mind from confusion (in order to
begin to lessen. the power ofkilesa (moral stains) and taI)ha (craving)."
Then the text provides explicit warnings and inspiration to the sermon-
"Before you [the sermon-giver] begin this sermon on the stories of the
Dhammapada in prose using the vohara sermon style, [you should know
that] this text uses modern vernacular colloquial language, but should be
given properly as a sermon ought to be, because this is part of the world her-
itage of the wisdom of Buddhists. This is designed to draw out the dhanuna
and explain it clearly so that the audience will understand it easily and
clearly. You should only speak for about 25 minutes. This sermon is impor-
tant because it summarizes the main theme of each story. Its objective is to
be convenient for the sermon-giver and to be used easily in his teaching of
essential information in accordance with the theme of the story. It supports
the sermon-giver by allowing him/her to use his own language [expressions,
turns of phrases, accent] however he sees fit and in anyway that facilitates
learning and appreciation from the audience. This ensures that the dhanuna
penetrates and seeps into (saek seum) the listener and becomes part of her/his
way of life. This is designed to sow the seeds of virtue in the heart and mind
of the people so that the roots of virtue grow from the heart and mind. This
will make each person and the whole society happy. "38
Here we see an example of what Jeffrey Samuels calls "attracting the
. heart" (see his contribution in the volume) and how the stories from the
Dhammapada are designed, in this text, to be adapted by and be inspir-
ing to the sermon-giver. The sermon-giver must be attentive to the needs
of his audience. The text that is negotiated by the sermon-giver and his/her .
reading exists somewhere in the space between the text, the reading, the
teaching, and the reception - never stable, never alone on paper.
Seeing this modem Dhammapada text and pre-modem nissaya manu-
scripts as a sermon and lecture guides is essential to understanding how
the vast majority of Thai teachers and students come in contact with the
Dhammapada through reading and listening to nissaya, vohiira and
38 Translated from the Thai.
niimasadda style sermons and lectures. In Thailand, there was a radical
shift institutionally (and in some ways ideologically, although this is often
over-emphasized and over-simplified) in the way Buddhist education Was
organized and administered
However, these institutional changes and
their ideological bases have not been widely or uniformly adopted in
Thailand. Moreover, these institutional adaptations and contested ideo-
logical re-imaginings did not cause, in any significant way, the peda-
gogical methods, rhetorical styles, or subject matter of Buddhist lessons
to radically shift. Looking at the homiletic and pedagogical practices We
can see a deep continuity. The history of the Dhammapada demonstrates
Looking at the Dhammapada, we see that the teacher and the student
transform, manipulate, and expand the core, and that is the core of his or
her idiosyncratic reading/listening. This core is transformed to the degree
that it is no longer a core or from the canon. The canon is rarely consulted
by sermon-givers or teachers. The idiosyncratically appropriated text, the
sermon-guide, the handbook, the lifted series of terms are enough. The
teacher's reading and the audience's reception are tantamount. The
integrity of the original (whatever that may be) text is secondary. The
core, whether a canonical or commentarial source, is an ever shifting
body of ideas and narratives. The forces of the core text and the forces
of changing contexts, intentions, mediums, opinions, agendas, and abili-
ties are always in play while reading and teaching. The source text and
the text of the sermon-guide ceases to be a simply a text, but a practice.
Therefore, studying the Dhammapada, as Hallisey states about Buddhist
texts in general, is a study of shifting practices of circulation. The study
of appropriation is part of a study of circulation. Studying a text's circu-
lation and appropriation, I am arguing, is not merely institutional and ide-
ological. Studying a text in its context means studying shifting contexts
and not just external socio-historical contexts, not just ideological and
39 The format of printing texts was also a significant change. The simple fact that stu-
dents can each have their own copy of a book and study on their own changes their rela-
tionship to the teacher and weakens her/his power to deviate from the text. However,
despite mass printing most students in rural Thailand (and especially Laos) cannot afford
or do not have access to books in school and teacher's handwritten notebooks still are
widely used.
institutional changes and contexts, but the personal and internal contexts
(training, worldview, language skills, moods, epistemological approaches,
etc.) of the sermon-givers, students, and teachers. Combined with a study
of educational institutions and the ideologies of the designers of curric-
ula, I believe that this homiletic approach will flesh out the complex his-
tory of monastic education in Buddhist and other contexts.
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During the past twenty years there has been a growing interest in monas-
tic education within the larger field of Buddhist studies. Within the last ten
years in particular, a number of monographs and articles examining the
training and education of monks in Korea (Buswell [1992]), Tibet/lndia
(Dreyfus [2003]), Thailand/Laos (Collins [1990], McDaniel [2002,2003]),
and Sri Lanka (Blackburn [1999a, 1999b, 2001] Samuels [2002]), have
been published. Many of those works have paid particular attention to the
texts used in monastic training, as well as to how the information contained
in those very texts is imparted to and embodied by monks and novices.
While the growing attention to Buddhist education and training texts
certainly provides us with a more considerable understanding of monas-
tic culture, focusing exclusively on the contents of texts and handbooks
used in the training of monks and novices neglects other forms of monas-
tic learning. Indeed, several scholars (Keyes [1983], Blackburn [2001],
Dreyfus [2003], Samuels [2004]) have recently begun to explore more dif-
fuse ways in which monastic ideals become transmitted to newcomers to
the sangha as well as to examine how learning in monasteries generates
monastic identities.
1 An earlier version of this article was presented at the annual meeting of the Ameri-
can Academy of Religion in San Antonio, TX 2004. I would like to thank Justin McDaniel
for his efforts in organizing the panel; Thomas Borchert, Georges Dreyfus, and Justin
McDaniel for their valuable comments; the attendees of the panel who asked very poignant
and stimulating questions, and the helpful comments of an anonymous reviewer. I would
especially like to thank Anne Blackburn for her comments as a respondent to the AAR panel
and as a reader of an earlier draft. Her suggestions and ideas continue to shape and trans-
form my own vision of Buddhist monastic education and pedagogical practices. Finally,
I would like to thank my wife Benedicte Bossut for her comments, both editorial and sub-
stantive. Any errors or oversights that remain, however, are solely my responsibility.
Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies
Volume 28 Number 2 2005
Building on these more recent studies, this article considers one such
diffuse method of monastic training: ritual performance. Examining the
practices and ideas surrounding the performance of paritta or protection
texts in contemporary Sri Lanka, thi.s article looks at the role that leam-
ingparitta (or pirit in Sinhala) plays in shaping monastic agents. In pay-
ing particular attention to how learning to perform paritta inside and out-
side of the monastery instills in novices or samm:zera ideal images of
monastic behavior and deportment, this article not only argues for a more
nuanced conception of the place that texts have in monastic training, but
also reflects upon how learning Buddhist rituals provides the opportunity
for monastics to think about the content of the very texts employed in their
Before examining the pedagogical role that paritta plays in contem-
porary monastic culture, I would like to offer two caveats. First, although
I contend in this article that learning paritta performance is directly related
to the training of Buddhist novices in contemporary Sri Lanka, I by no
means wish to suggest that paritta is the only form of monastic training
and education. Despite the fact that this article is focused on paritta,
learning to perform protection rituals must be understood as comprising
only one dimension of a larger pedagogical "tool kit" through which
images of ideal monastic behavior, deportment, and attitudes become
transmitted to and internalized by sama1:zera

The second qualification pertains to the source material for this article.
Much of the ideas put forth here are derived from fieldwork conducted
at one novice training temple (that currently houses over fIfty novices) and
three branch temples. Whilst one must remain watchful so as not to gen-
eralize too widely what novices and monks from one institution say about
their own training, the material collected from interviews with them is,
by no means, ungrounded. Indeed, conversations with monks and novices
from a number of other Sri Lankan temples, monastic colleges (pirive1:za),
and training institutions over the past six years makes the relationship
drawn between performing pm'itta rituals and generating monastic iden-
tities informed, though by no means conclusive.
2 This idea of culture as a "tool kit" is discussed in Ann Swidler's (1986) article that
examines the ways in which culture influences action.
Before turning directly to an examination of the material derived from
numerous interviews with novices, monks, and head monks, it may be
helpful to provide a brief background to Buddhist paritta in Theravada
Buddhism and in contemporary Sri Lanka practice.
1. Paritta Rituals: Its Meaning, Content, and Practice
The Pali word paritta is derived from the Sanskrit word paritriil}a
which, according to Monier-Williams (1990:595), is derived from pari +
...Jtrai and means to rescue, preserve, deliver, or protect
Moving beyond
a simple definition of the term, Lily de Silva (1981 :3) has offered three
common usages or meanings of "paritta" in Sri Lankan culture: "(a) a
sutta or Buddhist sermon, the recitation of which ensures protection (b),
the non-canonical text comprising a collection of such suttas and (c), the
ritual at which this collection is chanted."
The idea of "protection" is purported to have been discussed by the
Buddha in reference to the prophylactic powers of certain mental quali-
ties such as loving kindness (metta) and truth (sacca)4. An examination
of certain post-canonical texts reveals that within several hundred years
after the Buddha's death, ideas surrounding the protective powers of metta
and sacca developed into the notion that the very texts that extol such
3 According to the Ptili-English Dictionary (Rhys Davids and Stede [1989:426]), the
Pali word paritta is derived from pari + -,jtra and means protection or safeguard. -
4 Within the canonical collection, for instance, we find several discourses in which the
Buddha is purported to have mentioned protection. In the CUllavagga of the Vinaya Pifaka
(II.109f.; see also Anguttara Niktiya II.n), for example, the Buddha is informed about a
monk who has died from a snakebite. Responding to the news, the Buddha remarks that
were the monk to have cultivated loving-kindness or metta toward the four royal families
of snakes with his mind, the monk, though bitten by the snake, would not have died (Sace
hi so, bhikkhave, bhikkhu imtini catttiri ahirtijakultini mettena cittena phareyya, na hi so,
bhikkhave, bhikkhu ahinti dattho ktilankareyya). The Buddha (II. 1 10) then goes on to sug-
gest that all other monastics cultivate metta toward the four families of snakes for the pur-
pose of guarding oneself (attaguttiyti), safeguard oneself (attarakkhaya), and protecting one-
self (attaparittaTf1).
In addition to loving -kindness, the quality of truthfulness is also said to have protec-
tive powers. In the Angulimalasutta of the Majjhima Niktiya (II. 103), for example, Anguli-
mala protects a woman and her unborn infant from a difficult labor by merely uttering the
truthful statement that since he (Angulimala) became and arahant, he never intentionally
deprived a living being of life.
virtues are prophylactic devices in their own right. By the time of the
composition of the Questions of King Milinda or the Milindapaiiha,
(p. 150ff. [iv.2.I5]) for example, we find a list of six text-the Ratana-
sutta, Khandhaparittii, Moraparittii, Dhajaggaparittii, Atiinii{iyaparittii,
and Angulimalaparittii-that are believed to have protective powers. In the
same text (vs. 17), we also read that "when Pirit has been said over a
man, a snake, ready to bite, will not bite him, but close his jaws-the
club which robbers hold aloft to strike him with will never.strike; the
enraged elephant rushing at him will suddenly stop, the malignant poison
a person has eaten will become harmless, and tum to food," and so on.
lt is, most likely, a continued concern for protection, health, and well-
being that is behind the development, growth, and popularity of protec-
tion rituals in Sri Lanka. By the time that several commentaries to
the canonical collection were composed in Sri Lanka (such as the
commentary to the Khuddakapii{ha [Paramatthajotikii], Dhammapada
[Dhammapadatthakathii], and Dfgha Nikiiya [Sumangalaviliisini], we find
yet a further elaboration on the concept of protection: prophylactic pow-
ers associated with the performance of more elaborate rituals during which
paritta texts are recited. In one such story-the account of "Ayuva<;l-
<;lhamakumara" or the "Boy Whose Life Was Increased" from the
Dhammapadatthakatha-we read how the premature death of a Brahmin
boy is averted by the performance of a complex paritta ritual lasting
seven days5. Prior to the actual ceremony, the boy's father is asked to con-
struct a pavilion or mmFjapa and to place a small seat, where his son will
be seated, in the middle. He is then instructed to arrange eight or sixteen
chairs around the mmJrjapa, have eight or sixteen monks occupy the seats,
and have the monastics chant paritta for seven days and seven nights. At
the conclusion of the story we read that as a result of the paritta per-
formance, the untimely death of the boy is averted because the demon
Avaruddhaka was no longer able to seize the boy6.
5 Burlingame (1999, Part II, p. 235ff.)
6 In the commentary to the Dfgha Nikiiya-the Sumangaiaviliisinf (III.969)-there is
yet a further development in terms of paritta rituals. There, for example, we find an elab-
oration in terms of which texts should be recited in which order, which monastics are suit-
able for reciting paritta (e.g., vegetarians and those who do not live in a cemetery), which
locations are suitable for the rituals, and who should prepare the ritual space.
The popularity of protection rituals is not only confined to the com-
mentarial and medieval period? In contemporary Sri Lanka, protection rit-
uals are an extremely common sight
It is not unusual to hear paritta
broadcasted over the loudspeakers of temples in the evening as well as
see monks and novices performing protection rituals throughout the island.
Most often, pal-itta is sponsored for those about to set off on a journey;
about to move into a new house; about to begin a new business or job;
about to open a new building, institution, or public place; about to embark
on an important undertaking (such as taking an exam or undergoing a
transformative rituals such as becoming a member of the Buddhist
sangha), about to give birth, and so on. Several radio and television broad-
casts in Sri Lanka, moreover, begin and end their daily programs with
paritta chanting for ten or fifteen minutes.
The length of protection rituals vary from approximately fifteen min-
utes to as long as seven days and even sometimes, as Perera (2000:35,
48f.) points out, to three months or one year
Despite the varying lengths,
most protection rituals share certain elements in common. First, there is
7 There are numerous inscriptions from the medieval period pointing to the popularity
of paritta. The inscription of Kassapa V (Wickremasinghe [1904:Vol. I, p. 48, line 38]),
for example, states that knowledge of the pirit pota or the Book of Protection is a condi-
tion for acceptance into the order. In the inscription of Mahinda IV (Wickremasinghe,
[1904:Vol. 1, p. 91, line lOf.]) as well as in the monastic injunction of Rajadhi RajasiJ11ha
(Ratnapala [1971: 180]), monastics are enjoined to recite paritta daily. There are also ref-
erences to paritta in the varrzsa literature, such as the Ciilavarrzsa (Geiger [1973:Chs. 37,
46, 51, 52, 73, and 87]).
8 Discussing the popularity of paritta rituals in contemporary Sri Lanka has led Lily
de Silva (1981 :3) to remark that "It is not an exaggeration to say that hardly a day passes
without this ceremony being performed in some form or other in almost every locality."
Pertold (1923:744f.) has similarly, yet more generally, remarked that "There are regions
where Pirit ceremony is supposed to be more important than other more ancient customs,
e.g., patimokha. In this way the Pirit ceremony became an essential part of the modem
Southern Buddhism, and especially a very important and significant power in the religious
as well as secular like of the natives of Ceylon, Burma and Siam as far as they profess
9 In shorter paritta rituals, three texts are most commonly recited: the Mahiimangala-
sutta which extols thirty eight forms of auspiciousness, the Ratanasutta which is a discourse
on the three jewels ([the Buddha, the dhamma, and the sangha), and the Kara/Jiyametta-
sutta which commends the practice of loving-kindness or metta. In longer, overnight paritta
rituals, all twenty-nine suttas of the paritta collection-the Pirit Pota or the Catubhii-
lJavarapafi-are recited.
usually an image of the Buddha and/or relic (dhiitu) 'at hand. Also pres-
ent is the doctrine or dhamma of the Buddha, represented in the fonn of
a Buddhist text or manuscript. The most common text used in protection
rituals is the Book of Protection or Pirit Pota which is oftentimes wrapped
in a white cloth and placed on a table next to pot(s) of water. Finally,
the third Buddhist jewel, the sangha, may also be present
, taking the
form of the monastic members charged with chanting the prophylactic
Before beginning most protection rituals, monks and lay sponsors work
in setting up the necessary accoutrements. This includes placing the text,
Buddha statue, and a pot or pots of water in their appropriate places. To
facilitate the flow of protective power from the three jewels to the audi-
ence and sponsor, a string or nula is used. The nula usually travels from
the Buddha, to the texts (dhamma), to the pot of water, through the palms
of the chanting monks (sangha), to the audience members. After the com-
pletion of the ritual, the string is broken into small sections and either tied
around the participants wrists or around their necks. For certain longer
paritta rituals, such as overnight or multi-day ceremonies, a special pavil-
ion or mal:u!apa may be constructed to house the chanting novices and
A. Conceptions ofParitta Texts and Practices
No study of paritta in Sri Lanka would be complete without taking
into account Lily de Silva's important study on the history of paritta, the
content of paritta texts, and the performance of the ritual I I. In her mono-
graph, de Silva posits that paritta is a "prophylactic ceremony" whose
:popularity and development grew out of a compromise that Buddhist
10 I write that they "may also be present" because protection rituals may be recited by
householders (gihi pirit). Despite the growing popularity of gihi pirit, most lay people
mentioned that they would rather invite monastics to perform the ritual as they believed
that such rituals would be more efficacious (see below). Most often, the choice of whom
to invite is based on economic and geographical factors.
II In addition to de Silva's work, this article is informed, in varying degrees, by a num-
ber of other scholars who have discussed the history and practice of paritta in Sri Lanka.
Such scholars and works include Pertold (1923), Yalman (1964), Piyadassi (1975), Lynn
de Silva (1980), Saddhatissa (1991), Jackson (1994), and Perera (2000).
lrionastics had to make with the laity who were, as it were, unable to
lffomprehend the profound doctrines of the Buddha and who found the
)harsh and inflexible doctrine of karma too overwhelming
She writes
:23), for instance, that "according to the theory of karma, iIi Bud-
'dhism the burden of responsibility for the tragedies a man has to face in
lIlfe lies squarely on his own shoulders .... [1]n this set up the common man
some sort of tangible means of coping with such problems to the
1hest of his ability." P aritta rituals, for her, served and continues to serve
iUns purpose of relieving the burden of responsibility for life's tragedies
!Jilid obstacles.
'According to her reading of the historical development of Buddhism,
:ii real tension exists between the original, other-worldly intention/ideas of
Buddhism (as it is portrayed in the Pilli canon) and the subsequent
.Planifestation and development of Buddhist doctrines and practices in the
:World13. She writes (1981 :23), for instance, that: "Though Buddhism
found no room for ritual and ceremonialism in its lofty ethical frame-
work, it could not altogether ignore the urgent psychological need of the
'6ommon man for ritual to grapple with life's crisis." Despite the fact that,
according to de Silva, the Buddha's teaching eschewed various forms of
;;'magic" referred to as the lower or animal sciences (Pili: tiracchanavi-
jjii), she points out that the "denunciation alone was not effective to keep
lay public away from resorting to them" (ibid.). It was out of this sit-
12 While I am not attempting, in this article, to write a genealogy of how paritta has
been understood by scholars of Buddhism, it may be of interest to point out that in a man-
ner similar to Lily de Silva, Melford Spiro's ethnographic study of Burmese Buddhism
(1982: 143f.; see also 263ff.) treats paritta as a magical or apotropaic form of Buddhism
that arose in response to the common people's "irrepressible psychological need." For
him, like for de Silva, paritta represents an accommodation that monastics living in the
lofty world of the so-called primitive Buddhist church-and I am using Spiro's terminol-
ogy here-made for the masses who were, as it were, in need of some form of relief against
harsh Buddhist doctrines such as the doctrine of retribution or karma.
13 Otakar Pertold (1923:771) points to a similar tension when he states: "Taking into
consideration the facts, that on one side paritta is thought as a protective device against
misfortunes afflicting the human beings, and on the other side that according to the teach-
ing of Buddha, all misfortunes are result of the human craving ... for life and continua-
tion of the life in the circle of rebirths, which is determined by one's actions ... we must
acknowledge that the Paritta is not harmonizing with the very spirit of Buddha's teaching."
uation that a "substitute" had to develop; it was paritta, de Silva main-
tains, that arose as a middle-way answer, thus empowering the "common
man" to grapple with life's crises in a way that did not completely deny
the "true" spirit of the "philosophy of early Buddhism."
II. Paritta as Loci for Knowledge: A Reconsideration of Apotropaic
Contra de Silva's more limited conception of par itt a, Piyadassi Thera,
in his translation of the Pirit Pota or The Book of Protection, suggests
another way of understanding protection rituals. Through a careful analy-
sis of the texts that figure prominently in the Pirit Pota, Piyadassi pro-
poses that the Book of Protection may have been used as a training man-
ual for newly ordained novices or siimal}era. He writes (1975:5):
The Book of Protection which is an anthology of selected discourses of the
Buddha compiled by the teachers of old, was originally meant as a hand-
book for the newly ordained novice. The idea was that those novices who
are not capable of studying large portions of the "Discourse Collection"
(sutta pitaka) should at least be conversant with the Book of Protection ....
If one patiently and painstakingly studies these discourses, he could gather
a good knowledge of the essential and fundamental teaching of the
For Piyadassi Thera, then, the Pirit Pota has a much larger place in the
lives of Theravada Buddhist monastics; besides its use as a prophylactic
device, paritta texts may have also functioned as a monastic handbook.
Like the Siimal}era Bm:zadaham Pota used widely in contemporary monas-
)ic training
, Piyadassi suggests that the Pirit Pota functioned as a way
of distilling key sections of the Buddha's teachings which may have been
too unwieldy to be tackled straight on
14 There are many extant editions of the SiimalJera BalJadaham Pata in contemporary
Sri Lanka. The versions of the handbook that I recently encountered during my research
in Sri Lanka are those edited by P3I).qita Ranjit Vanaratna (1990) and Dhamrnatilaka (1997).
15 This idea of the Vinaya being too unwieldy is also raised in Charles Hallisey's work
where he writes, for instance, that as a result of finding the Vinaya too unwieldy, Ther-
avadins "wrote diverse summaries and compendiums ... to present the Vinaya's practical
message in a more manageable fashion" (1990:207).
Building on Piyadassi Thera's proposal, Anne Blackburn's recent work
has addressed, at 'greater lengths, the specific question concerning' how
padtta texts may have been used "outside of the ritual arena to shape
h()vice monks' understanding of monastic life" (1999b:355; emphasis
added). Drawing on evidence from monastic injunctions or katikavata
~ s well as Pali (Saratthasamuccaya) and Sinhala (Sararthadfpanf) com-
mentaries on texts that figure prominently in paritta rituals (such as the
lJasasikkhapada, Dasadhammasutta, and the Karm:zfyamettasutta), Black-
burn directs her attention to exploring how texts that figure in the paritta
collection may be understood as tools "for the inculcation of monastic dis-
cipline." In turning to certain PilIi commentaries-such as the Sarattha-
samuccaya which was written during the DambadeI,li period-Blackburn
focuses on the processes by whichparitta is appropriated "as a form of
religious practice that deserved careful monastic consideration"
(1999b:362) and, thereby, illustrates how the "connection betweenparitta
recitation and desirable monastic practice" (363) may have been made17.
Through a close study of Valivita SaraI,larpkara's Sinhala Sararthadipanf,
Blackburn reveals how SaraI,larpkara was also able to transform paritta
mto "a teaching tool for novitiate education" (365). Thus, ill lieu of de
Silva's more limited conception of paritta as "a sop to ill-educated lay
people," Blackburn's very careful study of the Saratthasamuccaya and
the Sararthadfpanf leads her to deduce that "Through the composition of
. commentaries for the paritta collection, monastic leaders in the thirteenth
and eighteenth centuries ... transformed the paritta texts themselves into
evocative and specific guidelines for the formation of distinctive monas-
tic behaviors: disciplined comportment, scholarly inquiry, and medita-
, tion" (365) ..
16 For a fuller discussion and translation of the monastic injunctions or katikiivata in
Sri Lanka, see Ratnapala.
17 Blackburn (1999b:362) writes, for instance, that "Relatively soon after the promul-
gation of the Darpbader,ri Katikil.vata, another step was taken to bring the practice of pariua
tightly within the embrace of systematic and authoritative monastic education. This occurred
through the composition of a Pili commentary on the collection of texts used in paritta
recitation. The commentary, called Siiratthasamuccaya (Collection of essential meaning),
... took a radically new approach to paritta, ... drawing the practice of paritta more clearly
into the realm of desirable and ascetic monastic practice."
ill. Learning Paritta and Paritta Performance: A Reconsideration of
Protection Rituals in Sri Lankan Monastic Education
Building on Piyadassi Thera's and Anne Blackburn's work, the remain-
der of this article offers yet another way to interpret paritta as a tool for
the training of Buddhist novices. Through an investigation of how novices
are taught about correct paritta performance-particularly how to attract
the hearts/minds (hita iidaganna) of the laity when paritta-
this article suggests one of the ways that monastic learning may be related
to texts while, at the same time, not necessarily based on or limited to the
information contained in texts. By looking at the contexts in which ideas
about correct paritta performance become transmitted to novices, this
article contends that learning to engage paritta texts performatively within
the ritual arena may be also intimately tied to the formation of distinc-
tive monastic behaviors by providing novices with opportunities and occa-
sions to learn about, reflect on, and embody ideas about appropriate
monastic behavior, demeanor, and discipline.
In order to illustrate this process, I will, in the remaining sections, first
tum to a brief examination of the practices and settings in which novices
are trained in memorization and correct paritta performance. That dis-
cussion will then be followed by an exploration of the relationship that
exists between correct ritual performance and acquiring an understanding
of what constitutes ideal monastic demeanor, behavior, and attitudes, or
the connection between textual performance and ideas about who is an
ideal member of the Theravada Buddhist sangha for novices or samalJ,era
living in contemporary Sri Lanka.
IV. Learning Paritta: Monastic Settings and Practices
Learning paritta and paritta performance largely occurs through a two-
fold process: A) in monastic schools (pirivelJ,a) and ancillary groups and
B) in more informal communities of learning and practice. Through the
former, novices work toward memorizing the texts as well as learn how
to pronounce the texts' words. Through the latter, novices gradually come
to an understanding and appreciation of the aesthetics of paritta per-
formance, defmed in the context of Sri Lanka as "attracting the heart/mind
(hita iidaganlma)."
A. Pirivel}a Education
One important component to learning paritta texts and their perform-
ance is, of course, memorizing the necessary texts. While it is not uncom-
mon to see novices working individually to memorize texts (especially
during the morning and evening hours when other monastic commitments
are reduced), memorization (katapiidaf!l) work is often first tackled in
monastic schools or pirivelJas. In several pirivelJas I had the opportunity
to spend considerable time in Sri Lanka, the texts and verses were often-
times recited line by line by a teacher, and repeated, line by line, by the
students in unison. Through this more formal method of learning, the stu-
dents gradually came to memorize the texts. Their pronunciation was also
corrected in the process.
Alongside repeating the paritta texts with their teachers, novices prac-
ticed reciting the texts in smaller groups of similar level students. Dur-
ing these so-called wat pirit periods, which usually occurred in the
evenings and during the weekend, each novice was given the opportunity
to recite large sections of paritta texts from memory while having any mis-
pronunciations corrected by the group. Through engaging paritta in
pirivel}a classes and during wat pirit periods, effort was not only directed
toward memorizing the actual words; novices also learned where to break
up Pilii sandhi so as to not change the words' meaning, as well as how
and when to stretch the Pilii syllables.
B. Communities of Learning and Practice
Another important dimension of learning paritta is acquiring an under-
standing of how best to perform the texts in a ritual context. Oftentimes,
this type of learning occurs in more informal "communities oflearners"18
where novices acquire a growing understanding about what constitutes an
aesthetic ritual performance or a performance that attracts the hearts of
the audience by peripherally participating in the ritual's performance
While pirivelJa classes provide the opportunity for novices to repeat texts
line by line, and while wat pirit groups allow novices the chance to test
18 The idea of communities of learning is developed Anna Gade's (2004) recent work
on Qur'amc Schools in contemporary Indonesia.
19 The idea of peripheral participation is discussed by Lave and Wenger (1991) in their
text on situated learning.
their memory by reciting large sections of texts in front of their peers,
learning about the aesthetics of ritual performance takes place through
what Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger (1991) have called "legitimate
peripheral participation."
When I asked the head monk and deputy head monk (anuniiyaka) of
one of the temples where I conducted research, for instance, how they
teach novices about the various dimensions of proper paritta perform-
ance, they repeatedly made reference to a type of learning that OCCurs
through peripherally participating in communities of practitioners. By lis-
tening to and watching the ritual being performed, they declared, novices
become immersed in the complete world of paritta performance and, thus,
gradually acquire a firsthand understanding what constitutes pleasing
paritta. In the words of the head monk: "The others are directed to go
and listen. They listen to how it is done. From that, they learn." Partici-
pating in such groups was also brought up by one novice who, in dis-
cussing how he carne to learn paritta, said: "Actually I learned those
things by watching. Mter being here for some time, I saw how the oth-
ers do it. Even when I go out from this temple, I learn by watching the
others."2o Another novice explained a similar way he learnt to recite pirit
in recounting his experiences while living in another temple in Sri Lanka:
"When I was at Kurunagala, I learned pirit from a layperson who was
eighty years old. He recited gihi pirit often. There was another monk
there too. I learned to recite pirit while sitting between both of them.
Then they taught me the whole pirit book. I got used to reciting the way
that they recited. I learnt in that very way. Now I am able [to recite it on
my own]."
One important pedagogical tool employed in these practice communi-
ties is mimicry. The head monk, for instance, in speaking about the role
that imitating plays in learning about the proper performance of paritta
texts, succinctly said: "They learn by imitating (abhasaya) the others."
The deputy head monk (who is also the principal of the local monastic
20 It is quite interesting that while the head monk suggested that novices learn by lis-
tening, the novice remarked how he learnt by watching. While it may be possible to read
too much into this difference, it may be indirectly related to the fact that a large majority
of novices trained in paritta are unaware of the actual meaning of the PaIi texts. For a fur-
ther discussion of this, see Samuels (2004:961).
college or pirive1}a), raised a similar point when I asked him how he
trains new novices' in correct paritta performance:
We teach those things through practical training. For reciting pirit, we .don't
put two untrained young monks (porji siidhus) together. We put them together
with an older one who is experienced. Then, we send them for about ten pirit
ceremonies. When one goes, we put him with another one who is at the
same level. Those two are trained with the older monks saying "It should
be like this. It should be like this." During the practical training period, we
stop to allow them to recite alone. After they have had the experience from
going to ten pirit ceremonies, we might stop reciting altogether saying "we
need to get a drink of water." Then they read ten or fifteen pages [alone].
Just like the "peripheral participation" model that Lave and Wenger
(1991) discuss and which is based on relationships made between "new-
comers" and "old-timers," training novices in what constitutes pleasing
paritta is accomplished through establishing learning communities where
newcomers to the sangha are compelled to forge practice-based rela-
tionships with older, more experienced monks. It is through these prac-
tice communities in which knowledge is transmitted orally/aurally that the
distance between the learner and what is learned is narrowed and, in some
cases, even collapsed

21 It may even be argued that when learning is approached through a course of read-
ing and studyiug, the distance between the learning and the object learned is much greater.
This poiut, iu fact, is well stated iu Susan Schwartz's study of rasa theory iu Hinduism,
particularly how students learn to perform the divine, where she (2004:5) writes:
Accounts regardiugthe ancient guru-shisha-parampara system iudicate that the stu-
dent (shishya) lived with the guru (teacher) both to serve and to learn the tradition
(parampara) . ... Sources often maintain that very little talkiug was done. Rather, the guru
would provide, iu measured doses, lessons by example, which the student would absorb,
copy, and rehearse until the teacher was satisfied. The atruosphere iu which teachiug
and learning took place was oral/aural/kiuesthetic .... If we are to understand the per-
forming arts iu India, however, this is one aspect that must be grasped. A distanciug
occurs between the student and the knowledge to be gaiued when the mode of trans-
mission is the written word. The physical distance between the eye and the page is
symbolic of a greater distance between the learning and the learned. However, when
the transmission is experienced physically, as sound enters iuto the body through the
hears and movement is physically iuternalized, it is more active, more engaged, and it
is iuunediate, that is, unmediated. Those who learn physically learn differently, and
experience their knowledge differently as well. It becomes iugested, becomes, like food,
part of the one's cell structure. When the guru shows, rather than tells, absorption by
the student is of a different quality altogether.
v. Proper Ritual Performance and Proper Monastic Deportment:
Generating Monastic Identities through Ritual Performance
The idea that novices learn about paritta perfol1llance through a more
participatory process of watching and mimicking may appear so obvious
so as to not need stating. At the same time, however, what is particularly
valuable about drawing on Lave and Wenger's idea of legitimate periph-
eral participation in discussing how novices gain an of
pleasing paritta perfol1llance is not only that it demands a consideration
of other ways that monastics leam
, but also that it connects one's
involvement in practice groups with "full participation in the socio-cul-
tural practices of a community" (Lave and Wenger [1991 :29]). Put dif-
ferently, when we examine how newcomers to the sangha learn about
paritta perfol1llance through a legitimate peripheral participation lens or
framework, we become better able to appreciate and understand how the
very participation in these practice communities (e.g., the community
paritta practitioners) draws newcomers toward the full participation in
the wider spheres of Theravada Buddhist monastic culture and practice.
The remainder pf this article will focus on this by exploring how learn-
ing paritta through observing and mimicking provides novices with a
more tangible understanding of, and an effective opportunity to reflect
upon, what constitutes A) proper monastic appearance, B) ideal behav-
ior, C) and appropriate mental states.
A. Physical Appearance
When I asked one fourteen year old novice who had already partici-
pated in several short protection (set pirit) rituals to describe to me what
he considers a good paritta perfol1llance to be (honda pirit kiyanne
mokadda?), it was surprising to [rod that his response largely focused on
his appearance and demeanor as a member of the Buddhist sangha. He
said: "According to our lineage (nikiiya), the robe has to cover both shoul-
22 For instance, when we take into account the role that these infonnal yet intentional
communities play in the learning process, the focus shifts from "the individual as learner
to learning as participating in the social world, and from the concept of cognitive process
to the more encompassing view of social activity" Lave and Wenger; cited in Gade
(2004: 123).
'ders. Then, we should speak well to the people. The head and face should
be shaven. Then we should walk according to a method/in a straight line.
'rhere is a procedure (piliviila)-we have to have a bath, then we have to
;shave our head and face, then we have to go beautifully in order to attract
'the people's hita." What was revealing about his reply was that training
''in "paritta had more to do than simply learning how to recite the suttas'
words with a proper cadence (talaya) and in a melodious/sweet (mihiri)
manner. Indeed, learning paritta presented him with the opportunity to
learn about, reflect on, and, eventually, embody the very ideas about what
constitutes proper monastic appearance.
One reason why learning how to perform paritta may provide novices
with an occasion to learn about and reflect upon what constitutes ideal
inonastic appearance is because of the relationship that was commonly
drawn between the ritual's outcome and the ability of the ritual's per-
formers to please the hearts/minds of the laity. For many novices who have
performed numerous paritta rituals or who were in the process of learn-
ing to perform the ritual, a good or efficacious ritual was equated with
their (the reciters') ability to attract the hearts/minds of the laity. Dis-
cussing with me his vision of how paritta works, the novice who took
higher ordination or upasampadii during the summer of 2004 said: "Pirit
has to be recited to attract people's heart/mind (hita) .... With that, the peo-
ple's hita becomes pleased. Happiness comes to the people's hita. As the
hita becomes influenced by everything, blessings and peace (seta-san-
tiya) come to the people."
In addition to this novice who mentioned, in a more general manner,
the need for pleasing the laity when performing paritta, several other
novices and monks made more direct connections between pleasing the
hearts and minds of those attending a paritta performance and the phys-
ical appearance of the reciters. While it is true that several of them made
reference to how the pirit's words have an inherent power to them (lit-
erally: vag saktiya)23, a number of novices focused more specifically on
the reciters' physical appearance in characterizing an efficacious paritta.
In the words of one eighteen year old novice: "While reciting the pirit,
if the reciter is not pleasing ... then the listener would feel disgusted while
23 'This point will be discussed below.
there [at the ritual]. Then it will not be pirit that he is listening to. If one
listens to pirit with a proper attitude (akalpa) , then only will the pirit
have power. If he is disgusted with the monk, it [i.e., the pirit] won't
work." .
A number of other novices' and monks' portrayals of efficacious paritta
performance included discussions about the physical appearance and dis-
ciplined comportment of the monk-participants. The novice who took
upasampada during the summer of 2004 drew such a relationship when
comparing pirit chanted by monastics with gihi pirit or pirit chanted by
lay people:
It is more important to see monks chanting pirit than lay people. Monks
have nicely worn robes. They have shaven heads. With a proper demeanor,
a monk becomes a pleasing image. He is beautiful to the eye. He should also
have a sweet/melodious (mihiri) voice and he should properly pronounce the
Wearing a robe well, with a shaven head, and a shaven face, one
looks like a proper monk. Then, as they listen and see things that are pleas-
ing, their hita becomes concentrated/directed (yomuvenevii).
As people's hearts/minds (hita) are more likely to be attracted to and
even "hypnotized/entranced" (mohanaya) by the appearance of members
of the sangha who maintain a proper demeanor, paritta recited by monas-
tics is, according to him, more powerful and efficacious than pirit recited
by lay people.
24 This idea of the need for pirit to be recited with a melodious voice is something that
this monk returned to in a later conversation; he said:
When pirit is recited with a sweet (mihiri) voice and the reciters stop in the correct
places and properly pronounce the words, then the listener becomes hypnotized!
seduced/fascinated (mohanaya) and keeps listening .... Our heart becomes particularly
concentrated to it (i.e., the pirit) through hearing (iisfma), looking (biilfma), and think-
ing (sitfma). We are listening to something beautiful. We can see the image (pratirilpaya)
of a bhikkhu which is placed in the heart. The thing that we are listening to is beautiful
(lassaIJa) and sweet (mihiri). The thing that we are seeing is also sweet and beautiful
and pleasing/attractive/delightful (piyakaru). These things gather into the hita through
listening and seeing .... The other thing is that pirit is famous in the world as something
good. If everything is good and pleasing, then our hita becomes focused in that direc-
tion. That is what seduced/fascinated/hypnotized (mohanaya) means. Once it is recited
in a way that is smooth and soft, we listen because it is sweet. We ignore a crow that
caws a lot yet we listen to the cuckoo bird singing.
Although this novice made reference to the sweetness of the reciters' voices, it is impor-
tant to note that he and many other novices and monks correlated a sweet voice to one that
is harsh/coarse (gorosu) and deep (giimburu), rather than one that is more musical.
:Just as novices may come to learn about the importance of wearing their
and upper Tobes evenly around them (parimm:uJalarrz niviises-
of traveling in inhabited areas well-covered
[iiupa!icchanno antaraghare gamissiimi'ti), and of sitting in inhabited
well-covered (supaticchanno antaraghare nisidissiimi'ti) by study-
the seventy-five training or sekhiya rules and other texts (such as the
$asadhammasutta)25 commonly used in the training of novices in con-
temporary Sri Lanka, so too do novices gain an understanding of what con-
stitutes proper monastic appearance through learning paritta. As a result
bf the connection expressed between pleasing the hearts/minds of the
tmty, the monastics' physical appearance and demeanor, and the ritual's
:power or outcome, paritta becomes a powerful pedagogical tool in, and
important complement to, a novice's training. While it is true that novices
come to learn about appropriate appearance by reading texts, attend-
ing classes, and participating in the nightly instructional
(avaviida) sessions with the temple's head monk, the seriousness with
:which paritta performance is approached provides those very same stu-
dents with a more pressing need to reflect upon ideal images of monas-
tic deportment, thus enabling them to acquire a more tangible and imme-
diate understanding of what constitutes perfect monastic appearance .
. B. Proper Monastic Behavior
Another issue sometimes raised in conjunction with discussions about
paritta is monastic behavior. Conversations with novices and head monks
revealed a profound appreciation of how their own behavior as members
25 In the Dasadhammasutta, monastics are encouraged to reflect on how their appear-
ance and behavior differs from the appearance and behavior of lay people. The third of
the ten dhamma listed in the Dasadhammasutta is "anna me iikappa karmJ.iya Ii pabba-
jitena abhil}ha7f1 paccavekkhitabba" which translates as "One who has gone forth should
continually reflect 'for me there are other actions/duties and appearance/deportment'''
(translation mine). According to Saral).aIpkara's commentary on this text, the Buddha
intended the study and recitation of this sutta as a way of preventing regression in Bud-
dhist practice. Making reference to Saral).aIpkara's commentary on the Dasadhammasutta,
Anne Blackburn (1999b:370) writes: "With these thoughts in mind the monk is pushed
to investigate carefully the state of his internal and external conduct, keeping in view the
distinctive demands of the monastic life and the challenge to move beyond the experience
of karma, rebirth, and suffering."
of the sangha affects the attendees of the ritual and; in tum, the ritual's
outcome. One eighteen year old novice often called upon to perfonn
shorter (set pirit) and longer (mahapirit) protection rituals expressed to
me the need for monastics to act appropriately. Describing what he con-
siders proper monastic behavior to be, he explained:
He has to recite it by only looking at the pirit text. He should not lOok
around. He should not look at the people. People will be displeased if they
see that the monk is looking around. The monk has to work in a way that
pleases them .... When we go to recite pirit, if the householder is not dis-
pleased with us, his hita will be attracted to the pirit. If the pirit is chanted
to bless the householder and his house, we should think, 'may the house-
holder receive peace.' Then, the householder will be grabbed by us.
A frfteen year old novice who had already participated in several shorter
pirit rituals used our discussion of the ritual as an opportunity to reflect
in a more tangible manner upon what he understood ideal monastic behav-
ior to be:
When pirit is recited, there has to be a sense of calm. When our teacher is
seated, he doesn't shake even his legs. Seated like that, one has to recite it
with an appropriate cadence (talaya), that means, recite it in a nOTIlla! way
and beautifully ....
If we behave in an agitated way among the people, they might feel dis-
gusted .... We have to be restrained (saizvaraya) when the exhortation
(anusasanaya) is made. During that time, we should not be chatting with the
other monks ... [and] we should not be resting our heads on our palms or
fall asleep. That is a mistake. The people will become fed up .... They will
be fed up with listening to pirit too.
By talking about the ideal paritta behavior exhibited by his own teacher
and by comparing those images with less pleasing reflections of monas-
tic behavior, this novice was able to reflect upon in a very concrete man-
ner how monastics should act. What was particularly salient about his
discussion is how pressing the need for monastics to act appropriately
became when viewed through the lens of paritta performance. As a result
of the connection that both novices drew between "grabbing (allagan-
nava)" the laity, the ritual's success, and the reciters' behavior, paritta
became a useful staging ground where ideas about how monastics should
conduct themselves were communicated to, leamed by, reflected upon, and
embodied by the ritual's participants.
Ris worthwhile to note that many of the novices' reflections on appro-
priate and pleasing paritta behavior are very similar to canonical por-
trayals of ideal monastic conduct. In the training or sekhiya rules that are
familiar to monks (bhikkhu) and novices (samwJera)26, for example, we
read that monastics should go about with downcast eyes (okkhitacakkhu
antaraghare gamissamz'ti), should sit with downcast eyes (okkhittacakkhu
iantaraghare niszdissamf'ti), should sit with little sounds (appasaddo
antaraghare niszdissiimi'ti), should not sit while shaking the body (na
kiiyappacalakarJl antaraghare nisfdissiiml'ti) or swaying the arms (bahup-
pacalakarJl), should not sit while shaking or bobbing one's head (na szs-
appaciilakarJl antaraghare niszdissami'ti), and so on. Just as monks and
novices are able to arrive at understandings of proper monastic behavior
through reading texts (such as the sekhiya rules) that provide specific
iJ1structions on how to act, so too do newcomers to the sangha learn about
ideal behavior through more diffuse processes such as learning and per-
forming paritta. By observing, mimicking, and performing, paritta
becomes a useful device whereby images of ideal monastic behavior and
appearance are transmitted to and instilled in newcomers to the sangha.
In the words of one novice who recently attended his first pirit: "If we
behave in an agitated way among the people, they will feel disgusted.
When we recite pirit, we should behave in a pleasing way that generates
the attitudes that we are monastics" (emphasis mine).
C. Positive Mental States and Attitudes
Yet a third way in which training in paritta and paritta performance
may be understood as tool for monastic education concerns ideas about
what constitutes appropriate attitudes and mental states. When I asked
the head mon1e from one of the temples where I conducted research how
paritta works, he began with a short discussion of the power inherent in
26 Although the seventy-five sekhiya make up part of the 227 rules that apply to fully
ordained monks, novices in Sri Lanka are taught the sekhiya rules as part of their novi-
tiate training. This is not only evidenced in the inclusion of the rules in the most commonly-
used monastic handbooks for novices in Sri Lanka-the Siimal}era Bal}adaham Pota
(Vanaratna 1990 and Dhammatilaka 1997)-but also in the inclusion of these rules as part
of the second grade curriculum undertaken in primary monastic schools or mulika pirivel}a
(Hettiaracci 1994).
words (vag saktiya): "There is a power in words (vag saktiya). It is sci-
entifically accepted by the world. There is the power in words. Power in
words means that we have been saying 'May you be well, may you be
well, may you be well (suva pat Vt1Va)' for a long time. We do it without
a bad heart/mind (hita). We say suvapat Vt1Va even when someone Who
hates us worships us. It is more powerful for us to say suvapat vaeva
than just an ordinary person." Continuing his point about vag saktiya,
the head monk went on to draw a distinction between paritta recited by
monks and by lay people (gihi pirit):
Lay people's minds are inclined toward secular things. They are weighed
toward secular things. Though a bhikkhu may be worldly, he is not as inclined
toward the secular. He is slightly away from it. That means that lack of
desire is there ....
Now, let's say that one has built a new house and lay people were invited
to recite pirit. Now, the lay people may think "Wow (sha)! They built such
a beautiful house. My house is not that good. How did he build [such a
beautiful house]." For them, jealousy arises. Thirst (ta1}ha) also arises.
When we go there, we feel happy thinking "Oh (ane). Our patron (dayaka
mahattaya) has built a good house. It is great. May he develop more in the
future." We bless him. We don't have a wish of owning that house or of
living in that house. We feel happy in that situation. We bless him with
compassion (karu1}ava) and friendliness (maitrf) and wish him to develop
While acknowledging that a type of power (saktiya)-Dr "current" as
another head monk described while pointing to the florescent lamps over
our heads--exists in the paritta' s words, the head monk nonetheless went
on to relate his notion of vag saktiya to the mental states. of the paritta's
By vocalizing such a connection, the head monk transfonned
27 This is quite different from the conclusion that Christopher Pinney (1997: 166-67;
quoted in Rotman [2003:559]) arrives at based on a discussion he had with one of his
informants (Tiwari) about the efficacy of a six-sentence mantra invoking Paramaharpsji:
The great appeal of the technique-and this is what Tiwari continually stresses-is that
faith or belief is not necessary, desires will be fulfilled without belief (bina vishvas).
The analogies that tumble forth from Tiwari's lips are all grounded in a technological
world in which all that matters is effect: "Suppose that you want to use some electric
power-you make a connection, fit your tube light, lay the wiring, provide a switch,
connect this to the overhead wires. If the power is available, the tube is fine, the wiring
is fine, the switch is fine, the tube light will come on-(chalega!)-with belief or with-
out belief" -he flicked his thumb to and fro as though switching the current on and off.
paritta into a potept tool for teaching novices about what constitutes pos-
itive mental states for members of the Buddhist sangha: compassion,
friendliness, desirelessness, and non-jealousy or sympathetic joy (mudita).
This understanding of the relationship between efficacious paritta and
the reciters' mental states was, not surprisingly, echoed by a number of
novices training in or trained in proper paritta performance. One such
novice, sharing with me his characterization of powerful paritta, said:
"The reciter should have compassion (karwJ.ava), loving kindness/friend-
liness (maitri), sympathy (dayava), and pity (anukampava). The reciter
should have the thought: 'I am reciting this [pirit] to make him well.
May the listener be well through my recitation. May he be welL' Those
kinds of feelings must certainly be there. They have to be there when
reciting [pirit] in order to give power to him (i.e., the recipient of the
pirit)." The novice who recently took higher ordination mentioned a sim-
ilar point when he related the mental states of the reciters to the power
of the ritual: "If he is a monk, he should feel compassion (karwJ.ava) and
sympathy (dayava) toward the people. Monks should have a kind heart
and bless the people thinking 'may people get blessing and peace from
the power of the pirit.' Then the people will receive positive results."
Similar to learning about what constitutes positive mental states for
members of the sangha through reading such texts as the Dasadhamma-
sutta, the Karaniyamettasutta, the Mangalasutta, and the Ratanasutta,
leaming paritta provides novices with the opportunity to learn about and
internalize ideal mental states. By linking understandings of successful
paritta to the mental states of the ritual's performers, the need to culti-
vate such qualities as compassion, selflessness, friendliness, sympathy, and
desirelessness takes on an added salience. As one novice currently train-
ing to perform paritta noted: "There are some monks who receive money;
it is not good to think about receiving money while reciting pirit. With-
out greed and hatred, [but rather] with thoughts of bringing good to the
To produce surges of electricity in one's own life all that was required was the utter-
ance of six sentences.
In using Pinney's example in discussing the role of prasada (faith, graciousness, or serene
joy) in making merit, Andy Rotman (2003) places more importance on the mental states
of the actors in determining the efficacy of an act than is suggested in Pinney's descrip-
people, they should recite (pirit] without expecting 'money. It has to be
done with a good hita. It is not good to recite it with a bad hita. Then, it
would have no value .... Then the people would not receive any bless_
ings. "28
VI. Generating Identities through Textual Performance: A Reevalu_
ation of Paritta in Sri Lankan Monastic Life
The foregoing discussion provides a glimpse into how learning paritta
instills in novices the very infonnation contained in monastic discipli-
nary texts and handbooks. Although much of the conversations with
novices and monks about successful protection rituals pertained to the
ritual itself-i.e., how they dressed, behaved, and thought while per-
fonning paritta--exchanges with several novices also intimated how the
ideals learned through paritta perfonnance shape and affect other dimen-
sions of their lives as members of the sangha, including, possibly, their
reading and interpretation of the very texts employed in their monastic

The fourteen year old novice who defined successful paritta as one
that is perfonned by monastics wearing their robe in a way that covers
both shoulders, speaking well to the people, and shaving their heads and
faces, began to reflect further with me about how his very ideas of proper
28 One eighteen year old stimalJera made reference to the quality of equanimity or
upekkha when he discussed with me how monastics reciting pirit should remain unaffected
by the physical surroundings of the place where the paritta is being performed: "Recently,
we went for a pirit to the village of Ambavatta. It was near a place where pigs were slaugh-
tered. It stacie We were not upset, though. My heart/mind (hita) was not upset. ... If I am
asked to recite pirit, I do it regardless of the sponsor or the place."
29 Anne Blackburn, in fact, raised a similar point about the circularity of monastic train-
ing, particularly how other facets of monastic training impinge upon how novices read
texts, when she wrote (2001:148): "These characteristics of monastic life inevitably affected
the manner in which monastic students read and interpreted the texts before them, and
especially those which touched on matters of monastic discipline. Although it is impossi-
ble to write with complete assurance on such matters, it seems reasonable to suspect that
monastic students responded more sharply to images of proper and improper monasti-
cism because they already participated in a lifestyle designed to discipline themselves"
(emphasis added).
paritta apply more widely to his life as a Buddhist monastic. After not-
ing, for example, how important it is for monks and novices to please the
laity by their appearance and behavior while reciting paritta, he went on
to add: "Monks should go everywhere with shaven heads, with shaven
beards, and with a clean physical appearance. Then only will people be
pleased about monks. Then only will people listen to monks with accom-
panying feelings of trust." For him, ideas about how to attract or please
fuehearts/minds of the laity as well as the urgent need to do so was not
solely confined to the perfonnance of paritta; instead, they affected and
impinged upon the very manner in which he understood his role and place
in society as a member of the sangha.
Conversations with other novices pointed to a similar connection made
between proper appearance and behavior while performing paritta and
their lives as Buddhist monastics outside of the ritual arena. After dis-
cussing how those perfonning aparitta ritual should "grab the heart" by
.their proper behavior and appearance, one novice went on to draw a rela-
tionship between appropriate ritual behavior and life in the temple:
First, the householder comes to the temple and invites the monks. The porji
siidhus (young novices) in the temple should behave well when the house-
holder comes to invite us. They should not be playing at that time .... When
we go to recite pirit, if the householder is not displeased with us, his
heart/mind (hita) will be attracted to the pirit .... When he comes to invite
us, we should behave well. At that time, some monks from other temples
ask for cigarettes. We should not think and act like that. When we go for
an [overnight] pirit, all we need are some drinks [gilanpasa] and a place to
For this eighteen year old novice, the behavior and mental states of
monastics in the temple are closely tied to the total experience of the
audience and householder. The laity's experiences are not simply confined
to the actual perfonnance of the ritual itself; instead, they include much
wider circles wherein lay people and monastics interact. According to his
understanding, monastics not acting appropriately or living with desire for
such things as cigarettes in the temple may adversely affect the laity's
experience of Buddhism and, thus, impinge upon the outcome of the rit-
ual itself. For him, monastics should always work toward acting and think-
ing in ways that are conducive to the state of being a monk (maha-
VIT. Conclusion
In learning to perform paritta texts in their appropriate ritual context,
novices come to understand much more than simply how to recite texts
melodiously, how to break up the Piili sandhi, and how to stretch the Piili
syllables. Through engaging paritta texts in classes' and in more
informal communities of learning and practice, novices gradually arrive
at an understanding of how paritta works, what constitutes an efficacious
paritta, and how to attract or please the hearts/minds of the laity inside
and outside of the ritual arena.
In teaching novices about what constitutes an ideal, successful, and
pleasing protection ritual, paritta becomes much more than a sop to ill-
30 Despite the fact that several novices mentioned how learning paritta affects their lives
beyond the ritual space, it is important, nonetheless, to bear in mind that acquiring an
understanding of what constitutes ideal appearance, behavior, and mental states in no way
transformed the novices into monastic robots or passive "cultural dopes" whose lives are
solely and statically modeled upon textual (Vinaya) and/or cultural images ideal monastic
behavior. While it may be true that a number of novices gained a greater understanding
about appropriate behavior, speech, attire, and mental states through learning to perform
paritta, many of the same novices were also able to intuit and vocalize how acceptable
behavior and dress are oftentimes based on particular contexts as well as on the dynamic
relationship that exists between monks, novices, and lay people.
The notion of "cultural dopes" is drawn from Ann Swidler's discussion of strategies
of action (see also GarfInkel [1967] and Wrong [1961]). In discussing how ritual provides
its performers with a variety of strategies of action, Swidler (1986:284) remarked: "Strate-
gies of action are cultural products; the symbolic experiences, mythic lore, and ritual prac-
tices of a group or society create moods and motivations, ways of organizing experience
and evaluating reality, modes of regulating conduct, and ways of forming social bonds,
which provide resources for constructing strategies of action" (emphasis added). Despite
her reference to moods and motivations which, I believe, is drawn from Clifford Gerrtz's
work on "Religion As a Cultural System," Swidler's conception of culture, myth, and
symbol is much more dynamic than that proposed by Geertz when he writes (1973: 112):
It is in some sort of ceremonial form-even if that form be hardly more than the recita-
tion of a myth, the consultation of an oracle, or the decoration of a grave-that the moods
and motivations which sacred symbols induce in men and the general conceptions of
the order of existence which they formulate for men meet and reinforce one another.
In ritual, the world as lived and the world as imagined, fused under a single set of sym-
bolic forms, tum out to be the same world, producing thus that idiosyncratic transfor-
mation in one's sense of reality.
educated lay people or a coping device for the common layman or lay-
woman seeking relief from the harsh doctrine of karma. By drawing con-
nections between pleasing the hearts/minds of the laity, the monastics'
physical appearance and behavior, and the ritual's power, paritta becomes
transformed into a powerful pedagogical tool in, and important comple-
ment to, a novice's training. To put it somewhat differently and to restate
. and slightly modify Anne Blackburn's thesis mentioned in section II,
through a process of watching, mimicking, and performing, monastic
leaders are able to transform paritta into powerful pedagogical tools ori-
ented toward the socialization and training of young monastics.
As I have argued above, paritta is not the only component to novitiate
training in contemporary Sri Lanka. Indeed, monastics come to learn
about what constitutes ideal behavior, deportment, and mental states
through engaging a whole repertoire of monastic practices and duties
. (e.g., textual study, attending evening advice sessions, and so on). Despite
the fact that learning paritta comprises only one dimension of a much
larger pedagogical tool kit, its role in monastic educational culture is by
no means insignificant. By paying attention to the pedagogical role that
paritta plays in contemporary Sri Lanka, we become not only more appre-
ciative of other ways in which images of ideal monasticism become trans-
mitted to and embodied by novices, but also more aware of how rituals
provide novices with the occasions, tools, and capacity to reflect on the
content of the very texts employed in their training, including the texts
found in the Pirit Pota or Book or Protection.
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I. Introduction
In his history of Buddhism, The Sun that Causes the Lotus of the Teach-
ing to Bloom (chos 'byung bstan pa'i padma rgyas pa'i nyin byecI), the
prolific sixteenth century Tibetan scholar Padma Karpo (pad ma dkar
po, 1527-1592) declared that many followers of the Kagyu (bka' rgyucI)
tradition, a Tibetan lineage tracing a common pedigree through Gampopa
back to the north Indian siddhas Tilopa, Saraha, and Maitripa, have for
centuries misconstrued the name of their lineage. In Kagyu sources of
the Kamtsang (Karh tshang) and Drikung ('bri gung) transmissions, the
word bka' that forms the first syllable of the term Kagyu is spelled in a
way that conveys the meaning "word", "instruction" or "command"l.
With this gloss, Kagyu means "instruction lineage", a label so non-spe-
cific it must have vexed even the most accommodating Kagyu mor-
phologists. Padma Karpo, for his part, insisted that bka' is a misnomer
for dkar, which means white
Rightly speaking, according to Padma
Karpo, Kagyu is not the "instruction lineage" but rather the "white lin-
eage", alluding to the cotton meditation garment worn by some her-
metic yogis of this tradition, most famously by the yogi and poet
1 "Generally" is a most unsatisfying qualifier. Tracking down first appearance(s) of the
term bka' rgyud in literary sources as a referent to Gampopa's legacy of lineages is an
important bit of research that needs to be done. By the fourteenth century, the term must
have been in use as the Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje (rang 'byung rdo rje, 1284-1339)
used it in his compositions
2 See Jampa Thaye, A Garland of Gold: The Early Kagyu Masters in India and Tibet
(Bristol: Ganesha Press, 1990). p. 97.
Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies
Volume 28 Number 2 2005
This garment is steeped in symbolic value for adherents of
this lineage: those who wear it ideally ascribe to the life of a wander-
ing ascetic who begs for food, lives in mountain hermitages and vows
only to wear one cotton garment4.
While Padma Karpo's epistemological defense seems to have fallen
short of panoptic success, as many Kagyu sects-including some later
hierarchs of Padma Karpo's own Druk Cbrug) sect-now use the spelling
bka' rgyud, his commentary highlights the lasting emphasis this lineage
has placed since its inception on an ascetic and peripatetic lifestyle, non-
elaborate meditation, solitude and withdrawal from public affairs. In con- .
cert with a number of factors including geographical isolation, close con-
nections to siddha doha literature, loose or even antagonistic ties with
institutional norms, a soteriology of naturalness (mahiimudrii), and a mode
of composition called nmyam gur (creative songs of experience) this tra-
dition was initially fairly tolerant of individual expression and uncon-
ventional behavior. Yet since the beginning of the 12th century, when
Gampopa (sgam po pa, 1079-1135) synthetically organized this lineage
into something resembling a full-fledged religious tradition with a strong
monastic bent, many of its prominent apostles were increasingly influ-
enced from within by ecclesiastical demands and from without by pres-
sure to compete with the other religious traditions burgeoning during the
Renaissance period
. By the 12th century, the Kagyus were actively
3 Milarepa (mid la ras pa, 1052-1135) accepted a name indicative of these garments.
The second part of his name ras pa means "the cotton-clad one".
4 Ascetics of this type are reffered to in Kagyu literature as ras pa (pronounced "repa"),
and their lifestyle and practices are outlined in texts belonging of the ras rgyud, "the lin-
eage of repas" initiated by Milarepa and his disciple Rechungpa (ras chung pa, 1082-
1161), but probably formalized by Rechungpa's disciple Zhang Lotsawa (zhang 10 tsa ba,
5 The periodization of the Tibetan Renaissance used by some scholars including Deb-
orah Klimburg-Salter, David Germano, and historian Ronald Davidson, is 950-1238. In sup-
port for applying the term "renaissance" to this exhuberant and fecund moment of Tibetan
history, Ronald Davidson forwards a model from systems analysis called "punctuated
equilibrium". In a renaissance, "civilization can appear to compress phenomenal devel-
opment into an incredibly short span of time-a veritable burst of sociopolitical, economic,
artistic, intellectual, literary, and spiritual activity." For a more complete discussion of the
term "renaissance" in this context see Ronald M. Davidson, Tibetan Renaissance: Tantric
Buddhism in the rebirth o/Tibetan culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005),
p. 20-21.This period is marked on one end by the approximate beginning of the estab-
llnvolved in founding anchored communities, forging connections with
;iocal officials and patrons, investing more time in group ritual practices,
:and even going to war. Over time, all the Kagyu lineages would be dom-
'inated and perpetuated by ecclesiastical corporations, conglomerates that
likely have been viewed With dismay by the early founders of the
this advance towards consolidation did not by any means
efface the soteriological ideals (connected to hermeticism) distinctly advo-
: eating movement away from it, there is little wonder that the personas and
inherited histories of the Kagyu lineages reflect a tension between ideals
of solitary withdrawal and ideals of community involvement. It is the
position of this paper that the biographical representations of early line-
age holders manifest this tension as a rhetorical struggle between ideals
of iconoclasm and ideals of compliance with institutional norms. Here
the term "iconoclasm" is used not to denote conscious contrarianism on
. the part of anyone individual, but to suggest a rhetorical mode of repre-
. senting individuals via biography (rnam thar) as expressed (although
sometimes inadvertent) mavericks who resist subservience to a set of
codes of conduct and belief. In concert with this position, I hypothesize
that some details of the biographies here considered reflect that in the
lineage as a whole (in its formative period) this tension manifested as
diametric allegiances rooted deeply in the soteriology, personals histo-
ries and stated ideals of the lineage: allegiances to poetic discourse and
scholarship, lay-values and monasticism, sex and celibacy, solitude and
communal life, wildness and tameness
These tensions, I surmise here,
rather than catalyzing a dysfunctional implosion, instead fed the fuel of
lishment of the order of Western Vinaya monks (950) and on the other end by the begin-
ning of the Mongol invasions (1238).
6 It would be inaccurate to suggest that these tensions are by any means limited to the
Kagyu, the Tibetan or even the Buddhist rnileau. As pointed out by Patrick Olivelle, the
tension between ideals of asceticism and domestication in India is at least as old as the
Upanishadic culture of 600 BCE. See Patrick Olivelle, "Ascetic Withdrawal or Social
Engagement" in Religions of Asia in Practice, ed. Donald S. Lopez (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 2002), pp. 122-135. Rather, I would suggest that unique styles of expres-
sion of this tension emerge from various lineages and traditions. Furthermore, I would
propose that (1) patterns of resolution and non-resolution of these tensions are highly vari-
able and (2) the intensity of these tensions is variable.
the burst of Kagyu sub-sects branching out in the 12th-f3th century. These
sub-sects, later categorized into the "four great lineages" (che bzhi) were
the Tsalpa Kagyu, the Karma (or Kamtsang) Kagyu, the Barom Kagyu,
and the Phagdru Kagyu. The disciples of Pagmo Drupa, the founder of
the latter sect, were retrospectively seen as founding an additional "eight
lesser lineages" (chung brgyad): the Drikung Kagyu, the Drukpa Kagyu,
the Taklung Kagyu, the Yam Zang Kagyu, the Tropu Kagyu, the Marpa
Kagyu, the Yalpa Kagyu and the Shugseb Kagyu (See Appendix 1)1. The
tensions between demeanors of naturalness and domestication in these
lineages were expressed, resolved and remained unresolved in a variety
of ways by these different subsects.
One subsect that carried this web of tensions to an appreciable degree
is the Drukpa Kagyu. A sect with expressed commitments to the hermetic
(ras pa) lifestyle
, the Drukpa Kagyu nevertheless parented strong line-
ages of abbatial hierarchs, even while producing some of the Kagyu lin-
eage's loudest voices of conscience. This polarity of allegiances and ten-
dencies was to have two important consequences: it spawned an
adaptableness that would ensure that the Drukpa Kagyu not only survived
but also competed with the other lineages of its day, and it tolerated more
lifestyle options for religious specialists than most other modem (gsar
rna) lineages, attracting a wide following. In consort with the peripatetic
ideal, the lineage was to survive not by creating and settling into large
institutions, but rather by casting its net as wide as possible via the tra-
jectories of wandering missionaries. In the span of its first three genera-
7 The Tibetan names for these lineages are tshal pa bka' brgyud, kam tshang bka'
brgyud, 'ba' rom bka' brgyud, phag gru bka' brgyud, 'bri gung bka' brgyud, stag lung
bka' brgyud, khro phu bka' brgyud, 'brug pa bka' brgyud, smar pa bka' brgyud, yel pa
bka' brgyud, g.ya' bzang bka' brgyud and shug gseb bka' brgyud. This retrospective clas-
sification (and in general sectarian depictions of lineage formation and continuity) is a
very simplified picture of what was undoubtedly an extremely complex web of relation-
ships and transmissions. Some significant lineages omitted from this classification are
detailed in Chapter VIII of deb ther sngon po (In English translation as The Blue Annals)
by 'gos 10 tsa ba gzhon nu dpal (1392-1481). Included in his presentation is the zhang pa
bka' brgyud, a lineage founded by the zhang rin po che who was one generation removed
from Gampopa. Also included there are descriptions of the various branches of the Drukpa
Kagyu: the Lower Druk, Upper Druk and Middle Druk lineages (described in more detail
later in this paper).
8 See note 7.
tions, the Drukpa lineages challenged the geographical breadth of other
lineages of the Tibetan Renaissance period. After establishing a foothold
... in the religious milieu of central Tibet, it moved across into Eastern Tibet
and even into Bhutan. This burst of initial expansion, that seems almost
. dazzling looking back, is certainly both symptomatic of the fervent activ-
jty of the renaissance period and of the Drukpa Kagyu's resourcefulness
as a lineage.
Standing right at the diffident beginnings of this lineage were two
Drukpa hierarchs, whose hagiographies form the basis for this analysis:
Ling Repa (gling ras pa, 1128-1188) and his disciple Tsangpa Gyare
(gtsang pa rgya ras, 1161-1211). Although it is unlikely these two indi-
viduals foresaw their future identification as lineage architects, they are
the only two distinctly "Drukpa" founders to which all Drukpa Kagyu lin-
eages trace their pedigree and they are highly revered (even today) in the
imagination and literary culture of all Drukpa Kagyu sects. Therefore,
examining their biographical personas and legacy is an opportune prel-
. ude to understanding the elements that bind together the disparate sub-
lineages of the Drukpa Kagyu tradition, and to exploring the seminal
events that eventually propelled a disparate group of people and amor-
phous set of teachings to become self-identified as a distinct lineage. Fur-
thermore, in this paper I wish to consider the concept of "founder": What
factors elevate individuals to the status of founders? What kind of rhetor-
ical picture is constructed of an embryonic moment in Drukpa history, by
narrative portrayal of an alternating attraction, antagonism and ambiva-
lence towards consolidation, monasticism and scholasticism? Is it possi-
ble to see founders themselves as the archetypical embodiments of such
tensions? These are a few guiding questions that I hope to pose of the
biographical material forming the nexus of this article.
II. What's in a Stream
The Tibetan word for lineage is brgyud. Attempting to identify what
exactly is meant by lineage in the premodern Tibetan context is not as easy
as it would appear on the surface, because indigenous representations of
lineage tend to emphasize diachronic lines of descent that sustain strong
elements of stasis, cohesion and solidity, an emphasis that does not nec-
essarily stand up under historical analysis. Here I would like to experi-
ment with constructing a defInition around a confIguring metaphor evoked
by an etymological interpretation of the word brgyud, which descends
from rgyud, literally meaning "stream" or "continuum". Like a stream
flowing from one place to another, lineage is suggestive of the passage
of time, displaying a pattern of diachronic lineal descent. This descent at
every level is not impermeable but picks up compositions, people, ideas,
hermeneutics, books, places, things and so forth through time, like a
stream picks up branches and leaves as it moves. The conducted matter
leaves traces, a sediment of traditions and artifacts. Practices and texts
sometimes snag on branches of controversy or obsolescence and are aban-
doned. Therefore, while the appellation "lineage" (brgyud) implies con-
tinuity and consolidation, its infrastructure is temporally, geographically
and soteriologically fluid.
Lineage is also geographically fluid: like a stream moves across land-
scapes, lineages move into new places- Buddhist lineages permeated
the Tibetan landscape during the tenth century onwards and interacted
with physical space in real ways by inhabiting, anthropomorphizing, con-
secrating and using it in a ritual context. Just as waterways sometimes fork
and merge, lineages occasionally part or flow together, as when the
Drukpa lineage parted from the Marpa Kagyu, or when Gampopa com-
bined the streams of the Kadampa and Mahamudra lineages. Just as a
stream adapts to terrain, lineage accommodates changing environments,
as expressed for example by Tsangpa Gyare's eventual decision to estab-
lish monasticism as a precedent for the Drukpa Kagyu lineage, despite the
disinterest of his main preceptor. Just as buoyant material floats down-
stream, lineages involve human agents who pass on more enduring enti-
ties to future lineage holders: texts, ideas, practices. Just a river erode and
change the terrain, lineages impact the religious, political, social, and eco-
nomic environment. The complexity of the Drukpa lineage apparent within
the fIrst few generations confIrms that while a given lineage in the Tibetan
milieu tends to be identified by a consistent name and set of characteris-
tics, a closer look reveals that it is in fact the accumulation of many things
acting and appearing together as a continuum. With this metaphorical
approach as a basis, I will venture a tentative definition. Lineage is a fluid
and adaptable collection of material and non-material transmissions that
are passed down from one generation to the next: these transmissions
may be textual, abbatial, geographical, ritual, instructional, scholastic,
material, visual, artistic, auditory, and so forth

In contrast to lineage, but also very much related to it is the term chos
lugs which means "religious tradition" or "sect". On the difference
between "sect" and "lineage", Matthew Kapstein states:
By sect, I mean a religious order that is distinguished from others by virtue
of its institutional independence; that is, its unique character is embodied out-
wardly in the form of an independent hierarchy and administration, inde-
pendent properties and a recognizable membership of some sort. A lineage
on the other hand is a continuous succession of spiritual teachers who have
transmitted a given body of knowledge over a period of generations but who
need not be affiliated with a common sect

The Tibetan use of this word sect therefore implies consolidation, a
soteriology and set of practices distinct from other traditions, and bureau-
cratically linked institutions. Continuing with the aquatic metaphor, a sect
is a repository for lineages that may either flow into it or flow through
it. David Snellgrove links the development of sects to the guru-disciple
paradigm and centralization in a single place:
The eventual development of religious orders in Tibet is closely related with
the great importance attached to devotion to one's chosen teacher, whence
there derives immediately the concept of spiritual lineage ...
Tibetan religious orders developed ... as the result of the fixing of such a
spiritual lineage at a particular place, namely a monastic establishment,
which happened to become a recognized religious center of importance,
consequently growing in wealth and prestige ... only a favorable combination
of a particular monastery with a particular lineage might result in what came
to be recognized as a distinctive religious orderll.
In Tibet, sects are associated primarily with institutions, and the affil-
iation with a specific place is augmented by the creation of texts and
abbatial successions associated with that place. Eventually, this central-
9 The "so forth" is intended to indicate that the potential identification of elements
that can be considered part of lineage transmission is mind-boggling.
10 Matthew Kapstein, "gDams ngag: Tibetan Technologies of the Self" in Tibetan Lit-
erature: Studies in Genre, Cabazon and Jackson (eds.), page 249, note 2.
11 David Snellgrove, Indo-Tibetan Buddhism: Indian Buddhists and their Tibetan suc-
cessors (Boston: Shambala Publications, 1987), p. 486.
ization results in a self-definition so complete that people carry personal
names reflecting their sectarian affiliation, and monastic centers carry
names that announce their sectarian status. Therefore, lineages and sects
differ largely on the basis of the intensity of their self-defInition: Whereas
lineage survives through popularity, a sect cultivates and develops unique-
ness: its survival rests on its ability to present aesthetic, ritual, and sote-
riological perspectives that differ from and appear superior to rival sects.
Furthermore, while a sect derives authority from its appropriation of spe-
cific lineages, lineage is not necessarily linked to a single sect. In short,
sects are more structurally rigid than lineages.
Nevertheless, sects in Tibet have never been static or permanent. Those
sects that survive appear to have done so by adapting to the political and
social climate
, but also through the ingenuity and fortuitous non-con-
formity of their parishioners and leaders. By shirking, evading or simply
augmenting the expressed codes of their tradition, the subscribers to sects
have throughout Tibetan history provided a healthy milieu for change,
evolution and adaptation at the juncture of every generation. Included
among these "every-day" iconoclasts are examples of practitioners who,
while steeped in one or more traditions, decline to announce a sectarian
status and search for threads of continuity between traditions. One such
figure was Taranatha (sgroi ba'i mgon po, 1575-1634), the eclectic scholar
of the Jonang (jo nang) tradition, who doggedly stated he was simply
"Buddhist", and inadvertently contributed to laying the groundwork for
the nineteenth century non-sectarian (ris med) movement. Moreover, sects
sometimes hybridize, such as the extremely popular Ka-Nying (bka' sny-
ing) tradition of Eastern Tibet that combines elements of Kagyu and
Nyingma (snying ma) doctrine and textual transmissions into a loosely
defined system. In short, while sects formalize and systematize lines of
transmission, they remain flexible to a degree.
m. The Drukpa Kagyu Tradition
Although it is certain they considered themselves the common holders
of Gampopa's lineage of instructions, there is no decisive evidence that
12 No example of the adaptibility of sects is starker than the numerous adjustments
Tibetan sects have had to make as they encountered the cultures of China, India and the
West in the last forty years.
the Drukpa Kagyu had self-identified as a sub-sect of the Kagyu lineage
in the 12th century. However the composition of A Short History of the
Drukpa Lineage ('Brug pa'i 10 rgyus zur tsam, a two-folio document
found in the gsung 'bum of Gotsangpa
), by Gotsangpa (rgod tshang pa
mgonpO rdo rje, 1189-1258) or one of his disciples, indicates that the
Drukpa lineage was beginning to emerge as an independent entity by the
13th century. Within a few generations, the trickle that opens with the life
story of Ling Repa had become a watershed. The new lineage would be
known by two names: Lingre Kagyu (gling ras bka' brgyud) and Drukpa
Kagyu. The former name, still commonly used, graced Ling Repa retroac-
tively with the status of a founder. The latter name was extracted from
the monastery of Namdruk (gnam 'brug) established by Tsangpa Gyare.
However, it was Ralung (rwa lung), founded jointly by Ling Repa and
Tsangpa Gyare, that was to become the major seat of the Gya (rgya)
abbots, the most powerful Drukpa abbatial lineage in Tibet. Ling Repa
entrusted this incipient center to Tsangpa Gyare who built it into a monas-
tic complex and eventually passed it to his nephew Sangye Onre Darma
Senge (sangs rgyas dbon ras dar ma seng ge, 1177-1237), who became
its second abbot. For the next 400 years, this abbatiallineage residing at
Ralung would be known as the Middle Druk (bar 'brug) lineage. How-
ever, in the seventeenth century, an unresolved political dispute would
compel the center to relocate and split the lineage into a Northern and a
Southern branch
Due to the same dispute, in 1616, the coeval scion in
the succession of Middle Drug abbots Ngawang Namgyal (ngag dbang
rnam rgyal) was forced to flee to Bhutan where he quickly rose to power.
After his death, he would be recognized as the individual who established
the Drukpa Kagyu in Bhutan, where it remains the official national reli-
Tsangpa Gyare's disciples Gotsangpa (rgod gtsang pa, 1189-1258) and
Lorepa (10 ras pa, 1187-1250) were later seen as the founders of two
major offshoots of the Drukpa lineage: the lineage of Upper Druk (stod
I3 'Brug pa'i 10 rgyus zur tsam, in Chos rje rGod tshang pa'i bka' 'bum dgos 'dod
kun'byung (Tintphu, Bhutan: Tango Monastic Community, 1981. Reproduced by the
Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center from a manuscript preserved at rTa mgo monastery),
Volume III, Pages 91-94. An article about this short document is forthcoming.
14 byang 'brug and Iho 'brug. For more details on this dispute and its fall-out see E.
Gene Smith, Among Tibetan Texts: History and Literature of the Himalayan Plateau
(Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2001), pp. 44-45.
'brug) and the lineage of Lower Druk (smad 'brug),' respectively (See
Appendix IT). The lineage of Upper Druk gave rise to a number of impor-
tant sects: the Nering Kagyu (ne rings bka' brgyud), the Dowo Chewa
(mdo bo che ba) and the Yang Gon Kagyu (yang dgon bka' brgyud)
among others. The lineage of Lower Druk would flourish primarily in
Bhutan. Minor traditions originated from four disciples of Tsangpa Gyare:
Pariwa (spa ri ba), Kyangmo Khapa (rkyang mo kha pa), Gya Yagpa
(rgya yags pa) and Dremopa ('bras mo pa). In addition, one of Got-
sangpa's disciples Urgyenpa (u rgyan pa 1230-1309) would establish an
important sub-lineage that later merged with other Drukpa sects. In short,
the Drukpa Kagyu lineage in Tibet eventually branched into four major
sub-sects and many minor sub-sects, and spread to Bhutan where it
became the national religion 15.
Moving upstream, Ling Repa and Tsangpa Gyare were also the inher-
itors of an already well established Kagyu lineage (See Appendix I). Ling
Repa's teacher, Phagmo Drupa, was a staunch monastic patriarch and
prolific author, following in the footsteps of his preceptor Gampopa. Gam-
popa was inheritor of two main lineages which he synthesized into a sin-
gle system: Atisha's Kadampa lineage and Naropa's Kagyu lineage. The
former instilled in Gampopa an appreciation of monasticism and sutra-
based scholarship, but the latter-a lay-based esoteric lineage that
embraced texts on tantra and somatic yogas-supplied Gampopa with the
soteriology that served as the nexus for his compositions
. Biographical
representations of N aropa, one of the Kagyu lineage's principal Indian
founders, depict a man a bit like Gampopa in his regard for bringing a
scholarly approach to tantric practice. However, unlike Naropa, Gam-
popa and his line of succession saw the prudence of establishing a stable
monastic community and training many disciples I? Therefore, the line-
15 The information in the above two paragraphs comes from Smith, Among Tibetan
Texts (see note 20). For a pictorial presentation of the Drukap Kagyu lineages, see Appen-
dix II.
16 Gampopa reserved teachings on the Six Yogas of Naropa and the tantras for his
most advanced and promising disciples. See Gampopa, "A Brief Account of Dhama Lord
Gampopa's Life" in Jewel Ornament of Liberation, trans. Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen, ed.
Ani K. Trinlay Chodron (Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1998), p. 325-332.
17 Of course, in his writings, he occasionally apologizes for his consolo dating activi-
ties and bemoans his fate as a popular abbot. But his activities and compositions overall
age that Ling Repa inherited had already articulated a monastic and
scholastic agenda; but carried with it the strong memories of a close past
of yogis meditating in mountain retreats. Ling Repa saw it as his mission
to revive the old ways and defy the ecclesiastical model that was fast
becoming normative. His insubordination made him a beloved and influ-
ential lodestar not only for his student Tsangpa Gyare but also for the
Drukpa lineage in general. But what situated him and his student Tsangpa
Gyare as founders of a new order bears investigation.
IV. A Tale of Two Founders
The purpose of the remainder of this essay is to scope out the tenor of
the lives of two very important figures against the backdrop of the ren-
aissance period, and probe (in an admittedly inchoate fashion) the ques-
tion of what made these two individuals "founders". This project is in
actuality a task beyond the scope of a short article, and I will therefore
have to be selective in entertaining possible answers to this question. It
is my hope that the reader will consider this a modest contribution to a
dialogue that has herein been opened. In the next section, I will briefly
summarize the lives of these two saints as presented in some biographi-
cal sources, and then will explore a few topics relating to founderhood
that emerge organically from the material at hand.
In his essay The Lives of Indian Buddhist Saints: Biography, Hagio-
graphy and Myth, James Burnell Robinson proposes three ascending ways
of reading the accounts of saints: "as history, as hagiography and as
myth." 18 Inspired by this paradigm of reading modes, I will for heuristic
purposes in this essay propose two a:Itemative models: religious biogra-
phies may be viewed as cultural artifacts and as cultural agents. On the
one hand, this involves viewing life-accounts as valuable portraits of time
and place. Robinson touches on this perspective when he defends the
value of reading saint's accounts as histories: "Even if the historica:I accu-
nevertheless reflect a deep concern with succession and systematization characteristic of
an institutinoal format.
18 James Burnell Robinson, "The Lives of Indian Buddhist Saints: Biography, Hagio-
graphy and Myth" in Tibetan Literature: Studies in Genre, Jose Ignacio Cabezon and
Roger R. Jackson, eds. (Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1996), p. 61.
racy of certain events and personages may seem suspect to critical schol-
arly eyes, recurrent motifs probably are quite accurate in mirroring the con-
ditions of the time." Taking the historical perspective further, we might
also hypothesize that these accounts are shaped by events, and their con-
tent is influenced by religious and political agendas. In this sense, reli-
gious biographies are cultural artifacts, with potential to reveal much in
their pages about the time, place and manner of their composition.
On the other hand, religious biographies may be viewed. as cultural
agents that" act" upon those who read or possess them. The motifs, lan-
guage and even their physical existence influence the conditions of the
present and future. In line with an agential interpretation, it is possible to
see the individuals portrayed in these biographies as archetypes, delin-
eating to some extent what is possible and recommended for future gen-
erations of a particular lineage. In other words, religious biographies are
not merely reflective: they are templates that shape lives, literature, cul-
ture and institutions.
Looking through the lens of biography as cultural artifact and agent,
the degree to which the content of these biographical accounts contains
historically accurate information is not necessarily of paramount impor-
tance. Still, the biographical material considered for this paper may prof-
fer content of historical significance that is worthy of a Tibetanist's atten-
tion, so the question of accuracy is worth addressing at least in passing.
Janet Gyatso reflects the observations of a number of Tibetanists when
she remarks that "the life-writing impulse in Tibet reflects a long tradi-
tion of record-keeping", and notices that biographies (rnam thar) often
tum out to be dictations from the protagonist to a disciple, and therefore
may sometimes be partially autobiographical
Her observations are in
keeping with a concern with specific details and dates evident in the two
narratives below. More explicitly, it might be possible to hypothesize
some autobiographical elements to the first version of the biography of
Tsangpa Gyare
which was written by his disciple Lorepa (Io ras dbang
phyug brtson 'grus, 1187-1250). The direct link between the author and
his subject supports to some degree the potential authenticity of events
19 Janet Gyatso, Apparitions of the Self: The Secret Autobiographies of a Tibetan
Visionary (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), p. 103.
20 gtsang pa rgya ras ye shes rdo rje'i rnam thar.
recorded in that- account. While in the case of Ling Repa's biographies
none of the versions have a colophon, the inclusion in the 'ba' ra biog-
raphy of specific quotations indicated to be from the mouth of the sub-
might indicate a link between the author and his subject (or perhaps
his subject's direct disciples). But perhaps the most corroborating evi-
dence for the historical value of both texts is the relative lack of hagio-
graphical details found therein: the early biographies of these two Drukpa
hierarchs generally have the sense of being records, with a smattering of
miraculous events. However, there is a similarity of sOme details in both
biographies with the story of Milarepa, and this could be examined more
closely to determine if parts of the stories might have been adapted from
another source.
Ling Repa Padma Dorje
Ling Repa was, as depicted in the two religious biographies considered
and suggested by the content of his writings, a free spirit who
found more affinity with the repa tradition of Milarepa's followers than
with the more orthodox monastic tradition of Gampopa, although he even-
tually reconciled the two at the urging of his guru Pagmo Drupa. To the
consternation of his teacher, he was rarely without a wife or a female
companion of some sort, but his leanings towards a solitary life were
strong. In style and activity Ling Repa was something of a vagrant poet.
21 There are a number of examples of these quotations in the biography found in the
'ba' ra gser phreng. For example, on folio 377 of the text, Ling Repa is quoted as saying
"Every time I requested a Dhanna session with Lama La, I never neglected to offer him
tea. As a result, I do not suffer from lack of tea .... " (bla ma lola chos thun re zhu ba la
ja sun re ma ched pas da Ita jas nyon ma mongs).
22 Also known as sna phu ba, a name he acquired on the basis of his founding of a her-
mitage at sna phu.
23 There are three surviving biogaphical accounts (rnam thar) of Ling Repa found in
three collections: rwa lung gser phreng compiled by rje shakya rin chen, the 'ba' ra gser
phreng (19th century) and the rta mgo (pha jo sding manuscript, 18th century). None of
these accounts have colophons, and their authorship is unknown (Gene Smith 4/16/2004,
email communication). For this compilation, I relied on the text entitled grub thob chen
po gling chen ras pa padma rdo rje'i rnam par thar pa in the 'ba' ra bka' brgyud gser
'phreng chen mo, and on Go Lotsawa's accounts in the Blue Annals. There are significant
differences between the content of these two sources. Therefore, the following brief account
generally includes the information held in common by these two sources. Discrepancies
will be discussed here or later.
Inspired by stories of his predecessor Milarepa, he sought teachings from
Sumpa Repa (sum pa ras pa), the inheritor of Rechungpa's lineage. Like
Kagyu bards of yore, he" was peripatetic and often inspired by the creative
The 'ba' ra biography begins with a long account of Ling Repa's past
life as the Bodhisattva Good Fortune (skal pa bzang po), an account that
seems to be extracted from a sutra, although I have been unable to deter-
mine the source. Even though this account is not in the form of a "pre-
diction narrative" (lung bstan), its inclusion in the biography accomplishes
at least two authenticating purposes related to the validation of Ling Repa's .
status as a founder. First, the account links Ling Repa with Indian prece-
dents and legitimizes him as a Bodhisattva who has connection to a pre-
vious Buddha. This observation reaffrrms the notion that Tibetan biogra-
phical narratives function to forge connections between lineage founders
and Indian personalities (either sutric or tantric), hence legitimizing, or at
least attempting to legitimize, the founders of sects in the Indian-centric
Tibetan imagination. Second, the past-life account can be read as an indi-
rect defense for Ling Repa's loss of monastic his lay tenden-
cies in general, as indicated at the end of the passage, when Good Fortune
and his Bodhisattva friends take a long set of vows, swearing to never
slander other Bodhisattvas. A piece of this vow is as follows:
From now on, if we speak of the downfall of a bodhisattva-whether it may
be dishonorable or not-we will be deceiving the tathiigata. If we should
blame or speak unpleasant words to a bodhisattva, we will be deceiving the
tathiigata. Transcendent Conqueror, then, if we see a bodhisattva individual-
whether he may be a layperson or a monk-partaking of the sense pleas-
ures, and we then give rise to faithlessness, disrespect, and no impulse to
praise him, we will be deceiving the tathiigata. From now on, upon seeing
a bodhisattva, if we utter as much as a single unflattering word, we will be
deceiving the tathiigata

24 "Grub thob chen po gling chen ras pa padma rdo rje'i mam par thar pa", 'ba'ra
bka' brgyud gser 'phreng chen mo. Dehradun: Ngawang Gyaltsen and Ngawang Lung-
tok, 1970, Volume I, folio 369-370. From here forward, all indented quotes in the Ling
Repa section are translations from this text unless otherwise noted. TIlls piece of vow in
the Tibetan reads: deng sian chad nas byang chub sems dpa'i Itung ba smad pa 'ami smad
pa ma lags pa yang rung stel gleng na bdag cag gis de bzhin gshegs pa bslus par .'gyur
rol de nas byang chub sems dpa' la snyad pa'ml mi snyan pa brjod na bdag cag gis de
bzhin gshegs pa bslus par 'gyur rol des 'dre'ol bcom [dan 'das de nas byang chub sems
This passage reads like an edification of how a reader should approach
the potentially disquieting lifestyle of Ling Repa: the reader should cul-
tivate "sacred outlook" (dag snang), more specifically the attitude that
.fue unconventional behavior of a lama is in fact the manifestation of his
enlightened wisdom. This passage provides a compelling example of how
the details in biography incorporate normative Buddhist doctrine into a
narrative format, while simultaneously justifying (and sometimes glori-
fying) the actions of the biography's protagonist.
Both biographies agree on the details of Ling Repa's early religious
career. He was born in the village of Langpo Na (glang po sna) in the
Upper Nyang (nyang stod) district of Tsang (gtsang) in Central Tibet in
1128, as the youngest of four children. In Upper Nyang, there were two
clans: Upper and Lower Ling (stod gling and srnad gling). Ling Repa's
family belonged to the clan of Lower Ling, from which he would later
take his name
His father, who was learned in Tantric propitiations, and
earned his livelihood as an astrologer, named him Perna Dorje (pad rna
rdo Ije). At the age of nine, Perna Dorje learned to read and write. In
exchange for a plot of land, he received instruction from a local physi-
cian in the practice of medicine.
At 17, he began formal religious training in the presence of a precep-
tor named Ling (gling). One passage in the 'ba' ra biography calls into
question how specifically Buddhist this religious training may have been:
About this time, [Ling Repa] had a dispute with a local official and a local
clansman. Resorting to black magic, he cast many spells, perfonning 20
black magic rituals in a single month. Thus, he completely destroyed all the
officials. In Upper Nyang, he became known as the greatest magician, and
thus stood at the crown of his district

dpa'i gang zag khim pa'm rab tu byung pa yang rung stel 'dod pa'i yon tan la yang su
spyad pa mthang nal rna dad par bgyid daml rna gus par bgyid daml de fa stod pa'i 'du
shes me bskyid nal bdag cag gis de bzhin gshegs pa bslus par 'gyur roldeng nas sian chad
byang chub sems dpa' mthong pa la yid du mi 'ong pa'i tshigs tsam tang smras nal bdag
cag gis de bzhin gshegs pa bslus par 'gyur ral
25 The custom of prominent religious specialists taking their personal name from their
clan or region of birth is extremely common, as can be seen from references in The Blue
Annals. This underscores yet again, the importance of place and clan-affiliation in the
identity construction of Tibetans.
26 Ibid, Vol. 1, Folio 373. de tsam na rje dpon gcig dang rabs chad gcig la rna 'cham
pasl mdze' po shang lung du brtsan gnyis gzung la bcur la phabl mthu mang pa mdzadl
The similarity of this detail with the early life of Miiarepa is appar-
ent, except the eventual contrition of the protagonist is conspicuously
absent and the rhetoric of the passage not only fails to excuse Ling
Repa's revenge-it glorifies him as "the greatest magician", standing
"at the crown of the district." Therefore, whether this passage is a redac-
tion of a Kagyu theme or reflective of Ling Repa's history, the passage
indicates a certain tolerance towards and even endorsement of coercive
magic. It seems plausible that the religious environment of the 12th cen-
tury not only tolerated the presence of coercive ritual specialists, but
glorified violent practices (eventually modified and incorporated into
institutions as "averting" [!zag pa] practices and so forth) as evidence
of the puissance of the practitioner. An interesting study would be to see
how these references change and are modified in biography as Bud-
dhism because increasingly institutionalized from the renaissance period
Whatever the case may be, we are led to wonder if Ling Repa's
bravado, in addition to vanquishing his foes (how he "destroyed" his
enemies is left distressingly non-specific), added to his personal charm,
as the next line of the text reads simply "Then, he got together with
Menmo."27 Menmo (srnan rna), referred to alternately in the 'ba' ra
hagiography as Menmo and "the Lady" (ja rna), would be Ling Repa's
wife for much of his adulthood. At this point in the story, Go Lotsawa' s
account launches into apologetics for Ling Repa's wantonness. However,
this invective is absent from the 'ba' ra biography, perhaps indicating
that the later biographical account is older. With or without the apolo-
getics, references to Ling Repa's relationship with Menmo are signifi-
cantly present in both biographies.
For a few years, Ling Repa and Menmo received instructions and
empowerments from Ra Lotsawa (rwa ye shes senge, 12th century) and
his disciples in the esoteric cycles of Kalachakra, Chakrasmavara, Yaman-
taka and Vajravaharahi. Ra Lotsawa encouraged the couple to seek instruc-
tion in the Six Dharmas of Naropa from his teacher Khyung Tsangpa
zla ba re la gtad phogs nyi shu tsa re mdzad nas rje dpon thams cad rtsa ba rlaglngang
stod na mthu chad bar grags pa yang de btsug lags par gda'l. This is yet another exam-
ple of a quote attributed to Ling Repa himself.
27 Ibid. de nas jo mo sman dang gnyis 'grogs.
(khyung tshang pa), who claimed to be a direct disciple of Rechungpa.
Ling Repa, greatly inspired by the stories he had heard about the great
cave meditator
, declared at the time of receiving instruction, "From this
time forward, I will follow and act according to [Rechungpa's] life exam-
pie." Rechungpa, who was not a monk and had founded a community of
non-celibate renunciant yogis (repas), was an apropos role model for Ling
Repa who-although he had fervent religious leanings-was married.
After some time, however, Khyung Tsangpa convinced Ling Repa to
accept monastic ordination [and apparently send Menmo away]. For one
year, Ling Repa practiced the Kadampa teachings and lived as a monk
under Khyung Tsangpa's guidance. But then Menmo visited him:
... while he was residing at Gyache Lumpa Monastery, the Lady turned
up. Powerless to resist her, he lost his vows. Later he would say, "I was
This would be the last occasion that Ling Repa attempted monastic
ordination. Recommitting themselves to Rechungpa' s example, both
Menmo and Ling Repa (who was now 31) took on the discipline ofthe
repa lineage: they vowed to only wear a cotton garment and refrain from
cutting their hair. However, their enthusiasm would soon be dampened
by a troubling revelation. After taking repa vows, Ling Repa heard the
rumor that Khyung Tsangpa never really met Rechungpa as he had
claimed, much less received the nectar of Naropa's teachings from him.
Instead, it was whispered, he was a disciple of Lama Olkawa (' ot kha
ba?O, a less glamorous student of Gampopa. Given that he requested
instructions initially from his guru on the basis of a connection with
Rechungpa, Ling Repa felt betrayed. In his old age, however, he would
regret these doubts and attribute obstacles in his practice to them. He is
quoted in the biography as saying, "This is the reason my yogic heat is
enervated now. "31
28 Rechuugpa did not pass away unti11161, so he was alive at this time although appar-
ently inaccessible to young Ling and his wife.
29 Ibid, Vol. 1, Folio 374. de nas rgya phed lum pa'i zungs po dgon par bzhugs yod
tsam nal jo rno byung nas dbang med du zlogl nga rang snyan po chung pas Ian gsungl
30 '01 kha ba grol sgom chos g.yung (1103-1199). See Gene Smith, TBRC Website:
http://www .tbrc .org/c gi -bin/tbrcdatx? do=so&resource=P5167 .
31 Ibid, Vol. 1, Folio 374. da Ita drad chung pa des Ian gsung.
Motivated anew to receive the Six Dharma tradition from the purest
possible source, Lingre
(who was now 35) and Menmo traveled to
, the hermitage. of Rechungpa. They discovered on arrival that
Rechungpa had passed away in the previous year (1161). But the couple
was satisfied to ascertain that Sumpa Repa, a direct disciple of Rechungpa,
was residing at Loro and was willing to bestow the Kagyu precepts com-
pletely. Lingre, in appreciation, offered tea at every instruction session and
later declared that as a result, for the rest of his life, he never wanted for
When Lingre was 38, he traveled with Menmo to Pagdru Monastery,
the great monastic complex founded by Pagmo Drupa, Gampopa's main
disciple. His first meeting with the great abbot left him in a state of typ-
ical Kagyu infatuation:
He met Phagmo Drupa on the seventeenth day after the summer solstice,
and was instantly filled with fierce devotion. The feeling was so strong, he
had the experience that the members of the entire congregation were Bud-
dhas. He had the thought that even the local animals-birds, dogs and foxes-
were manifestations of the lama, and lost his perception of them as ordinary

Pagmo Drupa, for his part, was a strict advocate of monasticism and
orthodoxy, and was disinclined to seriously teach any disciple who was
not celibate, but the eager repa won him over by conducting a large fire
ceremony in honor of the lama and singing a song expressing his real-
ization. Although the congregation was scandalized at the sight of a lay
disciple making vast offerings to their teacher, Pagmo Drupa expressed
his appreciation to Ling Repa unequivocally: "Ling Repa, you have
authentic wisdom. In my residence, I have a special person, someone who
will accomplish waves of benefit for beings. With just this one song, you
32 Lingre is a nickname often used to refer to Ling Repa in Drukpa literature.
33 10 ro in dmyal.
34 Ibid, Vol. 1, Folio 378-379. phag mo gru par dbyar gyi nyi ma bzlog 'tshams kyi
tshe bcu bdun gyi nyi ma la 'byal bas! mos pa drag po skyes bla ma dang Ita ci rmos ste!
grogs po dam pa rnams kyang sangs rgyas yin te te na gnas pa 'i bya khi tang! ba la sogs
pa byol song rnams kyang bla ma'i rnams 'phrul yin snyam pa las! tha mal pa'i byol song
yin snyam pa'i 'du shes ma byung gsung!
iliave bestowed precepts. "35 During his time studying with Pagmo Drupa,
tingre would delight his master many times over with his composition
fbfsongs of experience (mnyam mgur) such as these. Posthumously, they
earn him the admiration of all Tibetan lineages and the epithet
of Tibet" .
i1.t,Despite his satisfaction with Lingre's progress, Phagmo Drupa was
tilil troubled by his luminary disciple's married status. Sometime around
ti 167, Lingre approached Pagmo Drupa, saying that his wife's jealousy
becoming an obstacle to his spiritual practice. Pagmo Drupa took
!the opportunity to encourage Lingre to end his relationship with Menmo.
ltingre protested that Menmo would not leave him just for the asking.
i:But Pagmo Drupa insisted declaring, "I will perform a rite!" Apparently
'the master's coercive action worked, as Lingre was successful in escort-
'ing his wife to an area close to her parents' home and letting her go.
Lingre's abstinence did not last long, however. He soon developed a
relationship with a woman from Zangri36, but wanted out of the affair
almost immediately. The temptress would have nothing of it and pursued
him so aggressively Ling Repa was compelled to flee to Kham
. The
trip was not in vain, as he was able to visit Gampopa's monastic center
'on the way. Later, the woman from Zangri came to Khams in search of
her par amour, but died on the way.
Lingre seems to have spent several years traveling in Kham because
when he returned to Pagdru Monastery, his teacher had passed away. The
next fIfteen years of his life would be spent visiting localities in Central
and Western Tibet. He met Lama Zhang
, and assisted in mediating in
one of his military feuds. He also donated (whether by coercion on Lama
. Zhang's part or voluntarily is not clear) a great deal of the wealth accu-
. mulated during his travels to a statue commissioned by Lama Zhang.
35 Ibid, Vol. 1, Folio 380. gling ras pa khod la rnngon par zhes pa rnnga' bar 'dug past
nga'i 'di na skyes bu khad par can 'gro don brlabs can 'grub pa gcig yod de khod kyis
tshol gcig gxung nas bka' bgo 'dzad dol
36 bZang ri in sNye rno province of Tsang (THDL Website).
37 khams, Eastern Tibet
38 bla rna zhang (1123-1193), a contraversial figure of the 12th century who was known
for his mastery of the. satirical pen and involement in military endeavors. He was a stu-
Once, on his way to Pagdru monastery, he stopped'at Samye, the fIrst
Buddhist temple built in Tibet. There,
... a blue woman a p p ~ a r e d and bestowed the reading transmission of the
tantras. Then she commanded, "Explain the tantras!" Although her com-
mand seemed impossible, knowledge of [the tantras] arose [in Ling Repa's
mind] without his having to train, and he composed a number of commen-
taries. A number of people were displeased and disparaged Ling, calling the
. compositions fake ..

This vision seems to have given Lingre the confIdence to begin the
tradition of tantric discourse that would become a specialty of the Druk
hierarchs. Despite the doubts of some of his contemporaries, Lingre com-
posed four volumes related to tantric practice and exegesis: Source of All
Qualities: A Practice of the Mandala of Chakrasamvara, A Practice of
the Mandala of the Glorious Transcendent Conqueror Vajrapani, Heart
of Interdependence: A Wrathful Rite and An Explanation of Tantra
During his lifetime, he also composed several other texts on devotional
practice and mind instruction. He was most famous however for his poetic
composition, an art he was so skilled at that later generations speculated
that he must have studied with the great Sanskrit scholar Parpupa (spar
phu ba)41, who was known for his mastery of kavya
Ling Repa's songs
are housed in collection called "Lingre's Collection of Songs" (gling ras
gsung 'bum, literally "100,000 Songs").
Sometime during Ling Repa's late forties or early fIfties, he established
a community of practitioners at Napu Hermitage (sna phu dgon) and
began training disciples. Eventually, an inadvertent karmic mistake would
bring about his demise:
dent of tshul khrims snying po, one of Gampopa's main disciples. Gampopa himself refused
to teach the rebellious young man.
39 Ibid, Vol. 1, Folio 397. bud med sgnon mo gcig byung ste brgyud sde rnams la lung
nos byas nasi khod kyis rgyud sde rnams la bshad pa byis gcig mi srid kyi gsung nasi brgyud
sde rnams ma brlabs par mkhyen pa byung nas yig sna mdzad pasl ma bsnyan par bshad
zer nas sgro bkur 'debs pa ...
40 bde mehog dkyi/ 'khor gyi eho ga yon tan kun 'byung, beom Idan 'das dpal phyag
na rdo rje'i dkyi/ 'khor eho ga, rten 'brei snying po'i las byang and rgyud kyi rnam bshad.
41 spar phu ba blo gros senge, student of Pagmo Drupa.
42 Go Lotsawa, who states he has compared their two styles, is unable to confirm or
deny this theory.
.While he was imparting a religious teaching from the graduated path texts
to an assembly. of students, in the section on the five tantric commitments,
two men with impure tantric commitments appeared. This caused his teeth
to clench, and he passed away on the twenty-eighth day of the first summer
month in the year Earth-male-ape (1188 A.D.). He was sixty-one
While there is no certainty of the historical accuracy of the details of
the biography, a death caused by the clenching of teeth is curious and spe-
cific enough to suggest some reflection of a physiological symptom or ter-
minal illness which Tibetans are familiar44. In any case, the linking of his
death with a karmic cause reflects one of the soteriological metanarratives
present in this biography. Nothing is more important in the esoteric Bud-
dhist context than maintenance of tantric commitments. Even a saint like
Ling Repa is not ultimately immune to the results of his transgression.
Therefore, appropriately, as Ling Repa's story began with the admon-
ishment to maintain sacred outlook, it ends with a revelation of the con-
sequences of not maintaining it.
Tsangpa Gyare Yeshe Dorje
The adoption of the name Dorje (rdo rje) for Drukpa hierarchs is a tra-
dition that seems to have started right at the roots of the lineage. Perhaps
this is significant, because it may mean that by the time Tsangpa Gyare
began to study with Ling Repa, he and his contemporaries were already
/ aware they were in the incipient stages of founding a bona fide religious
order with unique monikers for its members, structures and organization.
43 'gos 10 tsa ba gzhon nu dpal, deb ther sngon po, (Chengdu: Si-khron mi-rigs dpe-
skrun-khan, 1984), p. 779. del' slob ma rnams khrid kyi rim pa dang tshogs chos kyis sky-
ong zhing bzhugs pa'i tshel dam tshig lnga pa gsung zhing yod pa'i 'phro la dam tshig mi
gtshang ba'i mi gnyid byung ba'i rkyen gyis tshems khrig de 'khrigs nasi sa pho spre'u
10 drug cu rtsa gcig pa'i dbyar zla ra ba'i nyer brgyad la gshegs.
44 A friend finishing up study in medicine suggested to me that Ling Repa may have
died of lock-jaw caused by tetanus. Tetanus bacteria causes the jaw to contract until the
teeth are forced together, and the victim eventually carmot open the mouth to eat or swal-
low. The disease is not contagious (it is caused by the bacteria which is found in soil enter-
ing a puncture wound), so its appearence must have seemed mysterious to premodern peo-
ples who encountered it. I selected this version of his death from deb ther sngon po because
of its brevity. The version in the 'ba' ra gser spreng does not mention the clenching of
the teeth as a cause of death, but the other details are consistent.
45 gtsang pa rgya ras ye shes rdo rje
While Ling Repa was known as the "Saraha of Tibet", Tsangpa Gyare
would be revered as an incarnation of Naropa, and his unique ability to
combine scholarship with an emphasis on non-elaborate meditative tech-
niques greatly resembled the style of the Indian Pandit. There is ample
evidence in the story to follow that Tsangpa Gyare, like Naropa, had a
far reaching vision for his monastery and decedents that extended beyond
the parameters of his own life. To use the word" ambitious" to describe
this precocious and motivated figure would perhaps be an. understate-
ment. Whereas Ling Repa traveled a lot and did not begin consolidating
his legacy until fairly late in his life, Tsangpa Gyare's religious career
began in childhood and continued at a stunning pace until his early death
at age 51. In that short lifetime, if his life accounts are accurate, he man-
aged to found a number of monasteries, compose numerous texts, gather
thousands of disciples, send out missionaries far and wide, and thoroughly
groom a number of successors.
Tsangpa Gyare was born in the district of Kule (khu Ie) in Upper Nyang
(myang stod)46 in 1161, the youngest of the seven sons. The number of
boys was too much of an economic burden for the household, so his
mother entrusted her new son to a bonp047 who gave him the name Yung-
drung Pal (gyung drung dpal.)48. At the age of twelve, the boy was taken
by an elder brother to a local monastery to learn the alphabet. The boy
was either extremely precocious or extremely diligent or perhaps both, as
he was immediately transferred to the quarters of one of the region's most
eminent scholars where he lived and studied for three years. In his teenage
years, he is depicted as studying a dizzying curriculum of texts and prac-
tices with seven eminent scholars. The transmissions he received included
the Abhidharma, Yoga Tantra, the Pacification (zhi byed) System, the
Great Perfection, logic (tshad ma), the rdzogs chen rigs rdzogs, the
Mahamaya Cycle, the Treasure of the Great Merciful One (thugs rje chen
po gter ma), the Bodhisattvacaryavatara, the Names of Manjushri, and
Great Compassion (thugs rje chen po, by Atisha). This portrait of a young
scholar contrasts noticeably with the biographical representation of Ling
Repa's youth, in which Lingre is depicted studying medicine and the dark
46 myang stod is in Southern Tibet, not far from the Bhutanese border.
47 A religious specialist in the Bon tradition.
48 Although this is a distictly Bonpo name, it is intersting that Tsangpa Gyare never
relinquished it as his personal name.
arts, much in the same way (interestingly) that the depiction of the Gam-
popa's early Kadampa training contrasts starkly with that of the occult edu-
cation of Milarepa.
By the age of 22, Tsangpa was officially installed by a local guru as a
scholar and religious instructor. He then took up residence in the her-
mitage of Lamda Barzang (fa mda 'bar bzang). Soon after, he met Ling
Repa while the latter was residing at his retreat at Raiung. Tsangpa pre-
sented Lingre with a bag of salt and conversed with him for some time.
His interest and faith awakened, he asked and received permission to
study with the venerable repa at Napu. After receiving the precepts of the
Six Dharmas of Naropa, Tsangpa made quick progress, but an obstacle
was to befall him:
After seven days, he was able to wear a single cotton garment. Then for a
long time he fell ill with small-pox. On his recovery, he offered his teacher
a mare called "The Queen of Beasts". He also offered him some tea and
brown sugar4

The presence of plague in premodern Tibet must have weighed on the
ininds of aspiring religious specialists like Tsangpa Gyare: sickness is men-
tioned often in the biographies of the renaissance period. It might be surmised
that this early brush with a serious illness motivated the driven young man
to use his remaining days to their fullest. This passage also introduces the
theme of gift-giving and reciprocation that is remarkably prevalent through-
out these two biographies, perhaps partly symptomatic of the period of explo-
sive economic growth in the religious mileau of the renaissance period.
At about this time, Ling Repa was recruiting monks to help with the
building of a temple at Napu. Novitiates who arranged to enter retreat in
order to shirk this drudgery were fined one coin each. Tsangpa, who was
not himself inclined towards manual labor, endeavored to join the exo-
dus and offered a coin to Lingre, submitting the excuse that he needed to
copy over some texts
Lingre, seeing his disciple's ignoble motivation,
49 'gos 10 tsa ba gzhon nu dpal, deb ther sngon po, pages 780-781. zhag bdun nas ras
thub pa byungl der 'brurn pas yun ring du bsnyungl de dwangs nas rta rgod rna byol song
gi rgyal rno blangs nas bla rna la phull ja bur yang drangs.
50 It is mentioned in more than one place that Tsangpa acted as a scribe while at Napu.
Because his grammar and spelling were good, he sometimes helped other young scribes
in correcting their copy errors. He also was employed by Lingre to copy-edit some of the
old master's own compositions.
dismissed him. But the tone in which his teacher spoke alarmed Tsangpa
who wilted with contrition.
He thought that if the "lama was displeased, how can the precepts be kept?
"Look what I've come to!" He exclaimed and shed tears. He then placed
a plate full of brown sugar in front of the teacher and said: "I made a mis-
take!" and confessed. [Lingre] replied: "Ah! Only one who understands the
doctrine acts like this!" and was pleased

Tsangpa worked on building the chapel for five months, and by the end
of his apprenticeship had developed an ability to concentrate one-point-
edly on any task at hand. This skill allowed him to make up for the time
lost in his compulsory tenure: After building the chapel, he finished copy-
ing the text he was working on in a mere four days. Furthermore, in
exchange for his devoted labor, Lingre bestowed on him the remaining
Kagyu precepts52.
Although Lingre himself did not teach or compose texts on philo-
sophical discourse, interactions depicted in Tsangpa's biography depict
him as stimulated and challenged by the intellectual acuity of his young
disciple. One passage in the bio accounts a moment where Ling Repa
rouses Tsangpa to a debate, demanding,
"Propose a religious conundrum!"
"I shouldn't. How could I expose a contradiction existing in my teacher's
mind? It's inappropriate!" Tsangpa replied.
"Did I not just give you permission [to do so]?" Lingre cajoled.
"Then propose a definition for the state of the Dharmakaya
," ventured
"It is that which is devoid of origination, destruction, and existence," replied
51 Ibid., page 781. bla rna rna rnnyes na gdarns ngag gis ci btub nga 'dm ba 'ong ba
byas nas bshags pa phul basi '0 chos go ba bya ba de tsug 'ong ba yin gsung nas rnnyes"
52 It is worth mentioning here that Tsangpa also received precepts from other teachers
while he was at Napu, including instruction on Hevajra and Mahamaya tantras.
53 The "truth body". It's meaning is generally associated with Buddhist conceptions
of ultimate truth. It is often glossed as consisting of a SUbjective aspect (dharmaldiya as
wisdom, or realization of truth) and an objective aspect (dharmaldiya as the ultimate natore
of phenomena which is emptiness).
."If so," declared Tsangpa, "The sky would be considered an absolute truth
[but this is clearly erroneous]."
Ling Repa could not reply, but he was pleased with Tsangpa's acumen
Tsangpa spent a total of five years at N apu Monastery with Ling Repa.
During this time, Tsangpa alternated study and meditation practice, a pat-
tern that he was to establish as normative for his lineage. He excelled
especially at the practice of somatic yogas. As his biography says:
He acquired the ability to merge the outer air and inner breath, and could
pass through walls. He manifested signs mentioned [in the sacred texts],
such as victory in the battle with emotional afflictions. When he reported
[these experiences] to his teacher, Lingre responded, "The Venerable
Milarepa had the same experience! It is very wonderful! "55
Clearly, Ling Repa's defInition of religious success was closely tied to
the perfection of these physical yogas, a tendency that strongly echoed the
repa legacy and heralded an emphasis that would continue in the Drukpa
Kagyu lineage for generations. This passage also gives us the impression
that Tsangpa was devoted to reclusive practice. But as much as the young
ascetic seemed to thrive in the arts of yoga, he is also portrayed as hav-
ing strong leanings towards communal life as we are informed: "He also
acted as an assistant preacher, and never absented himself from the assem-
blies, and the daily work. "56 The biography suggests that Tsangpa's devo-
tion to community, fostered in the intimate enclave of Napu, would even-
tually sustain his energy throughout birthing a massive and thriving
religious complex. Ling Repa is represented as an interlocutor: he senses
his disciple's calling, and shown (at least twice in Tsangpa's biographi-
cal account) refusing Tsangpa's entreaties to enter meditative retreat and
instead grooming him as a successor.
54 Ibid" p.781. bla ma'i zhal nasi nga la chos shig dris dang gsung! de mi mchi bla
ma la thai 'gyur phog na mi rung zhus pas! ngas gnang ba byin pa yin mod gsung! chos
sku'i mtshan nyid cig bzhag par zhu zhus pas! skye 'gag gnas gsum dang bral ba yin
gsung pa la! '0 na nam mkha' yang chos skur thai 10 gsungs pas Ian med cing mnyes par
55 Ibid, pp. 781-782. rlung phi nang bsre nus pa dang rtsig pa la thogs pa medpa! nyon
rnongs pa'i gyullas rgyal ba sogs bshad tshod tang mthun par byung nas bla ma la zhus
pas! rje btsun rni la la'ng 'di Itar byung ba yin! bho mtshar ehe gsung!
56 Ibid., p. 782. zhar ehos gsungs! gro 'dun dang spyi las rna chag!
Nevertheless, his support of Tsangpa's tantric practice is occasionally
evidenced. For example, at one point in the biography, he senses
Tsangpa's practice would be benefited by a consort and sends Tsangpa
to a woman named Kalzang with instructions to train in the "path of
methods"57. When Tsangpa arrives at Kalzang's residence, he tells her of
his teacher's suggestion.
Kalzang replied, ''I'm willing serve you. I have had many good dreams
about you. They portend that if you become a monk, it would benefit many
beings. The realization of this teacher of mine [Ling Repa] is the greatest
this side of the river Ganges, but he attracts [women] like myself."58
So Tsangpa apparently returned to Napu a single man. This incident
in the biography indicates the first clear rhetorical tum away from the
hermetic ideals to monastic ones. Not long after this incident, when
Tsangpa was twenty-six, Ling Repa passed away.
After his teacher's death, Tsangpa inherited a number of disciples. To
some of these, he assigned the task of sustaining Napu and he brought a
chosen few with him to Karchu (mkhar chu) where he began a three-year
meditative retreat. While he was at Karchu, he would discover the treas-
ure text (gter ma) that would, for the first time, make a prominent Kagyu
teacher into treasure-finder. This event may have enormously boosted the
young scholar's personal cache and grown the popUlarity of the fledgling
Drukpa sect. The text was The Six Cycles of Equal Taste (ro snyoms
skor drug), ostensibly a text that Rechungpa brought back from one of
his trips to India and later hid at Karchu. The stay at Karchu would also
occasion the composition of some of Tsangpa's most evocative and pop-
.ular songs (mnyam mgur), that would eventually earn him a cherished
place in the libraries of many institutions.
After his stay at Karchu, Tsangpa spent some time traveling around
Tsang visiting various Kagyu centers, gathering disciples and amassing
57 thab lam, an unambiguous code-word in tbis context for the practice of tantric sex-
ual yoga with a consort.
58 Ibid., p. 782. skal bzang na rei ngas dang kyed kyi zhabs tog bsgrubs pas chag stel
nga la khyed fa brten pa 'i rmi lam bzang po mang po byungl khyed rang rab tu byung ba
mdzad la 'gra don skyang ba 'thadl ngad rang di bla rna 'di'ang chu ba gang 'a tshun na
rtags pa mtha ba Gig yin tel pha rang du 'dus pa 'di nga la sags pa yad pas yin mod
wealth. Eventually, he met Lama Zhang, who instructed him in the prac-
tice of compassion, and encouraged him to take monastic ordination.
When Tsangpa was thirty-three years old, he complied. After taking ordi-
nation, Tsangpa traveled widely in Western, Central and Northern Tibet,
establishing centers and raising funds (a job at which the biography por-
trays him as particularly adept) which he sent back to Napu.
By the time he returned to Tsang, he had amassed such wealth and
such a huge following that he was able to quickly establish a monastic
complex at Druk ('brug), where the biography says a thousand huts were
built in the flrst year alone. While acting as abbot of Druk, Tsangpa would
continue to make forays into the neighboring landscape, attracting disci-
ples and making connections with wealthy patrons.
One of Tsangpa's greatest strengths it would appear from the account
in Deb ther sngon po and evidence found in the biographies of his disci-
ples Urgyenpa, Lorepa and Gotsangpa, was his apparent perception that
people were his lineage's greatest resource. He sent his disciples on mis-
sions not only to every corner of Tibet, but even to India, Kashmir and
Bhutan. It was his adamant wish that every one of his disciples would
cover ground, a tendency that eventually earned the Drukpa Kagyu the
reputation for being almost everywhere. By the fourteenth century, this
reputation had taken hold as Go Lotsawa states: "It is said there was no
place in Tibet within a distance that could be covered by a vulture in
eighteen days, where disciples belonging to the Drukpa sect could not be
found. "59 It also says in the Annals that Tsangpa emphasized three main
points to his disciples: "to have disgust for worldly matters, to mentally
abandon concern for this life and to cultivate devotion to the lama"60.
These three admonitions were strongly reflective of the core Kagyu val-
ues of asceticism and devotion, and would set a tone for Drukpa lineage's
general suspicion of scholastic agendas.
Tsangpa passed away in 1211. The biography states that his cremation
was accompanied by miraculous signs and the twenty-one joints of his
59 Ibid., p. 785. bya rgod kyi nyin lam beo brgyad du 'brug pa'i bu slob kyis ma khyab
pa med bya ba byung.
60 Ibid., p. 784. slob ma rnams la 'jig rten gyi zhen logl tshe bios btang gi sgrub pal
bla ma'i mos gus gsum gtso bor 'dzin du beug ...
spine turned into twenty-one images of Tara, most of which were said (at
Go Lotsawa's time) to be preserved inside a stl1pa at Ralung.
v. Content and Themes
If the reader is left with one impression from reading these two biog-
raphical accounts, it is that Ling Repa Padma Dorje and Tsangpa Gyare
Yeshe Dorje are rhetorically divergent personalities. Ling Repa, on the
one hand, was a wandering bard, with only vague commitments to the con-
cept of establishment. His interest in women and his composition of tantric
commentaries without having so much as read the tantras paint him as a
bit of a wild card. But his unconventionality fmds expression as the nor-
mative Kagyu outlet of ascetic existence on the fringe of religious soci-
ety. Tsangpa Gyare, on the other, was a consolidator and invested some
value in scholasticism and institutions. His efforts at composing original
treatises for the incipient Drukpa sect and his amassing of disciples and
wealth indicate a concern with establishment. In this respect, these
founders embody the dual impulses in the Kagyu lineage: impulses
towards iconoclasm and civility, towards wildness and tameness, towards
ascetic practice and community. To fully explore the web of tensions and
ideological enigmas stemming from these impulses would be an exten-
sive project. In the remainder of this essay, I will touch lightly on a few
topics that emerge organically form a reading of these biographical
accounts, as a gesture towards more in-depth study in the future. I have
selected three themes that reflect some version of the tensions mentioned
above: the theme of solitude, the theme of poetic composition and the
theme of travel.
Bringing the Mountains to Town
The Kagyu lineage's self-declared emphasis has always been on devo-
tion to the teacher, undergoing long-term retreat, and the practice of
intense yogic exercises, to some degree uncomplicated by textual study.
The Kagyu disciple's tasks, then, requires intensive apprenticeship with
a guru and years in solitary retreat, not necessarily affiliation with an
institution (at least ideally). In Lingre and Tsangpa's biographies, there
is ample evidence of devotional gestures (such as Tsangpa's indenture-
ship to build Lingre's temple), and-as is typical for Kagyu disciples-
Lingre and Tsangpa both spend a period of apprenticeship with their
teachers. After that, the protagonists follow the lineage template for enter-
ing a period of solitary (or semi-solitary) retreat in the mountains, a liv-
ing situation that is considered most noble and efficacious for the prac-
tice of intensive yogic exercises.
However, if mountain solitude was so ideal for the attainment of the
most cherished of Kagyu aims, why did individuals like Ling Repa-
who seemed so interested in his youth in following Rechungpa's ascetic
example-and Tsangpa Gyare-who poured such energy into yogic prac-
tice-bother with the establishment of centers? While this is a compli-
cated question that could really only be investigated by thoroughly read-
ing all the primary literature available, I would suggest that the content
of these biographies indicate two reasons may have been of primary con-
cern. First, there was the simple fact of economic practicality: even yogis
have to eat, and the acquisition of supplies is easier for a group. Second,
these early patriarchs recognized that the survival of their brilliantly devel-
oped soteriology of ascetic practice ironically depended on enclosing it
in the walls of scholastic synthesis.
As to the first reason: life is harsh on the Tibetan plateau. The laity in
the 12th century eked out a living through animal husbandry and some
agriculture at low elevations. The role of the wandering yogi, a part inter-
mittently adopted by Ling Repa and Tsangpa Gyare, required begging
for food from already poor farmers and nomads. There are a number of
references in these accounts to the mendicant's livelihood. Ling Repa,
for instance, first meets Menmo on a begging round. We are also told that
Tsangpa Gyare relied exclusively on the generosity of lay patrons while
he was traveling in his early years around central Tibet. The most direct
reference to the economic hardships of yogic life is made when Sumpa
Repa sends Ling Repa away with the invective, "Now go! In our coun-
try of Nyal, even ogres die from hunger! "61 Clearly, death by malnour-
ishment or starvation was never a distant possibility for yogis who lived
alone or in small groups on the arid plateau. In this light, it is easy to
61 "Grub thob chen po gling chen ras pa padma rdo rje'i mam par thar pa", Volume
I, folio 377. gzhen du song/ nged kyi dmyal 'di srin po rtogs ris shi ba'i 10 rgyus mang po
understand how individuals such as our two protagonists would be
attracted to and concerned with consolidation of resources and the eco-
nomic security it could provide for religious specialists.
As to the second reason: concern for independent survival of the
Drukpa lineage and soteriology must have been a prime motivator for the
institutional push. The religious fecundity of the renaissance period, espe-
cially in the regions of Central, Western and South-western Tibet, bred
stiff competition between lineages. All around them, according to accounts
in the Blue Annals and Institutional Histories of the time, lamas and their
disciples were consolidating and building institutions, attracting lay patron-
age and amassing wealth. The trajectory of Ling Repa's life (and a num-
ber of specific references in the biography) suggests he was at least sus-
picious of monastic agenda. For example, after his hermitage is robbed
by a monk, he declared "Just by shaving everyone's heads, religion does
not occur! "62 But even Ling Repa must have felt concerned for the sur-
vival of his incipient repa legacy, as he invested energy in building a
temple at Napu and, according to the biographical account, commanded
Tsangpa to "Take care of my Napu! "63 Still, there is no evidence in the
biographies that Lingre's original vision for his center and Tsangpa's
eventual conversion to a monastic model were congruent Tsangpa's biog-
raphy states that he did not take vows until relatively late in life, long after
Lingre's death, a decision perhaps delayed by fidelity to his teacher's
Despite Tsangpa's eventual reluctant conversion to the monastic agenda
(we are told in Tsangpa's biography that Zhang Rinpoche did not con-
vince him of the merits of monasticism easily), he attempted to affect a
kind of synthesis of the yogic ideal with the realities of institutional proj-
ects. One way in which he actuated this uneasy marriage is to disperse
his disciples physically to the far comers of the Himalaya. In this way,
he bred disciples who were hybrids of the peripatetic yogi and the zeal-
ous missionary. One such disciple, whose embodiment of this ideal was
legendary, was Lorepa who lived a brilliantly ascetic life but managed also
to travel to Bhutan, convert many followers to the Kagyu way and found
62 Ibid., YoU, folio 387. tham cad kyi skra bregs phyis chos ni ma byung gsung.
63 'gas 10 tsa ba gzhon nu dpal, deb ther sngon po, page 782. "nga'i sna phu gzung."
a community there that still exists. Tsangpa also invested the solidifying
Drukpa sect with yogic ideals through his compositions, which will be dis-
cussed below.
The Power of Poetry
There is no distinctly Kagyu geme more widely read, quoted and appre-
ciated by Tibetan religious specialists and laity (regardless of their sec-
tarian affiliation) than spiritual "songs of experience" (mnyam mgur), a
literary form in which the tensions of wildness and tameness converge.
The appeal of these songs probably comes from the nature of their author-
ship, as well as their content. Unlike most forms of literary expression in
the 12th century, spiritual songs did not derive their authority from other
texts (such as the blooming exegetical literature), from prophesy (such as
terma) or from ostensible ties to exalted places or individuals. Spiritual
songs, in fact, did not claim authority from any other source than the
inspiration of a vagrant poet. While this form of melodic expression lent
credibility to its author and derived clout from its author's celebrity, it was
nevertheless "democratic in impulse" . Kagyu songs convey a strong mes-
sage that exalted states of mind and insights are accessible to anyone,
given the right circumstances, and the liberty to express these insights is
As for their content, spiritual songs are wholly rooted in the Tibetan
, landscape and are therefore an expression of the renaissance passion to
create a distinctively Tibetan form of Buddhist literature. In the case of
songs, this form is a compelling mix of non-elaborate (almost zen-like)
instructions and evocative natural metaphors: it would not be too simplistic
to say that spiritual songs are couched in a rhetoric and rhythmic form of
naturalness. They commonly refer to images such as the stunning vast-
ness of Himalayan valleys, a snow mountain at sunrise, or the distinctive
warble of a local bird. Even as early as the 7th century, as evidenced in
the Dun Huang manuscripts, poetry was rife with natural and local
imagery64. These poems were composed in the vernacular and use imagery
64 See excerpts from Dun Huang poetry in rOyal, Don grub, Bod kyi mgur glu byung
'phel gyi 10 rgyus dang khyad ehos bsdus par ston pa rig pa'i khe'u room par rtsen pa'i
skyed tshal, in dPal don grub rgyal gyi gsung 'bum. Peking: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1997.
of objects familiar to ordinary Tibetan people, not the rarified language
of academic discourse and metaphors associated with Indian precedents.
An excerpt from Tsangpa Gyare's Eight Flourishings of a Lance, writ-
ten during his immurement at Karchu, provides us with an example:
Having determined just how things really are,
I don't prefer nirvana over samsara.
Certain, without the fluctuations of discursive mind,
My view is like a lance, spinning free in the open sky!
Stable since the root is cut,
My six aggregates rest without fabrication.
Without the effort of mindfulness and grasping,
My meditation is like a lance, spinning free in the open sky!
Experiences arise unhindered.
I am free of anxiety, timidity and reserve.
Victorious over fixation and grasping,
My conduct is like a lance, spinning free in the open sky! 65
Tsangpa's song is typical of Kagyu songs of experience in its evoca-
tion of a sense of freedom and ease-the kind of words that express the
unencumbered lifestyle of the wandering ascetic. But his use of the man-
made lance as the central positive metaphor of his poem is a most com-
pelling literary device. The lance is both an artifact of civilization and a
symbol of man's most savage instincts. Is the message that the tools of
war are not without good use? Lama Zhang, after all, who was living in
the same region and was of the same lineage (and would later ordain
Tsangpa), was at the height of his military escapades to compel his neigh-
bors to accept certain religious affiliations. But just as easily, it might be
possible to interpret the metaphor as pacifist-throw up your weapons (and
your civilized affiliations) and let everything go. In any case, Tsangpa was
adept at finding ways to adapt the soteriological messages of his lineage
to the material culture of his day.
Examples of the direct and non-elaborate practical instructions are
found everywhere in the genre of spiritual songs. These terse and clear
invectives were intended to communicate the essence of mahamudra, the
65 Tsangpa Gyare, "Eight Flourishings of a Lance", taught by Khenpo Tsultrirn Gyatso
at Kagyu Thubten Choling in Wappinges Falls, 1997.
non-dual and non-conceptual realization of the nature of mind. Ling Repa
If you do not rest in mind just as it is
No other remedy will make things right.
So all my doubts about whether it's like this or not
Have vanished into thin air.
Following the same style of composition, Tsangpa sings:
Hey! Hey! Do you know what dharmakaya is?
It's letting mind relax just as it is.
Discursive thought is free, just like it is-
Getting your mind around it is impossible! 66
These mahamudra songs were intended to convey the direct experi-
ence of the yogi looking at his own mind for the benefit of his listeners.
This kind of versified format augmented the more formal Kagyu pre-
cepts, and the colloquial style of expression had the advantage of being
easy to memorize and access for the average Tibetan. Making direct
instruction available through song is a strong support for individual
Nevertheless, despite the impulse of these founders towards a rhetoric
of naturalness, they were pragmatists who saw the value of developing
an exegetical tradition, composing ritual manuals and writing practice
texts. Yet, within this more scholastic and ritual vein, both Ling Repa
and Tsangpa Gyare were clearly concerned with prioritizing meditative
experience and individual practice over complicated academic exegesis.
This apparent contradiction is resolved in part both in the circumstances
of composition and their content. For example, the vision a blue muse-
like female that inspires Ling Repa to compose commentaries on tantra
is reminiscent of prajfiaparamita, the mahayana symbol for emptiness,
the natural state of things expressed in Kagyu sources as a synonym for
mahiimudra. The mediator of Ling Repa' s composition of scholastic exe-
gesis was, it may be possible to surmise, a natural impulse, symbolized
by the blue dakini. Similarly, the most brilliant accomplishment of
Tsangpa's lifetime, his discovery of the Rechungpa terma, resulted in a
66 Both quotes from Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso, Songs of Realization by Milarepa and
Other Buddhist Masters, trans. Ari Goldfield (Unpublished).
text that traced its pedigree both to the repa tradition' (associated with
solitary life) and to the motherland of India (the original land of institu_
tional Buddhism). The ptestige of this discovery was rightly timed to
identify Tsangpa as the rising representative of the repa tradition. But the
identification of the terma with Indian origins can also be interpreted as
a sign that the incipient Drukpa lineage was poised to compete in the'
religious landscape of central Tibet ..
The Cache of Travel
It can perhaps safely be said that no inchoate lineage of the Renaissance
period was more aware of the oblique power of quiet expansion over dis-
tance than the Drukpa Kagyu. As mentioned before, Tsangpa instigated
the model of the peripatetic missionary who, in the guise of the ascetic,
moves into territory and claims it for his disciples. This was the Drukpa's
. signature pattern for centuries. However, in these two biographies, there
is evidence that local travel was an important aspect of
Both Ling Repa and Tsangpa Gyare travel extensively around Central .
and Western Tibet. In the accounts of Ling Repa and Tsangpa Gyare,
travel is portrayed as a way of (1) gathering students, (2) amassing wealth,
(3) consecrating places, (4) networking. In the case of Ling Repa, the 'ba
ra biography portrays him as reticent to let his missions turn into fman-
cial ventures. While traveling from Nyangpo (myang po) to Nagsho (nags
shod), a geshe and his students approached Lingre asking for empower-
[The Geshe said], "Each person taught will offer you one cow. Accept our'
.,.> property!" Lingre replied, "I will not sell the thigh bone of the Kagyus.
if 1 don't need your wealth!,,01
Despite his depicted integrity, however, Ling Repa is later seen accept-
ing wealth and property in quantity for the construction of N apu. Tsangpa
Gyare, for his part, is depicted as unabashed about embarking on fundrais-
67 "Grub thob chen po gling chen ras pa padma rdo rje'i mam par thar pa", Volume
. I, folio 389-390. ston mi res 'dzo mo re 'bul ba yin/ ka cha zhad gcig snoms zer ba la/
bka' brgyud kyi bla 'tshong mi byed nor gyis dgos pa med gsungs .. .! To sell the thigh bone
of someone after death (for use in making a trumpet for the ritual practice of chod) is con-
sidered disrespectful to the deceased. Similarly, if Ling Repa were to keep offerings made
in reciprocation for his religious services, it would be disrespecting his lineage.
ing missions, since he quickly spent the money on building Druk, Napu
and Ralung.
Resources of other kinds could also be accessed through travel. In order
to receive teachings from Sumpa Repa and Pagmo Drupa, Ling Repa is por-
trayed as traveling for days (perhaps weeks) to neighboring provinces.
Tsangpa collects Kagyu texts and transmissions wherever they can be found
on the road. A reader gets the impression from the whole of Chapter VITI
in the deb ther sngon po, that teaching exchanges and books were a major
factor of the religious economy during the Renaissance period. Not only
were they fodder for reciprocity, they also lent prestige to the individual
who possessed the teaching. For these two protagonists, these social, eco-
nomic and religious exchanges were especially important, although Tsangpa
Gyare seems to have been the founder who recognized the lasting impact
this prestige would lend to the lineage. Hence, education and textual trans-
mission were a driving force behind travel for these two hierarchs.
Travel was also a way of appropriating place for the express purposes
of validating the lineage. One way place was appropriated was through
consecration, the construction of sacredness through a ritual event. The
most dramatic example of the construction of sacredness in these biog-
.raphies is Tsangpa's discovery of terma at Karchu. The discovery of a
terma at a Kagyu meditative site might well have changed that place for-
ever in local imagination, and in the eyes of the lineage, if examples of
terma discovery in Tibet in general are any indication. Wealso see the
construction of sacredness in a more concrete way with the construction
oftemples and stupas. For example, we are informed that Tsangpa Gyare's
remains were placed in a smpa at Ralung. The construction of stupas
around prominent Tibetan gurus immortalized them in the imagination of
their followers, transforming and ordinary piece of ground into a pil-
grimage spot, a literal abode of a Buddha.
In the relationship of these two founders with place, we can see some-
thing of the tension between wishing to retain a connection with the
lifestyle of the mountain hermit with an awareness of the necessity of
pinning their lineage to one place. Ling Repa's biography informs us that
It was unanimously agreed that from Arodo and Kham to China and Mon-
golia, in the five upper regions and the three districts, among people who
practiced listening, contemplating and meditating on the Dharma, there was
not one [place] where people had not been made beggars'by listening to his

Although a critical reader might suspect a degree of exaggeration in this
passage, he or she might concede that it expresses the lineage's recogni_
tion that Lingre' s particular message to take up the solitary life of a wan-
dering mendicant reached a wide swath of the Himalayas. Ling Repa's
interest in travel, however, is augmented by his interest in centralizing a
legacy in one place: the hermitage of Napu. He selects Napu's location
for its isolation, but gradually allows its expansion into a community.
Tsangpa's way of reconciling his dual affiliation was to design Ralung
as a neighborhood of hermits. Instead of building one or several large
structures to house his monks, he insists on making 1000 individual huts
where each meditator could maintain some measure of solitude. He
designed his place to allow for close interactions without giving in wholly
to the design of a single establishment.
VI. Conclusion
As mentioned above, it is assumed, and sometimes even explicitly
stated in indigenous Tibetan sources, that many founders of lineages are
only seen as such in retrospect. Examining compositions, biographical
and autobiographical accounts that are contemporary with the lives of
founders often reveals little or no clear evidence that a given individual
or his contemporaries identified him as sire of a religious order. So what
eventually uplifts a man to the heights of founder-hood? What is it that
legitimates his status? Is it his cultural cache? The texts and practices he
has inherited? The monasteries he built? His activities? His charisma?
His compositions? Looking at stories of Ling Repa and Tsangpa Gyare
yields evidence that it may be all of these things to some degree. The
emphasis in these stories on hermetic ideals, poetic composition and itin-
erate activities suggest that the founders of the Drukpa lineage were in
part defined by these parameters and skills.
68 Ibid., Vol. I, folio 402. bsnyan pa ni ... smad mdo khams rgya so yan chad nas stod
snga ris bskor gsum man chad kyi thos bsam sgom gsum mdzad pa'i chos pa rnams 'gur
fa sprang po mi byed pa ni gcig kyang med/
More broadly, however, I would suggest that the genre of nam thar
(biography or hagiography) and the representations found therein are
largely responsible for defining the parameters of "founderhood". Those
parameters are fraught with ambiguity, tensions and paradoxes that
become a part of the fabric of lineage self-identification, so that the com-
plex interplay of events, personality traits and interactions found in biog-
raphy become a part of the defining traits of lineage, and provide suggested
models and behavior patterns for the followers of that lineage to reflect
on and sometimes emulate either wittingly or unwittingly. Some details
in the biographies suggest that the personas of these founders were in
part retrospective constructions consciously created by later biographers.
For example, the past-life digression found in Ling Repa's biography,
even if its inclusion was orchestrated by Ling Repa himself, seems to
serve a function of constructing a sutric ethos around the protagonist.
However, some details in the biographies seem to lack a necessarily con-
structive agenda. Merely the diachronically and geographically local
atmosphere in which the events of the biographies take place are in large
part responsible for creating the persona of these founders. The idiosyn-
cratic personalities of the founders themselves, while doubtless subject to
construction by the biographies' authors, were also to some degree respon-
sible for the flavor of the biographical tales woven around them. There-
fore, I submit that the "founderhood" created by biography emerges from
a complex set of sources and materials: some rhetorically constructed
and some historical, social, regional, and personal.
There are numerous examples of the ambiguities, tensions and para-
doxes-some already mentioned earlier in this paper-that emerge from
such the complex rhetorical portraits in biography. To provide one more
example will illustrate an ambiguity that becomes a cornerstone on which
founderhood rests. Even while biography is certainly composed as an ode
to a saint's greatness, this ode is not complete without the overcoming of
weaknesses to become great. Both Ling Repa and Tsangpa's biographies
make specific mention of their human weaknesses. Ling Repa's inability
to resist Menmo's charm, and his loss of faith in his teacher Khyung
Tsangpa (later resulting in his failure in yogic practice) depict Ling Repa
as facing human challenges familiar to most readers. Similarly Tsangpa
experiences shame and embarrassment for his own laziness, when he
attempts to evade the physical work of building Ling Repa's temple. This
element of human weakness is, throughout Tibetan biographies, an impor-
tant theme and it may be possible to conclude that encountering and over-
coming personal weaknesses is an element of founderhood, at least in the
Kagyu lineage, so that even after centuries of transmission Lingre and
Tsangpa's "weaknesses" have still not been edited out.
But it cannot be overlooked that the status of "founders" may be due
to other-seemingly arbitrary-factors. It is difficult not to suspect that
while some individuals were posthumously elevated to the level of saint-
hood due to the alignment of successful patron relationships for example,
a great many extraordinary stars of the plateau died with their names lost
to history due to such chance happenings as stormy weather, disease, fire
and so forth. Ling Repa too might well have sunk into obscurity if it had
not been for a few serendipitous circumstances. Two factors in particu-
lar stand out as moiras that would situate him at the head of the Drukpa
Sects. First was simply legitimacy by relationship: he was the disciple of
Pagmo Drupa, one of the most prominent and popular monastic teachers
in the Tsang region in the 12th century. He was also luckily the teacher
of Tsangpa Gyare, who consciously accepted the burden of creating a
legacy and therefore was perhaps more deserving of founder status. Sec-
ond, Ling Repa co-founded Ralung, a center that would become the seat
of the Drukpa Kagyu abbatial succession for 400 years. He was literally
the brick-layer of a structure that would house future generations of
Drukpa adherents. What began during his lifetime as a small hermitage
would blossom into a cosmopolitan center of learning, a repository of
wealth and texts, a political corporation-in short a sectarian establish-
ment of the kind mentioned earlier by Snellgrove. Therefore, Ling Repa' s
status as a founder is largely based on relationship and his identity as the
architect of Ralung.
While Ling Repa may be seen as the physical builder of place, Tsangpa
Gyare was the Drukpa Kagyu's first soteriological, hermenuetical and
textual architect. His most brilliant accomplishments in this area were
undoubtedly his discover of the Rechungpa terma that would transform
a struggling tradition into the gem of Tsang, and his composition of a num-
ber of a number of texts that would become the defining exegesis of the
Drukpa Kagyu. He showed the characteristics of a great synthesizer,
embedding his compositions in Kagyu hermeneutics. He also integrated
his lineage into the monastic establishment, a move that would ensure its
long-term survival in the increasingly institutional environment of central
While their status as founders was originally linked to place and com-
position, their elevation was likely due in part to the value placed by
Tibetans on narratives. While this essay was primarily concerned with
the Tibetan biography as a semi-historical document with rhetoric com-
Illunicating the tensions inherent in the concept of "lineage" and
"founderhood", it can be read in numerous other ways. These narratives
are also, in a sense, myths that embody an interplay between humanity
and sacredness that communicates meanings in ways more allusive and
Profound than many other indigenous forms of literary expression. AB
Matthew Kapstien, discussing narrative in the Tibetan context, observes:
... mythic matters seem to be more subtle than the facts of the matter, so that
the truth in myth may be thought to be expressed allegorically, metaphori-
cally or approximately; or myth may be thought just to orient us towards
truth so buried in mystery that no human discourse can disclose it directly69.
While the actual activities of these founders were constrained by time
and circumstance, their stories became important templates on which
ideals of the lineage were modeled. And while these stories were also
sometimes elaborated on over the centuries and reconstructed to reflect
the agendas of given time periods and authors, perhaps the rewriting-
instead of irking the historian in all of us-may turn out to be the very
recipe that allows us to evaluate meanings pertinent to time and place, and
transcendent of time and place, encoded therein.
Reference Bibliography
Cabezon, Jose Ignacio and Roger R. Jackson. Tibetan Literature: Studies in
Genre. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1996.
Davidson, Ronald M. Tibetan Renaissance: Tantric Buddhism in the Rebirth of
Tibetan Culture New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.
69 Matthew Kapstein, The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism: Conversion, Contestation
and Memory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 142.
Garnpopa. Jewel Ornament of Liberation, trans. Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen, ed.
Ani K. Trinlay Chodron. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1998.
Gyatso, Janet. Apparitions af the Self: The Secret Autobiographies of a Tibetan
Visionary. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998. .
Gyatso, Khenpo Tsultrim. Songs of Realization by Milarepa and Other Buddhist
Masters, trans. Ari Goldfield (Unpublished).
Kapstein, Matthew. The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism: Conversion, Con.
testation and Memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Kagyu Thubten Choling Translation Committee. Karmapa: The sacred proph.
esy. Wappingers Falls, NY: Kagyu Thubten ChoIing, 1999. .
Lopez, Donald S., ed. Religions of Asia in Practice. Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 2002
Roerich, George N. trans. The Blue Annals. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publish-
ers, 1949; reprint, 1996.
Snellgrove, David. IndoTibetan Buddhism: Indian Buddhists and their Tibetan
successors. Boston: Sharnbala Publications, 1987.
Thaye, Jarnpa. A Garland of Gold: The early Kagyu masters in India and Tibet.
Briston: Ganesha Press, 1990.
Other References
Tibetan Texts:
'Gos 10 tsa ba gzhon nu dpal. deb ther sngon po. Chengdu: Si-khron mi-rigs
dpe-skrun-khan, 1984.
"Grub thob chen po gling chen ras pa padma rdo rje'i rnarn par thar pa" in 'ba'
, ra bka' brgyud gser 'phreng chen mo. Dehradun: Ngawang Gyaltsen and
Ngawang Lungtok, 1970, Volume I.
Appendix I: The Kagyu Lineage
(Simplified outline including some individuals mentioned in this paper)
Saraha Tilopa Maitripa
___________ 1 _________
--------- -----------
Rechungpa Gampopa
. I _________ ___________
Repa Pagmo Drupa Lama Zhang
khung pa Ling Repa stag lung pa zwa ra ba rgyal tsha
Tsangpa Gyare
sangs rgyas
dbon ras
Middle Druk
Appendix II: The Drukpa Lineage
(Simplified outline)
Ling Repa
Tsangpa Gyare
~ - I ~ - -
yag pa
Lower Druk
yang dgon pa
Upper Druk
Gotsangpa . rkyang rna pa spa ri ba
u rgyan pa
Urgyen Druk
PRASANNAPADA. 55.11 TO 75.13
The Prasannapada is an important but sometimes frustrating text. Nagar-
juna's M iilamadhyamakakiirikii (MMK) is available to us today in the
original Sanskrit only as embedded in this commentary by CandrakIrti
(fl. 600 CE), which is the only commentary on Nagarjuna's text known
to have survived in the original Sanskrit
. But CandrakIrti himself seems
to have had little influence on the subsequent course cif Indian philoso-
phy; it was, rather, almost invariably the works of DharmakIrti and his
philosophical heirs that were taken up by later Indian philosophers (Brah-
manical and Buddhist alike). Despite that fact, Candrakllti's influence on
the larger reception of Indian Madhyamaka has been considerable, owing
to his having been judged by most Tibetan traditions of interpretation to
represent the definitive interpretation of Madhyamaka philosophy, which
is almost unanimously claimed by Tibetans to represent the pinnacle of
Buddhist thought. This fact itself is striking, not only because of Can-
draldrti's negligible influence in the Indian context, but because the
scholastic traditions of Buddhist philosophy were directly introduced to
Tibet by (725-788) and KamalasIla (740-795) - whose
1 My work on this text has benefited, over the years, from conversations and study
with several people. I would like to thank, in particular, Larry McCrea (with whom I read
through the whole text) and Shelly Pollock for discussions concerning various aspects of
the Sanskrit; and, for their generously detailed and thoughtful readings of one of the most
recent drafts of this article, Rick Nance and Ulrich T. Kragh. I also benefited from the help-
ful comments of an anonymous reviewer. It should be noted, in addition, that my work on
this text would not have been possible without the [me work that has been done on this
and related passages by David Seyfort Ruegg, Mark Siderits, and Tom Tillemans.
2 Ruegg 1981: 1, n.3.
Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies
Volume 28 Number 2 2005
thought, though surely affiliated with the Madhyamaka 'tradition in which
Candraklrti stands, reflects the predominance of thinkers (like Dhar-
makIrti) whose approach is (on CandrakIrti's own view, at least) gener-
ally antithetical to Candrakirti's. I suspect that this historical fact at least
partly explains the extent to which Tibetan interpreters claim Candraldrti
as normative, while yet retaining much of the epistemological discourse
that he so clearly rejected

Not only, though, is the Prasannapadii thus historically puzzling, it is
also discursively rather odd. In places, Candrakirti's Sanskrit is extremely
lucid, almost conversational; there are sections that the intermediate San-
skrit student can pick up and read with some confidence. He displays a
great familiarity with the grammatical traditions of Brahmanicallearning
- and also, as Karen Lang (2003) has emphasized particularly with
respect to the first four chapters of the CatuJ:zsatakatfkii, with the litera-
ture of Sanskrit stories and dharmasiistras. These facts are as befits some-
one who claims, as CandrakIrti characteristically does, always to defer to
and exemplify "conventional usage" (lokavyavahiira). And yet, as no
less a scholar than the estimable J. W. de Jong observed, the first chap-
ter, in particular, is difficult
. It seems to me that it is not always clear
whether this is so chiefly because of CandrakIrti's Sanskrit, or because
the logic of the arguments is hard to follow. Like those of Nagarjuna, Can-
drakIrti's arguments can seem at once pregnant with import, and mad-
deningly elusive and paradoxical. CandrakIrti's examples of "ordinary"
reasoning that is "familiar in the world," for instance, are often counter-
intuitive, perhaps as much to his Indian readers as to the modem inter-
The elusive character of the arguments is often reflected in some puz-
zles concerning the deep structure of the dialectic - that is, even more
than is typically the case with Sanskrit philosophical works, it is often a
difficult question which voice, as it were, speaks each part of the argu-
ment. Needless to say, it makes a good deal of difference to one's sense
of the argument whether one takes a particular point to be made in sup-
3 On the introduction of Candraldrti' s thought to Tibet, see Lang 1992.
4 See, e.g., Bhattacharya 1980, 1980-8l.
5 Cf., de Jong's review (1981) of Sprung 1979, where he laments that Sprung's knowl-
edge of Sanskrit was insufficient to the task of translating "such a difficult text."
port of the position that CandrakIrti is working to defend - or instead to
be precisely the pbint he means to attack. Alas, it is not always com-
pellingly self-evident simply from the formal features of text which of
these is the case, and some tricky questions bedevil the would-be trans-
lator of CandrakIrti' s work.
While my familiarity with Tibetan traditions of interpretation is not
great enough that I can comment authoritatively, it seems clear to me that
the influence of these can be said particularly to inform much modern
interpretation of CandrakIrti's texts. A case in point is the "sviitantrika-
priisafdka" division of Madhyamaka philosophy - which, although not
without basis in the antecedent Indian texts, represents a particularly dox-
ographicallens imposed by Tibetans
. I would consider it an uncontro-
versial remark to say that David Seyfort Ruegg - long one of the lead-
ing historians and interpreters of Indo-Tibetan Madhyamika literature -
has been influenced over the years by his significant engagement with cer-
tain Tibetan traditions of interpretation

Recently, Ruegg has made another signal contribution to the study of
Indo-Tibetan Madhyamaka; his modestly titled Two Prolegomena to
Madhyamaka Philosophy (2002) comprises a nearly complete translation
of chapter one of the Prasannapadii, along with commentaries thereon by
the seminal dGe-Iugs-pa thinkers Tsong-kha-pa and rGyal-tshab-rje
first chapter of CandrakIrti's text has long been recognized to be of par-
6 See Dreyfus and McClintock 2003. Cf., Ruegg's comment (1981 :51, ff.) on the likely
Tibetan origins of these doxographical terms.
7 See, among his many works, Ruegg 1981 (which remains the definitive survey of the
topic), 2000, and 2002 (which will be much engaged in the present article). For a critical
assessment of some of the characteristically Tibetan interpretations generally upheld by
Ruegg, see Oetke 2003a.
8 More precisely, Ruegg has translated that portion of CandrakIrti's chapter that is
framed as commenting specifically on the first verse of Nagiirjuna's root text; in the stan-
dard edition of CandrakIrti's text (La Vallee Poussin 1970a, as supplemented by de Jong
1978), that means pp.I-75, in a chapter of 91 pages. (The edition of Vaidya [1960] largely
reproduces La Vallee Poussin's edition, and gives the pagination thereof.) The first chap-
ter of the Prasannapada was translated into English by Stcherbatsky (1927), whose work,
though dated and eccentric, remains useful. The partial translation of Sprung (1979) is the
closest there is to a complete translation of the Prasannapada into English, but should be
used with caution; cf., the reviews by de Jong (1981) and Steinkellner (1982). Other West-
ern-language translations from the Prasannapada (e.g., May 1959, Schayer 1931) do not
include the first chapter.
ticular importance, comprising as it does some of Candrakirti's most
extensive and systematic engagement with what he took to be alternative
understandings of Madhy"amaka, and of Buddhist thought more gener-
ally. The ftrst chapter of the Prasannapadii has become a locus classi-
cus, in particular, for what Tibetan traditions emphasized as the split
between the "Svatantrika" and "Prasarigika" schools of Madhyamaka.
Perhaps following the emphasis of the Tibetan tradition, most contem-
porary scholars have been principally concerned to understand this aspect
of Candrakirti' s opening chapter9.
What has less often been appreciated is that the first chapter of the
Prasannapadii also comprises a lengthy engagement with an unnamed
interlocutor whose thought looks very much like that of Dignaga. In the
standard edition of the Prasannapadii, this section spans some twenty
Despite its thus constituting fully a fifth of the chapter, this sec-
tion has been little studied. This scholarly neglect perhaps owes something
to the fact that some influential Tibetan discussions of at least parts of this
section take CandrakIrti to have been continuing his attack on Bhiiva-
viveka, so that what can very well be read as an engagement with Dig-
naga's epistemology gets subsumed in the sViitantrika-priisangika dis-
cussion that has instead preoccupied most scholars.
I would argue,
though, that understanding Candrakirti's arguments here as an engagement
specifically with the epistemology of Dignaga affords us an unusually
good opportunity for appreciating the logically distinctive character of
Candrakirti's Madhyamaka.
It should be noted that I am here making a chiefly philosophical point,
and that the historical question of Candrakirti's target is perhaps more
complex. As a matter of intellectual history, the texts of Dignaga were var-
iously circulated and appropriated, and it may be difficult (if not impos-
9 In addition to the recent work of Dreyfus and McClintock, see Yotsuya 1999, which
provides a useful text-critical analysis of the relevant passages from the original Indian
sources of CandrakIrti, Buddhapalita, and Bhavaviveka (or "Bhaviveka" - though Can-
drakIrti uses the former name).
10 La Vallee Poussin's 1970a:55.11-75.13.
11 For the view that CandrakIrti is still addressing Bhavaviveka in at least part of this
section of the text, cf., Thurman 1991:292-295, which translates a section of Tsong-kha-
pa's Legs bshad snying po based on a discussion occurring at Prasannapadii 66.1-68.4.
Cf., also, Eckel 1978, Huntington 2003, Yoshimizu 1996:49-94.
sible) to determine whether CandrakIrti finally had Digniiga himself
chiefly in mind, or Dignaga as appropriated by, say, Bhavaviveka. (It is,
though, interesting in this regard that although CandrakIrti recurrently
names Bhavaviveka as the target of his critique - and Buddhapiliia as
the thinker he defends - in the sections of the text that constitute the locus
classicus for the sviitantrika-priisangika debate, his interlocutor in the
section here translated goes unnamed.) From a philosophical
there is a sense in which it may not finally matter whether it is particu-
larly Dignaga whom CandrakIrti had in mind, or whether he here targets
that part of Bhavaviveka's project that is informed by Dignaga; for in
either case, CandrakIrti can be said to have philosophical problems with
Dignaga's project. The logically distinctive character of Candraldrti's
arguments, then, can in either case be appreciated by considering the
arguments here developed vis-a.-vis the arguments of Dignaga. There is,
I am suggesting, some specifically philosophical value in appreciating
particularly what it is about Dignaga's approach that CandrakIrti would

It is in the hope of facilitating the appreciation of this interesting
exchange that I here offer a translation of this section of CandrakIrti' s
Prasannapadii, and that I will occasionally identify CandrakIrti's inter-
.locutor as "Dignaga." The most detailed study of the passage here trans-
lated is the illuminating work of Mark Siderits (1981), who evinces an
insightful grasp of the conceptual significance of the passages, even where
his translations are problematic. Siderits in turn gets some help from
Satkari Mookerjee (1957), whose work basically paraphrases Candraldrti's
text; and from Masaaki Hattori, whose extensively annotated translation
of the first chapter of Dignaga's Pramiif;laSamuccaya (1968) makes fre-
quent reference to CandrakIrti!3. Since the publication of Siderits's arti-
cle, our understanding of CandrakIrti's principled objections to the foun-
dationalist trajectory of Buddhist philosophy have been much advanced
12 Nevertheless, there are several points at which CandrakIrti seems clearly to have
had Dignaga's text before him (many of which were noted by Hattori 1968), and these will
be noted as we proceed.
13 Hattori's annotations thus represent a useful source for appreciating the likelihood
that Candraldrti' s interlocutor is Dignaga, with Hattori often pointing out where Can-
drakIrti's engagement closely tracks Dignaga's text.
by the work of Tom Tillemans, whose study and translation of Can-
draklrti's commentary on chapters 12 and 13 of A.ryadeva's Catuly,sataka
represent a philosophically sophisticated engagement with texts that
closely parallel the arguments in our section of the Prasannapad{j14. The
characterization of CandrakIrti's critique of Dignaga's foundationalism
that is ventured by Georges Dreyfus(1997:4S1-60) chiefly follows the
work of Siderits and Tillemans.
While the aforementioned works are enormously helpful .in philo-
sophically situating CandrakIrti's Madhyamaka vis-a-vis the foundation-
alism of Dignaga, it can still be said that there is a relative paucity of stud-
ies of this important text, and that close readings of CandrakIrti ' s critique
of Dignaga as that is developed in the Prasannapadii remain a desidera-
tum. I have developed a philosophical interpretation of this section else-
. It is partly owing to the rather more speculative character of my
other works (which, though interpreting his texts, amount to "rational
reconstructions" of CandrakIrti's arguments) that I here want to venture
a more literal interpretation in the form of a translation. I also venture this,
however, in light of the extent of occasionally significant divergence
between my translation and that of Ruegg. To be sure, Ruegg's transla-
tion - which is informed by Ruegg's particular appreciation for the
Tibetan reception of CandrakIrti - is likely to become a standard refer-
ence for this portion of the Prasannapada. This is as it should be, since
Ruegg's translation is (as expected) generally quite reliable. It is also,
however, not likely to be very accessible to non-Sanskritists. More sig-
nificantly, there is an important sense in which Ruegg's translation -
which occasionally deploys the kinds of locutions that Paul Griffiths mem-
orably characterized as "Buddhist hybrid English"16 - may undermine
CandrakIrti's own points; for insofar as CandrakIrti finds it in principle
important to defer to conventional usage, it becomes important to capture
the naturalness of his Sanskrit. This is not achieved when, for example,
an important expression like lokavyavahiira ("ordinary usage," though the
14 See especially Tillemans 1990: vol. 1, pp.41-53. Among more recent works by Tille-
mans, one can also usefully consult, inter alia, that of 2003.
15 Arnold (2005), Chapters 5-7; see also Arnold 2001,2003.
16 Griffiths 1981; cf., also, Ruegg's own perceptive remarks on translation (Ruegg
term also has an eminently mercantile connotation that I think is nicely
captured by "business as usual")l? is rendered, as it is by Ruegg, as
"transactional-pragmatic usage."
Moreover, given the difficulty of some of the exchanges in the first
. chapter of the Prasannapadii, it is to be expected that different judgments
can be made about how to understand the text. Having carefully consid-
ered Ruegg's translation of this section, I have judged that in the places
where our readings diverge, mine are at least defensible, and in some
cases (particularly towards the end of the passage) significant. Thus, in
the hope of further advancing our understanding of a surprisingly neg-
lected (and very interesting) philosophical exchange, I propose the fol-
lowing translation, which could, I think, quite profitably be used in con-
sultation with that of Ruegg - as well as with the work of Siderits, and
with my own, more speculative interpretation.
The following translation is intended to stick closely to CandrakIrti's
Sanskrit (though I have taken the liberty of inserting material in brackets
where that is required to make the sense of the English more plain) -
though it is hoped that it will also be experienced as being in English. In
my annotations to the translation, I have given the Sanskrit text (from
the edition of La Vallee Poussin), noting de Jong's proposed revisions as
well as a few emendations of my own. Where I have found it useful to
consult the Tibetan translation by sPa-tshab nyi-ma-grags (as available in
the sDe-dge edition of the bsTan-'gyur), I give the Tibetan as well. In addi-
tion, I have also provided in the annotations something of a commentary,
briefly explaining what I take to be the salient points particularly of more
complex passages. I have also noted significant indications of the inter-
locutor's likely identity as Dignaga - with some interesting clues to be
found, in this regard, in Yoshiyasu Yonezawa's recent edition of the
*Lak!jGl;at1kii, a very brief commentary (really more like a student's per-
sonal annotations) on the Prasannapadii dating to probably the 12th cen-
17 See Apte 1992: 1514: "Affair, business, work ... profession, occupation ... dealing,
transaction ... commerce, trade, traffic .... " See also Rhys Davids and Stede 1995, s.v.
18 So Yonezawa (2001:27). See also Yonezawa 1999, 2004.
In the following translation, numbers given in square orackets repre-
sent the page and line numbers of La Vallee Poussin's edition. For ease
of use, the dialectical flow of the argument has been signaled by indicating
the main changes of voice in bold type.
[55.11] At this point, some object: Is this certainty19 that existents are
not produced
based on a reliable warrant (pramiirJa),21 or is it not based
on a reliable warrant? In this regard, if it's accepted that it's based on a
reliable warrant, then you have to explain: which warrants, having what
characteristics and what objects? Are [these reliable warrants] produced
from themselves, or from something else, or both, or altogether without
cause? On the other hand, if [your certainty] is not based on a reliable
warrant, this doesn't make sense, since comprehension of a warrantable
19 Or conviction; see n.27, below.
20 CandrakIrti's interlocutor here refers to MMK 1.1 (which is the verse being com-
mented on for most of chapter one), according to which "There do not exist, anywhere at
all, any existents whatsoever, produced either from themselves or from something else,
either from both or altogether without cause" (La Vallee Poussin 1970a: 12.13-14: na
svato niipi parato na dviibhyii7J1 niipy ahetuta!:z I utpannii!:z jiitu vidyante bhiivii!:z kvacana
21 In translating pramiilJa as 'warrant' (cf., Apte 1992:1101, meaning 6), I have in
mind the sense of the latter word as meaning "justification for an action or a belief;
grounds" (American Heritage College Dictionary). There is a systematic ambiguity in the
word pramiilJa in the Indian philosophical tradition, this word alternately referring to a reli-
able means of knowing (sa yeniirtha7J1 pramilJoti, tat pramiilJa7J1), and to an episode of
veridical cognition such as results from the exercise thereof (prarnfyate iti pramiilJam). This
ambiguity is preserved in the translation of pramiilJa as "reliable warrant": warrant can
refer to the outcome of a cognitive episode, to what one has ("justification") in virtue of
having formed a belief in a reliable way (so Plantinga 1993:3: "that, whatever precisely
it is, which together with truth makes the difference between knowledge and mere true
belief"); but it also conventionally denotes justification in the sense of the criterion or
grounds of belief ("What is your warrant for thinking there was a fire?"; "I saw it," or
"I saw smoke"). A good translation of pramiilJa in the latter sense might be (following
Alston 1989) "doxastic practice" - but this fails to capture the other sense. The idea of
'warrant' (and of being warranted), I think, also captures (without begging any important
questions) the complex relation betweenpramiilJa and 'knowledge' or 'truth,' and is in this
sense to be preferred to standard translations like "valid cognition" (Dreyfus 1997: 570)
or (translating this passage) "valid means of right knowledge" (Ruegg 2002:95). See,
however, the next note on one problem with my translation.
object (prameya)22 depends on reliable warrants
- for an uncompre-
. hended object can't be comprehended without reliable warrants. Hence,
if there's no understanding of an object because there is no reliable war-
rant, how is [yours] a justifiable certainty (samyagniscaya)? So it does-
n't make sense to say, [as in MMK 1.1, that] existents are unproduced

Or again: It will be my [certainty] precisely that all existents exist,
and that based upon the same thing as your certainty that existents are
unproduced! And just as your certainty is that all things are unproduced,
in exactly the same way, [56] mine will be that there is production of all
things25. .
22 'The translation of prameya as "warrantable" is not unproblematic; for it is beliefs
that are warranted, not (what is typically characterized in Sanskrit as prameya) objects. It
is difficult, however, to find translation equivalents for this pair of words (pramiilJa and
prameya) that avoid this problem while yet reflecting the fact that they are permutations
of the same verbal root. 'Knowable' seems better to capture the sense of prameya as
describing any possible objects of (warranted) cognition; but as indicated in n.2l, if we
then translate pramiilJa as "means of knowledge," we risk begging important questions
about the relations between justification and truth. It is, then, my translation of pramiilJa
as "reliable warrant" that informs the rendering of prameya as "warrantable" - but the
latter should, in this context, be understood as short for the more cumbersome object
regarding which one could have a warranted belief
23 With this point (pramiilJiidhlnatviit prameyiidhigarnasya; Tib., gzhal bya rtogs pa ni
tshad rna la rag las pa'i phyir te), CandrakIrti seems to allude to Dignaga (as noted by
Ruegg 2002:95, n.155), whose PramiilJasamuccaya begins with the claim that "under-
standing of a warrantable object depends upon reliable warrants" (in Kanakavarman's
Tibetan, as given at Hattori p.175, gaft gi phyir bya rtogs pa ni tshad ma la rag las pa
yin). Cf., Hattori's n.l.l0, p.76; and n.47, below, for another citation of Dignaga's point
24 55.11-16: Atra kecit paricodayanti: Anutpannii bhiivii iti kim ayaTfl pramiilJajo nis-
caya uta-apramiilJOjalJ? Tatra, yadi pramiilJaja tadii-idaTfl vaktavyaTfl: kati
pramiilJiini, kiTfl svata utpanniini, kiTfl parata ubhayato 'hetuto
vii-iti? Atha-apramiilJajalJ sa na yuktalJ, pramdlJiidhinatviit prameyiidhigamasya. Anadhi-
gato hy artho na vinii pramiilJair adhigantuTfl sakyata iti, pramiilJiibhiiviid arthiidhigam-
iibhiive sati, kuto 'yam samyagniscaya iti? Na yuktam etad anutpannii [de Jong] bhavii iti.
Clearly, the challenge with which this section .thus begins is very much like challenges antic-
ipated in Nagiirjuna's Vigrahavyiivartani (VV). Interestingly, though, CandrakIrti does not
note the W's argument against this challenge until several pages into the present section
(cf., n.47, below).
2S 55.16-56.1: Yato vii-ayOTfl niscayo bhavato 'nutpannii bhavii iti tata eva
mama-a pi sarvabhiiviilJ santi-iti! Yathii ca-ayaTfl te niscayo 'nutpanniilJ sarvadharmii iti,
tatha-eva [p.56] mama-a pi sarvabhiivotpattir
'That is, if CandrakIrti is willing to give up on thinking his own beliefs to be demonstra-
bly warranted, then he cannot think there are any grounds for preferring his beliefs to those
of his interlocutor.
Or [perhaps you will say] you have no certainty [to the effect that] "all
existents are unproduced." ill that case, since there's no persuading another
of something not ascertained for oneself, it's pointless to begin this trea-
tise, and all existents stand unrefuted
We reply: If we had anything at all like certainty, it could [be said
to be] based on a reliable warrant, or not based on a reliable warrant. But
we don't! How so? If there were the possibility of doubt (aniscaya) in
regard to this, there could be a certainty opposed to that and dependent
upon it. But when we have no doubt in the first place, then how could
there be certainty opposed to it?27 For [such certainty] would be inde-
pendent of anything else sharing the relation, as in the case of the long-
ness or shortness of a donkey's horn. And when, in this way, there is no
certainty, [p.57] then we will imagine reliable warrants for the sake of
proving what? How, then, will they [i.e., reliable warrants] have number,
characteristic, or object? Whether [their] production is intrinsic, depend-
ent, both, or causeless - none of this has to be explained by US
26 56.1-3: Atha te na-asti niscayo 'nutpanniil} sarvabhiivii iti, radii svayamaniscitasya
parapratyiiyaniisarrzbhaviic chiistriirambhavaiyarthyam eva-iti, santy sarv-
abhiivii iti.
27 It is chiefly having in mind these fIrst sentences of CandrakIrti's response that I have
translated niscaya, here and in the preceding paragraph, as "certainty." One might more
appropriately render this as "conviction" or, more weakly, "opinion" - but this seems
to me not as sharply to capture the contrast between nikaya and aniscaya, or (more sig-
nifIcantly) the force of CandrakIrti' s claim here that there can be no question of the latter.
It is not clear what it would mean for CandrakIrti to claim that there is no possibility of
"non-conviction" (aniscaya) in regard to the issue in question. If, in contrast, he is say-
ing there is no room for (what is the opposite of certainty) doubt in the matter, it becomes
possible to understand him as suggesting (what I take him to be arguing) that constitutively
Madhyamika claims cannot coherently be thought to require the same kind of justifIcation
here demanded by his interlocutor, insofar as the truth of MMK 1.1 is a condition of the
possibility even of expressing any doubt. Such is the line of interpretation I have more gen-
erally advanced in Arnold (2005).
28 56.4-57.3: Ucyate: Yadi kascinniscayo niima-asmiikarrz syiit, sa vii syiid
apramiil}ajo vii. Na tv asti. Kirrz kiiral}arrz? lha-aniscayasarrzbhave sati, syiit
nikayal}. Yadii tv anikaya eva tiivad asmiikarrz na-asti, tadii kutas tadviruddho
[de Jong] niscayal} syiit? hrasvadir-
ghatiivat. Yadii ca-evarrz niscayasyii-[p.57]-bhiival}, tadii kasya prasiddhyartharrz pramiil}iini
Kuto vii sarrzkhyii vii Svata(l parata
ubhayato [' hetuto] vii samutpattir iti sarvam etan na vaktavyam asmiibhil}.
This passage is translated by Huntington (2003:77-78), who identilles CandrakIrti's inter:
locutor as Bhavaviveka (despite the proximate allusion to Dignaga; cf., n.23, above). Can:
[Objection:] If,.in this way, [you have] no certainty at all, then how
is your own statement - which has the form of something ascertained,
to wit "not from themselves or from something else, nor from both nor
altogether without cause, do existents exist" - understood?29
We reply: This statement is ascertained by reasoning that is just
familiar for ordinary people, not for the venerable (arya). Does this mean
the venerable have no reasoning? Who can say whether or not they do?
For ultimate truth is a matter of venerable silence. So how could there be,
in regard to it, any possibility of [the sort of] conceptual elaboration that
is reasoning or non-reasoning?30
[Objection:] Well, if the venerable do not expound reasoning, then
how, here and now, will they awaken the world to ultimate truth?31
[Response:] The venerable surely do not expound reasoning accord-
ing to ordinary usage.
Rather, granting, for the sake of awakening oth-
ers, reasoning that is familiar only in the world - in just that way they
awaken the world
. For example, those in the throes of passion, com-
,t!raldrti's response in terms of niscaya represents a point conceptually similar to Nagar-
juna's claim, in the Vigrahavyiivartani (v.29), to have no "thesis" (pratijiiii): "If I had any
'thesis, then the fault would be mine; but I do not have a thesis, so I have no fault at all."
(Bhattacharya 1990: 14: yadi kiicana pratijiiii syiin me tata eiia me bhaved dOifa!:z I niisti
ca mama pratijiiii tasmiin naiviisti me dOifa!:z.)
29 57.4-5: Yady evaip niscayo na-asti sarvata!:z, kathaip punar idaip niscitarupaip
viikyam upalabhyate bhavatiiip? Na svato niipi parato na dViibhyiiip niipy ahetuto bhiivii
30 57.5-8: Yady evaip niscayo na-asti sarvata!:z, kathaip punar idaip niscitarupaip
vakyam upalabhyate bhavatiiip? N a svato niipi parato na dviibhyiiip niipy ahetuto bhiivii
bhavantfti. Ucyate: Niscitam idaip viikyaip lokasya svaprasiddhayaivopapattyii, na-
iiryiilJiiip. Kiip khalv iiryiilJiim upapattir na-asti? Kena-etad uktam asti vii niisti wi-iti?
Paramiirtho hy iiryas tilsnlbhiiva!:z [de Jong]. Tata!:z kutas tatra prapaiicasaipbhavo yad upa-
:pattir anupapattir vii syiit?
31 57.9: Yadi hy iiryii upapattiip na varlJayanti kena khalv idiinlip paramiirthaip lokaip
.. 32 R ~ e g g (2002:99) translates: "The Aryas do not propound any justified ground in
Virtue of the transactional-pragmatic usage of ordinary folk in the world .... " There is a
sense, however, in which such a technical rendering ofthis makes CandrakIrti's own state-
~ e n t of his argument performatively incoherent; his use of ordinary language is best under-
stood as itself exemplifying his deference to such. In this regard, we might also render
lokasaipvyavahiirelJa as "according to business as usual," capturing the eminently con-
ventional, mercantile sense of the word vyavahiira (see n.17) - but my taste for this trans-
l,ation has met with such howls of protest that I here defer to cooler heads.
. 33 There seems to be a tension here; why is the latter (i.e., the venerables' causing the
mitted to a mistake, do not apprehend even the actual (vidyamiiniim api)
impurity of the body - and having imputed an unreal aspect of beauty,
[they] suffer. For the sake of [cultivating] their dispassion, a manifesta_
tion of the Tathagata or a god could describe in detail the defects of the
body, which were previously concealed by the idea of beauty. [They will
describe these, for example,] by saying things such as that there are hairs
on the body34. And those [who had been passionate], by abandoning that
idea of beauty, could attain dispassion. [p.58] So, too, in this c.ontext: by
virtue of being [ones] the eye of whose mind is impaired by the cataracts
of ignorance
, ordinary people - imputing to existents an essence (and
in some cases, some particular qualification) whose nature is not at all
being perceived by the venerable - suffer excessively36.
Now the venerable awaken them [to all this] through reasoning that is
familiar to them. For example, it's [generally] granted that there is no
world to understand "having accepted reasoning that is familiar in the world") not a case
of their propounding something" according to ordinary usage"? Siderits (1981: 125-126)
comments: "Here we must note the extreme care which CandrakIrti takes to avoid the
suggestion that the aryas seek to prove the ultimate truth. When they set out to ... instruct
the world through the manipulation of the conventionally accepted epistemic practices,
what they construct is not a proof but rather what would be considered by the world to be
a well-established proof. The qualification is crucial, for if the Madhyamika is said sim-
ply to prove the ultimate truth, there is the implication that he is in possession of ultimate
means of proof, that is, that he is in possession of a theory of pramfu;las which he knows
to be unconditionally valid." Siderits's point is recommended by the contrast here sig-
naled only by Candraldrti's emphasis: the venerable do not, as it were, themselves depend
for their knowledge on "ordinary usage"; rather, they provisionally adopt "that reasoning
which is familiar only in the world" (lokata eva yii prasiddhopapattis tiil)1).
,34 As La Vallee Poussin notes (57: n.5), CandrakIrti here alludes to the practice of
smrtyupasthiinabhiivanii, as described, for example, in the Sik:;iisamueeaya; cf., Bendall
35 This would seem to be a favorite expression, for CandrakIrti uses it repeatedly. Cf.,
inter alia, p.261.4, where precisely the same expression is used.
36 57.10-58.3: Na khalv iiryii lokasal)1vyavahiirelJopapattil)1 varlJayanti. Kil)1 tu lokata
eva yii prasiddhopapattis tiil)1 pariivabodhiirtham abhyupetya tathaiva lokaJ?1 bodhayanti.
Yathaiva hi vidyamiiniim api sarfriisucitiil)1 viparyiisiinugatii riigilJo nopalabhante sub-
hiikiiral)1 ea abhutam adhyiiropya parikliyante. Te:;iil)1 vairiigyiirthal)1 tathiigatanirmito
devo vii subhasal)1jiiayii priik praeehiiditiin kiiyadoifiin upavarlJayet. Santy asmin kaye kdii
[ityii}dinii. Te ca tasyiil; subhasal)1jiiiiyii vigamiid [de long] vairiigyam iisiida-[p.58]-yeyul;.
Evam ihiipy iiryail; sarvathiipy anupalabhyamiiniitmakal)1 bhiiviiniim avidyiitimiropahata-
matinayanatayii viparftal)1 svabhiivam adhyiiropya kvacie ca kal)1cid viSe:;am atitariiT{!
pariklisyanti prthagjaniil;.
production of an [already] existent jar from the clay and so forth; in this
'way, it should be determined that there is no production, since what exists
to production already exists
Or, for example, it's accepted that a
is not produced from the coals of a ftre, which are other than it;
likewise, it should be ascertained that [production] is not from the seeds
so forth, even though they are intended [as the cause of sproutS]38.
:[Objection:] Then one could [rejoin that] "this is our experience"39.
<" That is, the causation of something from itself would entail that the thing in question
ialready exists - in which case, its coming-into-being would no longer require explanation.
'This basically reproduces BUddhapalita's argument regarding the "na svato" part of the
:tetralemma presented at MMK 1.1; Buddhapalita's Sanskrit is cited by Candraldrti at p.l4.1-
(3. (The Tibetan translation of Buddhapalita's entire commentary on MMK 1.1 can be found
in Walleser 1970: 11.8, ff. See also Saito 1984.) The argument is traditionally understood
'as directed against the Siirpkhya proponent of the doctrine of satkiiryaviida - i.e., of the
:yiew that effects "pre-exist" in their causes (insofar as there is, for the Siirpkhya, properly
'Speaking no causation whatsoever, but only the "transformation" fpariQiima] of praJqti).
,,38 58.3-6: Tiin idiinfm iiryiis tatprasiddhayaivopapattyii paribodhayanti. Yathii vidya-
fnanasya ghatasya na mrdiidibhya utpiida ity abhyupetam, evam utpiidiit pilrvaTfl vidya-
1ruinasya vidyamiinatviin, na asty utpiida ity avasfyatiiTfl. Yathii ca parabhiltebhyo jviiliin-
:giiriidibhyo 'nkurasyotpattir na astfty abhyupetam. evaTfl vivak#tebebhyo 'pi bfjiidibhyo na
In other words, seeds are what the proponent of this account of causation intended to allow
:to stand; but these cannot be allowed, either, because they are just as "different" from the
"sprout as coals are. Particularly here, Candraldrti's argument seems not to have a very
;strong claim to represent "reasoning that is familiar." It can, though, be so understood, if
it is appreciated that the argument here is a basically a priori analysis of concepts, and not
"lin a posteriori analysis of the phenomena putatively explained thereby. Specifically, the
'argument turns simply on the definition of "other"; the point is that the general concept
iof "otherness" leaves us with no principled way to know which other things are relevantly
"connected to the thing whose arising we seek to explain, and we are thus left to suppose
that anything that is "other" than the latter (even, e.g., the coals of a fire) could give rise
to it. Candraldrti' s argument again repeats that of BuddhapiUita, who had similarly argued
only by reducing to absurdity the opponent's account of "arising from another," without
:Offering his own, alternative account of causal production. Thus, Buddhapalita (Walleser
J970: 11) says: "Existents do not arise from something other. Why? Because it would fol-
,low that anything [can] arise from anything else" (gzhan las kyang skye ba med do / ci'i
phyir zhe na / thams cad las thams cad skye bar thai bar 'gyur ba'i phyir ro). Cf., Prasan-
:napadii 36.11-12, where CandrakIrti approvingly quotes Buddhapalita's Sanskrit (na parata
utpadyante bhiiviilJ, sarvatalJ sarvasaTflbhavaprasangiit).
39 58.7: Athiipi syiid anubhava e/io 'smiikam iti.
The point of the objection, it seems, is that surely we all just see that things are produced
from other things. We can follow the lead of the Madhyamakiivatiira in fmding here a dis-
'cussion of the status of what is, for Dignaga and his foundationalist heirs, the privileged
faculty of perception (with the issues raised by following this avenue being issues that Can-
[Response:] This doesn't make sense, either, since this experience is
false, [simply] because of its being experience - like the experience of
two moons on the part of someone with cataracts. Therefore, by virtue of
the fact that experience similarly requires proof, this objection doesn't
make sense

Therefore, "existents are not produced" - in this way, the first chap-
ter [of Nagarjuna's Mftlamadhyamakakiirikii] begins first of all by coun-
tering the imputation of a false nature. Now, the remainder of the trea-
tise is undertaken for the sake of refuting some qualifications that are
imputed in particular cases. Dependent origination does not have any sin-
gle qualification, not even such as being the agent, the locus, or the action
of motion - [this treatise is undertaken] for the sake of showing [that]41.
[Objection:] It is only ordinary usage (vyavahiira) regarding War-
rants and warrantable objects that we have explained with [our] treatise

drakIrti will go on to elaborate in the section of the Prasannapadii that is presently unfold-
ing). Thus, in considering the same objection, CandrakIrti's
specifically introduces "perception" as what chiefly informs our "experience"
(anubhava). (On the basic equivalence, for Digniiga, of anubhava and see Dig-
naga's commentary on PramiilJasamuccaya, 1.6ab, in Hattori 1968:27.) It is, the inter-
locutor there argues, evident simply on the basis of perception that existents are produced
from other existents; and "appeal to reasoned argument is appropriate only with respect
to things that are not perceptible, and not with respect to what is perceptible. Therefore,
even without any argument, it must still be true that existents are produced from other
[existents]." La Vallee Poussin 1970b: 101: rigs pa nye bar 'god pa yang dngos po mngon
sum rna yin pa kho na la 'os kyi mngon sum la ni rna yin te / de'i phyir 'thad pa med par
yang dngos po rnams gzhan las skye ba yod pa kho na'o.
40 58.7-9: Etad apy ayuktaf!!, yasmiid anubhava anubhavatviit. Taimirika-
dvicandriidyanubhavavad hi. Tatas ca anubhavasyiipi siidhyasamatviit tena pratyavasthiinaT{l
na yuktam iti.
41 58.10-13: Tasmiid anutpannii bhiivii ity; evaf!! tiivad viparftasvarupiidhyiiropa-
prathamaprakaralJiirambhalJ. ldiinff!! kva cid yalJ kascid 'dhyiiropi-
tas Gantrgantavyagamaniidiko 'pi
niisti pratftyasamutpiidasyeti pratipiidaniirtharrt.
Ruegg translates: " ... the remaining chapters [of the MK] have been taken up [by
juna] in order to exclude ... some particularity ... [mistakenly] imputed in some place, and
this with the purpose of conveying ... that also no particularity at all ... exists [as a hypo-
static entity] for origination in dependence .... " (2002: 102; as in all of my references to
Ruegg's translation, the ellipses here represent places where Ruegg has supplied the San-
skrit or Tibetan terms)
42 58.14-15: Atha syiid qa eva pramii1;zaprameyavyavahiiro laukiko 'smiibhilJ iiis-
treniinuvarnita iti.
If take "siistrelJa here in the sense of "treatise," then perhaps the reference is specifi-
[Response:] Then it should be explained what the fruit of [your]
explanation of this [ordinary usage] is
[Objector continues:] It [i.e., ordinary usage] has been destroyed
by sophists (kutiirkikaib), through their predication of a mistaken defhri-
tion. [p.59] We have stated its correct definition44.
[Response:] This doesn't make sense, either. For if, based on the
composition of a mistaken definition by sophists, everyone were mistaken
regarding what's being defined (krtarrz syiit),
[then] the point of this [proposed re-description of our epistemic practices]
would be one whose effort was fruitful. But it's not so, and this effort is
cally to Dignaga's PramiilJasamuccaya. Ruegg (2002:102) instead translates "by means
of the [philosophical] science". Following that lead, we might better render this adverbially:
has been explained by us philosophically." That reading particularly underscores
that though he claims to offer an account of our conventions, Dignaga does so by way of
a peculiarly technical re-description thereof. This is, in any case, a crucial juncture in the
argument; for having thus anticipated his interlocutor's claim only to be offering a con-
ventionally valid account, CandrakIrti will be concerned from here on to argue only that
Dignaga cannot coherently claim this. What is conventionally true is just our conventions,
and it is therefore self-contradictory to elaborate a project that purports to be "conven-
tionally" valid, while yet deploying words in something other than their conventional
sense. From this point on, then, CandrakIrti will argue only that Dignaga's use of the key
terms svalak.yalJa and pratyak.ya cannot accommodate ordinary usage of these words.
43 58.15: TadanuvarlJasya tarhi phalal?1 viicyal?1.
44 58.15-59.1: Kutiirkikail} sa niisito viparftalak.yalJii-[p.59]-bhidhiinena. Tasya asmii-
bhil} samyaglak.yalJam uktam iti cet.
45 59.1-3: Etad apy ayuktal?1. Yadi hi kutiirkikair viparftalak.yalJapralJayanal?1 [accord-
ing to the Tibetan available to La Vallee Poussin, brjod pas, =Skt. pralJayaniit ... ; adopted
by Vaidya (1960: 20), whose reading I follow] krtal?1 lak.yyavaiparftyal?1 lokasya syiit.
Tadarthal?1 prayatnasiiphalyal?1 syiit. Na ca etad evam iti vyartha eviiyal?1 prayatna iti.
It is with respect to this passage that the anonymous author of the * Lak.yalJatfkii specifi-
cally identifies Dignaga as CandrakIrti's interlocutor: "He says that on this view, it makes
Sense only [to speak of] the worldly convention regarding warrants and warrantable objects,
not [what is] ultirnate[ly the case]. [This is what is said in the passage] beginning 'Atha ... .'
['Its correct characteristics have .been explained] by us' means by Dignaga, et al. It is the
master [i.e., CandrakIrti] who says, at this point, 'the fruit of this intention should be
explained,' and it is Dignaga who rejoins, '[It has been destroyed] by sophists.' 'It' [here]
means convention." (LakealJatfkii 2b4; Yonezawa 2004: 142: laukika eva pramiilJa-
prameyavyavahiiro yukto na piiramiirthika ity asmin iiha / athetyiidi / asmiibhir Dig-
niigiidibhil} / tadanubandhanasya phalal?1 viicyam ityatriiryal}, kutiirkikair iti Digniigal}, sa
iIi vyavahiiralJ).
Moreover, if comprehension of warrantable objects is dependent Upon
reliable warrants
, [then] by what are these reliable warrants [themselves]
ascertained? This fault was "pointed out in [Nagarjuna's] Vigrahavyavar_
tanl. Since you still haven't answered this, there's no illumination of the
correct definition [by yoU].47
Moreover, if you say there are [only] two reliable warrants, corre-
sponding respectively to the two [kinds of warrantable objects, i.e.,] unique
particulars and abstractions
, [then we are entitled to ask,] does. the
ject (lak$ya) which has these two characteristics exist?49 Or does it not
46 CandrakIrti here again alludes to Dignaga's claim that pramiirpidfnal;! prameyad:
higamal;! (with the Tibetan here matching the Tibetan translation of Dignaga: gzhal bya
rtogs pa tshad ma la rag las pa yin; cf., n.23, above).
47 59.4-6: Api ca, yadi pramiilJadhfnal;! prameyadhigamas tani pramalJani kena paric:
chidyanta ityadina Vigrahavyiivartanyiirrz vihito doeal;!. Tadaparihiirat samyaglakealJady-
otakatvam api nasti.
CandrakIrti here fmally refers to the main argument against the main objection from the
Vigrahavyiivartanf - specifically, the argument at Vigrahavyavartanf 31-33: "If your
establishment of all these points is based on pramiilJas, we say: how is there establishment
of these pramiilJas of yours? If the establishment of pramiilJas is by other pramiilJas, there
would be an infinite regress ... " (Bhattacharya 1990: 15-16: yadi pramalJatas te
teeiirrz prasiddhir arthiinam, teeiirrz punal;! prasiddhirrz briihi katharrz te pramiilJiiniim. Anyair
yadi pramiilJail;! pramalJasiddhir bhavet tadanavasthii ... ) It is interesting, though, that
while CandrakIrti clearly endorses the argument, he does not elaborate on it, instead merely
noting that it has not yet been met by his opponent. Here, he has other fish to fry - specif-
ically, relating to the ordinary use of conventional terms. .
48 I render svalakealJa as "unique particular" when it is Dignaga's usage that is in play'
(though CandrakIrti's point will be that the word cannot coherently be thought to mean this);
I render siimiinyalakeal}a as "abstraction" (rather than more customarily as "universal").,
The category of siimiil}yalakealJa would, to be sure, include such examples of universals
as and (if such were ever explicitly discussed in the Indian context) "propositions."
It is also meant, however, to include items such as sarrztiinas, mental "continua" - cases,
that is, such as later exponents like will characterize as vertical, as cori:
tra horizontal, samanyalakealJas.
49 This could also be rendered: " ... is that which has these two characteristics a lakrra,
or not?"; or, taking lakrra more literally as a gerundive, "is that which has these to be
characterized, or not?" On any of these readings, though, the effect of CandrakIrti's point
remains substantially the same: which etymologically refers to an act of "char,
acterizing" must involve the characterizing of something. Dignaga cannot allow
this to the extent that his use of the term involves a fairly radical commitment to the idea
that unique particulars (which is what svalakeal}a denotes for him), if they are really to
count as unique, can neither be nor have any properties; for any reference to properties is,
ipso facto, the kind of discursive activity that trades in things (namely, the referents of
words) that are constitutively not unique.
If it exists, then there is an additional warrantable object
; how,
are there [only] two reliable warrants?51 Or perhaps [you will say]
subject [that is characterized by these characteristics] does not exist.
'In that case, the characteristic, being without a locus, doesn't exist either;
;,how, [in that case,] are there [as many as] two reliable warrants? As
will say [in MMK 5.4]: "When a characteristic is not oper-
:[ating, a subject to be characterized doesn't stand to reason; and given
50 Namely, the subject of which these different laklfa7}aS are "characteristics."
51 That is, insofar as the number of pramii7}Qs, for Dignaga, tracks the number of kinds
l10f existents, the need to introduce an additional kind of existent would undermine his epis-
jemology. Ruegg seems to understand this passage a little differently, translating as fol-
l'Jows: "Furthermore, if [Dignaga] has stated [the existence of] a pair of pramii7}Qs in con-
lJomiity with the pair [comprised] of the own [i.e. particular characteristic] and the generic
does there exist this characterized definiendum [i.e. the twofold pramii7}Q]
:10r which there is this pair of defining characteristics?" (2002:104; insertions original;
[emphasis added) As reflected in his fmal insertion, Ruegg here takes the point to concern
!lthe "definition" (laklfa7}Q) - hence, the existence - of the two pramii7}as (which are thus
0taken as what is laklfYa, "being defined"). But the point here does not, I think, concern
ithe "definitions" of the pramii7}QS themselves; rather, the point is simply that the words
hl'va- and siimiinya-laklfa7}a, insofar as they are forms of the word lakifalJa (which denotes
:ail act of "characterizing"), constitutively involve some relationship - specifically,
Lbetween a "characteristic" (lakifalJa), and the thing "characterized" thereby (laklfya). And
a::andrakirti's point is that Dignaga cannot concede this, insofar as he understands
t:JsvalakifalJa" as a unique 01: "bare" particular - that is, as neither being nor having any
or "characteristics" at all.
,;:r!ris point is further obscured by translating svalaklfa7}Q, on what Candrakirti (at least)
'takes to be Dignaga's use thereof, as "particular characteristic" (as Ruegg does; consider,
;as well, Dreyfus's rendering of this [1997:580, et passim] as "specifically characterized
tphenomenon"). Shoryu Katsura, in explaining a critique of Hattori's translation of
;.PramiilJasamuccaya 1.2, makes a point that cuts as well against these renderings of
'Isvalaklfa7}Q (again, on Dignaga's understanding thereof); specifically, they "may suggest
),that the object to be cognized is a possessor of the two laklfalJQS and [is to that extent] some-
':thing different from them .... [But] I do not think that Dignaga admitted any bearer of the
;two laklfa7}as." (Katsura 1991: 136; cf., Arnold 2003) Similarly, Candrakirti thinks Dig-
:}Iaga CamJot admit that svalakifalJa are (as Ruegg says) "particular characteristics" (or as
I will translate what Candrakirti takes to be the conventional sense of the word, "defining
;'characteristics ") at all, since that would compromise his commitment to the view that there
}are only two types of existents; for on the conventional sense of the word, svalaklfQ7}Qs
would thus have to be the properties (or" characteristics ") of some additional kind of exis-
: .tent. Candrakirti is not, then, here talking about pramiilJQS as the "characterized definien-
dum" (laklfya); he is simply starting to make his point that Dignaga's use of the word
, svalaklfa7}Q is incoherent.
the unreasonableness of a subject to be characterized, there is no possi"
bility of a characteristic, either. "52
[Objection:] [p.60] It is not that means "that by which
[something] is characterized." Rather, [according to the rule that] "the _
ana affIx is variously applicable, "53 taking the affix in the sense of an
object (karma1}i), means "what is characterized. "54
[Response:] Even so, the same problem [still obtains], because of
the impossibility of something's being characterized by itself; for that
instrument by means of which a thing is characterized is something dif-
ferent from the object [that is characterized therebyJ55.
S2 59.7-11: Kil'fl ca yadi pramiilJadvayam uktal'fl,
yasya kil'fl [de Jong; so, too, Vaidya] asti? Atha ntisti?
Yady asti, tadii tadaparal'fl prameyam astiti, kathal'fl pramiilJadvayal'fl? Atha niisti 1akiiYal'fl,
tadii api niriisrayal'fl niistrti kathal'fl pramiilJadvayal'fl? hi:
"lalqalJiisQ/'flpravrttau ca na laki!Jam upapadyate, laki!Jasya anupapattau ca lalqa1Jasyiipy
asal'flbhaval;," iti.
Candrakirti's commentary on MMK 5.4 verse is on pp.131-2 of La Vallee Poussin's edi-'
tion, but given the prominence of his discussion in chapter 1, there is surprisingly little there.
There are, however" many other passages relevant to the critique of svalalqalJas in Can-
drakirti's Madhyamakiivatiira. Cf., e.g., 6.22-36, which ends with a point specifically con-
tra Digniiga's view of svalalqalJas: gal te rang gi mtshan nyid brten 'gyur na I de la skur
pas dngos po 'jig pa'i phyir I stong nyid dngos po 'jig pa'i rgyur 'gyur na I de ni rigs med
de phyir dngos yod min (6.34; La Vallee Poussin 1970a:117: "If [an entity exists] in
dependence on a then through negation of that the entity would be destroyed,
and emptiness would be the cause of its destruction [i.e., if "emptiness" were taken as negat-
ing really existent then it would be a nihilistic doctrine]. This is not the case,
however, because entities do not [intrinsically] exist." And 6.36 (p.123): de'i phyir rang
gi mtshan nyid kyi skye ba ni bden pa gnyis char du yang yod pa ma yin no ("Therefore,
from the point of view of either of the two truths, there is no production of particulars").
The latter point (i.e., that this sense of does not obtain from the point of view
of either of the two truths) neatly expresses Candrakirti's contention that Digniiga's account
of our epistemic practices is not only not ultimately, but not even conventionally valid.
S3 Citing PiiI)ini's ill.3.113 ("lqtyalyuto bahulam"). See Katre 1987:303.
S4 60.1-2: Atha syiin na lakiiYate 'neneti Kil'fl tarhi "lqtyalyu{o bahulam"
iti karmalJi lyutal'fl lqtvti tad iti lalqalJal'fl. The same rule from PiiIftni can be
invoked to explain the different senses of the word pramiilJa (cf., n.2l, above), which too
is formed by afflxing the -ana sufflx to a verbal root.
55 60.2-3: Evam api tenaiva tasya [de - yena tal
laksyate [de long] tasya karalJasya karmalJo 'rthiintaratviit- sa eva I thus take
the force of eva (tenaiva) to be "by that very same thing"; hence, I translate, "by itself. ",
Candrakirti's point is the eminently grammatical one that the instrument by which some-'
thing is effected (in this case, by which something is "characterized") is, by virtue of its
being an instrument, something that caunot at the same time be an object. Thus, just as a
[Objection:] Well, perhaps this could be said: Because of cogni-
tion's being an instrument, and because of the inclusion of this in [our con-
cept of] the unique particular this is not the problem [you
have said it is]57.
[Response:] In this connection, that which is the unique, intrinsic
nature (svariipa) of existents is [what is conventionally referred to as]
their defining characteristic For example, earth's [defin-
ing characteristic] is resistance, [that] of feeling is experience, [that] of
perceptual cognition is the specific representation of an object.
fore, taking in the sense of 'what is characterized,'60 and
[thus] disregarding the etymology that follows the familiar sense, [our
interlocutor] takes it as denoting an object (karmastidhanam)61. And by
semantically complete verbal construction requires reference to various karakas, so, too,
the act of "characterizing" constitutively involves reference to the discrete components of
that action.
56 Here, I again translate to reflect Dignaga's use of the word.
57 60.4: Atha syat: Jiianasya kararzatvat, tasya ca ayam
58 In this crucial passage, CandrakIrti explicitly states what he takes to be the conven-
tional sense of the word - which, as made clear by the examples he gives, is
to be translated as "defining characteristic" when it is his favored sense of the word that
is in play.
59 Note that Candrald:rti's examples can be found in Vasubandhu's Abhidharmakosa;
thus, the ofvijiiana is adduced at Abhidharmakosa 1.16a (Pradhan 1975:11),
and that of prthivi at Abhidharmakosa 1.12 (Ibid.: 8). My rendering of vijiiana as "per-
ceptual cognition" reflects my agreement with the observation of Bruce Hall (1983: 84n),
who notes, with the Abhidharmakosa's defInitions of the terms in mind, that vijiiana in the
Abhidharmakosa roughly corresponds to the sense of ("perception") recom-
mended by Dignaga and DharmakIrti, and that the Abhidharmakosa's usage of sal'[ljiia
("conception") corresponds to their sense of anumana ("inference"). Cf., also, Madhya-
makt'ivatara 6.202-3 (La Vallee Poussin 1970a: 316), where Candrald:rti trots out a simi-
larly Abhidharmikalist of "defining characteristics" of all of the skandhas:
"Form has the defIning property of color and shape (rupal}a); vedana has the
nature of experience; sal'[ljiia grasps characteristics; sal'[lskt'iras fashion [things]; the defin-
ing property of perceptual cognition is a conception regarding any object" (gzugs ni gzugs
rung mtshan nyid can I tshor ba myong ba'i bdag nyid can I 'du shes mtshan mar 'dzin
pa ste I 'du byed mngon par 'du byed pa'o II yulla so SOT rnam rig pa I rnam shes rang
gi mtshan nyid do I).
60 See n.54, above.
61 The Tibetan translation renders this as las su sgrub pa, which suggests "established
as an object." But the sense of -sadhana as "denoting" or "expressive of" (cf., Apte,
p.l666, meaning #4) comes from its being a synonym for kt'iraka - the Sanskrit gram-
positing [at the same time] the instrumental nature of perceptual cOgni_
tion, it is said [in effect] that one unique particular has the quality of
being an object, and another uirique particular has the quality of being an
instrument. [p.61] In that case, if the svalak$al:ta62 of perceptual cognition
is an instrument, then it must have a separate object (tasya vyatiriktena
karmalJii bhavitavyam)63. This is the fault (in your position)64.
marians' category for designating the various components of an action. Cf., in this' regard,
not only Abhyankar 1977:423 (s.v. siidhana; cited by Ruegg, p.106, n.188), but also Bhat-
tacharya 1980 (especially pp.87-89), who cites similar uses by CandrakIrti of the term siid-
hana in the sense of kiiraka. See also Bhattacharya 1980-81. (There is a precisely similar
usage of the term -siidhana in Dharmottara's Nyiiyabindufikii: kiiral}asiidhanena miin-
asabdena siirupyalakifal}al'{l pramiil}am abhidhiyate ["by virtue of the word 'miina,' which
denotes an instrument, pramiil}a is defined as characterized by conformity"]; Malvania
1971: 39.) In characteristically Sanskritic fashion, then, the argument here is advanced
entirely in grammatical terms.
62 Particularly in this section, it is often difficult to translate this word one way or the
other, without begging precisely the question at issue (viz., what the word should mean).
Cf., nn.69, 98, below.
63 Here, note the use of the gerund bhavitcrvyam to indicate something like the mode
of necessity. This bhiive prayoga construction is missed by Siderits, who instead translates
"But then if the consciousness is the instrumental, it should be by means of a
distinct accusative of that, just this is the defect" (p.134; my emphasis). This translation
leads him to suppose there is a problem understanding the antecedent of the final pronoun
("of that"), which he then spends a couple of pages explaining. On my reading, though,
the point is straightforward.
64 60.4-61.2: Ucyate: Iha bhiiviiniim anyiisiidhiiral}am iitmiyal'{l yat svarupal'{l, tat
svalakifal}al'{l. Tadyathii prthivyiil} kiifinyal'[l, vedaniiyii anubhavo [de Jong], vijfziinasya
viifayaprativijfzapti(1. Tena hi iti k[fvii, prasiddhyanugatiim [de Jong] ca vyut-
pattim avadhilya karmasiidhanam abhyupagacchati. Vijfziinasya ca karal}abhiival'{l prati-
padyamiinena-idam uktal'{l [de Jong] bhavati, karmatii,
tarasya karalJabhii-[p.61]-vasceti. Tatra yadi karalJal'{l, tasya
vyatiriktena karmal}ii bhavitavyam iti sa eva dOifal}.
This has seemed to me to be a difficult passage, though I have been persuaded by one of
my readers that the problems are resolved by translating the passage as I have here. The
problems start with the passage "tena hi tallakifJata iti krtvii" (60.6). (This is La Vallee
Poussin's conjecture. His manuscripts read "tena hi tad vii na lakifJate"; see his note 6,
p.60.) The particle hi suggests that the phrase qualifies what immediately precedes it,
explaining why the defining characteristics just adduced should be reckoned as the
"svalak$alJa" of the things in question; thus, we could (as I had originally wanted to) read,
"for [in each of these cases,] by that [quality the thing in question] is characterized." So,
too, Ruegg (2002:106): "this [particular entity] is characterized by this [its specific char-
acteristic] (tena hi tal The Tibetan translation, too, seems to take the passage
this way, moving "tena tallakifJata" up to the beginning of CandrakIrti's own definition,
thereby clearly including this as part of what CandrakIrti commends: ... bshad par bya ste
[Objection:] Then it could be this way: What is apprehendable
(gamya) by perceptual cognition, such as the resistance and so forth that
are comprised by things like earth - that just is the direct object
Ire zhig 'dir ji Itar des de mtshon par byed 'di sa'i sra ba dang I tshor ba'i myongs ba
dang I rnam par shes pa'i yul so sor rnam par rig pa Itar bdag nyid kyi rang gi ngo bo
gzhan dang thun mong rna yin pa gang yin pa de ni rang gi mtshan nyid yin na. (Cf., La
Vallee Poussin's reconstruction of the Sanskrit from this, his note 6.)
Although this is a conceptually possible reading, the placement of the phrase in the San-
skrit text - together with its echo of the alternative interpretation of proposed
above (n.54) - recommends instead taking "tena" in the transitional sense of "there-
fore," and "tal as a quotation of the earlier attempt to salvage the interlocutor's
favored sense of Not only does this yield a more forceful indictment of the
interlocutor, but it makes better sense of the two continuative "ca" particles that follow:
thus it is the same person who takes the word this way (tal iti krtvii); who thus
disregards the familiar sense (prasiddhyanugatiirrz ca vyutpattim avadhiiya); and who also
wants to allow that cognition is an instrument (vijfiiinasya ca karalJabhiivarrz pratipadya-
miinena .. . ). The passage might be rendered a little clearer by emending abhyupagacchati
(at 60.7) to abhyupagacchatii; this would complement pratipadyamiinena, giving two
instrumental present participles to construe with "idam uktarrz bhavati." Consider, by con-
trast, Ruegg's translation, which rather obscures the fact that Candraklrti is here indicat-
ing that two contradictory things are said by the same person (which is why he can con-
clude by convicting his interlocutor of incoherence): " ... having put aside the derivation
[of the term that has been generally acknowledged, one takes it to have an objec-
tive realization. Apprehending the cognition to be an instrument, one states that the spe-
cific defining characteristic itself has the condition of being the object and that another spe-
cific defining characteristic has the nature of an instrument. ... Here the fault lies precisely
in the fact that if the of a vijfiiina is an instrument, there has to exist for it an
object. .. separate [from it]" (2002: 106).
Rendering the passage literally, with the emendation here suggested, we get instead: "By
one who is taking as denoting an object - taking in the sense
of 'what is characterized,' and disregarding the etymology that follows the familiar sense
- and who is [also] positing the instrumental nature of perceptual cognition, it is said .... "
(This is clear in the Tibetan, which subordinates the first two clauses to the third, which
is then the subject of "idam uktarrz bhavati": rab tu grags pa dang rjes su 'brei pa'i bye
brag tu bshad pa bar nas lias su sgrub pa khas len zhing rnam par shes pa byed pa'i ngo
bor rtogs pas ni I rang gi mtshan nyid kho na las nyid yin zhing rang gi mtshan nyid gzhan
ni byed pa'i ngo bo yin no zhes bya ba 'di smras par 'gyur ro.) I am indebted to an anony-
mous reviewer of this article for some of the foregoing suggestions. The proposed emen-
dation of abhyupagacchati accomplishes (though perhaps more straightforwardly) the same
thing as an emendation suggested to me by Sheldon Pollock (personal communication):
if abhyupagacchati were read as a locative present participle, pratipadyamiinena could be
emended to pratipadyamiine, giving two locative absolute constructions: "When, disre-
garding the usage which follows the familiar sense, one accepts ... , and when one [at the
same time] accepts .... "
65 That is, in the grammatical sense that still governs the discussion. Throughout this
section, the expression "direct object" will here render karma in this grammatical sense.
that [perceptual cognition], and it is not distinct from the unique partic-
ular (svalak.yalJa) [that is really being perceived]66.
[Response:] Even so,' then because the defining characteristic
(svalak.yalJa) of perceptual cognition is not [itself] a direct object [of cog-
nition], it could not be a warrantable object (prameya)67, since only a
svalak.yalJa in the form of a direct object can be a warrantable object
And thus, since you have specified (ity etad vise.yya) that two kinds of
things - unique particulars and abstractions - can be the objects of reli-
able warrants, you're now forced to say: one unique particular is the
66 61.3-4: Atha syiit: Yat prthivyiidigatarrz kiithinyiidikarrz vijiiiinagamyarrz, tat tasya
karmiisty eva, tac ca iti.
Here, I think, two points are being made. In the grammatical key that is here predominant,
the interlocutor's point is that vijiiiina - which conventionally occurs (as at n.59, above)
in the expression "the ['defming characteristic'] of vijiiiina" - is, as desig-
nating an act of cognizing, a grammatical instrument (that by means of which some agent
apprehends something); and as such, it must itself have some direct object. By pointing
this out, he hopes to meet Candrakirti's immediately preceding point that his position
entails an infmite regress. His point is that with vijiiiina, we do have an instance of
thing that is both itself a in the sense of a grammatical instrument, and that yet'
has a ("unique particular") as its direct object. This proposal further amounts,
I think, to a second point: that as "defIDing characteristic" is the same thing
as as "unique particular," so that, e.g., if we speak of the earth's "resistance"
as its defIDing characteristic, we can do so because there is a corresponding "unique par-
ticular" that we perceive. Thus the thing commonly adduced as "earth's (i.e.,
hardness) in fact has an ontological correlate, in the form of Dignaga's "unique particu-
lar." We can, then, speak of "perceiving" something's "defIDing characteristic" just inso'-
far as there invariably corresponds to this some unique and concrete particular. Again, this
is proposed as a way for Dignaga to retain his commitment to the view that
means "unique particular," while yet explaining common expressions like "resistance is
the"svalaksana of earth. "
67 That i;, it could not itself be the object of a pramiilJa - which would, for Dignaga, ,
be tantamount to saying that it does not exist. Again, the point is here made in grammat-
ical terms: an act of pramiilJa ("warranting") must have a prameya, a direct object - and
to the extent that vijiiiina is instead thought to be (grammatically) an instrument, it there-"
fore could never fulfill this role.
68 61.4-5: Evarrz tarhi karmatviibhiiviit, prameyatvarrz na syiit,
karmarupasyaiva prameyatviit.
Here, Candrakirti has effectively rejoined that the interlocutor's previous move will no '
longer allow us to accommodate the conventional usage, according to which there is a
"defining characteristic" of vijiiiina; for if, instead, we read this conven-
tional expression as meaning "the unique particular which is vijiiiina," then this is tanta-'
mount to saying that the subjective cognitive act of awareness is really the object of some
other cognitive act, insofar as Dignaga's usage takes the word as karmasiidhanam ("denot'
ing an object").
object of a reliable warrant- the one thus pointed out as what is charac-
terized; and one is not the object of a reliable warrant - the one by
something is characterized.
[perhaps you will rejoin that] that
one, too, denotes an object (karmasadhanapo. Then that one must, [in
tum,] have some other instrument1
And given this conception of the sta-
,tus of an instrument on the part of another [moment of] cognition72, an
infinite regress ensues 73.
69 Ruegg translates: "Some thing, a which is the prameya, is designated as
:What is definingly characterized; and some thing [other], which is not the object of a right
:cognition, is designated as defmingly characterized by that" (2002: 107). But this misses,
I think, the order of predication; that is, the salient point of the sentence is that pramey-
atvam and aprameyatvam are here predicated of these two kinds of subjects, so that the
.interlocutor is forced to admit that one of them is aprameya. Consider, as well, Ruegg's
'lII1Ilotation of the passage (107, n.190): "In his discussion here CandrakIrti seems to con-
'Join or '(specific) defining characteristic' of a thing (in the Abhid-
Thaima example), or of a term, and 'particular characteristic' which (in the
!Pramiil).a-school) is the cognitive object of .... " (Cf., n.9S, below, for a similar
:point by Siderits.) While Ruegg is surely right to note that this passage (like this entire sec-
;;tfon of the text) crucially involves some alternation in meaning, the point to be made is
''[not, I think, that Candrakirti thus conflates these; rather, CandrakIrti is offering "defin-
',ing characteristic" as the conventional sense of the word, and "unique particular" as the
;sense that Dignaga presupposes - and he is saying that Dignaga ends up with a contra-
{diction, unable both to remain true to his spartan epistemology, and to explain familiar uses
the word.
i;' 70 That is, that the of perceptual cognition (vijfiana), too, is a (perceptible)
''bbject. The upshot of this is that if a cognition, in order to count as such, must be not only
:,an instrument but also an object, then each instance of cognition must be accompanied by
further cognition for which it is such an object. CandrakIrti is here driving towards a con-
:'sideration of Dignaga's idea of svasaTflvitti - which, however, will chiefly be considered,
;:in this context, as the unique example of something that is at the same time an instrument
rand an object. The point in Dignaga's introducing the idea at this juncture, in other words,
(Will chiefly be to salvage the possibility that his might be (as CandrakIrti
;i!hinks he must say) simply self-characterizing.
tada tasyanyena karal)ena bhavitavyaTfl. Siderits again misses the sense of the bhiive
rprayoga construction, instead giving "If the means of action [the cognition] is just that [the
isvalalq3I).a], then it should come to be by means of another instrumental of that [cogni-
ilion] ... " (p.136; my emphasis) But the third case here (karal)ena) indicates not an "instru-
!Inent," but the subject of the verb bhavitavyam, i.e., the thing which must (despite the
;interlocutor's view to the contrary) exist "on the part of that" (tasya). Such constructions
are clearly expressed in the Tibetan, which handles them without use of the gerundive: de'i
'(she de la lTyed pa gzhan zhig yod par bya dgos la ....
c. 72 I.e., given that it, too, would have to be the object of a further cognition if it is to
;count as an instance of cognition that yet counts as a (where, of course, that
lis understood as karmasiidhana).
!'. 73 61.5-9: Tatas ca dvividhaTfl prameyaTfl ca. Ity etad
vaktavyaTfl: kiTflcit prameyaTfl yal ity evaTfl vyapadiSyate,
Perhaps you think there exists [the faculty of] apperception (svasam_
vitti). Based on that, [you maintain that], given that [cognition's]
an object obtains due to [its] apprehension by apperception, [cognition]
is included among warrantable objects
To this we respond, based on an
extensive refutation of apperception in the Madhyamakavatara
: it does-
n't make sense to say a [p.62] is characterized by another
and that one by apperception. Moreover, this latter cognition
doesn't exist at all, since - given that there's no subject to be charac-
terized owing to the impossibility of [its] establishment by a
separate - there is no possibility of the operation of a char-
acteristic without a locus

And thus [it says] in the Venerable Questions of RatnacueJa [Sutraj17:
Not seeing thought, he [the bodhisattva] investigates the stream of thought
[as to] whence it has its arising
. Its [arising] is thus: Thought arises when
ldl]'lcid aprameyal]'l 'neneti vyapadi,ryata iti. Atha tad api karmasadhanal]'l; tada
tasyanyena karalJena bhavitavyal]'l. Jiianantarasya karalJabhavaparikalpantiyam anista
dosas [de Jong] ca-apadyate.
Ruegg, citing PramalJsasamuccaya i.12, notes (p.108, n.191): "The tenn is here
equivalent to anavasthii .... " La Vallee Poussin's mss. read The Tibetan (thug
pa med pa) recommends La Vallee Poussin's emendation to The point, in
any case, is clear.
74 That is, perhaps svasal]'lvitti could be proposed as that in virtue of which vijiiana could
count simultaneously as the instrument and the object in acts of cognizing.
75 Cr., especially, Madhyamakavatara 6.72-78 (La Vallee Poussin 1970a: 166-174).
76 61.10-62.3: Atha manyase svasal]'lvittir asti. TataJ:z svasal]'lvittya grahalJat kar-
mattiyal]'l satyam asty eva prameyantarbhava iti. Ucyate: vistarelJa Madhyamakavatare
[p.62] tad api svasal]'lvittya
iti na yujyate. Api ca, tad api nama jiianal]'l asal]'lbhaviil
sarvatha nastfti kutaJ:z svasal{lvittiJ:z?
Ruegg translates: "Furthennore, this putative knowledge also does not exist at all: there
is indeed no existence [of it] because [this jiiana] is unestablished separately from the
[and] because, when there exists nothing characterized ... , a lacking
[such] a ground will not come into operation" (2002: 109). This suggests that there are two
separate reasons given here; I take it, rather, that the locative absolute here subordinates
the reason given in the ablative.
77 Tohoku 91.
78 Stcherbatsky (1927: 153, n.6) - who follows Burnouf's reading, noted by l.,a Val-
lee Poussin, nA - is puzzled by asamanupasyan, and emends to cittam samanupa,ryan.
But the Tibetan (yang dag par rjes su rna mthong bas) suggests that La Vallee Poussin's
reading is correct Siderits (who follows Vaidya's edition) translates: "How does the aris-
ing of consciousness, not perceiving what possesses consciousness, investigate the stream
there is an intentional object (iilambana). Is it, then, [the case that] the inten-
tional object is one thing, and the thought another? Or is that which is the
intentional object precisely the [same as] the thought? IT, first of all, the
intentional object is one thing and the thought another, then there will obtain
[its] being two thoughts (dvicittatii). Or if the intentional object itself is the
thought, then how does thought perceive thought? For thought does not per-
ceive thought. Just as a sword-edge cannot be cut by that same sword-edge,
[p.63] and a finger-tip cannot be touched by that same fmger-tip, in just the
same way, a [moment of] thought cannot be seen by that same thought. For
one who is thus properly disciplined
, thought has the quality of not abid-
ing (anavasthiinatii), the quality of being neither interrupted nor eternal
(ucchediisiiSvatatii), of not being the paramount self (na kittasthatii), of not
being causeless, nor of being negated (viruddha) by conditions
, neither
from this nor from that, neither this nor that - [the bodhisattva] thus knows
that stream of thought which [has all of these qualities], that creeping vine
of thought (cittalatiim), that reality (dharmatii) of thought, that unlocated-
ness of thought, that immovability of thought, that unseen-ness of thought,
[the fact of] being the defining characteristic of thought;
thus does [he] see [this] as suchness (tathatii), and [he] does not obstruct it.
Thus does [he] realize this analysis of thought, thus does [he] see. This, son
of noble family - the bodhisattva's consideration of thought with respect
to thought - is the foundation of mindfulness.
. Thus, there is no [facu1tyof] apperception; [and] since it is non-exis-
what is characterized by what?81
And would it be a characteristic by virtue of difference from the sub-
ject to be characterized, or by virtue of non-difference? In this regard, if,
of consciousness?" (p.137, my emphasis) Thus, he correctly reads asamanupaiyan, but mis-
:!akes the subject of the sentence. The problem vanishes if we consult the
which quotes precisely this passage (in the Bibliotheca Buddhica edition of Bendall, p.235;
;i:ited by de Jong). That the text given by La Vallee Poussin is correct is suggested by what
there precedes the present quote: "Examining thought he [i.e., the bodhisattva] does not
'see it as internal, he sees it not outside him, nor in the conformations, nor in the elements,
nor in the organs of sense. Not seeing thought, he follows the course of thought, asking,
lWhence does thought arise?' .... " The point, then, is that, after prior investigations, he ("the
bodhisattva") has failed to find anything answering to the designation "thought," and it
is this failure which impels the present search into the nature of the "stream of thought. "
. . 79 tasya eva7fl yonisalJ. prayuktasya; Tib., de 'di Itar tshul bzhin rab tu sbyor ba lao
80 Ruegg (110): "contrary to condition."
81 62A-63.8: Tathii ca-uktam iiryaratnacuq.apariprcchiiyii7fl: Sa cittam asamanupaSyan,
cittadhiirii7!l kutas cittasya utpattir iti? Tasyaiva7fl bhavati. Alambane sati, cit-
'tam utpadyate. Tat kim anyad iilambanam anyac citta7fl, atha yad eviilambana7fl tad eva
citta7fl? Yadi tiivad anyad iilambanam anyac cittQ7J1., tadii dvicittatii Atha yad
on one hand, it's by virtue of difference, then because of being different
from the subject characterized, the characteristic wouldn't be a charac_
teristic, either, as though it were a non-characteristic. And because of [its]
being different from the characteristic, the characterized subject would-
n't be a characterized subject, either, as though it were a non-subject.
[p.64] In this way, because of being different from the subject to be char-
acterized, the characteristic would have a subject-to-be-characterized with
no need for a characteristic - and hence, because of being without need
of a characteristic, it could not be a subject to be characterized! [It would,
then, be] just like a sky-flower
On the other hand, if subject-to-be-characterized and characteristic were
not distinct [from one another], then, because of [its] not being distinct
from the characteristic, the subject's being a subject is for-
eW'ilambana,!! tad eva citta,!!, tat katha,!! cittam [de Jong; cf., Bendall 1970:235] cittam
samanupasyati? Na ca citta'!! citta,!! samanupasyati. TadyatMpi niima tayii-ew'isidhiiraya
saiviisidhiirii na [p.63] sakyate chettu'!!. Na tenaiviiligulyagre'.la tadeviiligulyagra,!! saky-
ate Evam eva na tenaiva cittena tad eva citta,!! sakya,!! Tasyaiva,!!
yonisalJ prayuktasya yii cittasyiinavastMnatii-anucchediisiisvatatii na ki1{asthatii niihetuki
na pratyayaviruddhii na tato niinyato na saiva niinyii, tii,!! cittadhiirii'!! cittalatii,!! cittad-
harmatii,!! cittiinavasthitatii,!! cittiipraciiratii,!! cittiidrsyatii'!! tatM
jiiniiti tathii payati yatM tathatii,!! na ca virodhayati [de Jong]. Tii,!! ca cittavivekatii,!! tatoo
prajiiniiti tatM payati. Iya,!! kulaputra [bodhisattvasya; per Tibetan] cilte cittiinupasyanii
smrtyupastMnam iti. Tad eva'!! niist! svasa'!!vittis, tadabhiiviit ki,!! kena
CandrakIrti's conclusion here ("what is characterized by what? ") makes clear that the dis-
cussion of svasa'!!vitti has in this context been chiefly meant to address the possibility of
there being something essentially self-characterizing - of there being, that is, at least
some example of a "characteristic" that is not the characteristic of anything
(which is how Dignaga must understand The critique of svasa,!!vitti, like
.that of thus chiefly turns (like many characteristically Sanskritic arguments)
on eminently granunatical presuppositions. In both cases, the point that Dignaga wants to
salvage is shown to require that there be some verbally expressible action (" characteriz-
ing," "cognizing") that is not the characterizing or cognizing of anything - which, on the
kiiraka-analysis of actions, is incoherent.
82 In characteristically Buddhist (not to say Madhyamika) fashion, Candraldrti here
makes an argument that depends on taking "different" to mean altogether unrelated.
83 63.9-2: Ki,!! ca, bhedena vii tal syiid, abhedena vii. Tatra yadi
tiivad bhedena, tadii bhinnatviid, api na
ca bhinnatviid, lak$yam api na [p.64] lak$ya'!!. TatM bhinnatviil,
syiit; tatas ca na

Something "like a sky-flower" would, of course, be altogether non-existent, which there-
fore simply could not have any properties or characteristics.
feited, as though [the subject] were itself the characteristic
And because
of [its] not being distinct from the subject to be characterized, the char-
acteristic would not be one whose essence was that of a characteristic,
either, as though it were itself the subjecr5. As it is said [in Nagarjuna's
Lokiitltastava]: "If the characteristic were other than the subject to be
characterized, then the subject to be characterized would be without char-
acteristic; [and] it is clearly admitted by you that if there is no difference
[between them], then neither one exists"86. And with respect to estab-
lishment of subject and characteristic, there is no other way than as being
the same or different. Thus, [Nagarjuna] will say [in MMK 2.21]: "How
can there be [any] establishment of these two when their establishment
is neither as being the same or different?"87
Alternatively, if it is said that there will be establishment [of and
as being ineffable (aviicyatii), [we respond that] it is not S088. For
84 Ruegg (2002:112): " ... in the same way as the nature of the lakiaJ;Za .... "
85 Ruegg (ibid.): " ... just like the nature of a lakeya .... "
86 Lokatftastava, verse 11; see Lindtner 1987: 132.
87 64.2-9: Athiibhinne lak!fYalakialJ-e. tada lakialJ-ad avyatiriktatviil lakialJ-aSvatmavad
vihfyate lak!fYasya lakiyata. Lakiyae ea avyatiriktatval lak!fYasvatmaval lakialJ-am api na
lakialJ-asvabhiival'{l. Yatha coktal'{l: "Lakiyal lakealJ-am anyae eet, syat tal lakeyam
alakialJ-al'{l; tayor abhiivo 'nanyatve viepaital'{l kathital'{l tvaya" iti. Na ca vina tattvany-
atvena lakeyalak$alJ-asiddhiiv anya gatir asti. Tathii ca vakeyati: "Ekfbhiivena va siddhir
nanabhiivena va yayol;. na vidyate; tayol; siddhil; kathal'{l nu khalu vidyate" iti.
This passage, it seems to me, represents what is not only a characteristically Madhyamika
display of linguistic pyrotechnics, but one that is characteristically Sanskritic, in general.
(For insightful reflections on the extent to which Sanskritic philosophy is motivated by
granunatical and linguistic categories, see Ingalls 1954.) While this type of argument is
likely to strike the non-Sanskritic reader as rather underwhehning, it should be remembered .
that CandrakIrti' s overriding concern here is with how words are conventionally used, and
that this all represents an eminently conventional sort of discourse. It seems to me that the
conceptual force of this particular passage is much the same as that of his opening rejoin-
der (i.e., at 59.7-9; n.52, above). The characteristically Madhyarnika deployment of such
an argument is similarly on display in Nagarjuna's Vigrahavyavartanf; thus, with respect
to the mutually reciprocal terms pramalJ-a and prameya, Nagfujuna is there concerned to
argue (as Oetke puts it) that "means of knowledge cannot be what they are, namely means
of knowledge, without the existence of that for which they are means, whereas the objects
of knowledge cannot be what they are, i.e. prameyas, if there are no pramalJ-as." (Oetke
2003b: 144n) Indeed, all that Madhyamikas are fmally concerned to show, in a sense, is
that any proposed explanatory terms turn out to be constitutively relational - in which
case, none can be thought to provide any "ultimate" explanatory purchase on the phe-
nomena putatively explained thereby.
88 Here, CandrakIrti may have in mind Dignaga's characterization of svalakealJ-as as
ineffability, by definition (ntima), obtains [only] when there is no recog-
nition of the mutual classification of terms; and where there is no recog-
nition of [such mutual] classification, there is complete absence of these
two, as well - for there is no possibility of specifying, according to the
difference [between them] "this is the characteristic, this is
the subject." Therefore, there is no establishment as being ineffable,

Moreover, if cognition is the instrument with respect to the determi-
nation of an object, what is the agent? For without an agent, there is no
[p.65] possibility of instruments and so forth, just as in [the case of] the
action of cutting [wood] 90.
Then [perhaps] it is imagined that in this case, thought (citta) has the
quality of agency. But this doesn't make sense, either, since, [on your
own theory,] the function of thought is apprehension of a bare object
(arthamatradarsana); apprehension of the qualifications of an
object [is the function] of [other] derivative mental operations (caitasa)
- this based on [your] acceptance [of the authoritative text which says
that] "in this regard, apprehension of an object is perceptual cognition
(vijiiana), while derivative mental operations concern its qualifications"91.
"indefinable" (avyapadeiya), (cf., e.g., Pramti!:zasamueeayavrtti ad 1.17). Dignaga's
point in so characterizing (!) seems to be simply (but in the end, radically)
that "unique particulars" carmot themselves be the referents of words. Candraldrti, how-
ever, introduces this move as specifically meant to explain how there could, in fact, be some
way, other than by "identity" and "non-identity" (ekfbhiivena or nanabhiivena), of estab-
lishing how the and of his might be related. Cf., Ruegg,
2002: 113, n.202.
p 89 64.10-13: Atha-avaeyataya [de Jong] siddhir een, na etad evaI'{!. Ava-
eyata hi nama parasparavibhiigaparijiianabhiive sati bhavati. Yatra ea vibhiigaparijiianal]!
na-asti, tatra idal'{!lak:tyam" iti vise:tatal; pariechedasal'{!bhave sati
dvayor apy abhiiva eva-iti. Tasmad avaeyataya-api na-asti siddhiIJ.
90 64.14-65.1: Api ea, yadi jiianal'{! karalJal'{! vi:fayasya parieehede, kal; karta? Na ea
kartaram antarelJasti karalJadfnal'{! sal'{!bhaval; chidikriyayam iva.
Candraldrti's point here - again, an eminently Sanskritic one - follows the standard
analyses of the Sanskrit grammarians, for whom any action can be analyzed into the terms
required to express it as a semantically complete verbal construction. Candraldrti thus has
in mind the karaka analysis of sentences - on which, cf., e.g., MatilalI990:40-48.
91 65.1-4: Atha cittasya tatra kartrtval'{! parikalpyate; tad api na yuktal'{!, yasmad
arthamatradarsanal'{! cittasya vyaparo, 'rthavise:ta[darSanaI'{!J caitasanal'{!. "Tatra-
vijiianal'{!, tadvise:te tu caitasal;" ity abhyupagmat.
Candraldrti here quotes Madhyantavibhiiga 1.8 (pandeya 1999:27). (Ruegg [p.l13] erro-
For when one governing action (pradhiinakriyii) is to be effected, instru-
ments and so forth
have their instrumentality and so forth because of the
acceptance of their being subordinate, by virtue of [their] respectively
(yathiisvam) perfonning subordinate actions (gUlJakriyii)93. But in this
case, cognition (jfiiina) and perceptual cognition (vijfiiina) do not have one
principal function [in common]. Rather, the principal function of per-
ceptual cognition is determination of a bare object (arthamiitraparic-
chitti), while that of cognition is detennination of its qualifications
hence, cognition does not have any instrumentality, nor does
thought have any agency. This, then, is the problem
[Objection:] Well, perhaps it could be that, since scripture says "all
dharmas are without self," there is no existence of any agent whatsoever
neously attributes this text to Sthiramati; while Sthiramati wrote a Tfm on Vasubandhu's
on the Madhyiintavibhiiga, the root text here quoted is traditionally attributed to
Maitreya.) CandrakIrti clearly alludes to Dignaga' s recurrent point that the distinguishing
of separate and ("qualification" and "thing qualified") is a constitutively
conceptual operation - in which case, perception can never itself register such a distinc-
tion; cf., e.g., Pramiil;lasamuccaya 1.23. In regard to the way the categories in play here
: all line up, La Vallee Poussin (p.65, n.3) offers many useful textual citations (starting with
!' the Nyiiyabindutfkii), summarizing thus: "Soient les equivalences: cittam = vijftiinam =
;;" nirvikalpakajftiinam = arthamiitragriihi; caitasiil} = jftiinam = savikalpakajftiinam =
See also n.59, above, citing Bruce Cameron Hall's observation that the
; A.bhidharmjkas' vijftiina basically corresponds to what Dignaga calls while the
: A.bhidharmikas' sal'{ljftii corresponds to anumiina. CandrakIrti's text here seems to rec-
e ommend Hall's observation, effectively attributing to his interlocutor a usage according to
;. which This is further clarified in the immediately ensuing passage.
; Regarding Candrakirti's textual citation, Ruegg (2002:113,n.203) comments: "Can-
drakIrti's reference here to a major source for the Vijiiiinavada in support of his own view
noteworthy; this might suggest that here his opponent was a Vijiiiinaviidin." Indeed, the
Madhyiintavibhiiga seems a perfectly natural text for Dignaga to defer to (and thus, for Can-
drakIrti to cite as something that Dignaga ought not to contradict). Cf., Hattori 1968: 101-
102 (n.l.61).
,; 92 That is, the various mrakas required to express any action in the form of a seman-
tically complete verbal expression.
93 Ruegg's reading of yathiisvam is unintelligible to me: " ... in virtue of assuming
',' subsidiarity through effecting a subordinate activity in accord with the possessed"
94 65.4-8: Ekasyiil'{l hi pradhiinakriyiiyiiTf! siidhyiiyiil'{l yathiisval'{l gUl;lakriyiinirvrtti-
dviirel;la-aflgfbhiivopagamiit [here, I decline to accept de Jong's emendation:
karal;liidfniil'{l karal;liiditval'{l. Na ca-iha jftiinavijftiinayor ekii pradhiinakriyii,
kil'{l tarhy arthamiitraparicchittir vijftiinasya pradhiinakriyii, jftiinasya tv
pariccheda; iti nasti jftiinasya karal;lQtval'{l, niipi cittasya kartrtvaTf!. TataS ca sa eva dO:jal}.
- hence, even without an agent, ordinary discourse, involving verbs and
other [parts of speech,] does transpire

[Response:] This isn't"right, either, for you have incorrectly ascer-
tained the sense of scripture. This is explained in the Madhyamaka_
[Objection:] [p.66] Even when there is no possibility of qualifiers
that are separate from a "body" or a "head" - as [in the
expressions] "the body of a statue (siliiputraka)"97 or "the head af Rahu"
95 65.9-: 10: Atha syiit, aniitmiina/J sarvadharmii ity iigamiit, kartu/J sarvathiibhaviit, kar-
tiiram antare7Jiipi vidyata eva kriyiidivyavahiira iti.
Ruegg: "Therefore, there is indeed found to exist a transactional-pragmatic usage that
relates to an act, etc., even without an agent" (2002: 114).
96 65.10-11: Etad api niisti, iigamasya samyagarthiinavadhiira7Jiit. Etae eoktaTfl [de
Jong] Madhyamkiivatiire.
Ruegg counter-intuitively reads artha here as though it meant something like iilambana:
"For no correct intentional object has been specified by the [cited] scriptural testimony"
(2002: 114). Stcherbatsky (2002: 157, n.8) cites Madhyamakiivatiira 6.68, ff., as what is
likely referred to, although I don't see how the passages he cites relate to the discussion
at hand. Ruegg (2002:114, n.205) more helpfully cites, instead, the on
makiivatiira 6.76, which argues that Dignaga's notion of svasaTflvitti is incoherent given'
typical Sanskritic analyses of the verbal expression of actions - though the relevance of
this to the present point is not altogether clear to me. I confess, though, to being unable to
venture an altemative suggestion. ,
97 The primary sense of the word Siliiputraka is "millstone" or "pestle," which is
reflected in the Tibetan translation (mehi gu). If (with Ruegg [2002: 115]) we take it that
way, the point of this example would differ slightly from that of the other - and indeed,
would not be altogether clear. The point would perhaps be that, insofar as the word involves
a semantic unit that ordinarily refers to persons (i.e., putra, such that the word's nirukti.
makes it mean something like "stone boy"), one might be inclined to suppose that the body
of , such is, like the body of a person, animate - hence, the force of the subsequent part
where we're told that the that goes with this word is buddhi, "intellect" Thus,
the reason a Siliiputraka just is a body is that it is inanimate (whereas a statue would only
be a "body" if it happened to be a headless statue). However, it seems to me preferable.
to follow Stcherbatsky (1927:158) in reading this to mean "statue" - in which case, the:
point of the example is exactly the same as that of the "Rahu's head" example (where the
mythological 'Rahu' in question is a celestial being who, having been beheaded, now
exists only as a head); viz., both cases involve a genitive relation between two referents
when there is in fact only one thing (i.e., a statue just is a body). The example of the
expression "Rahu's head" is common in Indian philosophy; cf., e.g., the usage attributed,
in the SarvadarSanasaTflgraha, to the (materialist) Carviikas, who point out that expressions
like "my body" ought not to be taken as evidence of a really existing subject of the
itive; rather, such expressions are, like "Rahu's head," merely "figurative"
vadarSanasaTflgraha, p.2: mama sarirdm iti vyavahiiro riiho/J sira ityiidivad aupaeiirika/J).
_ there is [nevertheless] a relation of qualifier and qualified; just as [in
that case], here, too, there will be [a relation] even when there is no pos-
sibility of any earth apart from its svalak:jalJ-a, [so that we are, after all,
in a position to make sense of the familiar expression,] "earth's
svalak:jalJ-a. "98
[Response:] This isn't so, because [these cases] are not the same.
For the use of words like 'body' and 'head' depends on other associated
categories, such as, [in the case of 'heads,'] intellect, etc., and, [in the case
of bodies,] hands, etc. That being the case
, the production of an idea
based only on the words 'body' or 'head' creates a semantic expectation
regarding the other associated categories
, [such that one expects to
know] whose body? whose head? Another [person], with a desire to pre-
clude connection with any other qualifiers
, removes an interlocutor's
semantic expectation by suggesting the qualifications that are statues and
- [a suggestion that] is in conformity with mundane convention
(saYJ1keta). This makes sense. But in the present case, where there is no
9& 66.1-3: Athiipi syiit: Yathii Siliiputrakasya sarfral[! riihol;z sira iti, sarlrasirovy-
'pi, 'sti. Eval[! prthivyiil;z iti,
I have, once again, left these occurrences of the word untranslated in order to
reflect the fact that Dignaga is here simply reporting the attested example, while remain-
ing neutral with respect to how we understand the word. Siderits observes that "it should
. be pointed out that here the opponent has reverted to the traditional usage of
as meaning 'own defining characteristic'; this is made clear in his reference to hardness
as the of earth" (1981: 142). But I think: we should understand CandrakIrti's
interlocutor as simply reporting the example that CandrakIrti has challenged him to accom-
modate; thus, Dignaga's task here is to show that the word can mean what he takes it to
mean ("unique particular"), and yet make sense of this attested usage. Naturally, it favors
CandrakIrti's point that the examples he adduces can only be translated using the expres-
sion "defining characteristic."
99 The first phrase is all a locative absolute, with the "subject" of the phrase here trans-
lated (pravrtti) actually occurring in the locative.
100 More literally, "the arising of this idea only functions along with a semantic expec-
tation regarding the other associated categories" (buddhyupajananal;z sahaciiri-
eva vartate). On ("semantic expectation"), see, inter alia,
Matilal (1990:50, 109-10), Abhyankar (1977:53).
101 That is, one strives to eliminate his interlocutor's "syntactic expectation" out of a
desire to render the reference more precise, to "preclude connection" with some other
possible referent.
102 That is, these terms, when related to them in the genitive case, qualify (respectively)
"body" and "head."
possibility of earth and so forth apart from [defining chaiacteristics] such
as resistance
, the relation of qualifier and qualified doesn't make

103 CandrakIrti's point is that the conventional understanding of a "defIning character-
istic" is not that it qualifies some particular example of the kind. in question
(as, e.g., "red earth"), but rather, that it makes something an example of that kind in the
first place. Thus, adjectival "qualifIcation" is called for only when there is
some syntactic "expectation" such that we need to know more in order to know
precisely which token of some type is being picked out. In contrast, since there cannot mean-
ingfully be any earth which is not "earth" by definition - which is not, that is, possessed
of the characteristic that makes it an instance of "earth" - we do not, when encounter-
ing some instance of "resistance," wonder what it belongs to; for when one encounters
an instance of "earth," one just is encountering an instance of "resistance." This is just
what it means for the latter to be a defining characteristic of the former. This point can be
understood as counting against Dignaga's contention that perceptual cognition affords
access to uninterpreted data; for CandrakIrti's argument here advances the point that we
invariably encounter things as they are defined. That is, tokens of the type "earth" are
invariably encountered under a description (viz., as "hard" or "resistant").
104 Prasannapadii 66.3-8: Naitad evam, atulyatviit. Sarfrasira/:!sabdayor hi bud-
bano buddhyupajanana/:! eva vartate. Kasya sariraf!l,
kasya sira iti? Itaro 'pi
I}adhvaninii laukikasaf!lketiinuvidyiiyinii pratipattu/:! upahantiti yuktaf!l. Iha tu
kiifhinyiidivyatiriktaprthivyiidyasaf!lbhave sati na yukto vise$al}avise:tYabhiiva/:!.
This is the passage discussed by Thurman and Eckel, both of whom follow Tsong-kba-pa
in taking CandrakIrti's target here to be Bhavaviveka; cf., n.ll, above. We can under-
stand why Tsong-kba-pa sees here an engagement with Bhavaviveka if we appreciate that
on Tsong-kba-pa's view, the distinction between the "Svatantrika" Madhyamaka of Bhava-
viveka and CandrakIrti's "Prasangika" Madhyamaka centrally involves the concept of
SpecifIcally, Tsong-kba-pa thinks that Bhavaviveka must accept the existents
posited by an opponent as "being established by virtue of (rang gi mtshan
nyid kyis grub pa = siddha). But Tsong-kba-pa's understanding of this issue
involves a sense of that is, I think, not present in CandrakIrti. Thus, we can
note that Thurman (translating Tsong-kba-pa) is right to see the present discussion as turn-
ing on different understandings of the word "... the intrinsic identity
involved in (this sort of) intrinsically identifIable status is altogether quite dif-
ferent from the 'ultimate particular' explained precisely as 'functional capac-
ity' in the logicians' treatises, and from the 'defining characteristic' explained
as that which characterizes (something as) different from everything else, such as heat in
the case of fire, in the Abhidharma Scripture, etc." (Thurman 1991: 292) But it is really
only the latter two senses of that are in play in our text from the Prasanna-
padii, with Tsong-kba-pa himself having introduced (in the fIrst occurrence reflected in
Thurman's translation) an additional sense. On this point, cf., Ruegg 2004:338-9.
[Objection:] Because ofthe acceptance by non-Buddhists of distinct
subjects in accordance with that, [our] definition of character-
istic is without fault

[Response:] [p.67]: This isn't so; for it is not suitable to accept,
with regard to your own occasion (svasamaye)106, the categories imagined
by non-Buddhists, which are devoid of arguments (yuktividhura); for you
would have to admit, as well, [their] additional [list of what count as]
reliable warrants, and so forth

Moreover, because of the real existence lOS of the qualifier, familiar with-
out analysis, which is a statue
- [conventionally described as] an appro-
priator (upiidiitr) whose appropriated basis (upiidiina) is a body, [a relation]
that is included in ordinary discourse - and because of the real existence
of the [qualifier, familiar without analysis]1l0, which is Rahu, [conven-
tionally described as an] appropriator whose appropriated basis is a head
- [because of the real existence of these,] just as [in the case of] deriva-
tively [existent entities] like the person, this example doesn't make sense
105 66.9: TIrthikair tadanurodhena vise:;al}abhidhiinam
adustam iti cet.
106 Ruegg (2002:116): "into one's own doctrine," reading svamata per the Tibetan
rang gi gzhung lugs.
107 67.1-2: Na etad eval'(l; na hi nrthikaparikalpita yuktividhurai) padarthiii} svasamaye
'bhyupagantul'(l nyayyai}, pramaljantarader apy abhyupagamaprasafzgat.
Of course, this is an unwanted consequence only for CandrakIrti's interlocutor, since Can-
dra1drti himself will, in fact, end by endorsing (as conventionally valid, at least) the
Naiyayika list of pramal}as; cf., 75.6-8 (n.182) below.
108 Ruegg (2002:116): " ... given the [designationall existence .... " Ruegg's insertion
is understandable, given the unexpected nature of this claim from a Buddhist; but the San-
skrit (sadbhiivat) is clearly stronger. CandrakIrti qualifies this point, as expected, presently.
109 Again, the statue is here a "qualifier" because, in the genitive case, it qualifies the
word 'body,' removing our semantic expectation to know whose body is being referred to.
110 I take the expression "vise:;al}asya-avicaraprasiddhasya" to govern both examples.
111 67.3-5: Api ca pudgaladiprajiiaptivat, sasarfropadanasya silaputrakasyopadatur
laukikavyavahiirafzgabhUtasya vise:;al}asya-avicaraprasiddhasya sadbhiivt'it, sira-upada-
nasya ca rahor upadatui} sadbhiivad, ayuktam etan nidarianal'(l.
Note that the Tibetan makes the last sentence more clear, fIrst translating all of the geni-
tives, and then concluding: gzhan yang Ius kyi rten can khyad par byed pa 'jig rten pa'i
tha snyad kyi yan lag tu gyur pa ma brtags na grub pa rten pa po mchi gu dang I mgo'i
rten can brten pa po sgra gcan ni gang zag la sogs par brtags pa Itar yod pa'i phyir dpe
'di rigs pa ma yin no. This makes clear that, among other things, sadbhava is supposed to
construe with pudgaladiprajiiapti, too. I have developed my interpretation of the issues relat-
ing to this passage at length in Arnold (2005, Chapter 6).
[Objection:] In fact, the example is established, since, because of
the non-establishment of any other object apart from the body and the
head, there is apprehension only of these [a body and a head]112.
[Response:] This isn't so, because such critical analysis doesn't oper-
ate in ordinary discourse, and because the existence of ordinary categories
is not based on such critical analysis. Just as a self, critically considered,
is impossible as [something] distinct from form and so forth 113 , but
nonetheless, relative to the aggregates (skandhan upadaya)1:4, conven-
tionally has existence
- so, too, in the case of Rahu and the statue.
Hence, there is no establishment of the example
. In the same way, even
if, on the part of things like earth, there is no subject [when] being con-
sidered apart from [defining characteristics] like resistance, and [even if
the] characteristic, when separate from the subject, is without a locus-
112 67.6-7: Sarfrasirovyatiriktasya-arthantarasya-asiddhes, tanmtitrasya-upalambhat,
siddham eva nidarsanam iti cet.
That is, the interlocutor here suggests that the various properties (or "qualifiers") of any
unique particular are not among the things perceived, and hence cannot be thought real
- in which case, he may after all salvage his understanding of svalak-ralJa as the "unique
particulars" that alone are perceived (and therefore still say that an expression like "earth's
is to be understood as having only one 'real' referent).
113 That is, apart from such analytic categories as the skandhas.
114 This phrase, I have argued in Chapter 6 of Arnold (2005), is central to understand-
ing Nagarjuna's constitutively Madhyamika category of uptidtiya prajfiapti.
115 Ruegg (2002: 117): " .. .it exists in supported-dependence .... " It might be thought
counter-intuitive that the self's existence (qualified as "skandhan upadtiya") is allowed as
"conventional"; for if the whole Buddhist critique of a "self" is to have any purchase, it
would seem that the "convention" in the matter would really be that the self exists atmana
or svabhavena (that is, that it exists "in itself" or "essentially"). Perhaps it was this thought
.that led Siderits to translate this passage thus: "but by worldly convention there is the
reality of that, not depending on the skandhas ... " (1981: 144; my emphasis) - as though,
presumably (but impossibly), skandhtin upadaya were to be construed as a compound
("skandha-anupadaya"). But CandrakIrti's point here is not that the self's existing "rela-
tive to the aggregates" is the content of the convention; rather, his point is just that, given
the aggregates as a basis of imputation, there can arise the convention that the self exists.
116 That is, the interlocutor had invoked these examples (a statue's body, Rahu's head)
as meant to show that there are cases where we speak as though there were two things,
even though we all know there is only one real referent; and CandrakIrti has responded
that the salient point about examples like "Rahu's head" is not that there are two terms
but only one "real" referent, but simply that there are two terms only insofar as conven-
tion requires it. The fact that these examples are in this respect like "selves" (or pudgal-
iidiprajfiapti) should, CandrakIrti thinks, have most Buddhists assent that such expressions
therefore ought not to be thought ultimately to involve any "real" referents.
nevertheless, this is the conventionl17. The teacher [Nagarjuna]ll8 settled
the matter by establishment [of all these categories] as simply being mutu-
ally interdependent
And this is necessarily to be accepted in this way; for otherwise, the
conventional [p.68] would not be [characterized by its being] free from
reasoning - this would be reality, not the conventionaP20. And it is not
[the case that] there is the impossibility only of things like statues when
they are investigated by reasoningl21. Rather, according to the argument
that is going to be set forth, there is no possibility of form and feelings
and so forth!22, either; hence, their existence, too, like that of the statue,
would have to be accepted as conventional. And this is not how [you
accept them]; hence, [your position is] false.
This presentation of rel-
117 That is, the reference of words is explicable with reference only to what conven-
tion requires, and cannot itself be explained by anything "more real" than such conven-
tions - which, on CandrakIrti's reading, is precisely what Buddhists like Dignaga are
118 Ruegg (118): "Teachers have propounded .... " But it seems clear that CandrakIrti
is here (in eminently conventional fashion) using the honorific plural to refer to Nagfujuna.
119 67.7-12: Na etad eva1[l. Laukike vyavahiira ittha1[lviciiriipravrtter aviciiratas ca
laukikapadiirthiiniim astitviit. Yathaiva hi rilpiidivyatirekel}a viciiryamiil}a iilmii na sa1[lbha-
vati, api ca lokasa1[lvrtyii skandhiin upiidiiya-asya-astitva1[l, eva1[l riihuSiliiputrakayor apfti
niisti nidarianasiddhil;t. Eva1[l prthivyiimnii1[l yady api kiithinyiidivyatiriktaT(l viciiryamiil}aT(l
niisti, ca niriisraya1[l, tathiipi saT(lvrtir eseti. paras-
pariipeksiimiitratayii [de J ong] siddhyii siddhi1[l vyavasthiipayii1[lbabhilvur iiciiryiil;t.
120 Ruegg (2002:118): " ... otherwise, sa1[lvrti would not be deprived of a justified
ground; and it would then be reality itself, and not Sal?lVrti .... " CandrakIrti's point seems
simply to be that critical analysis is, ipso facto, constitutive not of the conventional but of
(a search for) ultimate truth; thus, if it were thought that conventionally admitted existents
could withstand this kind of "ultimate" analysis, then they could not be described as con-
ventionally admitted, and would instead have to be said to exist "ultimately." Of course,
CandrakIrti's characteristically Madhyamika point is that there is nothing that can thus
withstand analysis.
121 Ruegg: "Nor is there [simple] non-existence of a Siliiputraka and the like that are
in fact being analytically investigated as to [their having a] justified ground" (2002: 118).
This misconstrues the eva ("in fact") as though it qualified vidyamiina (rather than, as I
take it, Siliiputraka). CandrakIrti clearly means to emphasize that once we open up a crit-
ical analysis, it is not only conventionally admitted existents that are undermined, but the
putatively "ultimately existent" (paramiirthasat) analytic categories of the Abhidharma tra-
dition, as well.
122 That is, the skandhas (of which these are the first two), which, are among the sub-
jects to be treated in the remainder of the MMK.
123 67.12-68.4: AvasyaT(l caitad evam abhyupeyaT(l, anyathii hi saT(lvrtir upa- [p.68]
ative indication (upiidiiya prajnapti) is also extensively taught in the Mad-
hyamakiivatiira, so that should be consulted, tool24.
pattya na viyujyeta, tada-iyam [de Jong] tatNam eva syan, na saf!!Vrti/:t. Na ca upapattyii
viciiryamii,!iiniif!! siliiputrakiidfnam eva-asaf!!bhaval}, kif!! tarhi yuktyii
rupavedaniidfniim api niisti saf!!bhava iti; tesiim api samvrtyii siliiputraka iva-astitvam
astheyam syiit.
The last underlined portion here reflects a possible textual problem. I have made what
seems to me the best sense of this passage by refusing an emendation prqposed by La
Vallee Poussin, who follows some versions of the Tibetan (de dag kyang mchi gu la sogs
pa bzhin du kun rdzob tu yod pa ma yin pa nyid du khas blangs par 'gyur na) in suggesting
the reading: api saf!!vrtyii silaputrakadivan nastitvam astheyaf!! syat ... (Vaidya
[1960:23] adopts La Vallee Poussin's emendation. De Jong [1978] does not comment.) This
gives the opposite of my sentence: "They, too, like statues and so forth, would have to be
accepted as not existing conventionally." This is a conceptually possible reading, accord-
ing to which CandrakIrti' s point would have to be that even the conventional existence of
such things would have to be disallowed if it were thought (counterfactually) that the con-
ventional could be characterized by critical examination. It would, then, be the latter that
CandrakIrti here means to deny; for what CamJot be doubted, in any case, is that the skand-
has fail to survive critical examination.
The reading I prefer, though, seems more straightforwardly to follow what precedes it, as
CandrakIrti's point is instead that the merely "conventional" existence of the skandhas is
precisely what we have to accept. I take this as stated counterfactually, then, insofar ash
is a conclusion that CandrakIrti thinks his interlocutor wishes to avoid (though of course
Dignaga's generally Abhidharmika idea that there is an enumerable set of "ultimately exis-
tent" entities involves only not the skandhas). (For a conceptually similar pas-
sage, see n.141, below.) I would venture that it is the optative here that gives pause; for
this makes the sentence counterfactual, but it is not immediately clear (given the charac-
teristically laconic na caitad evam ity asad etat that follows) what is counterfactual about
it. My reading is warranted, though, by all of the manuscripts available to La Vallee Poussin
(cf., his n.3, p.68). Ruegg (2002: 118, with n.217) reads the Sanskrit as I do, noting some
divergence between different editions of the Tibetan canon, with the sDe-dge edition not
warranting La Vallee Poussin's emendation. Ruegg translates, however, very differently
(although plausibly): "Hence, as in the case of the Silaputraka, etc., on the surface-level
their existence is to be accepted. But since it is not [really] so, [in ultimate reality] it is
non-existent." (Ruegg 2002:118; my emphasis)
124 This sentence is not in the available Sanskrit manuscripts, but is preserved in the
Tibetan (and quoted by Tsong-kha-pa as occurring in Candraldrti's text; cf., Thurman
1991: 295): brten nas brtags par rnam par bzhag pa 'di yang dbu rna La 'jug ba las rgyas
par bstan pas de nyid las yongs su btsal bar bya'o. CandrakIrti refers us to the Madhya-
makavatara throughout the Prasannapada, so that the reference given here in the Tibetan
is not at all out of place - though it is not immediately clear how much of the foregoing
discussion is to be included as having been concerned with a "presentation of upadiiya pra-
jnapti." Presumably, though, CandrakIrti refers back to where he fIrst exemplifies what he
takes as the conventional usage of (p.60.5), and it is quite possible that he
means to characterize the entire discussion of as concerning upadiiya pra-
jnapti. Ruegg (2002: 119, n.218) cites Madhyarnakavatara 6.120, ff., for other discussions
of upadaya prajnapti. In a footnote to Tsong-kha-pa's reiteration of CandrakIrti's con-
[Objection:] What's the use of this harr-splitting? For we do not say
that all discourse involving warrants and warrantable objects is true;
rather, what is familiar in the world is [all that is] established by this
We respond: We, too, say, What's the use of this harr-splitting,
which delves into ordinary discourse? Let it be! Until there is under-
standing of reality, the conventional- its existence (sattiikii) come into
being (iitmabhiiva) as projected by nothing but error - is, for those who
desire liberation, the cause of the accumulation of the roots of merit that
convey [one] to liberation
. [p.69] But having introduced reasoning at
some point, you incoherently (anyiiyato) destroy it
, because of being
one whose intellect is ignorant of the distinction between conventional and
ultimate truth. 1 am the one who, based on skill in settling conventional
truth, situate myself in the ordinary perspective. Like a respected elder
(lokavrddha), I overturn one argument dedicated to the refutation of one
part of the conventional by another argument - and in so doing, I refute
only you, who are deviating from the conduct of the world. But [I do] not
[refute] the conventional

. eluding sentence, Thurman (1991: 295, n.l9) refers us instead to Madhyamakiivatiira 6.32,
ff. I take 6.158-165 as the section to which CandrakIrti here alludes - though of course
it is difficult to be.certain. I have developed my analysis of the expression "upiidiiya pra-
jiiapti" in Arnold (2005), Chapter 6.
125 68.5-6: Atha syiit: Kim anayii Naiva hi vaya7[l sarvapramiilJapra-
meyavyavahiira7[l satyam ity iica4mahe, ld7[l tu lokaprasiddhir nyiIyena vyavasthii-
pyata iti.
126 Ruegg: "What, indeed, is the use of this subtle [investigation] that introduces into
[sic] the transactional-pragmatic usage of ordinary folk in the world? To begin with, let
there be this sa7[lvrti wherein the existence of an entity is acquired through mere misap-
prehension, [but which may none the less be] the motivating cause ... so long as there is
[yetl no knowledge ofreality." (2002:119-20)
127 Thus I take etii7[l to pick up upapatti ("reasoning"), not (from the preceding sen-
tence) Sa/l1vrti. If, as it would be possible to do, we read etii7[l as thus referring back to
sCl7[lvrti, CandrakIrti's point would be the similar one that his interlocutor undermines the
conventional, simply by introducing a putatively probative argument - with the conven-
tional, CandrakIrti has already said, being constitutively lacking in critical analysis. On my
reading, by contrast, the point is that the problem is with Dignaga's replacing the con-
ventional with something else that is not itself "conventional" (i.e., with a peculiarly tech-
mcal account thereof, a putatively probative "upapatti"), while at the same time claiming
that his own account is conventional. On this reading, CandrakIrti is basically charging Dig-
naga with self-referential incoherence.
128 68.7-69.5: Ucyate: vayam apy eva7[l brumaf:t: Kim anayii suk.rmek.riyii laukikavyava-
hiire 'vatiirikayii? Ti.rthatu tiivad viparyiisamiitriisiiditiitmabhiivasattiikii sa7[lvrtir
Therefore, if it is ordinary discourse, then there must also be a subject
that possesses a characteristic bhavitavymrz) 129.
And therefore just this isfue problem [with your conception]. But in tenus
of ultimate truth, since there [ultimately] are no subjects
this pair of characteristics [i.e., sva- and does not exist,
either; whence, then, [your] two reliable warrants?130
Now perhaps it is not accepted [by you] that the derivation (vyutpatti)
of words thus depends on a connection between action and agent13I. This
is extremely problematic. You engage in discourse (vyavaharati)132 using
those very words whose use (pravrtta) depends ona connection between
action and agent - and yet you do not acknowledge the sense of words
as involving things like actions and instruments. You fool! Your sense
is bound to a mere fancy 133
yiivan na tattviidhigama iti.
Bhaviil'{ls tv etiil"[! sal"[!Vrtiparamiirthasatyavibhiigadurvidagdhabuddhitayii kva cid upapattim
avatiirya-anyiiyato niiSyati. So 'ham eva
sthitvii, sal"[!vrtyekaddaniriikaralJopakiptopapattyantariintaram [emend to upapattyan-
taram] upapattyantarelJa vinivartayan lokam vrddha [emend to lokavrddha] iva lokiiciiriit
paribhraSymiinal'{l bhavantam eva nivartayiimi, na tu sal'{lVrtil'{l.
129 I thus read as a compound, and the -vat suffIx in the sense of
possession - and not (as the Tibetan translation constrnes it) as the indeclinable
which would read" as in the case of a characteristic, there must also be a subject." (S(j
Ruegg: "Therefore, if [this be] worldly transactional-pragmatic usage ... , then,
ily, there must exist a in the same way as a ... " [2002: 120]. The Tibetan
reads: de'i phyir gal te 'jig rten pa'i tha snyad du yin na ni, de'i tshe mtshan nyid bzhin
du mtshan gzhir yang .... ) Given that CandrakIrti has wanted all along to show that Dig-
naga's conception of svalak:falJa founders on the necessity of admitting that there must be
some in which it is instantiated, the reading I have chosen seems to make more sense ..
. Thanks to Rick Nance for pointing this out to me.
130 69.5-7: Tasmiidyadi laukiko vyavahiiras, bhav:
itavyal"[!; tatas ca sa eva Atha paramiirthas, tadii api
niistfti, kutalJ pramiilJadvayal'{l? ."
131 That is, perhaps Dignaga will deny that the kiiraka analysis of verbal expressions'
(conventionally normative in the Sanskritic world) should hold sway. CandrakIrti takes
this concession as an occasion to restate the extent to which his whole critique of Dignaga's
account of (according to which, - constitutively neither having
any properties, nor being the properties of anything - are simply "self-characterizing")
has been informed chiefly by the characteristically Sanskritic analyses of language that were,
conventionally normative for his context.
132 Ruegg (121): "Your honour engages in transactional-pragmatic activity .... "
. in particular, I might have liked, "You conduct your business ... "; see nn.17, 32, abovt",
133 69.8-10: Atha sabdiiniim eva'll kriyiikiirakasal'{lbandhapilrvikii vyutpattir niingfkri(
And when, in this way, it has not been shown that there are [only] two
[kinds of] warrantable objects, then, by virtue of their not having as objects
either unique particulars or abstractions, [it follows that] tradition and so
forth [can also] have the status of additional reliable warrants
Moreover, because it doesn't include instances of ordinary discourse
like "a jar is perceptible,"135 and because of the acceptance of the dis-
course of ordinary people (aniirya), [your] definition (lakWlJa) has insuf-
ficient extension
- it doesn't make sense.!3?
[Objection:] [p.70] Things like color, which are what is appropriated
(upiidiina) as jars, are [said to be] 'perceptible' [simply] because of [their]
ate. Tad idam atika,rarrz. Tair eva kriyiikiirakasarrzbandhapravrttail:z sabdair bhaviin vyava-
.harati, sabdiirtharrz kriyiikaralJiidikarrz ca na-icchatfti. Aha bata-icchiimiitrapratibad-
dhapravrttitii [de Jong] bhavatal:z.
Here again, then, a charge of self-referential incoherence: Candrald:rti thus urges that his
interlocutor's own use of language has as a condition of its possibility the very features
that his view of svaiak,alJas commits him to denying.
134 69.11-12: Yadii ca-evarrz prameyadvayam avyavasthitarrz, tadii [svajsiimiinyala-
~ a l J [ iijvi,ayatvena-iigamiidfniirrz pramiilJiintaratvarrz.
Of course, this is only an unwanted consequence for Dignaga; CandrakIrti here approaches
his concluding endorsement of the Naiyayika pramiilJas as representing the best account
of our conventional epistemic practices; cf., 75.6-8 (n.182), below.
, 135 Here, CandrakIrti turns to a consideration specifically of Dignaga's account of "per-
ception" (pratyak,a). He begins by stating the main point he will be concerned to make:
that on the conventional use of the word pratyak,a, it is the adjectival sense ("percepti-
ble") that is primary. One might also (with Siderits 1981: 148, ff.) take the salient point
of the example "a jar is perceptible" to be that it is wholes like jars that are perceptible,
'and not the foundationalist's fleeting sense data. (See also Arnold 2001a:259, where it is
taken the same way.) This is, to be sure, as CandrakIrti would wish to argue, and it is
Clearly one upshot of this conventional usage; but Candrald:rti's way of making the point
iS,in characteristically Sanskritic fashion, to emphasize the grammatical point. In fact,
pratyakra must be an adjective in the example adduced by Candrald:rti; the noun form of
the word is neuter, and in Candrald:rti's example it has taken the masculine gender of the
word (ghatal:z) that it modifies. (The rule that explains this is cited by Dharmottara, who
also criticizes Diguaga's etymology; see n.148, below, for the reference.) That Candrald:rti
has a good claim to expressing the primary sense of the word is reflected in Apte
(1992: 1085), who gives several adjectival senses first.
136 Ruegg: " ... for the [postulated] lak,alJa, there exists no (logical-epistemological) per-
vasion ... " (2002: 122) But Candrald:rti would not, I think, have in mind this peculiarly
technical, dialectical use of the word, which has a quite common sense in grammatical lit-
,erature; cf., Abhyankar 1977:48 (s.v., avyiipti).
137 69.13-14: Kif!l ca "gharal:z pratyak,a" ity evam iidikasya laukikavyavahiirasya-
asarrzgrahiid, aniiryavyavahiiriibhyupagamiic ca, avyiipitii lak,alJasya-iti na yuktam etat.
determinability by the reliable warrant which is perception 138. Hence, just
as it is taught that "the birth of buddhas is bliss" - [an expression that
is understood as] involving figurative reference to the effect with respect
to [what is really] the cause - in the same way, a jar, even though
sioned by perceptibles like its color, is designated as 'perceptible,' mak-
ing a figurative reference to the cause with respect to [what is really] the

[Response:] [Appeal to] figurative usage does not make sense with
respect to a cognitive object of this kind. For in the world, birth is
hended as separate from happiness. Indeed, because of its being the cause
of many hundreds of evils - which is because of its having as its nature
the characteristic of [being] compounded - it [i.e., birth] is precisely
non-bliss. With respect to the sort of object where what is being taught
- "it [i.e., birth] is happiness" - is incoherent (asaY(lbaddha eva), fig-
urative usage makes sense. But in the present case - "a jar is percepti-
ble" - there is nothing at all called a jar which is imperceptible, [noth-
138 That is, Dignaga - once again challenged to show how his peculiarly technical usage
of words can be reconciled with examples of their ordinary use - here suggests that the
adjectival sense of the word pratyakifa is derivative, and that the word primarily functions
to pick out an epistemic faculty.
139 70.1-3: Atha syiit: ghatopiidiinaniliidayaf:z pratyakifapramiilJaparicchedy:
atviit (Tib., mngon sum gyi tshad mas yongs su gcad par bya ba yin pa 'i phyir mngon sum
yin te). Tatas ca yathaiva kiiralJe kiiryopaciirarrz krtvii, "buddhiiniirrz sukha utpiida" iti vya-
padifyate, evarrz pratyakifaniliidinimittako 'pi gharaf:z kiirye kiiralJopaciirarrz krtvii
iti vyapadisyate.
The same example (for which, cf., Dhammapada 14.16: sukho buddhiinarrz uppiido sukhii
saddhammadesanii / sukhii saJighassa siimaggf samaggiinarrz tapo sukho /I) is cited and
cussed in Vasubandhu's AbhidharmakosabhiiifYam (ad Abhidharmakosa 1.10; Pradhan
1975 :7), where it is also an example of kiiralJe kiiryopaciira. Cf., also, Nyiiyabindu 3.2 (and
Dhannottara's commentary thereon; Malvania 1971: 120-21), where the case of
thiinumiina is similarly considered a figurative usage of the word anumiina. Dignaga's
appeal to upaciira in his account of pratyakifa is much as CandrakIrti here represents it:
"The word pratyakifa is used with respect to three things: the reliable warrant, the aware"
ness [that results from the exercise thereof], and the object [of this awareness]. With respect
to these, [the usage designating] the reliable warrant is primary, and the others are secondary
(nye bar btags =Skt. aupaciirika). In this regard an object is [figuratively] characterized
as 'pratyakifa' since it is cognized by [the reliable warrant called] pratyakifa." (Pramiil}a-
samuccayavrtti ad 1.41c-d; Tibetan from Hattori, pp.233: mngon sum gyi sgra ni tshad
ma dang shes pa dang yul gsum la 'jug go. de la tshad ma La ni gtso bo yin La, gzhan dag
la ni nye bar btags pa yin te: de la yul la ni mngon sum gyi gzhal bya yin pa'i phyir
mngon sum du btags pa yin no.)
ing at all] separately apprehended (Prthag upalabdha) to which percep-
tibility could figuratively belong 140.
If it is said that perceptibility is figurative because of the non-existence
of a jar apart from [perceptible qualities] like color, then [appeal to] fig-
Urative usage makes even less sense, since there is no basis which is being
figuratively described; for the sharpness of a donkey's horn is not [even]
figuratively asserted (upacaryate). Moreover, if it is imagined that a jar,
which is part of ordinary discourse, has [only] figurative perceptibility
since (iti lqtvii) it doesn't exist apart from things like its color, then since
things like color don't exist apart from things like earth, either, the
[merely] figurative perceptibility of that color and so forth would also
have to be posited. As it is said [in Aryadeva's CatuJ:tSataka]: [p.71] "Just
as a pot does not exist as separate from things like its form, so, too, form
does not exist as separate from [basic elements] like air, etc"141.
140 70.3-7: Na evarrzvidhe upacaro yuktaf;; utpado hi loke sukhavyatirekel}opa-
labdha(l. Sa ca sarrzslq-talak/!al}asvabhavatvad asukha eva. Sa
sukha iti vyapadiSyamano 'sarrzbaddha evety; evarrzvidhe visaye [de Jong] yukta upacaraf;.
Gha{af; pratyak/!a ity atra tu, na hi ghato nama kascid yo 'pratyak$af; prthagupalabdho
yasya-upacarat syat.
The point is that recourse to upacara requires two terms: the thing figuratively described,
and the thing appealed to so to describe it. One is entitled to (indeed, one must) seek a sec-
ondary or figurative meaning, then, only when the two terms in play are such that, given
their primary meanings, their association produces an incoherent (or otherwise unexpected)
sentence. Thus, if we are to say that a jar is only figuratively "perceptible," we must
already know that there is, in fact, such a thing as ajar, and that it is simply not really per-
ceptible, such that these two terms ("jar" and "perceptible") were (like utpada and sukha)
"asarrzbaddha." But in fact, conventional usage reflects the belief that jars are percepti-
ble, so there is no obvious contradiction such as would require recourse to figurative expla-
nation. This point is obscured, I think, in Ruegg's translation, which I do not find clear:
." ... no such thing as a pot not directly perceptible is separately apprehended which might
become directly perceptible through transfer" (2002: 122).
141 70.8-71.2: Nfladivyatiriktasya gha{asyacabhtivad aupacarikarrz pratyak$atvam iii
cet, evam api sutaram upacaro na yukta, upacaryamal}asya-asrayasya-abhavat; na hi
kharavisane [de Jong] taik$l}yam upacalyate. Api ca, lokavyavaharangabhUto ghato yadi
niladivyatirikto nastfti lq-tva tasya-aupacarikarrz pratyak$atvarrz parikalpyate, nanv evarrz
sati prthivyadivyatirekel}a nfladikam api nastfti, nllader asya-aupacarikarrz pratyak$atvarrz
kalpyatarrz. Yathoktarrz: "Riipadivyatirekel}a yatha kumbho na vidyate, vayvadivyatirekel}a
fatha rLlparrz na vidyate" iti.
CandrakIrti thus argues that an appeal to figurative usage based on its really being the
parts of a jar (or jar-appearing "sense data") that are perceived is even less promising for
Dignliga, since that only opens the way for CandrakIrti' s characteristic point against the
reductionist version of Buddhism. That is, CandrakIrti will gladly concede that medium-
Therefore, since [your] definition does not accommodate these exam.
pIes of ordinary discourse, [your] definition has insufficient extension

the perceptibility of things like jars and colors and so forth is not
accepted from the point of view of one who knows reality (tattvavid
but according to worldly convention, the perceptibility of jars
and so forth is precisely to be accepted! As it is said in the
"The whole jar, unseen, is present even when only its color is seen; but
what knower of reality would say that a jar is [ultimately] perceptible?
By this very same reasoning, sweet fragrance, melodious sound, softness
- all [of these] are [similarly] to be denied by one possessed of supreme
intellect" 144.
Moreover, because of the fact that the word 'perception' is expressive
of the meaning visible an object that is plainly before us is
sized objects like jars are analytically reducible - but once having opened the way for
this kind of critical analysis, he will then press the point and urge that there is no irreducible
remainder, so that analytic categories like sense data must themselves be understood as
dependent. This passage, it seems to me, provides some warrant for my reading of the
problematic passage at 68.2-4; cf., n.123, above. The verse cited is CatuJ:zsataka 14.15;
cf., Lang 1986: 130-31.
142 That is, it doesn't cover all the usages that a successful definition would have to
cover; cf., n.136, above, and Ruegg (2002:123).
143 Ruegg (2002: 123) here begins a new paragraph, and indicates that a different point
is being addressed. I follow the paragraphs of La Vallee Poussin' s edition, though, and take
Candrakfrti here to be amplifying the same point.
144 71.3-9: Tasmad evamadikasya lokavyavaharasya lakifGlJena-asaY(!grahad, avyapi-
taiva lakifGlJasyeti. Tattvavidapekifaya hi "pratyakifatvaY(! gha{adrnaY(! n!ladlnall! ca na-
ifYate"; lokasaY(!vrtya tv abhyupagantavyam eva pratyakifatvay(! gha{adrnaY(!. Yathoktal"J"l
Satake: "Sarva eva gha{o 'drifto rupe rJTifte hi jayate, bruytit kas tattvavinnama gharaJ:z
pratyakifa ity api? Etenaiva vicarel}a sugandhi madhuraY(! mrdu, pratiifedhayitavyani
sarval}y uttamabuddhina" iti.
The last passage quoted is CatuJ:zsataka 13.1-2 (Lang 1986: 118-9; Tillemans 1990: vol.
1, 175). I take the point to be that, conventionally, one speaks of the whole jar as "per-
ceptible," even though it is of course technically true that one only really "perceives" var-
ious aspects of it. It is, nevertheless, said to be perceptible from the conventional per-
spective, and the contrast is thus with the perspective of a "knower of reality" (tattvavid)
- that is, the perspective of a fully realized Buddha, who of course realizes that there is
nothing that is ultimately "perceptible." This quotation furthers Candrakfrti's critique of
pratyakifa as a privileged pramal}a. It is fitting that Candrakfrti should begin this section
by quoting the CatuJ:zsataka; for arguments like those advanced here are also developed
in chapter 13 of Candrakfrti's CatuJ:zsatakavrtti, which is a key source for this argument
against pratyakifa; in Tillemans 1990, voU, pp.175-199 (trans.), and vol.2, pp.60-l27
(Tibetan text, Sanskrit fragments); and especially p.277n, 287n.
[conventionally s;lid to be] 'perceptible. '145 By virtue of the fact that (iti
krtva) the sense organ is directed towards it, the perceptibility of
visible things like jars and color and so forth is established. [p.72] Since
a cognition that discerns these [jars, color, etc.] has a perceptible [object]
as its cause, [it] is designated [as] being a perception, as [in the case of]
a straw- or chaff-fire
. But
the etymology of one who etymologizes
(vyutpadayati) the word 'perception' as [what] is directed towards each
sense faculty prati vartate)148 doesn't make sense, because
of the cognition's not having the sense faculty as its object - rather, its
object is an object. [Following the etymology of Dignaga,] we should
145 If I rightly understand the section that begins here, Ruegg (2002: 124, ff.) has sig-
nificantly mistaken the dialectical flow of the argument here; for Ruegg introduces this
passage as having been spoken by CandrakIrti's imagined interlocutor -whereas on my
reading, this passage advances C andrakfrti' s preferred account of the word
That is, CandrakIrti is here elaborating what he takes to be the conventional - the pri-
marily adjectival - use of the word, according to which cognitions are so called only in
the derivative sense that they arise in connection with something 'perceptible'.
146 That is, such fires are similarly so-called because of having straw or chaff as their
causes. This is CandrakIrti's preferred way of explaining the (nominal) sense of the word
pratyak:fa as denoting an episternic faculty. Of this move, Tillemans (1990, voLl: 44)
aptly says: "By shifting etymologies CandrakIrti tries to make perception banal: any con-
sciousness, conceptual or not, caused by a perceptible object will be termed
pratyak:fa." As we will see below (at p.75.2-4; cf., n.179, below), one of the upshots of
this is that, given the range of objects conventionally described as "perceptible," it becomes
appropriate to say (contra Dignaga) that what Dignaga would consider to be "abstrac-
tions" are among the objects of perception.
147 Ruegg (2002: 125) takes this to begin CandrakIrti's response to the preceding; on
my reading, though, CandrakIrti is here building on the same point. More particularly,
CandrakIrti now proceeds to show that Dignaga's preferred etymological explanation of
the word cannot be made to fit with the preceding observations - which, again, describe
CandrakIrti's sense of the conventional usage. It would, then, be incoherent to attribute the
preceding passage to Dignaga, since CandrakIrti' s point now is to show that the preced-
ing is precisely what Dignaga's usage cannot explain.
148 Hattori notes (1968: 76-77, n.l.l1) that CandrakIrti here critiques the etymology
given by Dignaga in his *Nyayamukha; cf., Ruegg (2002:125, n.233). As Ruegg there
notes, Dharmottara's Nyayabindu{fka also discusses Dignaga's etymology, against which
Dharmottara proposes his own account of pratyak:fa - interestingly, one that does explain
the adjectival sense of the word (though the main objective of Dharmottara and his com-
mentator Durvekamisra is to argue for an etymology that makes it possible for manasa-,
yogi-, and to count as instances of whereas given the
etymology of Dignaga, it only makes sense to think of indriya-pratyak:fa as properly an
example of the genus.) See Malvania 1971 :38-39 (where Durvekamisra specifically names
Dignaga as the one whose view is there under critique).
[counterfactually characterize the faculty that picks out perceptible objects
like jars as] "occurring in connection with an object" or
"occurring in connection with a thing" (praty-artham)149.
[Objection:] Even given that the functioning of perceptual cogni-
tion (vijfzana) is dependent upon both [the sense faculty and an object],
it is based on conformity with the acuity 150 of the basis (asraya) - i.e.,
because perceptual cognitions have the quality of changing as that [basis]
- that there is designation [of the episternic faculty] precisely
in terms of the basis [thereof]. [Thus, for example, we speak of] ocular
cognition [which is named for the eye]. In just the same
way, even if it proceeds always towards objects, nevertheless, proceed-
ing always in reliance upon the senses, the cognition is designated in
terms of the basis [upon which it thus relies]; hence, it will be [called]
'perception' "with respect to the senses "). For it is [com-
149 71.10-72.3: Api abhimukho
'rthal:z Pratigatam asminn iti krtvii, ghatanfliidfniim
siddhaYfl bhavati. Tatpariccheda-[p.72]-kasya jiiiinasya
(Tib.: mngon sum gyi rgyu can yin pa'i phyir), vya-
padisyate. Yas tv prati vartata iti vyutpiidayati, tasya
ca na yuktii vyutpattil:z. tu
syiit pratyartham iti vii.
With this last point, CandrakIrti effectively charges that Dignaga's own etymology does-
n't serve his purposes; for insofar as Dignaga wants primarily to designate the privileged
epistemic faculty that "operates with respect to" (prati vartate) perceptibles, he would be
better off etymologizing prati vartate - in which case, though, the fac-
ulty would be called (or pratyartha), not Ruegg, thinking that Can-
drakIrti is here giving his preferred account, misses the fact that CandrakIrti is adducing
what is an unwanted consequence for Digniiga. Thus, Ruegg seems not to appreciate that
the optative verb at the conclusion is meant to indicate something counterfactual, and
"instead translates the last sentence thus: "But let there stand [the expression]
or [the expression] pratyartham." (Ruegg 2002: 125-6)
150 asrayasya pa{umandatii; literally, "the basis's being sharp or dull."
151 Literally, "because of cognitions' being possessors of change when there is change
of that ... " The reference here (noted by Ruegg [2002: 126, n.235]) is clearly to Abhid-
1.45 (pradhan 1975 :34), which begins tadvikiiravikiiritviid asrayiis
("the loci [of the senses are] the eyes, etc., because of [cognition's] chang-
ing when there is change in those"). The (Ibid.) explains: hi vikiirel!a
tadvijiiiiniiniiYfl bhavaty anugrahopaghiitapa{umandatiinuvidhiiniin na tu rupiidfniiytl
vikiirelJll tadvikiiral:z ("for [change] arises on the part of cognitions arising from [the senses],
inasmuch as they are functioning or destroyed, sharp or dull, etc., according to change on
the part of the eyes and so forth; but change in that [i.e., cognition] is not according to
change on the part of the [cognized] forms, etc").
monly] seen [that there is] designation [of a thing] in terms of its specific
cause (asiidhiira1)a), [as, e.g., we speak of] the sound of a drum, a sprout
of barley, [even though there are also other causes operating to produce
these effects]l52.
[Response:] This [case of is not the same as the forego-
; for in that case, if perceptual cognition (vijfiiina) were being defined
in terms of its object - as, for example, "perceptual cognition of form,"
etc - then the difference[s that obtain] on the part of the sixfold per-
ceptual cognition could not be made clear, since mental cognition (manovi-
jfziina) proceeds with respect to the very same object as visual cogni-
. [p.73] That is, if the sixfold cognition of color, etc. 155, were
[merely] called 'perceptual cognition' (vijfiiinam) , [simpliciter,] there
[would] arise a conception accompanied by an expectation, [to wit:] "is
this a perceptual cognition produced by the senses that possess form
or is it a mental [cognition]?" But when the specification is in terms of
the basis [ofthe sense], even given the possibility that mental cognition
152 72.4-7: Atha syiit, yathobhayiidhfniiyiim api vijfziinapravrttiiv, iisrayasya pa{uman-
datii-anuvidhiiniid vijfziiniinii/'{! tadvikiiravikiiritviid, iisrayelJaiva vyapadeSo bhavati,
cakeurvijfziinam iti; eva/'{! yady apy artham artha/'{! prati vartate, tathiipy ak:fam akeam
iisritya vartamiina/,{! vijfziinam, iisrayelJa vyapaddiit; iti bhavieyati. DN{o hy
asiidhiiralJena vyapadeSo bherfsabdo yaviilikura iti.
Here, it is a discussion in Dignaga's PramiilJasamuccaya (1.4a-b) that is likely referred to.
Hattori gives the Sanskrit of Dignaga's kiirikii at p.87, n.1.32: asiidhtiralJahetutviid akeais
, tad vyapadisyate. The vrtti on this passage then proceeds to discuss precisely the exam-
ples here adduced by CandrakIrti (viz., those of the "sound of a drum" and "sprout of bar-
ley"). Hattori's translation of the vrtti here is at 1968:26, and the Tibetan is at pp.179-181;
cf., also, Hattori's n.1.33, p.87; and Ruegg's comment (2002: 127, n.237).
153 That is, the example of cak:;urivijfziina' s being so called is not relevant to the case
of pratyakea's being so called, for reasons to be made clear presently.
154 That is, the only reason for specifying the different vijfziinas in terms of the vari-
ous indriyas from which they arise is to distinguish them from manovijfiiina ("mental cog-
nition"); for according to standard Abhidharmika analysis, the proper object of "mental
cognition" just is the outputs of (the "cognitions "yielded by) the other five senses. Manovi-
jiliina, then, cannot be distinguished in terms of its object insofar as it has as its object the
outputs of the other vijfziinas - and hence, their objects. The point that mental cognition
thus bears, in a sense, on the same object as the various sensory cognitions is, it seems to
me, not clear from Ruegg's translation: " ... for a mental cognition bears on a single object,
along with eye-cognition, etc ... " (2002: 127).
155 That is, of all of the various things that respectively constitute the proper objects of
the six kinds of sensory cognition.
156 That is, by one of the five bodily senses.
functions with respect to the objects of the ocular and 'other [sensory]
cognitions, the difference between them is [nonetheless] established

But in this case [i.e., that of if, with a desire to explain
the definition of reliable warrants, it's accepted [by you] that the fact of
being a perception belongs only to what is devoid of conception
, [then]
because it's desired [by you] that we distinguish that [i.e., perception]
only from conception, no benefit whatsoever is seen in designation accord-
ing to the special cause

And given that the function and number of reliable warrants are depend-
ent on warrantable objects, and because of the presentation of the nature
(svarupa) of [your] two reliable warrants - whose reality is gained by
virtue of the fact simply of [their] following the forms of [the two kinds
of] warrantable objects - specification in terms of the sense [faculties]
does not help at all; hence, designation precisely by the object is in every
way suitable

157 72.8-73.3: Na-etat pilrvelJa tulyal[l. Tatra hi vijfiiine iiyapadisyamiine,
rilpavijfiiinam ityevamiidinii, bhedo na-upadarsitaiJ syiit, manovijfiiinasya
Tathii hi vijfiiinam
ity ukte, eva pratyayo iiiyate [de J ong]: "kim etad rilpfndriyajal[l vijfiiinam,
iihosvin miinasam?" iti. AsrayelJa tu vyapade.e,
pravrttisal[lbhave 'pi, parasparabhedaiJ siddho bhavati.
158 Here, the iha still relates to the previous paragraph's na-etat pilrvelJa tulyam ("this
is not the same as the preceding"). Thus, the interlocutor had wanted to say that
should be named in terms of its iisraya (i.e., the senses), just as the various vijfiiinas are.
CandrakIrti has responded that the cases aren't comparable, and has just explained why the
vijfiiinas are designated as they are. Now, he explains why is designated as it is
- or rather, as Digniiga's project would require .
Here, CandrakIrti brings in Dignaga's defmition of as constitutively
"devoid of conceptual elaboration" (kalpaniipotj.ha).
160 73.4-6: lha tu kalpaniipotj.hamiitrasya
hyupagame sati, vikalpakiid eva asiidhiiralJakiiralJena vyapadese
sati [strike this], na kil[l cit prayojanam
Here, I read according to La Vallee Poussin's n.8, p.73, which indicates that the second
sati in this sentence (i.e., p.73.5) is lacking in the Tibetan, and should be struck, so that
the locative can be taken as a saptami. The point is just that, given Dignaga's def-
inition of all he should be interested in doing is being sure to advance a nirukti
that excludes kalpanii - just as cakeurvijfiiina is so called only in order to distinguish it
from manovijfiiina. But taking to refer to the iisraya does not advance that
cause in any way.
161 73.6-8: Prameyaparatantriiyiil[l ca pramiilJasal[lkhyiipravrttau, prameyiikiiriinukiiri-
tiimiitratayii ca samiisiiditiitmabhiivasattiikayoiJ pramiilJayoiJ svarilpasya vyavasthiipaniin,
[Objection:] Since the word 'perception,' in the sense intended, is
well known in the world, and since the word 'with respect to an object'
(pratyartha) is not well known, the etymology just in terms of the basis
[of the sense faculty] is followed [by us]162.
We respond: [p.74J This word 'perceptible' is indeed well-known
in the world
; but it is explained by us [and not by you] precisely as it
is in the world
. But if, with disregard for ordinary categories as they
are established, your etymology is being offered, [then] there would also
be disregard for the expression 'well-known'! 165 And based on that [dis-
regard], what is [commonly] called 'perception' would not be SUCh
na-indriyer;za vyapaddal} kiTJ1 cid upakarotfti, sarvathii vi.rayer;zaiva vyapaddo nyiiyyal}.
Again, CandrakIrti here accepts, ex hypothesi, Dignaga's goals, noting that according to
these one ought to want a nirukti that etymologizes pratyak.ra in terms of its object, since
the whole point of Dignaga' s account is that pramiir;za follows/corresponds to prameya. But
of course, if CandrakIrti wins this concession, then he's well on the way to advancing the
trivialization of Dignaga' s privileged epistemic faculty.
162 73.9-74.1: Loke pratyak.rasabdasya prasiddhatviid, vivak.rite 'rthe pratyarthasab-
dasya-apratisiddhatviid, iisrayer;zaiva vyutpattir iisrfyata iti cet.
Here, CandrakIrti's interlocutor turns the tables, rejoining that, on Candrakfrti's etymo-
logical principles, the epistemic faculty that picks out perceptibles ought to be called prat-
yartham - and since such is clearly not the case, it cannot be that the adjectival sense is
. rightly thought to be primary.
163 Ruegg (taking asti in an existential sense, and not as a copula): "There is this word
pratyak.ra which is current among ordinary folk in the world ... " (2002: 129).
164 Ruegg misses the disjunctive sense of tu here, taking it instead as vacuous
("indeed"): "We have indeed expressed this just as it is in the world" (2002:129). This
misses the contrast that CandrakIrti here urges between his own deference to conventional
usage, and (what he takes to be) Dignaga's inability to accommodate such usage.
165 The compoundprasiddhasabda could also be rendered thus: "there would also be
disregard for the well-known word [i.e., pratyak.ra]."
166 74.1-3: Ucyate: asty ayaTJ1 pratyak.rasabdo lokaprasiddhal} [de Jong]. Sa tu yathii loke,
tathiismiibhir ucyata eva. Yathiisthitalauldkapadiirthatiraskiire(la tu tadvyutpiide kriyamiir;ze,
prasiddhasabdatiraskiiro 'pi syiit [de Jong], tatas ca pratyak.ram ityevaTJ1 [na] syiit.
Again, Ruegg reads the optative (syiit) in an existential rather than a copulative sense (cf.,
n.163, above): "Thus there would not exist the term 'pratyak.ra'." (2002:130) But Can-
drakIrti's point, I think, is one that is comparable to a point made by many twentieth-cen-
tury "ordinary language" philosophers: viz., that one cannot use a well-known, ordinary
word, and yet substitute for it a peculiarly technical sense - for in that case it's then no
longer the same thing that is under discussion. What CandrakIrti is saying, then, is not that
the word pratyak.ra would not exist, but simply that the things conventionally designated
by the word would not be rightly so called - in which case, most people would be wrong
in their use of what is supposed to be a conventional word (a supposition that contradicts
its being "conventional").
And there could not be, on the part of one visual cognition, whose
basis is a single moment of sense faculty, the quality of being a percep-
tion, since there would be no point in repetition (vfpsarthtibhtivat) 167 ; and
if there is absence of the quality of being a perception on the part of one
[such moment], there would be [such absence] on the part of many
[instances of cognition, i.e., a continuum], too
And because you accept that only cognition that is devoid of concep-
tion is perception
; and since nobody's discourse is by way of that [kind
of cognition] 170; and because of the desirability of explainingl7l worldly
167 Here, CandrakIrti begins a new tack, one that again accepts, ex hypothesi, Dignaga's
commitments - here, presumably, the idea of k:;alJikatva ("momentariness"), according
to which pratyak:;a, like any cognitive event, would be constitutively episodic - would,
that is, have to consist in atomic moments of sense-function. This, then, is the context for
CandrakIrti's reference to the grammarians' device of vfpsa (Tib., zlos pa), "repetition"
- specifically (according to Apte, p.1487, s. v., meaning #2), the notion of "Repetition of
words to imply continuous or successive action." (Apte gives the example "vrk:;arrz vrk:;arrz
sificati.") This is the device that is invoked in etymologizing pratyak:;a as ak:;am ak:farrz
prati vartate, and CandrakIrti is pointing out that "repetition" (ak:fam ak:;am) implies a con-
tinuity or successiveness such as could not obtain given the idea of radical k:falJikatva.
Thus, a single, atomic moment of (say) ocular perception could not warrant the gram-
marians' device of vfpsa.
168 74.3-5: Ekasya ca cak:;urvijfianasya-ekendriyak:;alJasrayasya pratyak:;atvarrz na
syad vfpsartMbMvat (Tib., zlos pa'i don med pa'i phyir) ekaikasya ca pratyak:;atva-
bMve, bahUnam api na syat.
This last point is then reminiscent of one of the fundamental points of Vasubandhu' s cri-
tique of atoms in the Virrzsatika (and of Dignaga's similar arguments from the Alambana-
parfk:;a): if a single, "atomic" moment of perceptual cognition does not make sense (here,
insofar as it renders the repetition ak:;am ak:;am meaningless), then there is nothing out of
which to build up a succession (or "continuum," sarrztana) of sensory cognitions, either.
This is all put very elliptically, and the point, again, is simply to argue that Dignaga' s pro-
posed account does not advance (because it is not coherent with) his own goals.
169 Ruegg (2002: 130) here, as throughout this section, renders pratyak:;a as 'percepti-
ble'; but I think that if we are to make sense of these passages, we must take CandrakIrti
to be provisionally adopting Dignaga's preferred sense of the word. As with the earlier
discussion of svalak:falJa, then, the debate concerning pratyak:fa similarly involves some
alternation in meaning, insofar as it is precisely what the word should mean that is most
basically in question.
170 The word tena here will, I think, admit of two readings: it can mean something like
"thus" or "therefore," in which case what follows (lokasya sarrzvyavahiirabhiivat) is
intended counterfactually ("because there would be no meaningful discourse on the part
of the world"); or it can refer back to kalpanapoqhajfiana, in which case (as in my trans-
lation) it simply says there is no meaningful discourse in the world of the sort that makes
use of this conception. The latter is probably the more Sanskritically straightforward read-
discourse with respect to reliable warrants and warrantable objects -
[your] conception of the reliable warrant that is perception becomes quite
senseless 172.
[You have cited, in support of your claim that perception is constitu-
tively devoid of conceptual elaboration, a familiar Abhidharma text that
says,] "A man endowed [only] with visual cognition senses
blue, but
[he does] not [know] that it is blue.,,174 The point of this authoritative text
(agama) is not to state a definition of but [is instead simply
ing in the present context, but CandrakIrti can (and, I have argued elsewhere, should) be
understood as well to be making the stronger point - viz., that Dignaga's whole project
is self-referentially incoherent, insofar as his use of ordinary words in peculiarly techni-
cal senses would absurdly entail the impossibility even of the discourse in which he is
engaged; for it is a condition of the possibility of meaningful discourse that people under-
stand words in more or less the same way. Ruegg renders tena here in the way that could
recommend this stronger point: " ... and because there is, therefore, [according to your
doctrine on this matter] no [simple] transactional-pragmatic usage .... " (2002: 130; my
171 vyiikhyiitum iij!atviit. This could be read in a couple of ways - it could be taken
normatively (i.e., as reflected in the translation I have given here), in which case we might
prefer here to see a gerundive; or it could simply be stating Dignaga's own avowed inter-
ests (in which case, we might render, "since you desire to explain ... ").
172 74.6-8: Kalpaniipoghasyaiva ca jMnasya pratyakijatviibhyupagamiit, tena ca lokasya
sal'{lvyavahiiriibhiiviit, lauldkasya ca pramiilJaprameyavyavahiirasya vyiikhyiitum iijiatviit,
vyarthaiva pratyakijapramiilJakalpanii sal'{ljayate.
173 Here, I read (following a quotation of this sentence by Yasomitra) vijiiniiti (rather
than with Candraldrti's jiiniiti). See n.174.
174 "Cakijurvijiiiinasamangi nilal'{l jiiniiti no tu nilam iti." Dignaga cites this quotation
in his vrtti to PramiilJasamuccaya 1.4 (translated at Hattori, p.26; Tibetan at Hattori, p.179),
where he reports that it is said "in an Abhidharma treatise" (chos mngon pa las). The pas-
sage can be found in, e.g., the Abhidharmakosavyiikhyii of Yasomitra, whose text reads vijii-
niiti (in contrast with Candraldrti's jiiniiti); see Shastri 1998: 72. (According to Ruegg
[2002:131, n.254],Yasomitra is quoting the Vijiiiinakiiya.) Hattori succinctly summarizes
the motivation behind Dignaga' s citation of this: "The expression 'nilal'{l vijiiniiti' implies
that one has an immediate awareness of the object itself. On the other hand, 'nilam iti
vijiiniiti' implies that one forms a perceptual judgement by associating a name with the
object perceived. Thus, the above Abhidharma passage expresses the thought that percep-
tion is free from conceptual construction (kalpaniipogha)." (1968: 88, n.1.36) On my ren-
dering "nilam iti" with a "that-clause," see Arnold (2005), Chapter 7.
175 iigamasya pratyakijalakijalJiibhidhiiniirthasya-aprastutatviit. Though a Sanskritically
natural way to express CandrakIrti' s point, this phrase is particularly difficult to render in
a syntactically literal way into English. Such a rendering would go something like this:
"because the point (artha) of stating a deflnition of pratyakija is not the subject (a-pras-
tuta) of this iigama" - or more precisely (disclosing the fact that this predication is stated
in the form of a genitive-pIus-tva construction), "because of [this] point's not being the
that of] [p.75] demonstrating (pratipiidaka) the insentience (jaqatva) of
the five [bodily] senses!76. Hence
, not on the basis of authoritative texts,
either, [can it be said that] the quality of being perception belongs only
to cognition that is devoid of conception; hence, this [characterization of
as "devoid of conceptual elaboration"] does not make sense

Therefore, in the world, if any (sarvam eva) subject of characterization
- whether it be a or a - is visi-
ble, because of being directly apprehended, then it is established as per-
ceptible, along with the cognition that has it as its object [which is deriv-
subject of this iigama." Such constructions are, I think, generally best rendered in the lat-
ter way ("X's being Y"), which discloses that such constructions generally state simple iden-
tities ("X is Y") - but do so in such a way as to make it possible to show the inferential
consequences of such identities (so that, putting the Y tenn in the ablative, we get, "because
ofX's being Y"). But when the tenn in the genitive (arthasya) is, as in this case, the final
member of a lengthy compound, this becomes impossible. It is, however, impor-
tant to see that the construction can be read this way, since, in the present case, another
alternative is to take the second genitival compound as a bahuvrfhi: "because of the irrel-
evance of this iigama, which has as its purpose the expression of a definition of percep-
tion." So Ruegg: " ... there is no relevance [here] of the Agama which has the sense
expressing the defining characteristic of direct perception." (2002:131; my emphasis)
The problem is that on this construal, the claim does not effectively counter Dignaga's
appeal to it. Ruegg tries to salvage CandrakIrti' s point by taking the sentence to mean that
this passage, though defming 'perception,' is not relevant here. On my reading, in contrast,
CandrakIrti more basically contests Dignaga's understanding of the passage. In fact, the
context for Yasomitra's citation of the passage (see n.174) recommends CandrakIrti's
point; for Yasomitra adduces the quotation in commenting on the part of Vasubandhu's
text that treats the cognitive outputs of the five non-mental senses - and the point of the
passage is (as Candraldrti. goes on to say) thus to urge simply that the outputs of the five
sense faculties are not meaningful until they have become the objects, as well, of the
manovijfiiina. This quotation, as deployed by these Abhidharmikas, therefore indeed does
not .state a defmition of perception, but instead makes a characteristically Abhidharmika
point about the relationship between the five bodily "vijfiiinas" and the manovijiiiina.
176 That is, their being "non-epistemic" until they have become the objects of the
manovijfiiina; see the preceding note. Ruegg's rendering of the fust reason (preceding
note) obscures the recognition that this second reason represents a contrasting interpreta-
tion of the same text (i.e., of the quotation adduced by Dignaga); thus, Ruegg translates:
" ... and (n) Agama makes known that the five cognitions belonging to the sense faculties
are [in themselves] insentient." (2002: 131)
177 Both of the foregoing phrases occur in the ablative, giving two reasons for the con-
clusion now stated.
178 74.8-75.2 nfla'Tl jiiniiti no tu nflam iti" ity ca-iigamasya
paficii-[p.75]niim indriyavijfiiiniinii'Tl
jatfatvapratipiidakatviic ca, na-iigamiid api kalpaniipotfhasyaiva vijfiiinasya
iti na yuktam etat.
atively called But twin moons and other such [illusions]
do not, from the point of view of the cognition of one without cataracts,
have the quality of being perceptible - although from
the point of view of one with cataracts, [such illusions] have precisely the
quality of being perceptible

179 This, then, is the point Candraldrti has been driving at all along: if it is finally the
adjectival sense of ("perceptible") that is primary, and if this motivates the
derivative usage of the word that denotes as well "the cognition that has [any perceptible
thing] as its object" jiiiinena saha), then the word cannot be thought to pick
out a privileged cognitive instrument (one that is "kalpaniipOlfha"). In that case, it must
be allowed that "abstractions" too, are "perceptible." Ruegg's trans-
lation misses what I thus take to be the point: "Therefore, for ordinary folk in the world,
if [as claimed by you, there indeed exists] a or if [there indeed exists both] a
and a all will in fact be not unamenable to perception, for there
will [then] be immediate apprehension." (2002: 131) As quickly becomes clear, the con-
fusion here follows from Ruegg's not taking this all to represent Candrakfrti's own con-
clusion about the proper understanding of Hence, Ruegg completes this passage
thus: "And [by you] the is accordingly set out systematically along with the
(vi)jiiiina having it for its object."
180 75.2-5: Tasmiillake yadi yadi vii vii, sar-
yam eva upalabhyamiinatviid atal} pratyak$a'fl vyavasthiipyate
jiiiinena saha. Dvicandriidinii'fl tv
taimirkiidyapek$ayii tu eva.
Ruegg takes the last sentence as stating an unwanted consequence for Dignaga: "How-
ever, [following your doctrine,] in respect [even] to those who are affected by eye-disease
and the like there will indeed be direct perceptibility." (Ruegg 2002: 132; cf., his n.256)
I take it that this is, rather, part of the account of pratyak$a that Candraldrti is commend-
ing as contra Dignaga's, and that it therefore states a positively desired consequence -
desired, that is, insofar as it undercuts the privileged status of Dignaga's category of "per-
ception." Candraldrti's point, then, is that perception is not intrinsically better suited, inde-
pendent of context, to confer justification; rather, what is "perceptible" is always relative
to perceivers and their contexts.
Candraldrti's point about the genuine "perceptibility" of "twin moons" represents precisely
the sort of claim that is reversed by such later "sviitantrikas" as Ifianagarbha and San-
taraksita. Consider, e.g., Ichigo's statement of the impetus behind the sviitantrika distinc-
tion between "true" and "false conventional": " ... owes one of his defini-
tions of conventional truth... to Ifianagarbha' s basic idea of conventional truth 'as it
appears.' This being the nature of conventional reality, should we then also regard as con-
ventional truth the double moon that appears to those who have defective vision? Partly
in response to this issue, Ifianagarbha distingnishes two types of conventional truth, namely
true and false conventional truth." (lchigo 1989: 169) To the extent that Candraldrti's point
is to emphasize only how dramatically limited is our perspective relative to the ultimate
truth, he is not simply saying that, on the conventional level, "anything goes." Indeed, Can-
draldrti may posit something analogous to the sviitantrikas' mithyiisa'flvrti in the form of
"alakasa'flvrti" ("non-worldly conventional"); cf., Prasannapadii 493.2-4. With his char-
But cognition whose object is [something] invisible, [when such cog-
nition is] produced by a mark that is invariably concomitant (avyabhicarin)
with the thing to be proven, [is known as] inference
The speech of those
who are accomplished, who know diTectly things that are beyond the
senses - this is [known as] tradition. Understanding of a thing not [pre-
viously] experienced, based on [its] similarity [with something familiar,
is known as] comparison - for example, [when one learns that,] "a cow
is like an ox." Just so: everyone's understanding of things is established
based on this fourfold [scheme of] reliable warrants.
acteristic stress that "conventional" means "lacking in critical analysis," though, Can-
draldrti may invite some clarification such as the sviitantrikas elaborated. We can never-
theless appreciate that Candraldrti's basic point here is simply to relativize our epistemic
instruments: none is intrinsically suited to confer justification, which will always be a
matter of context - and the context of those of us who are not already Buddhas is such
that none of our cognitive instruments can be thought to put us into cognitive contact with
anything that is "ultimately existent" (paramarthasat).
181 Not having seen that the preceding section represented Candrakiiti.'s preferred
account of Ruegg now seems not to see the natural segue here to Candrakirti's
endorsing (as conventionally valid, at least) the standard Naiyayika list of pramiil}ls. Thus,
Ruegg translates: "On the other hand, a jiiiina that .... " (2002: 132) But Candrakirti is not,
I take it, here offering an alternative to the foregoing; rather, having endorsed a charac-
teristically Naiyayika understanding of perception (i.e., as including "abstractions" among
its objects), he is now proceeding more generally to endorse this alternative to Dignaga's
spartan epistemology.
182 75.6-9: tu jiiiinarrz siidhyiivyabhiciirilingotpannam, anumiinarrz.
atindriyiirthavidiim iiptiiniirrz tad vacanarrz, sa iigamalJ. SiidrSyiid ananubhiltiirthii-
dhigama upamiinarrz, gaur iva gavaya iti yathii. Tad evarrz lokasya-
arthiidhigamo vyavasthiipyate.
Cabez6n, commenting on a quotation of this passage by the dGe-Iugs-pa scholar mKhas-
grub-Ije, considers it "a conundrum why Candraldrti chose to cite four types of valid cog-
nitions (as the Naiyayikas do, for example), and not the standard two of Dignaga and
Dharmaldrti." (1992:454n) He takes the point of the passage, in the hands of mKhas-
grub-Ije, to be that of "proving that the Madhyamikas do not in general repudiate the
notion of a valid cognition" (1992: 118) - that is, that Madhyamaka can retain the proj-
ect of Dignaga and Dharmaldrti as at least conventionally useful. It should be clear by
now, though, that Candraldrti's endorsement of this fourfold schema is meant to be an
endorsement of what he takes to be an adequate account of our conventional episteInic prac-
tices - and that specifically contra the account of Dignaga, which Candraldrti takes to
be (not only not ultimately but) not even conventionally valid. The characteristically dGe-
lugs-pa fudging of this point serves the goal of taking Candraldrti as normative, while at
the same time retaining precisely the epistemological discourse he so clearly disInisses. It
raises interesting historical and philosophical questions that this Tibetan tradition should
thus have wedded what Candraldrti, at least, took to be antithetical projects.
And these are established in dependence upon one another: given reli-
able warrants, there are warrantable objects, and given warrantable objects,
there are reliable warrants
But it is emphatically not the case that the
establishment of reliable warrants and their objects is essential (svab-
hiivikl)184. Therefore, let the mundane remain just as it is seen

Enough of this subject (aZaY(l prasangena)! We will [now] explain the
real matter at hand. The teaching of the dharma of the blessed Buddhas
[was given with them] having located themselves precisely in the worldly

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183 Cf., Oetke's comment, n.87, above.
184 Here, Candrakfrti finally makes clear the presupposition that, on his view, guides
Dignaga's whole project (and the presupposition, therefore, that he [mally means to tar-
get with all of the foregoing critique) - viz., that Dignaga's having abstracted privileged
pramiilJas is tantamount to his having posited them as independent (or "essential," "nat-
ural," etc.) epistemic perspectives on what there is. Against this, what CandrakIrti has
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185 That is, let it not be thought (per the interlocutor's contention at p.58.l4, ff.; n.44,
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Ruegg translates: "Let there be, therefore, only the worldly [Le. transactional-pragmatic
convention of ordinary folk] that conforms with what is known by experience" (2002: 134).
186 75.10-13: Tiini ca sidhyanti: satsu prameyiirthiil;!,
satsu pramiilJiini. No tu khalu sviibhiivikf pramiilJaprameyayob siddhir
iti; tasmiil laukikam eva-astu ity; alaI!! prasangena. Prastutam eva
vyiikhyiisyiimal;!. Laukika eva darsane sthitvii buddhiiniil!! bhagavatiil!! dharmadeanii.
This programmatic statement concludes the part of CandrakIrti's Prasannapadii that is
framed specifically as commenting onMMK 1.1- and it is with this passage that Ruegg's
translation from chapter one ends, as well.
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JOHN S. STRONG, Relics of the Buddha, Buddhisms: A Princeton University Press
Series, Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford, 2004, ISBN
The principal themes of this important new book are, fIrst, the centrality of relics
in Buddhism, and second, the function of relics as "expressions and extensions
of the Buddha's biographic process" (p. 5; cf. p. 229) which "embody the biog-
raphy of the Buddha" (p. 22). The first theme will be familiar and more or less
uncontroversial to all Buddhist scholars, but developed and applied here in
ways that may challenge conventional assumptions about it. For example, in his
discussion of the treatment of the Buddha's corpse as presented in the Maha-
parinirvfu:ta-sutra and related texts, Strong asserts that "[r]elics are ... not just a
by-product of the Buddha's cremation and funeral, they are the whole point of
it" (p. 23). Bold as this claim may seem, it is amply justilled in the relevant
chapter (ch. 4, "The Parinirvfu:ta of the Buddha"), where the author demonstrates
that "[f]ar from being a postscript, these relics are, in fact, the governing motif
that helps determine the whole shape and format of the Buddha's obsequies up
to and including his cremation; the Buddha's funeral rites thus have less to do
with the treatment of his body and the mourning of his passing than they have
to do with the preparation of his relics" (pp. 98-99).
But it is the second of Strong's themes, the view of relics as "expressions and
extensions" of the biography of the Buddha(s), that presents an especially orig-
inal and productive way of looking at the phenomenon of the Buddhist relic cult.
This theme determines the structural principle of the book, which, in the author's
words, "may be seen as an unpacking and illustration of this thesis" (p. 229). The
book is accordingly arranged in terms of the Buddha's (and the Buddhas') life,
in the extended Buddhistic sense of the term. Thus the fIrst chapter concerns the
"Relics of Previous Buddhas," while the next three, "Relics of the Bodhisattva,"
"Relics of the Still-Living Buddha: Hairs and Footprints," and "The Parinirvfu:ta
of the Buddha," discuss relics connected with the last lifetime of the Buddha
Sakyamuni. Chapters 5 through 7 then analyze the "extensions," by means of
relics, of Siikyamuni's last life, with regard to "Asoka and the Buddha Relics,"
"Predestined Relics: The Extension of the Buddha's Life Story in Some Sri
Lankan Traditions," and "Further Extensions of the Buddha's Life Story: Some
Tooth Relic Traditions." Finally, in the eighth chapter, "Relics and Eschatol-
ogy," Strong discusses the linkages, through the bowl and robe relics, between
Siikyamuni and Maitreya, the Buddha who is to follow him, so that these relics
constitute "bridge[s] between Buddhas" (p. 220). Thus the book comes full cir-
Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies
Volume 28 Number 2 2005
c1e, from the first chapter concerning the role of relics in linking Sakyamuni to
his predecessors to the last where his relics are in tum shown to connect him to
his successors.
In Strong's perspective, a Buddha's relics are functionally analogous to jatakas;
just as the former extend his biography into the past, so the latter extend it into
the future. Jatakas, as the previous lives of a Buddha, and relics, which serve in
effect as his "future" lives, are actually "part of the same continuum" (p. 229).
This view, in tum, reflects Strong's broader conceptions of Buddhist eschatol-
ogy as a "dialectic of continuity and discontinuity, of permanence and imper-
manence" (p. 227; cf. p. 211). Relics, in his view, address the fundamental prob-
lem of the absence of the Buddha(s) through most of cosmic history; they provide
a sort of ersatz presence, in an almost infInite variety of manners and degrees,
for the mostly absent Buddha (e.g., pp. lSi, 234).
Strong develops this dynamic view of Buddhology and Buddhist eschatology
in connection with, for example, the many footprint relics of the Buddha found
throughout Buddhist lands, which paradoxically "serve to mark both his coming
into and going from this world" (p. 86). For the Buddha's feet and footprints mark
not only his presence, as in the prints left when he took his first steps after being
born, but also his absence, "being traces of where he had once been" (ibid.).
This analysis in symbolic terms is reinforced - typically of Strong's multi-
faceted presentation - by a philological argument, regarding the much-discussed
term tathiigata. Noting that this can be interpreted either as tathii+agata "Thus-
Come-One" or as tatha+gata "Thus-Gone-One," he proposes to understand it
as having, in effect, both meanings simultaneously, and therefore to translate it
as "Thus-Come-and-Gone-One" (p. 230). In Strong's view, this double inter-
pretation is valid and meaningful on several levels. First, it applies to the cos-
mic/historical sequence of the periodic appearance and disappearance of Bud-
dhas; second, on an ontological level, it reflects the fundamental Buddhist
principle of arising and cessation; and third, it relates to the life of an individual
Buddha, which can be understood as "a series of 'comings and goings"'(ibid.).
Although some traditionalists may be uncomfortable with this sort of "fuzzy"
interpretation, it is in fact completely justified within the logic of Strong's frame-
work, where Buddhology and eschatology operate as a dynamic tension between
presence and absence, coming and going, arising and decaying. Such multi-lay-
ered and multi-disciplinary interpretations of relics and relic practices are typi-
cal of Strong's approach to his subject. For example, we see this once again in
connection with his discussion of the symbolism of footprint relics, this time
concerning the legend of the footprints which the Buddha left on the bank of the
Nammada River. Depending on the level of water in the river at any given time,
these footprints were said to be sometimes accessible to human beings, and some-
times to the nagas. This duality has, in Strong's interpretation, three levels of
significance. First, this arrangement has the benefIcial effect of motivating the
nagas to promote good rains, which will raise the level of the river and give them
more access to the footprint relics. Second, the "intermediate position of these
relics points to their liminal status," so that they "may be seen as meeting points
between worlds" (p. 96). And fmally, "the periodic visibility and invisibility" of
the Nammada River footprint relics "reinforces the notion that buddhas (;ome
and go" (ibid.).
This last point brings us back to the one discussed previously, and such com-
plex interlinkagesof argumentation made for a rich and rewarding, if somewhat
challenging experience on the part of the reader. This is a book both that needs
and deserves to be read with careful attention. Massive amounts of information
are presented from diverse sources, and themes appear, re-appear, and link up peri-
odically, so that the closer attention one pays, the more one gets out of this book.
This remark, I hasten to add, is not intended in any way as a criticism of the organ-
ization of the book; on the contrary, the author has done an exemplary job of struc-
turing his complex and abundant material. Perhaps all that the reader could ask
for in this regard would be a bit more in the way of specific paged-linked cross-
references, instead of general reminders like "as we have seen " (e.g., p. 177).
While troublesome for the author (and editor), such cross-references are appre-
ciated by the careful reader.
This quibble aside, Strong's observations are always interesting and often no
less than brilliant. To mention but one more example, from among a great many
which could be cited, of symbolic interpretations of textual and legendary mate-
rials, Strong notes that the four methods by which, according to the,
a hostile king tried to destroy the Buddha's tooth relic, namely fire, crushing,
. water, and burial, correspond exactly to the four methods of disposing of dead
bodies that were used in the Indian world. Thus the attempted destruction of the
relic was meant as a symbolic funeral for it, but one which was of course "doomed
to failure since the relic, by its very nature, has already emerged from a funeral"
Here, as throughout, Strong's interpretation is creative and even imaginative,
yet disciplined and well-documented. He has collected an enormous body of data,
spanning the entire history of Buddhism from the beginning up to the contem-
porary world, primarily from Buddhist literature in Pali, Sanskrit and Chinese but
also including epigraphic, archaeological, historical, and ethnographic material,
all handled skillfully and capably. But, in view of the vastness of his subject, he
has also wisely placed limits on the topics to be treated, for example focusing on
bodily (sarfraka) relics and minimizing discussion of "commemorative" (udde-
sika) relics and relics of "use" (paribhoga; pp. 20-21). As a result of this com-
bination of judicious selection and detailed scrutiny, Strong has succeeded in
presenting his rich and complex subject matter in a way that will be illuminat-
ing for readers from any and all branches of Buddhist studies. Most impressively
of all, he has produced a study which should appeal equally to those who approach
Buddhism primarily from a textual/philological point of view and those who
favor comparativist or "history of religions" methods. These two camps (here,
for purposes of discussion, rather broadly cast) are all too often perceived, or
even perceive themselves, as at odds, so that a spirit of rivalry or polemic some-
times prevails over one of cooperation. In this book, Strong has demonstrated how
textualist and comparativist approaches at their best can be meaningfully com-
bined, and the result is exemplary; he has given us the best of both worlds.
In closing, I would offer only one substantive suggestion for improvement: the
inclusion of some - or many - illustrations would have further enriched this
book, as the subject is one which is ideally suited to visual presentation. But con-
sidering what is there, this absence is a minor matter, and of the fmal verdict there
can be no doubt: a very fine book indeed. '
Richard Salomon University of Washington
The XIVth Conference of the International Association of Buddhist Stud-
ies (IABS) took place at the School of Oriental and African Studies, Uni-
versity of London, from the 29
of August to the 3
of September 2005.
The conference, with an attendance of more than three hundred partici-
pants, was very capably organized by a committee composed of D. Sey-
fort Ruegg (Honorary President), T. Skorupski (Chairman), U. Pagel, B.
Quessel, M. Willis (Secretaries) and A. Leduc-Pagel (Administrative
The conference began with the Plenary Session, during which the Pres-
ident of the IABS, Professor J. Takasaki, delivered his address, "Between
Translation and Interpretation: Cases in the Chinese Tripitaka", examin-
ing some aspects of the translations of Paramartha (Zhen di). Subsequently
Professors J. Silk and N. Aramaki delivered an address in memory of the
late Professor Gadjin Nagao, a founding member of the IABS and one
whose contribution to Buddhist Studies was particularly outstanding in its
breadth and profundity.
As in previous IABS conferences
' the presentations by participants
were grouped according to panels and sections. Thus there were fourteen
panels, concentrating on specific topics, and seventeen sections in which
. papers were grouped according to general thematic affInities. A list of the
topics of the panels and sections gives some idea of the current interests
pursued in contemporary Buddhist Studies as well as the wide range of
1. Ancient Champa to Modem Siam: Perspectives on Buddhist Art
in Southeast Asia (Convener: P. Chirapravati)
2. Buddhism and Modernity in Korea (J.P. Park)
Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies
Volume 28 Number 2 2005
3. Buddhist Art: Historical Evidence from Gandhant (K. Behrendt)
4. Buddhist Sanskrit Manuscripts from Central Asia and Afghanistan
(J.-D. Hartmann)
5. Disputed Authorities: Authenticity and Efficacy in Buddhist Scrip-
tures (L. Kuo and P. Skilling)
6. Dunhuang Tantric Buddhism (S. van Schaik and 1. Dalton)
7. Issues in the Art History of Early Indian Buddhism (R. DeCaroli)
8. Mahayana Siitra Literature (J. Silk)
9. Meanings of the Lotus Siitra for Contemporary Humanity (T.
10. Newar Buddhism (W. Tuladhar-Douglas)
11. Social and Intellectual History of Buddhism in Tibet (D. Maher)
12. Studies in Chinese Buddhist Historiography (E. Morrison)
13. Studies of Gandharan Buddhist Manuscripts (R. Salomon)
14. Vernacular Texts and Textual Communities in South and South-
east Asia (J. McDaniel)
1. Abhidharma and Schools of Buddhist Philosophy (Chairperson:
R. Gethin)
2. Buddhism and Brahmanism (T. Proferes)
3. Buddhism in China (T. Barrett)
4. Buddhism in the Himalayan Area and Inner Asia (T. Skorupski)
5. Buddhism in Japan (L. Dolce)
6. Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia (K. Crosby)
7. Buddhism in the West (E. Harris)
8. Buddhist Arts (M. Willis)
9. Buddhist Hermeneutics, Language and Commentarial Techniques
(T. Tillemans)
10. Contemporary Developments in Buddhism (M. Bingenheimer)
11. Early Buddhism in India (A. Tilakaratne)
12. Logic and Epistemology in Buddhism (S. Katsura)
13. Manuscri