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Eli Franco

Meditation and Metaphysics On their mutual relationship in South Asian Buddhism1

It is well known that Buddhism developed and prescribed a large number of meditative exercises. It is equally well known that Buddhism developed some highly original metaphysical doctrines, such as the a n t m a n -doctrine, i.e., the doctrine that there is no soul and no substance, the doctrine of momentariness, i.e., the doctrine that all things, even those that seem permanent such as stones and mountains, last for only a moment, the doctrine of Emptiness of the Madhyamaka according to which nothing really exists and all things a r eb u t a ni l l u s i o n , o r t h ei d e a l i s mo f t h eY o g c r a which professes that the external world is merely an image in our consciousness. However, it may be less well known that all metaphysical doctrines of Buddhism have their correspondence in meditative practice, and some of them may even have arisen from such practice. There are at least two main reasons for this state of affairs. First the general tendency in Indian thought to presuppose a correspondence theory of truth. In other words, if the objects visualized by the yogi during meditation are to be considered true, they must have a correspondence in reality. In this respect, the perception or awareness of yogis is not different from any other perception.

I would like to thank Lambert Schmithausen for personal and written comments on a previous draft of this paper and for being, as Halbfass once said of J . L . Me h t a , a ni d e a l p a r t n e r i n d i a l o g u e .


The second reason is that in the majority of Buddhist traditions, Enlightenment, or liberating insight, consists in a right insight into the true nature of reality. And this profound insight into the absolute truth, it is generally assumed, cannot be achieved only by way of rational thinking which is connected to concepts and language, but has to be deepened in meditation. One should not only learn and think about the teachings of the Buddha, but also meditate upon them repeatedly. Thus, because Enlightenment is usually an insight into the true nature of the world, the metaphysical teachings were being taught as subjects of meditation, and their content was postulated as part of liberating insight. It goes without saying that this content differs from tradition to tradition. In a realistic tradition the liberating insight is an insight into the true nature of the final elements of existence (dharma); in an illusionistic tradition it consists in the insight that precisely these elements are unreal.2 It is undisputed that there are close relationships between meditation and metaphysics in Buddhism. However, some scholars of Buddhism go as far as to claim that all metaphysical doctrines in Buddhism have arisen from meditative practice, and indeed this opinion seems to be widely spread. I will mention here only three of its most influential variants. Constantin Regamey claims that not only Buddhist philosophy, but Indian philosophy in general is the rational interpretation of mystical experience (Regamey 1951: 251):
N o t r e p h i l o s o p h i e e s t n e d e l a c u r i o s i t e t d u b e s o i n d e s a v o i r , d e x p l i q u e r l e m o n d e d u n ef a o nc o h r e n t e . E nI n d el ap h i l o s o p h i ee s tl i n t e r p r t a t i o nr a t i o n n e l l ed e l e x p r i e n c e m y s t i q u e .

This is the most sweeping generalisation on the subject that I have come across so far. According to Regamey one would have to assume that every Indian philosophical theory, from the atomism and ontological categories of the Vai e i k at ot h el o g i c a l d e v e l o p m e n t so f N a v y aN y y a , i sar a t i o n a l interpretation of mystical experience. In a less sweeping but similar manner Edward Conze, one of the most influential Buddhist scholars in the second half of the twentieth century, states (Conze 1967: 213):

In addition to these two reasons, one may mention the subjective feeling of the meditating person, who sometimes feels transposed to another space (cf. for instance the case of the d h y n ameditation below). The journey of the spirit is a phenomenon well known from many cultures, even though the modalities of such journeys are not often theorized.


The cornerstone of my interpretation of Buddhism is the conviction, shared by nearly everyone, that it is essentially a doctrine of salvation, and that all its philosophical statements are subordinate to its soteriological purpose. This implies, not only that many philosophical problems are dismissed as idle speculations, but that each and every [philosophical] proposition must be considered in reference to its spiritual intention and as a formulation of meditative experiences ... I cannot imagine any scholar wishing to challenge this methodological postulate

However, the most influential formulation of this hypothesis was put forward by Lambert Schmithausen in his renowned p a p e r S p i r i t u e l l e P r a x i s 3 und philosophische Theorie im Buddhismus (Schmithausen 1973: 185 ):
Es scheint sich somit bei dieser Entwicklung von philosophischen Theorien aus spirituell-praktischen Ursprngen um einen Vorgang zu handeln, der fr die buddhistische Geistesgeschichte geradezu t y p i s c h ist. ... Fr die zentralen, das Ganze bestimmenden philosophischen Theorien gilt, dass sie, zum mindesten zum grten Teil, unmittelbar aus der spirituellen Praxis hervorgewachsen sein drften.4

As h o r t e r E n g l i s h v e r s i o n o f t h i s p a p e r w a s p u b l i s h e d a s O n t h e P r o b l e mo f t h e R e l a t i o n of Spiritual Practice andP h i l o s o p h i c a l T h e o r yi nB u d d h i s m , c f . S c h m i t h a u s e n1 9 7 6 a . This shorter version was reprinted in Williams 2005: 242-254. I t s e e m s , t h e r e f o r e , t h a t p h i l o s o p h i c a l t h e o r i e s d e v e l o p i n go u t o f m e d i t a t i v e e x e r c i s e s i s a process that is really t y p i c a l for Buddhist intellectual history. It is valid to say that the central philosophical theories, which define the whole, may have d i r e c t l y a r i s e n , a t l e a s t f o r t h e m o s t p a r t , f r o ms p i r i t u a l p r a c t i c e ( = m e d i t a t i v e p r a c t i c e ) . T h e e x p r e s s i o n s p i r i t u e l l e P r a x i s c a n b e u n d e r s t o o d , o f c o u r s e , i n a v e r y b r o a d m a n n e r . Indeed, any mental activity can be so described. However, if this term is to describe something that is typical for Buddhism and to stand in contradistinction to philosophical theory, its scope has to be narrowed down. S c h m i t h a u s e nd e f i n e s s p i r i t u e l l e P r a x i s ( p . 1 6 2 ) a s d i eg e i s t i g eS e i t er e l i g i s e r b u n g e n , d . h . s o l c h e r b u n g e no d e r H a n d l u n g e n , die direkt oder indirekt auf das Heil ausgerichtet sind. Im Falle des Buddhismus handelt es sich dabei vor allem um moralisch-ethische bungen sowie um V e r s e n k u n g s p r a k t i k e n . Since moral-ethical exercises are not further discussed in Schmithausen 1973 and 2005, and do not seem to be directly relevant to the arising of metaphysical theories, I will conf i n em yr e m a r k st o V e r s e n k u n g s p r a k t i k e n w h i c hI t r a n s l a t e a s m e d i t a t i v e p r a c t i c e , m e d i t a t i v e s t a t e o r s i m p l y a s m e d i t a t i o n . Regamey u s e st h et e r m e x p r i e n c em y s t i q u e t or e f e r ,p r e s u m a b l y ,t ot h es a m em e d i t a t i v e experiences. Cf. also Schmithausen 1 9 7 3 : 1 6 5w h e r eh er e f e r sC o n z e st h e s i s( C o n z e 1 9 6 2 : 2 5 1 f f . c f . a l s oMa y 1 9 7 1 ) t h a t t h e r o o t s o f Y o g c r a a r e t o b e l o o k e df o r a b o v e a l l ( i ne r s t e r L i n i e ) i nm e d i t a t i v ep r a c t i c e , i no p p o s i t i o nt oMa s u d a sh y p o t h e s i st h a t t h e Y o g c r ad e v e l o p e da sar e a c t i on to the absolute Negativism of the Madhyamaka. In S c h m i t h a u s e n 2 0 0 5 : 2 4 7 , S c h m i t h a u s e n a l s o u s e s t h e e x p r e s s i o n t r a n s p h e n o m e n a l s t a t e to refer to the Buddhist spiritual practice.


Unlike Regamey, Conze and others, Schmithausen does not only claim that philosophical theories in Buddhism arose from meditative practice, but actually attempts to prove that this is the case. I will, therefore, confine my remarks to his paper. S c h m i t h a u s e n st h e s i si ss e d u c t i v eb e c a u s e , i fi t could be confirmed, it would capture an essential and special characteristic of Buddhism that would distinguish it not only from Western philosophies and religions, but also from other Indian traditions. However, the relationship between meditation and metaphysics is in my opinion more complex and heterogeneous, and I shall argue that its varieties cannot be reduced to a single homogeneous model. Let me begin with two c a s e s t h a t f i t S c h m i t h a u s e n s h y p o t h e s i s w e l l . T h e close relationship between meditation and metaphysics can be clearly seen in the case of d h y n a -meditation. This type of meditation is generally considered to belong to the earliest strata of the Buddhist canon (see, for instance, Vetter 1988: 3ff.), and it already appears within the framework of the four noble truths. The fourth truth laconically describes the path of a person from the moment he meets the Buddha and comes to realize that life is fundamentally frustrating, painful and hopeless till the moment he reaches Enlightenment through meditation. Right meditation, which is the culmination of the path, is divided into four stages. The first stage is characterized by bodily well-being (k y a s u k h a ) and mental joy (p r t i ). This joy arises from the fact that one has succeeded to get r i do f o n e s d e s i r e s . C o n c e p t u a l t h i n k i n g , t h a t i s , t h i n k i n gc o n n e c t e dw i t h language, continues at this stage. When concentration further increases, one reaches the second stage, at which conceptual thinking ceases. Bodily well-being and joy continue, but they now arise directly from the power of meditation. When concentration increases even further, one reaches the third stage, at which joy is replaced by equanimity. Finally, at the fourth stage, even bodily well-being disappears and absolute equanimity and lack of sensation are reached. In this fourth dhy n athe mind becomes absolutely clear. One can r e m e m b e r o n e s o w n p r e v i o u s l i v e s a n d s e e h o wc e r t a i n d e e d s l e a d t o c e r t a i n results good deeds to pleasant births, bad deeds to painful ones. Then, with the so-called divine eye one can observe the same phenomena for countless other living beings. Finally, after one perceives in this manner the entire


sa s r a both in time and in space, one reaches the certainty that the present l i f e i s o n e s life, that one will not be born again. It is interesting to note that this d h y n ameditation has (or better, has obtained in the late or post-canonical period) a cosmological correspondence. A c c o r d i n gt ot h e b h i d h a r m i k a s o f t h eC o n s e r v a t i v e B u d d h i s m , t h ew o r l d consists of three layers. The first, the layer of desire (k m a -dh t u ), is the one we live in. On the top of it there is a second layer, the layer of desireless corporeality (r p a -d h t u ), and it corresponds precisely to the four stages of the d h y n ameditation (cf. AKBh 3.2). The sixteen, seventeen or eighteen subdivisions of this cosmic layer 5 are divided into four groups that are equally called d h y n a . Moreover, the first three d h y n a s are further divided each into three layers which correspond to weak (m du), middle (madhya) and intense (a d h i m t r a ) concentrations. The fourth cosmic layer contains further layers, primarily those in which the Buddhist saints who no longer return to the layer of desire (a n g min), stay till their definitive 6 disappearance into n i r v a. The highest cosmic layer, the r p y a -d h t u , the layer that lacks corporeality, corresponds in its fourfold division to a division of stages of another type of meditation. In the r p y a meditation, the yogi turns his mind to a succession of objects, each subtler the preceding one. The starting point of this meditation is the so-called kasina exercise. The yogi concentrates on an object, such as a piece of earth or a patch of color, untill he no longer observes a difference between the inner mental image and the immediately perceived image. In other words, the yogi sees the object equally clearly and vividly with open and closed eyes. The yogi can then stand up and go elsewhere taking the image with him. Now he has to concentrate on this image until a second image is produced; i.e., the first image functions as the

On the different opinions concerning the number of layers cf. La Valle Poussin, chapter 3: 2-3. Unfortunately I was unable to find a visual description of the three layers in Indian or Tibetan art. As a rule, only the lowest layer, the layer of desire, is depicted. This is understandable, for the abstract content of the layer of desireless corporeality (r p a -d h t u ) and of lack of corporeality ( r p y a -d h t u ) cannot be easily illustrated. Martin Brauen, in his book The Mandala: Sacred Circle in Tibetan Buddhism, has generated a computer model according to the ancient descriptions. This model is basically the same as the one in the A b h i d h a r m a k o a , b u t d i f f e r s i ns o m e d e t a i l b e c a u s e B r a u e nf o l l o w s t h e K l a c a k r a cosmology. For instance, mount Meru is round and not quadrangular.


immediate image of the external object and it gives rise to a second mental reflex. When the yogi observes this secondary image for a long time, it disintegrates and fades away slowly, and in its place the incorporeal presentation of the infinity of space appears. Herewith the first stage of the r p y a meditation is attained. After meditating on the infinity of space ( k n a n t y a ), the yogi naturally moves on to meditate on the infinity of the mind or consciousness (v i j n n a n t y a );7 afterwards the stage of nothingness ( k i c a n y a ) is reached, i.e., the meditation has no object whatsoever. Finally, without an object consciousness becomes so weak that it hardly deserves its name. Accordingly, this stage of meditation is called neither consciousness nor 8 non-consciousness (naivasa j n s a j ). When this meditation is further intensified, consciousness disappears altogether. The meditation is now without subject and object. This stage is called sa j v e d a y i t a n i r o d h a s a m p a t t i , i.e., the meditation which consists in the suppression of consciousness and feelings. Because at this stage all consciousness and feelings disappear, this state of meditation has no cosmological correspondence. At this stage the yogi is almost dead; his body is unconscious and numb like a corpse. Only by the bodily heat one can know that he is still alive.9 We thus see that the psychological aspects of the dh y n ameditation have a cosmological correspondence, whereas in the case of the r p y ameditation there is cosmological correspondence to the object of meditation as well as to a special state of consciousness of the meditating person. What does this mean? I nt h ef i r s t c a s e , o n ec o u l du n d e r s t a n dt h a t t h ey o g i o r t h ey o g i s mind is transposed to the corresponding cosmological region through the attainment of a special state of mind. Further, all living beings inhabiting this region experience this state of mind or are somehow connected to it. In the

Note that consciousness was considered to be a cosmic element which consists in subtle incorporeal matter, obviously even more subtle than space (or ether k a ) which is also material but not corporeal. Cf. Langer 2001, esp. 43-50. According to the Buddhist tradition, the Buddha practiced this meditation with his t e a c h e r s r a K l m a a n dR u d r a k a R m a p u t r a . I t t h u s m a yb e a p r e -Buddhist form of meditation. One more factor distinguishes the yogi from a corpse, namely, the power of life ( y u s ), but this factor is, of course, not observable.


second case, the content of the meditation in the first two stages corresponds to a cosmic realm and to cosmic (material, but not corporeal) elements; in the next two stages, by attaining a special state of consciousness, the yogi is transposed to a specific cosmic realm in a manner comparable to the case of the d h y n ameditation. The s u p p r e s s i o no fc o n s c i o u s n e s sa n df e e l i n g , where both object and subject are eliminated, has no cosmic or ontological correspondence because there is nothing left to be corresponded to. The case of d h y n a meditation and at least the last two stages of the r p y a meditation seem to confirm Schmithausen thesis. However, these practices cannot be taken to represent all meditations in Buddhism. There are other meditative exercises that have their metaphysical correspondences in the sense that they reflect the ultimate reality according to various ontological doctrines, for instance, the selflessness, the substancelessness and the momentariness of all existing things. Yet in the case of these exercises, S c h m i t h a u s e n s t h e s i s d o e s n o t work smoothly. Schmithausen himself has retracted his thesis that the doctrine of momentariness of all things has arisen from spiritual practice (Schmithausen 1976b: 285f., and n. 5). But is this the exception that confirms the rule or is it the clear case that refutes it? I will argue for the latter alternative by pointing out that momentariness is not a single tree in the savanna. There are indeed some conspicuous doctrines t h a tc e r t a i n l yq u a l i f ya s c e n t r a l p h i l o s o p h i c a lt h e o r i e s a n dw h i c ha r en o tt a k e ni n t oc o n s i d e r a t i o nb y Schmithausen in the above-mentioned paper. Two such doctrines that immediately come to mind are the doctrine of Dependent Origination (pra t t y a s a m u t p d a ) a n dt h eS a r v s t i v d at h e o r yo f e x i s t e n c eo f p a s t a n d future objects. Concerning the former, there is hardly any need to argue that it did not directly arise from meditation or spiritual practice. Schmithausen himself has contributed a fundamental study of this doctrine, where he argues that the list of twelve members as we know it today is the result of three different lists that were put together in the course of a development that i sr e f l e c t e di nt h eh e t e r o g e n e o u sm a t e r i a l so ft h eP l ic a non (cf. Schmithausen 2000). In this case, I assume, Schmithausen himself would argue for systematizations of earlier lists and redactional motives, rather than spiritual practice, as decisive for the origin of the doctrine. As for the doctrine of rebirth as such that is reflected in most if not all these lists, it is pre-Buddhist in origin and is presupposed and taken for granted in the


e a r l i e s ts t r a t ao ft h eP l ic a n o n .T h u s , i tt o oc a n n o th a v ea r i s e nf r o m 10 meditation, at least not from Buddhist meditation. T h e S a r v s t i v d a t h e o r y t h a t a l l final elements of existence (dharma) exist in all three times (past, present and future) also presents a clear case of a central philosophical theory that was not developed from meditative practice. The A b h i d h a r m a k o a provides four reasons for this counterintuitive doctrine. The first reason is simply that the Buddha himself said so. In a similar vein, the second reason is that this doctrine is implied by certain statements of the Buddha. The third reason has to do with the tenet that every moment of awareness was supposed to have an objective support. Thus, recollection too requires such support, and that support must be a past object; similarly, certain cognitions have future objects and thus future objects must exist. Finally, past objects must be assumed in order to account for the functioning of the law of karma, more specifically, to account for the fact that a past act can produce its result in the future, long after the act was committed.11 In connection with this tenet, four philosophical theories of time were developed that aim to explain the difference between past, present and future objects (cf. Stcherbatsky 1923: 78-80). None of these theories seems to have arisen from spiritual practice. On the contrary, they seem to be theoretical reflections meant to reduce the difference between past, present and future objects to a bare minimum. S i m i l a r l y ,t h eS a r v s t i v d at h e o r yt h a te v e r ye l e m e n to fe x i s t e n c ei s accompanied by four characteristic entities (lak a as) responsible for its arising, subsistence, decay and destruction and by four secondary characteristic entities (anulak a as) that play a part in the causation of the first four entities is clearly due to theoretical reflections about causality and the philosophical inclination to avoid infinite regress. They also reflect the rejection of the idea of a substance and a special hermeneutical approach towards the canonical writings, but there is no evidence to connect their origin to meditative practice. 12


Thus it is excluded by Schmithausen from his investigation; cf. the beginning of his paper xxxx. Cf. AKBh 5.24, p. 295, translated by de La Valle Poussin, chapter 5 : 50-51. Cf. AKBh 2.45cd-46ab, p. 75.19ff., translated by de La Valle Poussin, chapter 2: 222ff.

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Furthermore, the postulation of the three eternal entities, space-ether ( k a ), s u p p r e s s i o nt h r o u g hc a r e f u l lc o n s i d e r a t i o n ( pratisa k h y n i rodha) and s u p p r e s s i o nw i t h o u tc a r e f u lc o n s i d e r a t i o n (apratisa k h y nirodha), as well the factors dissociated from thought (cittaviprayukta-sa s k r a ) could hardly be said to have arisen immediately from meditative experience. It s e e m sr a t h e rt h a t t h eS a r v s t i v d a , l i k e b h i d h a r m i k a so fother schools, were analytically striving to identify and systematize the final constituents of physical and mental reality in dependence on canonical materials. This concern is also apparent in the so-called a b h i s a m a y a v d a ( t h e d o c t r i n e o f i n t u i t i v eg r a s p ) o f D h a r m a r w i t hi t s t e n p r o p e n s i t i e s (a n u a y a ) and sixteen aspects of the four noble truths. According to Frauwallner, who made a detailed study of the historical development of this theory,13 it did not arise from spiritual practice. In fact, it is questionable whether the entire Abhidharma enterprise, from the early lists (m t k ) 14 to the later 15 developments by Vasubandhu and Sa ghabhadra, can be said to have arisen from meditation or spiritual practice, rather than the collection, organization, systematization and theoretical development of canonical materials. The Conservative Buddhists developed a considerable number of philosophical theories about matter, causation, space and time, and about epistemological, ethical and soteriological issues. Practically none of them were taken into consideration by Schmithausen (or by any of the other scholars who generalized the origin of Buddhist philosophical theories). It is sufficient to leaf through a work such as Points of Controversy

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Cf. Frauwallner 1971a; English translation in Frauwallner 1995: 149-184. On the m t k s and their relationship to meditation, cf. Gethin 1993. On the traditional account of the arising of m t k s c f . D N3 3 , w h e r e t h e B u d d h a a s k s r i p u t r a to prepare l i s t ss u m m a r i z i n gh i s( t h eB u d d h a s )t e a c h i n g si no r d e rt op r e v e n t s t r i f ea m o n gh i s disciples after his death, as was the case among the disciples of the Jina. Thus, at least according to the traditional account, the m t k shave not arisen from meditative experience, but from the practical necessity to determine, secure and summarize the B u d d h a s t e a c h i n g . On Sa ghabhadra cf. Cox 1995.




(K a t h v a t t h u ) 16 to understand the extent of the disagreement among the various Buddhist schools, and to see how difficult, not to say impossible, would be the task of anyone wishing to establish the origin of all philosophical theories in Buddhism, even if one were to limit oneself to the most important ones. Interestingly, meditation does not seem to play a role in the philosophical debates documented in the K a t h v a t t h u . (On the other hand, it plays a decisive role in the doctrines that are rejected as harmful in the B r a h m a j l a s u t t a ; cf. below.) In what follows I shall mostly limit myself to those theories taken into consideration by Schmithausen. Perhaps the most important and typical theory of Conservative Buddhism is the a n t m a ntheory, the theory that there is no Self or Soul. This theory was indeed considered by Schmithausen, but the evidence he adduces for the hypothesis that it has its origin in meditative experience is rather meager. Schmithausen is one of the most learned scholars of Buddhism of our time, and yet for the negation of the Soul ( t m a n ) in meditation he could find no earlier testimony than C a n d r a k r t i s Ma d h y a m a k v a t r a , 17 (sixth century CE), which was composed many centuries after the establishment of this doctrine. Furthermore, in recent times an alternative explanation of the origin of the a n t m a n doctrine was proposed, namely, that it developed not from spiritual 18 practice, but as a reaction to the pudgala t h e o r yo f t h e V t s p u t r y a s . This h y p o t h e s i s , h o w e v e r , w a s s u g g e s t e d a f t e r S c h m i t h a u s e n s p a p e r was written

Cf. Aung and Rhys Davids 1969. An extensive list of theses of controversy among Conservative Buddhists was conveniently presented in Bareau 1955: 260-289. Note, however, that many of these points of controversy are not philosophical in nature. Cf. note 55 which quotes Ma d h y a m a k v a t r a VI 120. C f . S t e i n k e l l n e r 2 0 0 2 : 1 8 3 : D i e t h e o r e t i s c h e L e h r e v o n N i c ht-S e l b s t ( a n t m a v d a ) als eines philosophischen Dogmas verdankt ihre Entstehung offenbar nicht dem Bedrfnis, diese Praxis ontologisch abzusttzen, sondern der Notwendigkeit, eine einflussreiche Fehlentwicklung zurckzudrngen, nmlich die Lehre von der s o g e n a n n t e n P e r s o n (pudgala) , d i ee i nM n c hV t s p u t r au m3 0 0v . u . Z . v e r t r e t e nh a t . Possibly the same opinion, though formulated more vaguely and in a less committed manner, is expressed by Vetter 1988: 42-44. An earlier formulation or at least by way of implication of this o p i n i o ni s t ob e f o u n di nF r a u w a l l n e r 1 9 7 1 b : 1 2 1( = [ 9 ] ) , w h e r e V t s p u t r a s d o c t r i n e o f pudgala i s s a i dt oh a v eb r o k e nt h ei c e : D a m i t w a r g e w i s s e r m a e nd a s E i s g e b r o c h e n . Nun begann man auch andere Probleme zu berdenken und, wenn es ntig schien, die b e r k o m m e n e nL e h r e nw e i t e r z u b i l d e no d e r u m z u f o r m e n . C f . a l s ot h eq u o t a t i o ni nt h e next note.

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and thus he could not take it into account while formulating his thesis. In any case, it is a reasonable alternative hypothesis that casts serious doubts on S c h m i t h a u s e n sa s s u m p t i o nt h a t t h ea n t m a ntheory was developed from meditative practice. This inevitably leads us to the question about the origin of the pudgala theory. Is there any evidence to connect its origin to meditative experience or is it motivated, as Frauwalner and others assume, by the need to fill a theoretical gap in the canonical materials?19 And while we are at it, is there any evidence to connect the origin of the doctrine of the five groups (pacaskandha) of the empirical person to meditative practice? This concept is ubiquitous present in the P l i c a n o n , b u t w e k n o wn o t h i n g a b o u t i t s o r i g i n . For all we know, it may not even be Buddhist in origin. The doctrine of a n t m a nas we know it from the post-canonical literature must have meant at its first stage that human beings, or living beings in general, lack a permanent Self or Soul. However, sooner or later it was reinterpreted in a more general way to mean that that all things lack substance. Could one maintain that the development of this more sweeping doctrine is due to meditation? Again, evidence is lacking and one could make up various scenarios all equally speculative. To conclude the discussion on Conservative Buddhism, let us briefly consider the four noble truths. Surely, one may think, if any philosophical theory originated from meditation in an immediate manner, this so-called original message of the Buddha would be it. However, such an assumption is highly unlikely. Bareau who closely studied all extant versions of the text 20 c o n c l u d e dt h a t i t i s n o t o n l ya p o c r y p h a l , b u t r a t h e r l a t e . This in itself need not refue the thesis that the four noble truths originated from meditation, but there are at least two reasons against such an assumption and they both concern the fourth truth. First, there is some evidence to suggest that this


Cf. Frauwallner1971b: 1 2 1 : A b e rd e rB u d d h ai s ti h r[ d e rF r a g en a c hd e mI c h ] ausgewichen, weil er wute, da sie zu endlosen theoretischen Streitigkeiten fhren w r d e D i e s e s V e r m e i d e ne i n e r k l a r e nA u s s a g e h a t s i c hi ma l l g e m e i n e n b e h a u p t e t u n d auch bewhrt. Aber es war nicht zu vermeiden, dass sich die Frage nach dem Ich s c h l i e l i c h d o c h w i e d e r v o r d r n g t e . Cf. Bareau 1963 : 1 8 0 : [ L ] e t e x te de ce premier sermon, tel que nous le trouvons dans les trois Vinaya, e s t n o n s e u l e m e n t a p o c r y p h e , m a i s a s s e z t a r d i f .




truth was added to the first three at a later stage.21 But more importantly, the fourth truth presupposes the sa gha (monastic order) and its content has as much to do with monastic rules and the way of life befitting a monk (or a nun) as with meditative practice. Its eight members summarize the career of a monk from the moment he meets the Buddha and arrives at the right view t h a t t h e B u d d h a s w a y i s t h e r i g h t w a y t o wards eliminating suffering till the moment he can reach enlightenment by the right meditation. Thus, it seems that in Conservative Buddhism most philosophical doctrines did not originate directly from meditative practice. However, can it be said that they originated indirectly from such practice? Before we can answer this question, we have to understand wha tc o u l db em e a n tb y o r i g i n a t i n g i n d i r e c t l y . I fw eu n d e r s t a n dt h i sphrase as originating primarily from philosophical reflection on meditative practice, 22 one could still maintain that most philosophical theories would not fulfill this requirement, or more precisely, that we lack decisive evidence that they do. If, on the other hand, w ew o u l db es a t i s f i e dt ow a t e rd o w nt h eq u a l i f i c a t i o no f i n d i r e c t l y o r i g i n a t i n g t o o r i g i n ating somehow connected,t h eq u a l i f i c a t i o nm a yb e true, but trivial. Everything is indirectly connected to everything, and nobody disputes that meditation is a central phenomenon in Buddhism. L e t u s t u r n n o wt o t h e f u n d a m e n t a l m e t a p h y s i c a l d o c t r i n e s o f t h e Ma h y n a . Shortly before or after the beginning of the Common Era something extraordinary happened in the history of Buddhism. A large number of a p o c r y p h a , t h eMa h y n a s t r a s , were composed by Buddhist monks, or perhaps even lay persons, in which radically new teachings were attributed to the Buddha. These teachings stand in clear contradiction to what was k n o w n o f t h e B u d d h a s t e a c h i n g s u n t i l t h e n . T h e b a s i c f u n d a m e n t a l t e a c h i n g

The fourth truth is sometimes transmitted without the first three, notably in the Dharmacakrapravartana-s t r a , and it is also formulated in a different style. It is possible that the third truth was originally the truth of the path (i.e., the way to avoid suffering is to eliminate its cause, desire) and that the function of representing the path was taken over by the fourth truth when it was appended to the first three. Needless to say, a thorough investigation would be required to prove such an assumption. In contradistinction to, say, being developed in a different context and later applied to spiritual practice (as could be the case of the five skandhas), or being due to systematization of older materials (as could be the case of p r a t t y a s a m u t p d a ), or a generalization of an already existing philosophical theory (as could be the case for the doctrine of no-soul to the doctrine of no-substance).




o f t h e Ma h y n a i s t h e s o -called illusionism, the doctrine that all elements of existence (dharma) are illusory, unreal, do not really exist. Even the Buddha himself was an illusion. Furthermore, desire and suffering too are illusions, and this means that all living beings, who do not really exist, are also not really tormented by unreal suffering, which cannot arise from an unreal illusion. Ni r v a as the lack of suffering has thus always been there. Therefore, one may say that there is no difference between n i r v a and sa s r a . Of course, these new apocrypha caused protests and opposition from the Conservative Buddhists. However, it was apparently not so easy to prove that t h en e wS t r a sw e r ef a l s i f i c a t i o n so ft h eo r i g i n a lt e a c h i n g so ft h e Buddha. The protests of the Conservative Buddhists (or Mainstream B u d d h i s t s , t o u s e P a u l H a r r i s o n s e x p r e s s i o n ) c o u l d n o t p r e v a i l ; e v e n w o r s e : the Conservative Buddhists were presented as fools. Their canonical sermons and other teachigs ascribed to the Buddha which they transmitted orally and later on in written form were considered to be half-truths and t h e r e b y d i s p a r a g e d . O n l y t h e Ma h y n a s tras contain the absolute truth. The H n a y n a s t r a s a r e m e r e l yaddressed at monks who are not mature enough to receive the ultimate truth. T h e Ma h y n am o v e m e n ti su n d o u b t e d l yo n eo ft h em o s ts u c c e s s f u l religious movements ever. Nowadays, it is still alive in Tibet, in Mongolia and East Asi a ( C h i n a , K o r e a , J a p a n ) . O n e o f t h e r e a s o n s w h y t h e Ma h y n a apocrypha could be so successful is that the composition of Buddhist apocrypha had begun much earlier. 23 Next to the canonical collections, independent works (muktaka) were always circulating, some of which were designated as apocrypha, lit., s u p e r i m p o s e d ( a d h y r o p i t a ). This phenomenon is m e n t i o n e da l r e a d yi nt h eP l i c anon. Lamotte (1974: 180) refers two passages, in S a m y u t t a n i k y a ( I I , 2 6 7 ) a n d A g u t t a r a n i k y a ( I , 7 2 73), 24 in which the Buddha prophesizes t h a tt h ea u t h e n t i cs t r a sw i l l disappear and that people will believe in apocrypha composed by poets (kavikata).

The authenticity of treatises and sermons ascribed to the Buddha was a problem that all s c h o o l so f B u d d h i s m( i n c l u d i n gMa d h y a m a k aa n dY o g c r a ) h a dt of a c e , a n ds e v e r a l attempts were made to formulate criteria for authenticity of Buddhist s t r a s ; c f . L a m o t t e 1988, Skilling 2000 and Mathes forthcoming. Both references are to the editions of the Pali Text Society.




T h eo l d e s t Ma h y n a s t r ai sc o n s i d e r e d t o b et h e A a s h a s r i k 25 P r a j p r a m i t , The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand verses. It is a relatively extensive work; an English translation would probably run for m o r e t h a na t h o u s a n dp a g e s . T h e S t r a w a s t r a n s l a t e di n t oC h i n e s e a l r e a d y in 179 CE by Lokak ema. Now, what is the perfection of wisdom that is r e p e a t e d l yp r a i s e di nt h i s S t r a? It is the insight that all final elements of existence (dharmas) are unreal, and this insight is realized during a meditation that causes the suppression of all consciousness and feelings. In other words, when the perfection of wisdom is attained, the world disappears; all dharmas vanish and nothing remains: neither objects, nor feelings, nor consciousness. This state is similar to the one attained in the n i r o d h a s a m p a t t i mentioned above, but there is one important difference: the content of this meditation corresponds to absolute reality. When the yogi emerges from the meditative state, he generalizes his experience: Just as all final elements of existence do not exist during meditative state, they not exist outside of it. The whole world is but an illusion; it contains elements of existence that only appear to be real, but in fact are empty and unreal. The correspondence between the content of the meditation and the metaphysical truth is clear: The absence of the final elements of existence during meditation reflects their inexistence in reality. Can we conclude that this counterintuitive doctrine has arisen from meditative practice? I fail to see that there is evidence for such a conclusion. There are at least three possible hypotheses that may account for the development of the Perfection of Wisdom. One based on philosophical reflection: One may claim that qualities can only exist as something supported by a substance, and if substances do not exist, qualities cannot exist either. And if there are neither substances nor qualities, nothing exists. Alternatively, o n e m a ye x p l a i nt h e o r i g i no f t h e Ma h y n a I l l u s i o n i s ma s a g e n e r a l i z a t i o no f t h em e d i t a t i v e e x p e r i e n c e i nt h en i r o d h a s a m p a t t i . A third hypothesis was proposed by Frauwallner who assumed that the Ma h y n a p h i l o s o p h y i s d u e t o t h e m y s t i c a l e x p e r i e n c e o f the highest Being (hchstes Sein) and the tendency to assume that only this Being is real (cf. Frauwallner 1994: 144). As far as I can see, the question whether philosophical reasoning or spiritual p r a c t i c e i s r e s p o n s i b l e f o r t h e a r i s i n g o f t h e Ma h y n a illusionism cannot be

For an extensive summary cf. Conze 1975.



answered because the relevant materials are lacking. The doctrine is absent in the old canonical literature,26 and it is already presupposed by the earliest Ma h y n a s t r a s . I no t h e r w o r d s , e i t h e r t h ee v i d e n c et h a t m a yh a v el e t u s determine the origin of this doctrine is no longer available, or the doctrine came into the world like the a u p a p d u k a s , or A t h e n a f r o mZ e u s t h i g h , i n a fully developed form and thus provides no clues for determining the context of its arising. Therefore, it seems preferable in this case to suspend judgment and refrain from putting forward hypotheses about its origin.
nd rd O nt h eb a s i so ft h eP r a j p r a m i t s t r a s ,N g r j u n a( f l .2 -3 c. CE) developed the Madhyamaka philosophy, especially in his M l a m a d h y a m a k a k r i k , which is considered the foundational text of this school. Schmithausen is silent on the Madhyamaka philosophy. Prima facie, however, it would be rather difficult to prove that the argumentative p h i l o s o p h yo f N g r j u n ai st h er e s u l t o f m e d i t a t i v ee x p e r i e n ce, especially after a series of studies by Claus Oetke that bear on this subject (for instance, Oetke 1988).

H o w e v e r , S c h m i t h a u s e n sp i c ed er s i s t a n c ei sn od o u b t t h eY o g c r a system and the doctrine of v i j a p t i m t r a t .It seems, in fact, that Schmithausen first developped his thesis in the context of his investigations into the Y o g c r a b h m i and then in a move reminding that of the yogis in the Ma h y n a s t r a s extended and generalized it as being typical for B u d d h i s ma sa w h o l e .S c h m i t h a u s e n sh y p o t h e s i sabout the origin of v i j a p t i m t r a t has already been criticized in some detail by Johannes Bronkhorst in his monograph Karma and Teleology. A problem and its solution in Indian philosophy (cf. Bronkhorst 2000: 77-93). Bronkhorst argued in some detail that the materials presented by Schmithausen can be better explained in relation to the karma theory. It seems to me that B r o n k h o r s t s a r g u m e n t s are as inc o n c l u s i v e a s S c h m i t h a u s e n s , b u t I w i l l n o t attempt to discuss the matter here because, as I am told by Schmithausen in a personal communication, they have already been criticized in S c h m i t h a u s e n sforthcoming publication. For the same reason I will also r e f r a i nf r o ms u m m a r i z i n go re x a m i n i n gR o b e r t S h a r f si m p r e s s i v ep a p e r

T h eu s eo f i l l u s o r yt e r m s i nt h eP l i c a non (e.g., SN III 95 (3) Phe am, pp. 140ff.) in respect to the final elements of existence cannot be taken by itself as pointing at the origin o ft h e Ma h y n i s t i cn o t i o no fe m p t i n e s s ,f o rthey are used there to express the worthlessness of dharmas, not their inexistence.



(Sharf 1995), which has also been criticized in the same forthcoming article. Instead, I would like to take a closer look at the method employed by Schmithausen and examine how it could b e a p p l i e d t o t h e Y o g c r a t e x t s . Schmithausen states that he wants to prove his thesis by means of a rigorous historic-p h i l o l o g i c a l m e t h o d ( n a c h s t r e n g h i s t o r i s c h -philologischer Me t h o d e Schmithausen 1973: 1 6 3 ) a n d e x p l a i n s t h a t [ f ] o r t h i s p u r p o s e , t h e oldest sources for a given philosophical theory have to be made available and the context in which the theory appears examined ( H i e r z u m t e n f r eine gegebene philosophische Theorie die lteste Quellen ausfindig gemacht und der Zusammenhang, in dem die Theorie dort erscheint, geprft w e r d e n . ) . Similarly, in the English version of his paper (Schmithausen 2005: 243) he s a y s : [ T ] h e r ei s s t i l l m u c hw o r kt ob ed o n ef r o mt h ep o i n t o f v i e wo f a strictly historicophilological method. In order to arrive at reliable results, one has to find the oldest sources for each philosophical theory and to check the context in w h i c h t h e r e s p e c t i v e t h e o r y a p p e a r s t h e r e . H o w e v e r , t h e o l d e s t s o u r c e s i s a relative term. What if the earliest source for a given theory is centuries later than the theory itself? In the main part of his paper Schmithausen examines the Sandhinirmocanas t r a , which may be th as late as the 4 century CE because it is later than the D a a b h m i k a s t r a which was translated into Chinese in the last decade of the third century (cf. Schmithausen 1973: 172, Schmithausen 2005: 248). To what extant can one rely on this source, which is not a historiographic source and which perhaps originated two centuries after the theory of v i j a p t i m t r a t , in order to draw a conclusion about its origin? On the other hand, the Pratyutpannabuddhas a m m u k h v a s t h i t a s m a d h i s t r a , which is the oldest source for the v i j a p t i m t r a t doctrine, and was translated into Chinese as early as 179 C.E., receives less attention from Schmithausen. In the following I will confine my remarks to it, as this work is indeed our earliest source for this v i j a p t i m t r a t doctrine. Like the A as h a s r i k p r a j p r a m i t , th i s S t r a t o o w a s a l s o t r a n s l a t e d b y Lokak e m aa n dc o u n t sa so n eo f t h ee a r l i e s t Ma h y n a s t r a s. While the A a s h a s r i k is considered to be a source for the Madhyamaka philosophy o fN g r j una, the Pratyutpannabuddhas a m m u k h v a s t h i t a s m a d h i s t r a is assumed to be a foundation of t h e i d e a l i s mo f t h e Y o g c r a . I nt h e type of m e d i t a t i o nd e s c r i b e da n dp r a i s e di nt h i s S t r a , t h ey o g i v i s u a l i z e s o n e , o r even several present Buddhas, foremost Amit b h a ,t h eB u d d h ao f



Immeasurable Light/Luster. When he reaches the highest degree of concentration, he perceives the Buddha(s) face to face. Only after he emerges from the state of meditation he understands that he did not go to the Buddha, nor did the Buddha come to him. The whole encounter took place only in his mind. And again the yogi generalizes: Just as during the meditation all objects were mere images in my mind or consciousness, so are all external objects: they are n o t h i n g b u t i m a g e s i n o n e s mind. The external world, i.e., the world outside consciousness, does not exist.27 It is worthwhile noting that in this case there is no one-to-one correspondence between the content of the meditation and a metaphysical doctrine. The yogi in meditation does not have an insight into the true nature of reality. On the contrary, the objects of his meditation, the Buddha(s) that he visualizes, are false. Epistemologically speaking, they have the same status as an illusion. Only after and outside the state of meditation the yogi reaches the correct conclusion. As the text states, he did not go to the Buddha, and the Buddha did not come to him. (Nevertheless, the meditation is not entirely without foundation in reality because the mind of the Buddha indeed operates from a distance directly on the mind of the yogi.28) Therefore, when Schmithausen states that the metaphysical doctrines in Buddhism arose i n a n i m m e d i a t e m a n n e r f r o ms p i r i t u a l p r a x i s ( u n m i t t e l b a r a u sd e rs p i r i t u e l l e nP r a x i sh e r v o r g e w a c h s e ns e i nd r f t e n ) , he uses the e x p r e s s i o n a r ose i na ni m m e d i a t em a n n e r i nd i f f e r e n t m e a n i n g s . I no n e case, the expression refers to the molding of meditative experience into a philosophical or religious doctrine, in the other case to the molding of the experience into a doctrine that contradicts it because the experience in the state of meditation is declared to be false.29

27 28

For an English translation cf. Harrison 1990, esp. chapter 3. Three factors are necessary for the obtaining of the vision of the Buddhas (Harrison 1990: 4 1 ) : [ t ] h e m i g h t ( S k t . a n u b h v a ) of the Buddha, the application of the force of their [the B o d h i s a t t v a s ]o w nw h o l e s o m epotentialities, and the power [which is the result] of attaining s a m d h i . C f . a l s oibid., pp. 49 and 51 where it is stated that the Bodhisattvas are established in the s a m d h i while being supported by the Buddha. In a personal communication Schmithausen informs me that he would now withdraw the a d v e r b u n m i t t e l b a r ( i na ni m m e d i a t em a n n e r ) , b u t s t i l l m a i n t a i n s t h a t p h i l o s o p h i c a l theories arise in a mediate manner from meditation.




Next, let us consider the meaning of c h e c k i n gt h ec o n t e x t . According to the Pratyutpannabuddhas a m m u k h v a s t h i t a s m a d h i s t r athe yogi attains an understanding of a metaphysical doctrine after and on the basis of his experience during meditation. Can we rely on this presentation of the context and draw historical conclusions about the origination of this metaphysical teaching from it? T h e Ma h y n a s t r a s are obviously not historical narratives or reports in the sense that they provide information on the historical situation in which their teachings came into being. In other words, if a Ma h y n a s t r an a r r ates that a certain yogi reached the right view about v i j a p t i m t r a t in meditation, this would hardly allow us to infer that this was in fact the way the doctrine came into being, even if the contextual c o n n e c t i o ni nt h eS t r as e e m ss m o o t h . B e s i d e s , t h eMa h y n a s t r a si n g e n e r a l a n do u r S t r ai np a r t i c u l a r do not describe the meditating yogi as discovering anything that was not already taught by the Buddha. The yogi does not enter meditation as a tabula rasa, but only after studying (or h e a r i n g ) w h a t h a s t o b e p r a c t i c e d d u r i n g m e d i t a t i o n . T h u s , t h e S t r a s own account does not leave any room for innovation. Rather, one could say that no matter how a metaphysical doctrine arose, t h e Ma h y n a s t r a s p r e s e n t i t a s t h e B u d d h a s w o r d a n d a s object of meditation. The mode of presentation has more to do with religious topology and literary conventions than with an a c t u a lh i s t o r i c a ls i t u a t i o n .I fw ew e r et ot a k et h e Ma h y n a s t r a sa s historical accounts, we may just as well start looking for the origin of Ma h y n a t h e o r i e s o n t h e V u l t u r e P e a k i n R j a g ha. It would also not be advisable, as some scholars attempted only a generation ago30 with respect to the S t r a s o f C o n s e r v a t i v e B u d d h i s m , t od i s c a r dt h o s e parts of the Pratyutpanna-S t r a t h a t a r e o b v i o u s l y m y t h i c a l a n d a s s u m e t h a t what remains corresponds to a historical reality. Such a procedure was applied, for instance, to the biography of the Buddha, with results that seem more and more doubtful. Imagine substracting the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood and assuming that the rest of the story corresponds somehow to historical reality. Moreover, even if one were to accept that the presentation in this particular S t r ai sat r u ea n df a i t h f u l m i r r o r o f i t so r i g i n , t h i s s t i l l d o e sn o t l e a dt o conclusive results in this case, or better, it leads to more than one result. The crucial passage adduced as evidence for the thesis that the doctrine of

Indeed, not only a generation ago; cf. Schumann 2004.



v i j a p t i m t r a t originated in meditative practice can also be adduced as evidence that the same doctrine was developed as a result of thoughts about the reflection of light in mirrors and similar shiny objects. Let us have a look at the passage to understand how precarious the textual material is (Harrison 1990: 41-42):
[ 3 K ] F o r e x a m p l e , B h a d r a p l a , t h e r e a r e c e r t a i nw o m e no r m e nw i t ha n a t u r a l b e n t for washing their hair and putting on jewelry, who might decide to look at themselves in a vessel of clear oil, or a vessel of clear water, or a well-polished round mirror, or a patch of ground smeared with azurite[?]. If they see therein their own form, B h a d r a p l a , w h a t d oy o ut h i n k ?D o e st h a t a p p e a r a n c eo f the form of the men or women in the vessel of clear oil, or the vessel of clear water, or well-polished round mirror, or patch of ground smeared with azurite mean that there are men or women w h o h a v e g o n e i n s i d e t h o s e t h i n g s o r e n t e r e d t h e m ? B h a d r a p l a said: N o R e v e r e n d L o r d , i t d o e s n o t . R a t h e r , R e v e r e n d L o r d , b e c a u s e t h e o i l a n d t h e w a t e r are clear and undisturbed, or the mirror is highly polished, or the patch of earth smeared with azurite is clean, the reflections stand forth; the bodies of the men or women have not arisen from the water, oil, mirror, or patch of earth, they have not come from anywhere nor gone anywhere, they have not been produced from a n y w h e r e , n o r h a v e t h e y d i s a p p e a r e d a n y w h e r e . [3L] The Lord said: We l ld o n e , w e l ld o n e , B h a d r a p l a !Y o uh a v ed o n ew e l l , B h a d r a p l a !S oi ti s , B h a d r a p l a . A s y o uh a v e s a i d , b e c a u s e t h e f o r m s a r eg o o da n dc l e a r t h e r e f l e c t i o n s appear. In the same manner, when those bodhisattvas have cultivated this s a m d h i properly, those T a t h g a t a s are seen by the bodhisattvas with little difficulty. Having seen them they ask questions, and are delighted by the answering of those questions. I nt h i n k i n g : D i dt h e s e T a t h g a t a s come from anywhere? Did I go anywhere? They understand that the T a t h g a t a s did not come from anywhere. Having understood that t h e i r b o d i e s d i dn o t g oa n y w h e r e e i t h e r , t h e yt h i n k : Wh a t e v e r b e l o n g s t ot h i s t r i p l e world is nothing but mind (~c i t t a m t r a mi d a yad idat r a i d h t u k a m ). Why is that? Because however I imagine things, that is how they appear.

I ma f r a i dt h a tn o t h i n gd e c i s i v ec a nb ec o n c l u d e df r o ms u c hp a s s a g e s . F u r t h e r m o r e , i nt h e s a m e c h a p t e r o f t h e s a m e S t r a ( c h a p t e r 3 ) t h e d o c t r i n e that all final elements of existence are illusory is presented in connection with the phenomenon of dreams. After the dream one generalizes and come to the conclusion that the experience in a dream is the same as all everyday experience and the illusory character of dreams is extended to the latter.31

Cf. Harrison1 9 9 0 : 3 9 : B h a d r a p l a , f o r m e r l yi nt h ep a s t , ac e r t a i nm a nt r a v e l l e di n t o deserted wilderness, and having become hungry and thirsty was overcome by torpor and



This connection between dreams and v i j a p t i m t r a t too is contextually smooth and given the significance of dreams in Indian culture, apparent already in the Vedic period, one could even argue for a certain plausibility in its favour. However, here Schmithausen would object, as he kindly did in a personal communication, that his method consists in the examination of the oldest source for a key term (Schlssel-Terminus)32 in a specific meaning (in einer bestimmten Bedeutung) and asking whether the occurrance of the term in its context is plausible, 33 i.e., whether the introduction of the term in the relevant meaning is reasonably motivated, as Schmithausen did with regard to the term l a y a v i j n a .34
lethargy; he fell asleep, and in a dream obtained a great quantity of food and drink. On obtaining it he ate his fill, and his hunger and thirst vanished. When he awoke, neither his b o d y n o r h i s b e l l yh a d g r o w n a n y l a r g e r , a n d s o h e t h o u g h t : T h e r e e x i s t c e r t a i n d h a r m a s w h i c ha r e s o , t h a t i s , l i k ead r e a m ; u n d e r s t a n d i n gt h a t t ob e s oh e o b t a i n e dt he patient acceptance of the fact that dharmas are not produced (Skt. anutpattika-dharma-k n t i ); a n d h e a l s o b e c a m e u n a b l e t o r e g r e s s f r o mt h e s u p r e m e a n d p e r f e c t a w a k e n i n g . T h et e x t c o n t i n u e st h a t i nt h es a m em a n n e rt h eB o d h i s a t t v a sw h o c o n c e n t r a t et heir t h o u g h t o nt h eT a t h g a t ai nt h a t q u a r t e r , t h e yw i l l o b t a i nav i s i o no f t h eB u d d h a . T h e y should not entertain the apperception of an existing thing, but should entertain the a p p e r c e p t i o n o f a n e m p t y s p a c e .

This emphasis on a key term does not yet ap p e a r i n S c h m i t h a u s e n s 1 9 7 3 p a p e r a n d i n t h e English version of 1976, but is formulated in his l a y a v i j n a (Tokyo 1987) 1.4, pp. 910; cf. note 34 below. Plausibility is, of course, a rather vague criterion. What is plausible for one observer is implausible for the other. If one believes that philosophical theories in Buddhism arise from meditative experiences, it seems plausible that this is also the case in the Pratyutpanna-s t r a ; if, on the other hand, someone, like Bronkhorst or Sharf, does not share this belief, this would seem implausible. What seems plausible to us is bound to become implausible to the next generation. Dumezil once gave a wonderful answer to the question whether he was right about th e t r i p a r t i t e i d e o l o g y : J a i r a i s o n , m a i s j a u r a i t o r t ! ( I a mr i g h t , b u t I w i l l b e w r o n g ! ) Aber ich gehe nicht von einer beliebigen Stelle aus, sondern vom ltesten erreichbaren Beleg eines Schlssel-Terminus in einer bestimmten Bedeutung, und frage mich, ob dessen Auftreten dort im Kontext plausibel ist, d.h. die Einfhrung des verwendeten T e r m i n u s i n d e r r e l e v a n t e n B e d e u t u n g e i n l e u c h t e n d m o t i v i e r t ( v g l . l a y a v i j a n a 1.4). Does the word E i n f h r u n g i m p l yt h a t t h e t e r mw a s u s e d t h e r e f o r t h e f i r s t time? Surely that would be an unlikely assumption. Considering the state of available materials, the assumption that such a source did not survive is more plausible. Schmithausen clearly





The emphasis on a key term raises the question whether a given theory and the term that designates it coincide. In the case of the terms v i j a p t i m t r a or c i t t a m t r awe know this not to be the case. Schmithausen himself pointed out that the term c i t t a m t r a was first used to negate emotional and volitional factors beside the mind, not the existence of real objects.35 The expression pr a j a p t i m t r awas used in the B o d h i s a t t v a b h m i and Bodhisattvab h m i v i n i c a y ai nt h es e n s eo f m e r ed e n o m i n a t i o n , i . e . ,a l l u d i n gt oa nominalistic theory that denies the correspondence between human concepts and things in reality, but does not deny that things exist in reality. In another use of the same term, it refers to a theory which maintains that false conception really produces things (outside the mind).36 The statement that the whole world is just mind (c i t t a m t r a mi d a yad ida t r a i d h t u k a m ) in the D a a b h m i k a s t r acan be understood as denying the Self ( t m a n ), not the existence of real objects.37 So what can be concluded from the fact that v i j a p t i m t r a and c i t t a m t r a o c c u r i n t h e S t r a i n a d i f f e r e n t ( n o t n e c e s s a r i l y new) meaning? What can be inferred from the fact that they denote here an idealistic doctrine? Do the terms tell us how this doctrine arose? The terms are after all descriptive of a certain tenet; they do not wear a tag saying how the tenet they refer to came about.38 Furthermore, c o u l d n t one assume that a doctrine existed before a specific t e r mw a s a d o p t e dt or e f e r t oi t ?A n dc o u l d n t i t b et h a t as o u r c ew h e r ea technical term does not yet appear indicates an earlier stage of development before the theory was crystallized and obtained a special designation? Consequently, is it not possible that a source where a technical term does not yet appear gives us a better clue as to how the theory in question originated? Imagine two passages proclaiming the same idealistic theory, one using the
s a y s e r r e i c h b a r e n B e l e g . Note the (unintended?) switch from the neutral Auftreten to Einfhrung that is not.
35 36 37 38

Schmithausen 1976: 244. Schmithausen 1976: 245. Schmithausen 1976: 249. In the case of the term l a y a v i j n a one may argue that its literal meaning reflects its first function because the term was coined with that function in mind. However, such an inference is not possible in the case of c i t t a m t r aor v i j a p t i m t r a ; they do not disclose the context of their origin.



key term v i j a p t i m t r a , the other not referring to it, do we have to conclude that the first passage gives us the decisive clue as to how the theory arose and not the second?39 To conclude the examination of the issue of v i j a p t i m t r a t , we may say that although there is some evidence for the arising of this theory from meditative experience, though certainly not in an immediate manner, the evidence is inconclusive and the methodology used by Schmithausen uncertain. O n es h o u l da l s or e c a l l t h a t S c h m i t h a u s e n s t h e o r yi s not, so to speak, the only one on the market. Following Paul Harrison, the idealistic teachings of the Pratyutpannabuddha-s t r acan be seen as an attempt to harmonize a c e r t a i nm e d i t a t i v ep r a c t i c ew i t ht h eMa h y n at e a c h i n g sw h i c hs t a n di n contradiction to it, namely, the practice of the visualization of the Buddha with the doctrine that everything, including the Buddha himself, is unreal. If this hypothesis were confirmed, the doctrine did not arise from meditative practice, but from the need to harmonize contradictory theories: a previously existing doctrine and/or practice of meditation is adjusted to a new philosophical theory. 40 One may also speculate that the b u d d h n u s m tiMeditation was first harmonized with a previously existing v i j a p t i m t r a t doctrine, because t h e a u t h o r o f t h e S t r a e m p h a s i z e s t h a t t h e b u d d h n u s m ti functions within the frame of the v i j a p t i m t r a t doctrine by assuming a mutual influence between the mind of the meditator and that of the Buddha.


Move to main text? C o n s i d e r f o r i n s t a n c et w op a s s a g e s t h a t r e f e r t ot h eS khyistic doctrine of the three gu as as constituent parts of all matter. I do not think that anyone would argue that the passage where the technical term gu a or the technical terms for the specific gu as appear for the first time in the available sources is necessarily older and gives us a better clue about the origin of the doctrine. To take another example, the d o c t r i n eo ft h eT a t h g a t a g a r b h ar e f e r r e dt ob e l o wa p p e a r si nr u d i m e n t a r yf o r m , a n d w i t h o u t a s s o c i a t i o nw i t hat e c h n i c a l t e r m , i nt h eL o t u sS t r ai nc o n nection with the e c c e n t r i cm o n kS a d p a r i b h t a . S h o u l do n e , t h e r e f o r e , c o n c l u d ef r o m amethodological point of view that the context where the key term occurs for the first time, rather than the one where it does not occur at all, gives us the key about the origin of the doctrine? Cf. Harrison 1978. One could argue perhaps that even in this case the v i j a p t i m t r a t doctrine arose indirectly from meditation, namely, from thinking about the compatibility of b u d d h n u s m ti-m e d i t a t i o nw i t hMa h y n aI l l u s i o n i s m . However, I do not think that Schmithausen would argue for this hypothesis because what is decisive here is the philosophical desire for coherence, not the spiritual practice as such.




Then, in a second stage of development, the v i j a p t i m t r a t doctrine would h a v eb e e ni n t e g r a t e di n t oMa h y n aI llusionism, according to which even the mind and its images are unreal.41 Furthermore, the v i j a p t i m t r a t doctrine i s t h e o n l y Y o g c r a d o c t r i n e t h a t is examined by Schmithausen. However, there are other philosophical 42 doctrines associated with this school, such as the doctrine of the three natures (t r i s v a b h v a ), the transformation of the basis ( r a y a p a r i v tti),43 a 44 special theory of Buddhahood, N i r v a (aprati hita-n i r v a) and t a t h a t , 45 and indeed of t h e g e n e r a l Ma h y n a i d e a l o f B o d h i s a t t v a . It remains to be proved that all these theories and some more could be added arose from meditative experience or from spiritual practice. As far as I can see, it would even be hard to prove that theories about meditation arise from meditative practice (cf. below). My skepticism about the role of meditation in the formation of philosophical theories is not alleviated when I consider the most important individual Y o g c r ap h i l o s o p h e r s ,Ma itreya 46 and Asa ga. Frauwallner described Ma i t r e y a s p h i l o s o p h ya s f o l l o w s (Frauwallner 1994: 297-298): I mg r o e n gesehen ist die Lehre Maitreyan t h a s e i nk u n s t v o l l e s G e b u d e , i nd e md i e verschiedenen lteren Lehren mit wertvollen eigenen Gedanken zu einer Einheit verschmolzen sind. Among the older teachings, Frauwallner mentions the theory of the highest Be i n g o f S r a m a t i , earlier Y o g c r a ideas (Anschauungen) and various elements from the Madhyamaka. These diverse elements were systematized to form a philosophical system which may be

As far as I know, the doctrine of v i j a p t i m t r a t without connection t o Ma h y n a g e n e r a l illusionism or t a t h a t Monism appears only in later works such as the Tri i k of Vasubandhu. This does not mean, of course, that this doctrine (i.e., that the final elements of existence are mental dharmas that are not themselves illusory) originated with Vasubandhu. The notion of school is rather problematic in the Indian philosophical context; I use this term here merely for the sake of convenience, cf. also Franco 1997: 89-92. Cf. Sakuma 1998. Cf. Griffiths 1995. Cf. Dayal 2004. How much of the Bodhisattva doctrine could be said to have arisen from spiritual (moral-ethical) practice? The historicity of Maitreya is dubious, but there is no need to discuss this issue here because it does not affect my argument.


43 44 45




termed idealistic monism. What I fail to see, however, was that the conception of this system is the result of meditative experience. To be sure, liberating insight is said to be attained only in a state of meditation, but one cannot show that the philosophical or mystical doctrine realized in this state actually arose from it or was conceived on its basis. The systematisation of older materials into a coherent and new philosophical system hardly requires or presupposes meditative experience. Similarly, when one considers the writings attributed to Asa ga, the assumption that they arose from meditation becomes doubtful, for his basic work consists in patient reorganization and reworking of older H n a y n aA b h i d h a r m am a t e r i a l s 47 within the new framework of Y o g c r a i d e a l i s m . T h e n e x t Ma h y n a tradition I would like t o c o n s i d e r i s t h e T a t h g a tagarbha, the so-called Buddha-embryo school. According to this school all living beings are potential Buddhas and, even though it will certainly take much time, will eventually become Buddhas. In other words, all living beings are Buddha embryos that will grow to become fully developed Buddhas or according to another meaning of the word garbha which may mean an e m b r y o o r w o m b all living beings represent wombs in which Buddhas will grow. The Tath g a t a g a r b h a s t r ais presumably the earliest source in w h i c ht h eT a t h g a t a g a r b h ad o c t r i n ei se x p r e s s e di na s s o c i a t i o nw i t ht h i s very term. 48 Michael Zimmermann, to whom we owe the most extensive s t u d yo f t h i s S t r a , a l s oi n v e s t i g a t e di t s o r i g i na n dI c a n n o t but fully agree with his conclusion (Zimmermann 2002: 75):
Of course, we cannot know whether the idea of the Buddha-nature in living beings resulted from a novel meditative experience or because the authors felt the need to assert its existence in order to improve an unsatisfactory worldly or philosophical state of affairs, or whether it is based on other experiences. All this is mere speculation.

The last philosophical tradition I would like to examine here is the so-called P r a m a School. How much of the Buddhist philosophy presented in the p r a m a works can be said to have arisen from meditative practice? We are relatively well informed about the origin of this tradition and its

Cf. Frauwallner 1994: 328: F rs e i nS y s t e mi s t v o ra l l e md i e b e r n a h m ed e r B e g r i f f s w e l t d e r H n a y n a -Dogmatik kennzeichnend. The E k a y n a d o c t r i n e , h o w e v e r , w h i c h i s p r e s u p p o s e d o r i m p l i e d b y t h e T a t h g a t a g a r b h a philosophy, predates the T a t h g a t a g a r b h a s t r a . Cf. also note 39 above.




philosophical theories, and it seems that they do not have anything to do with meditation. Rather, in the first stage (as reflected in the *T a r k a s t r a , *U p y a h daya and the final part of the Spitzer Manuscript),49 the Buddhists borrow very heavily from Brahminical manuals of debate, adding, modifying and developing here and there. In the later period, from the sixth century onwards, Buddhist philosophy, focusing mainly but not exclusively on epistemology, logic and theory of language, is developed above all in response to and in controversy with the Brahminical philosophers from the N y y aa n dM m s t r a d i t i o n s . I t i s c l e a r t h a t w h e nS c h m i t h a u s e nspeaks about philosophical theories, he thinks primarily of ontological theories and leaves aside epistemology, logic, theory of language and to large extent even ethics. 50 D i g n g a , D h a r m a k rti, Dharmottara, Praj k a r a g u p t a , a k a r a n a n d a n aa n dJ n a r m i t r aa r eg e n e r a l l yc o n s i d e r e dt h e most outstanding Buddhist philosophers, but one cannot point at anything in their writings as having originated from meditation. For all we know, these Buddhist philosophers may not have practiced meditation at all,51 or if they did, perhaps only for short and insignificant periods of time.52
49 50

Cf. Tucci 1929 and Franco 2004. I t i s a l s o c l e a r t h a t S c h m i t h a u s e n u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f t h e t e r m p h i l o s o p h y i s n o t r e s t r i c t e d to philosophy in the technical sense which is characterized by the use of special reasons a n da r g u m e n t s . I t i s o n l yb yf o l l o w i n gS c h m i t h a u s e n s u s a g e o f t h e t e r m p h i l o s o p h y , t h a t I u s e dh e r e p h i l o s o p h i c a l t h e o r y , p h i l o s o p h i c a l d o c t r i n e a n ds i m i l a r e x p r e s s i o n s w h i l e r e f e r r i n g t o B u d d h i s t S t r a s a n d A b h i d h a r m a l i t e r a t u r e . We have practically no biographical data about the Buddhist philosophers. Pra j k a r a g u p t awas probably a lay person (u p s a k a ) ( c f . T a r a n t h a1 9 9 7 : 2 9 6 )and a karanandana was perhaps not even a Buddhist; cf. Krasser 2001 and further references therein. A pertinent observation by Eltschinger is worth quoting in this connection (forthcoming: 16): Le bouddhisme indien nous confronte donc la situation suivante. D u nc t , d e s s e c t e s n o m b r e u s e s d o n t l e s s p c i f i c i t s d i s c i p l i n a i r e s e t d o c t r i n a l e s n o u s s o n t p l u so um o i n sb i e nd o c u m e n t e s ; d el a u t r e , d e sd i s c o u r sp h i l o s o p h i q u e sp l u sou m o i n s b i e n c o n n u s e u x a u s s i , m a i s d o n t l a n c r a g e i n s t i t u t i o n n e l s e c t a i r e n o u s c h a p p e . E n d a u t r e st e r m e s ,c e sd e u xo r d r e sd er a l i t ,l i n s t i t u t i o n n e le tl ep h i l o s o p h i q u e ,n e c o n c i d e n to un es es u p e r p o s e n tq u e nd et r sr a r e sc a se nl t a ta c t u e ld en os c o n n a i s s a n c e s . I would only want to add that even if we knew more about the sectarian and institutional affiliation of the Buddhist philosophers, we would still not know if, and to what extent, an individual philosopher followed such disciplinary and doctrinal specifities in practice. To these, one may add perhaps Vasubandhu, whose strength, so it seems, lies more in his ability to systematise and expound various theories than in conceiving original





At this point it may be worthwhile to raise the question how the Buddhist tradition itself considered the relationship between meditation and metaphysics. I mentioned above that meditation plays a decisive role in the doctrines that are rejected as harmful in the B r a h m a j l a s u t t a . T h i sS t r a , w h i c hi s p l a c e df i r s t i nt h e c o l l e c t i o no f s t r a s i nt h e P l i c a n o n , d i s c u s s e s some sixty-four53 erroneous views held by various ascetics and Brahmins. A large number of these false views arise directly from meditative experiences. I will mention only two such views, one claiming that the world is finite, the o t h e r t h a t i t i s i n f i n i t e . I t i s c l e a r t h a t t h ea u t h o r ( s ) o f t h i s S t r ad i s t r u s t ( s ) meditative visions and trances as a source for philosophical theories (Anonymous 1987: 32):
He [a certain sama a or b r h m a a]s a y st h u s : T h i sw o r l di sf i n i t e .I ti s circumscribed. Why can it be said so? It can be said so because having achieved utmost mental concentration by dint of ardent, steadfast, persevering exertion, mindfulness and right attentiveness, and having established my mind in highest concentration, I abide in the view that the world is finite. Based on this, I know that the world is finite and that it is circumscribed.

Exactly the same formulation is used to substantiate the contradictory view that the world is infinite:54
He [a certain sama ao r b r h m a a ] s a y s t h u s : This world is finite, with no limit. Those sama a sa n db r h m a as who assert that the world is finite and that it is circumcised are wrong. In fact, this world is infinite, with no limit. Why can it be said so? It can be said so because having achieved utmost mental concentration by dint of ardent, steadfast, persevering exertion, mindfulness and right attentiveness, and having established my mind in highest concentration, I abide in the view that the world is infinite. Based o n t h i s , I k n o wt h a t t h e w o r l d i s i n f i n i t e , w i t h n o l i m i t .

philosophical doctrines. There is a biography of Vas u b a n d h ub y P a r a m r t h a , w h i c h i s , t o b es u r e , p a r t l yl e g e n d a r y . Y e t i t i si n t e r e s t i n gt h a t P a r a m r t h an e v e r d e p i c t sh i sh e r o meditating. Rather, Vasubandhu studies the Buddhist writings, summarizes them, refutes them, argues by means of logical reasoning and on points of grammar, and engages in debates with teachers of rival schools, both Buddhists and non-Buddhists, on the whole not unlike modern philosophers. Cf. Takakusu, 1904: 269-296.

Sixty-four is a number that designates a certain completeness (cf. the sixty-four arts and crafts [k a l ]). While there are certainly more than sixty-four wrong views in the world, the author nevertheless seems to strive for an exhaustive enumeration of all views concerning the world (loka) and the self (atta). The same formula is adduced as a reason for the false claims that the world is permanent, impermanent, partly permanent, etc. Cf. ibid., pp. 19, 21, 22, etc.




As mentioned above, both views are rejected by the Buddha (or more p r e c i s e l y , b yt h e a u t h o r o f t h e S t r a ) , h o w e v e r , n o t b e c a u s eh ed o u b t s t h a t t h em e d i t a t i n gp e r s o n sa c h i e v e d u t m o s t m e n t a l c o n c e n t r a t i o nb yd i n t o f ardent, steadfast, persevering exertion, m i n d f u l n e s s a n dr i g h t a t t e n t i v e n e s s , that is, not because he doubts the quality of their meditative practice, but because meditative visions, such as recollections of numerous past lives, are not in themselves a sound basis for the formation of metaphysical doctrines. The topic of the special perception of yogis is extensively dealt with in the Buddhist epistemological tradition, where it is intimately related to the fundamental issues of the Buddhist religion, such as the reliability and omniscience of the Buddha. According to this tradition, as well as most, if not all Buddhist traditions, the Buddha already discovered everything one needs to know in order to achieve Enlightenment. Therefore, theoretically the yogi cannot innovate anything on the basis of his meditative experiences, at least not anything soteriologically true and useful, but has to meditate on 55 t h ec o n t e n t o ft h eB u d d h a sw o r d s . The characterization of the special perception of yogis in the P r a m asamuccaya, the foundational work of the P r a m a tradition, may seem surprising at first sight: T h e y o g i n s intuition which is not associated (a v y a v a k r a) with any conceptual construction of the g a m a(the authoritative words of the teachers) and which apprehends 56 only a thing in itself is also percept i o n . Read as such, this statement may create the impression that the perception of yogis has, by definition, nothing to do with the Buddhist authoritative writings ( g a m a ), but in fact the contrary is t h e c a s e . Wh a t D i g n g a m e a n s , a n d t h i s i s also how his followers understood him, is that the yogi studies the Buddhist teachings, meditates on them and in the process of meditation casts away all conceptual constructions, all cognitions related to language, and arrives at an immediate, non-conceptual understanding of these very teachings, perceiving them as vividly as one perceives a no b j e c t i nf r o n t o f o n e se y e s . T h e r e f o r e , t h e c h a r a c t e r i z a t i o n o f D i g n g a i n f a c t l i m i t s t h e s c o p e o f p e r c e p t i o n o f y o g i s to the content of the Buddhist works w h i c hp r o f e s s t h e B u d d h a s w o r d(or if D i g n g a also had non-Buddhist yogis in mind, to the scope of the

In this respect Robert Sharf is certainly right when he points out that the Buddhist tradition distrusted any new meditative experiences. Cf. PS I: 13: y o g i n ma p y g a m a vikalp vyatik r a ma r t h a m t r a d a r a n a pratyak am. The translation is taken from Hattori 1968: 27.




authoritative teachings of the respective traditions). In other words, it is theoretically impossible that the yogi will discover anything new and true in his visions that is not already included in his authoritative tradition. The literature of the Buddhist epistemological tradition is particularly interesting because it also provides us with theories about meditative trance. Here we can learn not only what the yogis perceive in a trance, but also about the nature of trance, how it arises, what its distinctive qualities are and so on. Moreover, we possess the individual writings of the most important philosophers of this tradition and can thus see how their theories were developed. The topic of meditation or perception of yogis (yogipratyak a), as it is usually called, became an important issue of controversy in the epistemological tradition to the exten t t h a t J n a r i m itra (ca. 980-1040), the last important Buddhist philosopher in South Asia, devoted a special treatise to it.57 However, yogic perception and related issues were hotly debated for hundreds of years before that, especiallyw i t ht h eM m s p h i l o s o p h e r s who recognized the potential danger yogic perception posed to the authority of the Veda. In addition, epistemological problems inherent in the notion of y o g i c p e r c e p t i o nw e r e i n d e p e n d e n t l yr a i s e d . A l r e a d yD h a r m a k r t i ( ca. 600660) was faced with the problem how abstract statements, such as those that constitute the four noble truths, could be perceived in an immediate manner, that is, without involving concepts (cf. Franco forthcoming). Later generations were particularly concerned with the problems related to omniscience. Is it really possible for a yogi, such as the Buddha, to know everything? What is the object of an omniscient cognition? Can one really know all individual things in a single act of awareness? Or is it only possible to know the essence of one thing and from that knowledge understand the essence of all things?58 Another problem concerns the veracity of yogic perception. If yogic perception is to be considered true, its object must exist, just like the object of any other perception. However, yogis in the Indian (not just Buddhist) tradition are believed to have direct perceptions of past and future objects.59

F o r a g e n e r a l i n t r o d u c t i o n t o t h e t o p i c o f y o g i c p e r c e p t i o n i n t h e P r a m a literature and a summary of the Yoginir aya, cf. Steinkellner 1978. Cf. McClintock 2000, Moriyama 2004, Moriyama forthcoming, Franco forthcoming. The perception of past and future objects is already mentioned in the Y o g a s t r a as one of t h e a c c o m p l i s h m e n t s ( siddhis). Cf. YS 3.16.

58 59



A c c o r d i n g l y ,P r a j k a r a g u p t a( ca. 750-810) argues that past and future objects must exist. This tenet, in its turn, leads to a development in the theory of time, which must account for the difference in the mode of existence of past, present and future objects. P r a j k a r a g u p t a m a i n t a i n s t h a t time taken as an independent and permanent entity does not exist. He seems to conceive of time as specific properties of existing things. Speaking of time as a separate entity, f o r i n s t a n c e , w h e no n es a y s : t h et i m eo f this t h i n g , i s s i m i l a r t o s a y i n g t h e b o d y o f t h i s t o r s o . Past or future objects are, therefore, objects that are not seen at present. And to say that yogis perceive the past or the future means that they perceive what is not being seen, that is, not being seen by other ordinary people. Therefore, being past or future entity depends on its not seeing by ordinary people. The yogi himself perceives past and future objects as present; only after emerging from the state of meditation he determines them as past or future.60 When one follows this discussion in detail, it is clear that the deliberations are purely philosophical. It is in fact quite certain tha tP r a j k a r a g u p t a developed the theory of the existence of past and future objects in the context of his proof of life after death and merely adapted a ready-made theory to the context of yogic perception. It can also be observed that the discussion of meditation in general in the Buddhist epistemological tradition is not related to actual experience in meditation.61 To what extant this was also the case in the earlier Abhidharma tradition cannot be determined because the mode of presentation in Abhidharma literature is impersonal and does not provide a context for possible personal innovations by individual philosophers. It is doubtf u l w h e t h e r t h e a u t h o r s o f t h e Ma h y n a s t r a s , the Y o g c r a b h m i or manuals of meditation62 were themselves practicing yogis

PVABh, 113,7 9: t a s m da t t d i p a y a t t i k o r t h a ? a n y e n d y a m n a p a y a t i t a d d y a m n a t a y v a r tam n a me v at v a t t a di t i n ad o a . a n y p e k a y t a s y t t d i t v a m . t a s m dy a t s k t k ta t a de v s t t i n t t d < v >a k avy p r a st a s y as k t k t a t v e n s t [ h ] i t v t . It is symptomatic that the example of the infatuated lover who sees his beloved as if she w e r e s t a n d i n gr i g h t b e f o r e h i s e y e s i s b a s e do nD h a r m a k r t i s e x p o s i t i o na n di s r e p e a t e d for hundreds of years. The poverty of examples, i.e., the fact that the same old examples are repeated again and again and hardly any new ones are introduced into the philosophical discourse, however, is typical for Indian philosophy in general. For an example of a Buddhist manual of meditation cf. Schlingloff 2006. Schlingloff points out that the purpose of the manual is not to teach the methods and technics of





or whether they were not rather systematising the experiences of others. The latter state of affairs would hardly be typical for Buddhism alone. For as Grinshpon repeatedly emphasizes, the author of the Y o g a s t r a swas a S khya philosopher who certainly was not actively practicing yoga (cf. Grinshpon 2002 passim). To conclude, I would like come back to Schmithause n s t h e s i s . In the above mentioned paper, Schmithausen attributes the peculiarity that in Buddhism theories, at least all important theories, arise immediately from spiritual practice to the Buddha himself: D e rG r u n df rd i e s e nU n t e r s c h i e d [zwischen Buddhismus auf der einen Seite und europischer und hinduistischer Philosophie auf der anderen Seite] liegt gewiss letztlich in der Person des Buddha selbst, der mit einer wohl einmaligen Konsequenz und Radikalitt alle fr das Heil irrelevanten theoretischen Spekulationen a b g e w i e s e nh a t t e . [The reason for this difference [between Buddhism on the one hand and European and Hindu philosophy on the other] certainly lies, in the final analysis, in the personality of the Buddha himself, who rejected once and for all, and with unique consequence and radicality, all theoretical speculations that are irrelevant to salvation.]63 S c h m i t h a u s e n s t h e s i s c o u l db ec r u c i a l f o r B u d d h i s t s t u d i e s . I f i t could be shown to be true, he would have discovered an essential driving force which played a crucial role during the entire history of Buddhism. One could almost see the Hegelian spirit entering Buddhist philosophy and determining it in a decisive manner and to a surprising degree. Not being a Hegelian
meditative practice (their knowledge is presupposed), but to present the individual visions systematically, classify and underp i nt h e md o g m a t i c a l l y( S c h l i n g l o f f 2 0 0 6 : 3 0 ) : D i e s e s [das Yogalehrbuch] hat die Aufgabe, die einzelne visionen als systematische bungen d a r z u s t e l l e n , z ug l i e d e r nu n dd o g m a t i s c hz uu n t e r m a u e r n . T h ep r a c t i c a l p a r t ( d e r praktischer Teil) too is ancored in t h e t r a d i t i o n ; j u s t a s Ma u d g a l y y a n a p e n e t r a t e s h e a v e n and earth, the yogi too visualises them, etc. (ibid.). On the whole, the meditaion manual leaves little or no room for personal innovations. The language is both desriptive and prescriptive; it not only describes what the yogi supposedly sees, but also what he should s e e . T h ei n d i v i d u a l s p o n t a n e o u s v i s i o n s a r ei nf a c t c a l c a t e do nt h eB u d d h a s b i o g r a p h y and other canonical materials.

The historicity of the Buddha and our ability to extract his original teachings from the canonical writings are clearly presupposed in this passage and need not be spelled out. Those were obviously more optimistic times.



myself, I find it difficult to accept that in the long and complex history of Buddhism in South Asia there was always a causal connection between meditation and metaphysics, and that their causal relationship was always one-directional, spiritual practice always being the cause, and metaphysics always the effect. As I tried to show above, this assumption involves a number of problems and there are considerations clearly speaking against it. On the whole, it is simply not provable. Indeed, it would be difficult to prove that spiritual practice is the cause of something when the spiritual practice itself is practically unknown to us.64 As far as I can see, the relation between meditation and metaphysics in Buddhism cannot be reduced to a single model. In the final analysis, one cannot avoid the conclusion that certain philosophical theories arose from meditative experiences and certain others did not, and that the origine of still others cannot be determined; thus we would be well advised to suspend judgement rather than indulge in speculations. On the basis of the examples mentioned above, I would say that the d h y n ameditation and the higher levels of the r p y a meditation (at least the last two levels), which incidentally are not mentioned by Schmithausen,65 seem to fit his model very well. The cosmic layers that bear the same name seem to have been conceived as cosmological parallels to the content as well as the psychological characteristics of the corresponding visions. This is clear already from the terminology. On the other hand, the theory of momentariness, as Schmithausen himself conceded, seems to have been developed out of philosophical considerations. The same can be maintained for the doctrine of the pudgala and the a n t m a ndoctrine. The doctrine of p r a t t y a s a m u t p d a seems to have arisen as a systematization of older canonical materials, and perhaps redactional reasons were the primary driving force behind it. Reflection on the law of karma and the phenomenon

This difficulty is relevant n o t o n l y f o r S c h m i t h a u s e n s t h e s i s , b u t a l s o f o r r e c e n t a t t e m p t s to us eP i e r r eH a d o t si n t e r p r e t a t i o no fG r e e kp h i l o s o p h ya sam o d e lf o rB u d d h i s t philosophy; cf. McClintock 2002: 6-8 and Kapstein 2003: 3-16. The deficiencies of this approach were clearly argued in Eltschinger forthcoming. Eltschinger rightly concludes ( 20) : nos textes [i.e., les textes de la philosophie bouddhique] ne se laissent pratiquement jamais reconduire leurs conditions historiques de production, ne quittant j a m a i s l e t e r r a i n d e l a r g u m e n t a t i o n e t d u r a i s o n n e m e n t p u r s . The reason for that is not clear to me; perhaps he does not consider them to be Buddhist in origin.




of memory, as well as textual considerations, seem to have led to the Sa r v s t i v d aa s s u m p t i o no f p a s t a n df u t u r eo b j e c t s . T h eq u e s t i o nwhether m e d i t a t i o no r p h i l o s o p h i c a l r e a s o n i n gc a u s e dt h ea r i s i n go f t h eMa h y na doctrine of emptiness cannot be answered because relevant unambiguous materials are lacking. The same holds true for the v i j a p t i m t r a t doctrine. To be sure, there is some evidence that connects this doctrine to the visualizations of the Buddha(s), but I fail to see how one could determine whether this doctrine arose from reflections on such visualizations or whether it originated independently and was applied to the meditative context to show that visualizations of the Buddha(s) are meaningful even w i t h i n t h e Ma h y n a i l l u s i o n i s t i c c o n t e x t . Furthermore, even if we were to assume for the sake of argument that all important philosophical theories in Buddhism were developed indirectly by reflection on spiritual practice, one could still argue that the dichotomy between spiritual practice and philosophical theory as such is not always tenable. For what happens when a philosopher thinks about spiritual practice quite possibly without first-hand experience of such practice and develops a new theory? Could it be said that in this case the doctrine arose from spiritual praxis in contradistinction to philosophical and theoretical considerations? Finally, it is worth repeating that the yogi, even if he were to arrive at a new metaphysical doctrine on the basis of meditation, does not enter meditative experience in the state of tabula rasa. It is highly unlikely that a Buddhist yogi will meet God the Creator in his visions, nor that a Jewish mystic or a Sufi will experience the a n t m a n -doctrine. Even the purest meditative experience is culturally and linguistically bound, and is engrossed in a tradition.66


In this connection one has to note especially the extensive work of Stephan Katz. He argued convincingly and repeatedly that mystical experiences are determined by language a n dc u l t u r et oac o n s i d e r a b l ed e g r e e , e . g . K a t z1 9 9 2 : 5 : [ My s t i c a l e x p e r i e n c e s ]a r e inescapably shaped by prior linguistic influences such that the lived experience conforms to a pre-existent pattern that has been learned, then intended, and then actualized in the e x p e r i e n t i a l r e a l i t y o f t h e m y s t i c . C f . a l s o K a t z 1 9 8 3 : 3 -60.



Abbreviations and bibliography

AKBh Anonymous 1987 Aung and Rhys Davids 1969 Bareau 1955 Bareau 1963

A b h i d h a r m a k o a b h yam of Vasubandhu. Ed. P. Pradhan. Patna 1975. T e n s u t t a s f r o mD g h a N i k y a . Rangoon 1984. Repr. Varanasi 1987. Points of Controversy or Subjects of Discourse. Transl. Shwe Zan Aung and Rhys Davids. Repr. London 1969. Andr Bareau, Les sectes bouddhiques du petit vhicule. Saigon 1955. Andr Bareau, Recherches sur la biographie du Bouddha dans l e sS t r a p i aka et Vinayapi aka anciens : De la qute de l v e i l l ac o n v e r s i o nd e r i p u t r ae t d eMa u d g a l y y a na. Paris 1963. Martin Brauen, The Mandala: Sacred Circle in Tibetan Buddhism. London 1998 Johannes Bronkhorst, Karma and Teleology. A problem and its solution in Indian philosophy. Tokyo 2000 Edward Conze, Buddhist Thought in India. London 1962 Edward Conze, Thirty Years of Buddhist Studies. London 1967. Edward Conze, The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Verses & its Verse Summary. Bolinas (second printing) 1975. Collett Cox, Disputed Dharmas. Early Buddhist Theories of Existence. Tokyo 1995. Har Dayal, The Bodhisattva doctrine in Buddhist Sanskrit literature. Repr. Delhi 2004. D g h a n i k y a ( P l i T e x t S o c i e t y ) Vincent Eltschinger, Pierre Hadot et les exercices spirituels : quel modle pour la philosophie bouddhique tardive ? Forthcoming in Etudes Asiatiques/Asiatische Studien 2008 Eli Franco, D h a r m a k r t i o nC o m p a s s i o na n dRebirth. Wien 1997. Eli Franco, The Spitzer Manuscript. The oldest philosophic-al manuscript in Sanskrit. Wien 2004.

Brauen 1998 Bronkhorst 2000 Conze 1962 Conze 1967 Conze 1975 Cox 1995 Dayal 2004 DN Eltschinger forthcoming

Franco 1997 Franco 2004

34 Franco forthcoming

ELI FRANCO Eli Franco, Perceptions of Yogis - Some Epistemological and Metaphysical Considerations. Proceedings of the 4th I n t e r n a t i o n a l D h a r m a k r t i C o n f e r e n c e . Wien, forthcoming. Erich Frauwallner, Abhidharma-Studien. III. Der A b h i s a m a y a v d a . Wiener Zeitschrift fr die Kunde Sd- und Ostasiens 15 (1971) 69-102. Erich Frauwallner, Die Entstehung der buddhistischen Systeme. Gttingen 1971. Erich Frauwallner, Philosophie des Buddhismus. 4th ed. Berlin 1994. Erich Frauwallner, Abhidharma Literature and the Origins of the Buddhist Philosophical Systems. Albany 1995. Rupert Gethin, The M t k s : Memorisation, Mindfulness, and the List. In: J. Gyatso (ed.) In the Mirror of Memory. Repr. Delhi 1993, pp. 149-172 Paul Griffiths, On being Buddha. The classical doctrine of Buddhahood. Repr. Delhi 1995 S i l e n c e u n h e a r d . D e a t h l y o t h e r n e s s i n P t a j a l a -yoga. Albany 2002 Paul Harrison, B u d d h n u s m ti in the Pratyutpanna-buddhas a m u k h v a s t h i t a -s a m d h i -s t r a . Journal of Indian Philosophy 6 (1978) 35-57. Paul Harrison, T h eS a m d h io fD i r e c tE n c o u n t e rw i t ht h e Buddhas of the Present. Tokyo 1990. Masaaki Hattori, D i g n g a , O nP e r c e p t i o n . Cambridge Mass. 1968 Matthew T. Kapstein, R e a s o n sT r a c e s .I d e n t i t y a n d Interpretation in Indian and Tibetan Buddhist Thought. Delhi 2003. Steven T. Katz (ed.), Mysticism and Religious Traditions. New York 1983. Stephan T. Katz, Mystical Speech and Mystical Meaning. In: Stephen T. Katz (ed.), Mysticism and Mystical Language. New York 1992 Helmut Krasser, O n t h e D a t e s a n d Wo r k s o f a karanandana. In: Le Parole e I Marmi. Ed Rafaelle Torella. Roma 2001, pp. 489-508. tienne Lamotte, Histoire du bouddhisme indien. Louvain 1974.

Frauwallner 1971a

Frauwallner 1971b Frauwallner 1994 Frauwallner 1995 Gethin 1993

Griffiths 1995 Grinshpon 2002 Harrison 1978

Harrison 1990 Hattori 1968 Kapstein 2003

Katz 1983 Katz 1992

Krasser 2001

Lamotte 1974



tienne Lamotte, The Assessment of Textual Interpretation in Buddhism. In: D. Lopez (ed.) Buddhist Hermeneutics. Honolulu 1988, pp. 341-361. Louis de La Valle Poussin, L A b h i d h a r m a k o a d e Vasubandhu. 6 Vols. Paris/Louvain 1923-1931. Rita Langer, Das Bewusstsein als Trger des Lebens. Wien 2001 Klaus-Dieter Mathes, Exegetische Prinzipien des Ma d h y a m a k au n dY o g c r a Die hermeneutische Tradition d e r b e i d e nMa h y n a -Schulen im Vergleich. Forthcoming in Beihefte zu Seculum. Jacques May, La philosophie bouddhique idaliste. Asiatische Studien XXV (1971) 265-323 Sara McClintock, Knowing All through Knowing One: Mystical Communion or Logical Trick in the Tattvasa -graha and Tattvasa g r a h a p a j i k .Journal of the Interna-tional Association of Buddhist Studies 23/2 (2000) 225-244. Sara McClintock: Omniscience and the Rhetoric of Reason in the Tattvasa graha and the Tattvasa grahap a j i k . Unpublished Ph.D. thesis. Harvard University 2002. Is the proof of the omniscient Buddha possible? H r i n11 (2004) 183-197. Shinya Moriyama,Omniscience and Religious Authority: P r a j k a r a g u p t a ' s C o m m e n t a r y o nt h e P r a m a v r t t i k aI I 8 10 and 29-33. Wien, forthcoming. Claus Oetke, Rationalismus und Mystik in der Philosophie N g r j u n a s . Studien zur Indologie und Iranistik 15 (1989) 139. E r n s t S t e i n k e l l n e r , D i g n g a s P r a m asamuccaya Chapter 1: Constantin Regamey, Tendances et mthodes de la philosophie indienne compares celles de la philosophie occidentale. Revue de Thologie et de Philosophie IV (1951) 245-262. Hidenori Sakuma, D i e r a y a p a r i v tti-Theorie in der Y o g c r a b h m i . Stuttgart 1998.

La Valle Poussin 19231931 Langer 2001 Mathes forthcoming

May 1971 McClintock 2000

McClintock 2002

Moriyama 2004 Moriyama forthcoming

Oetke 1989

PS I PVABh Regamey 1951

Sakuma 1998

36 Schlingloff 2006

ELI FRANCO Dieter Schlingloff (Hrsg. von Jens-Uwe Hartmann und Hermann-Josef Rllicke), Ein buddhistisches Yogalehr-buch. Unvernderter Nachdruck der Ausgabe von 1964 unter Beigabe aller seither bekannt gewordenen Fragmente. Mnchen 2006. Lambert Schmithausen, Spirituelle Praxis und philosophische Theorie im Buddhismus. Zeitschrift fr Missionswissenschaft und Religionswissenschaft. Heft 3/73 (1973) 161-186. Lambert Schmithausen, On the Problem of the Relation of Spiritual Practice and Philosophical Theory in Buddhism. In: Cultural Department of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany (ed.), German Scholars on India. Varanasi 1973, 235-250. Die vier Konzentrationen der Aufmerksamkeit. Zeitschrift fr Missionswissenschaft und Religionswissenschaft 60 (1976) 241-266 Lambert Schmithausen, Zur zwlfgliedrigen Formel des Entstehens in Abhngigkeit. Horin 7 (2000) 41-76 Reprint of Schmithausen 1976a in: Paul Williams (ed.), Buddhism. Critical Concepts in Religious Studies. Vol. II: The E a r l yB u d d h i s tS c h o o l sa n dD o c t r i n a lH i s t o r y ;T h e r a v d a Doctrine. London and New York 2005, pp. 242-254 H.W. Schumann, The Historical Buddha. The Times, the Life and the Teachings of the Founder of Buddhism. Delhi 2004. Robert Sharf, Buddhist Modernism and the Rhetoric of Meditative Experience. Numen 42 (1995): 228-83. Reprinted in P. Williams (ed.), Buddhism. Critical Concepts in Religious Studies. Vol. II: The Early Buddhist Schools and Doctrinal H i s t o r y ; T h e r a v d aB u d d h i s m . London and New York 2005, pp. 255-299. Peter Skilling, Vasubandhu and the V y k h y y u k t i Literature. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 23/2 (2000) 297-350. S a m y u t t a n i k y a ( P l i T e x t S o c i e t y ) Theodor Stcherbatsky, The Central Conception of Buddhism a n d t h e Me a n i n g o f t h e Wo r d d h a r m a . London 1923. Ernst Steinkellner, Yogische Erkenntnis als Problem im Buddhismus. In G. Oberhammer (ed.) Transzendenzerfahrung, Vollzugshorizont des Heils. Wien 1978, 121-134.

Schmithausen 1973

Schmithausen 1976a

Schmithausen 1976b

Schmithausen 2000 Schmithausen 2005

Schumann 2004 Sharf 1995

Skilling 2000

SN Stcherbatsky 1923 Steinkellner 1978



Ernst Steinkellner, Zur Lehre vom Nicht-Selbst (a n t m a n ) im frhen Buddhismus. In: J. Figl and H.-D. Klein (eds.), Der Begriff der Seele in der Religionswissenschaft. Wrzburg 2002, pp. 171-186. T a r a n t h a , History of Buddhism in India. Transl. from Tibetan by Lama Chimpa. Ed. by Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya. Simla 1970. Repr. Delhi 1997 J u n j i r T a k a k u s u , T h eL i f eo fV a s u b a n d h ub yP a r a m r t h a (A.D. 499-569). T o u n g p a o , ser. 2: 5 (1904) 269-296 Giuseppe Tucci, Pre-Dinnaga Buddhist Texts on Logic. Baroda 1929. Tilmann Vetter, The Ideas and Meditative Practices of Early Buddhism. Leiden 1988. Rma Prasda, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras with the commentary of Vysa and the gloss of Vchaspati Misra. Delhi 1978. Michael Zimmermann, A Buddha Within: The T a t h g a t a g a r b h a s t r a .T h e E a r l i e s tE x p o s i t i o n o ft h e Buddha-Nature Teaching in India. Tokyo 2002.

T a r a n t h a 1 9 9 7

Takakusu 1904 Tucci 1929 Vetter 1988 YS Zimmermann 2002