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Erik Ziircher
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Alexander Vesey
Journal of the International Association of
Buddhist Studies
Volume 17 Number 1 Summer 1994
What Else Remains in Sunyata?
An Investigation of Terms for Mental Imagery in the
Madhyantavibhaga-Corpus 1
Anti-Chan Polemics in Post Tang Tiantai
Yuan-wuK'o-ch'in's (1063-1135) Teaching ofCh'an
Kung-an Practice:
A Transition from the Literary Study ofCh'an Kung-an to
the Practical K'an-hua Ch'an 66
Honen and Popular Pure Land Piety:
Assimilation and Transformation
Guenther's Saraha:
A Detailed Review of Ecstatic Spontaneity
Contributors to this issue:
ALLAN A. ANDREWS is Associate Professor in the Department of
Religion at the University of Vennont. His is currently preparing a
book-length study of the life and thought of Honen.
DING-HW A EVELYN HSIEH is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the
Department of East Asian Languages at the University of California,
Berkeley. She is currently doing research on the "transmission of the
mind" in the battle for legitimacy in Confucianism and Ch' an
Buddhism during the Sung period.
ROGER JACKSON is Associate Professor of Religion at Carleton
College. He is author of Is Enlightenment Possible? Dharmakirti and
rGyal tshab rje on Knowledge, Rebirth, No-Self and Liberation. His
current research is focused on dGe lugs and other Tibetan approaches
to MahamuQra.
HUGH B. URBAN is a doctoral student in the History of Religions at
the University of Chicago's Divinity School. PAUL J. GRIFFITHS is
Associate Professor of the Philosophy of Religions at the same
BROOK ZIPORYN is a Ph. D. candidate in the Department of Asian
Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan, currently.
writing his dissertation on "Value and Anti-value in Tiantai Thought
and its Antecedents."
What Else Remains In Sl1nyata?
An Investigation of Terms for Mental Imagery
in the Madhyantavibhaga-Corpus .
In 1978 Gadjin Nagao published a short paper called '''What Remains'
in Sl1nyata: A Yogacara Interpretation of Emptiness." There he argued
that, according to the views expressed in the texts of the classical Indian
Yogacara, "emptiness" (tanyata) does not denote simple absence or
nonexistence (abhiiva); rather, there is always something left over or
remaining in emptiness, something that is identified with the
basis for or locus of all human activity, and that is otherwise called the
"dependent" (paratantra) aspect of experience. This remains even for
Buddha: the realization of emptiness, claims Nagao, does not entail the
end of the flow of experience, of what the Yogacara calls abhUta-
parilwZpa, the comprehensive construction of what is unreal. Rather,
this constructive activity continues, though it is now radically different,
and is called "perfected"
Our goal in this paper is to make this formal thesis more specific. If it
is true that Indian Yogacara texts do want to argue that the flow of
experience does not end with the attainment of awakening (bodhi);
which technical terms do they use to denote what remains? Can more be
said, logically or phenomenologically, about what "what remains" in
emptiness is like and which terms are used to describe it? As a first step
toward answering these questions we shall look at terms for mental
imagery in one particular corpus: the Madhyantavibhiiga (MY), com-
prising a root-text in verse together with two prose commentaries, a
(MV -bh) attributed to Vasubandhu and a .tim (MV -t) attributed
to Sthiramati. We shall attempt to see whether the patterns in which
these terms are used suggest anything about whether Buddha's experi-
ence is taken to be constituted by mental images, and if so what these
2 JIABS 17.1
might be like. We shall also try to gain more precise ideas than are yet
available to anglophone scholars about the semantic range of technical
terms in this area, as well as about the relationships among them. A
glance at secondary literature in this field shows that this is much
needed. There are no standard translations for the technical terms, no
clear sense of which are approximate synonyms and which bear signifi -
cantly and consistently different meanings; and the translations that are
given indicate that their users have widely and vividly different under-
standings of what these terms mean. We hope that this essay will clear
up some of this confusion, as Bruce Hall's work on vijiiapti has done in
connection with that term, and as one of us (Griffiths 1990) has tried to
do with terms for omniscience in an associated corpus of Buddhist texts.
The MY-corpus comprises a root-text in verse divided into five chap-
ters, together with a commentary and a subcommentary as mentioned.
Many things about the corpus-authorship, date, verse-enumeration and
verse-division-are either disputed or unknown. We offer brief
comments here.
As to authorship and date: the explanation given in MY-t of MV-
bh's abhyarcana, or opening dedicatory verse, attributes MV to one
Maitreyanatha, whom some traditions treat as a bodhisattva destined to
become the next Buddha for this world-realm, and some as a human
teacher. The colophon of the Tibetan translation of MY attributes it to
Aryamaitreya. The colophon of MY -bh, in both its Tibetan and San-
skrit versions, attributes it to Vasubandhu, a Buddhist scholastic thinker
who may have flourished in the fourth century CEo The colophon of the
only Sanskrit manuscript of MY -t to have been recovered attributes it to
Sthiramati, who may have been active in the sixth century. The corpus
as a whole therefore dates from roughly the fourth to the sixth century,
and represents classical Indian Yogacara.
The Sanskrit text is available in the following complete and partial edi-
tions: V. Bhattacharya & Giuseppe Tucci (MY -t, first chapter); Gadjin
Nagao (1964, MV-bh, complete); Nathmal Tatia (MY-bh, complete);
Susumu Yamaguchi (1934, MY-t, complete); Ramchandra Pandeya
(MY -t, complete with the text of MV alone as an appendix [194-202]).
There are Tibetan versions of all three texts. That of MV is called Dbus
dang mtha' mam par 'byed pa'i tshig le'ur byas pa (Tohoku #4021);
that ofMY-bhis called Dbus dang mtha' mam par 'byed pa'i 'grel pa
(Tohoku #4027); and that of MY -t is called Dbus dang mtha' mam par
'byedpa'i 'grel bshad (Tohoku #4032). There is one Cl'Jnese version
of MY, called Bian zhong bian lun song (TaishO #1601), translated by
Xuanzang; there are two different versions of MY -bh: one, the Zhing
bian fen bie lun (TaishO #1599), was translated by Paramartha, and the
other, the Bian zhong bian lun (TaishO #1600), was translated by
Xuanzang. There is no Chinese version of MY -to
There are translations of various segments of the corpus into modern
languages. Th. Stcherbatsky long ago translated the first chapter of
MV-t into English, as also (independently) did David Friedmann;
Susumu Yamaguchi (1935) translated the entire MY-t into Japanese;
Paul O'Brien translated the third chapter of MV-bh (with extensive
notes on MY-t) into English); Erich Frauwallner (324-326) translated
parts of the first chapter of MY into German; and David Ruegg (97-100,
426-427) translated parts of the first and fifth chapter of MV into
French. All these translations were made more than twenty-five years
ago. More recently, Stefan Anacker has translated the second, fourth,
and parts of the fifth chapter of MV -bh into English; and Thomas Wood
has translated the fIrst chapter of MY into English.
There are, unfortunately, various problems and disputes about the
number of verses in the MV, and about their proper division. These
disagreements mean that the enumeration of verses in the editions and
translations mentioned is often significantly different (especially in the
first, third and fifth chapters). This makes reference quite complicated.
We shall not try to resolve these questions here, but shall instead refer to
the texts of the corpus using, with very minor modifications and addi-
tions, the sectional divisions and titles given in MY-bh (and followed by
MV-t). These are set out in an appendix, with the page-numbers of the
three most easily available editions (Nagao [N], Yamaguchi [Y],
Pandeya [P]) given in parentheses following each sectional title. The
first number of each section-number indicates the chapter to which it
We have chosen to deal with the following terms: derivatives of the root
k ~ r p - (among which we find most commonly kalpana, kalpita, vikalpa,
4 nABS 17.1
parikalpa, and parikalpita); the nominal items vijiiapti (here making use
as much as possible of the work already done by Hall), pratibhasa, and
nimitta. Comments on the semantic range of these terms, and possible
translations for them, will follow in part four.
Our method has been, first, to find all instances of these terms in the
verses of MY and the prose of MV -bh. To do this we read through the
text in Nagao' s edition of MV -bh (in which all the verses of MV are
quoted in full), making use also of the trilingual (but not complete) index
oftechnical terms given in an appendix to that edition (80-231). We also
gained some help from the even more partial index of Sanskrit technical
terms in Pandeya's edition of MV -!. We then consulted MV -!' s com-
ments upon all these text-places, making use principally of Yamaguchi's
edition, but also consulting Pandeya's edition at times. Where the rele-
vant terms in MV or MV -bh are commented upon by MY -t using one
or more of our terms we have included that text -place in our list; but we
have not done so when MV -! simply quotes MV or MV -bh rather than
explains them. We have also added a fairly extensive (though not com-
prehensive) list of the occurrences of these terms in MV-t outside the
context of immediate commentary upon the text-places in MV or MV -bh
isolated as described above.
Based upon this method the list below is divided into four parts. The
first gives terms derived from k ~ r p - ; the second vijfiapti; the third prati-
bhiisa; and the fourth nimitta. Within each of these subdivisions the
terms are listed alphabetically, following Sanskrit alphabetical order.
Where they occur in compounds the compound is given in fuJI
(alphabetized by its first member), with the elements separated by hy-
phens, vowel coalescence removed where its presence would prevent
such division, and the final member of the compound given in stem
form. When a compound contains more than one of our chosen terms it
is given in all relevant subdivisions of the list, and is marked with an
asterisk to indicate this fact Terms are located by text (MV, MV-bh,
MV-t), and by section-number.
Terms Derived From Kl.rp-
ak3Ipita-MV-t 1.1.3
abhl1ta-kalpa-MV 1.1.3
abhuta-kalpana-MV 1.1.8
abh11ta-parikalpa-MV 1.1.1; MV -bh 1.1.1 (x5), 1.1.2, 1.1.3 (x2),
1.1.5; MV-t 1.1.2 (x2), 1.1.3 (x5), 1.1.8,1.1.9 (x3)
*abhfita-parikalpa-pratibhasa-bheda-MV -t 1.1.2
abh11ta-parikalpa-matra-MV-bh 1.1.3; MV-t 1.1.3, 1.1.5
abh11ta-parikalpa-matrata-MV -t 1.1.2
avikalpa-MV-bh 3.10.9; MV-t 3.10.9
avikalpa-jiiana-MV -t 3.10.9
avikalpa-dhatu-MV -t 1.2.2
avikalpanata-MV-bh (x2); MV-t
avidyadi-pratyaya-pravrtti-kalpana-MV -bh 3.10.4
ahaituka-kalpana-MV-t 3.10.4
kalpana-MV-bh 5.2.4; MV-!
kalpana-matra-MV-t 1.1.4
kalpayata-MV-bh 5.2.4 (x2)
kalpayati-MV-bh 5.2.4 (x2)
kalpayanti-MV-t 5.2.4
kalpita-MV 1.1.3; MV -t 3.2, 3.4 (x2),
kalpita-svabhava-MV-t 3.1, 4.1.8
kalpyeta-MV-! 3.10.4
klesa-parikalpita-mala-dvaya-santi-MV -t 3.4
3.10.9; MV-t 3.10.9
grahaka-vikalpa-MV -t 1.1.1
grahya-vikalpa-MV-t 1.1.1
grahya-grahakMi-kalpita-vyavahara-asrayatva-MV -t 3.1
1.1.1; MV-t 1.1.1, 1.1.4,
grahya-grahaka-vikalpa-asraya-MV -bh (x2)
grahya-grahaka-vikalpita-MV -t 1.1.1
ni1).samarthya-kalpana-MV-bh 3.10.4
*nimitta-vikalpa-MV -bh 3.8
nirvikalpa-MV-bh 2.4.3,,5.2.4; MV-t 3.8, 4.1.7 (x2), 5.2.1
(x2), (x2), 5.2.4
nirvikalpa-jiiana-MV-bh 5.2.1; MV-! 0 (x5), 5.2.1,
nirvikalpa-jiianaparigrhrtva-MV -bh 5.2.1
nirvikalpa-jiiana-vaSita-MV -t 2.4.3
nirvikalpata-MV -t 1.1.4
6 nABS 17.1
nirvikalpatva-MV-t 1.2.0, (x3), 5.2.4
nirvikalpa-vaSita-MV-bh 2.4.3; MV-! 2.4.3
nirhetukatva-kalpana-MV -bh 3.10.4
parikalpa-matra-MV -t 1.1.4
parikalpa-vikalpa-artha-clharmata-artlia-MV 3.10.0
parikalpita-MV-bh 1.1.3, 3.1, 3.3, 3.4,3.8,3.10.0 (x2); MV-t 1.2.3,
3.3,3.4 (x2), 3.6, 3.8, 3.10.0
parikalpita-avaboclha-MV-t 3.2
parikalpita-atmatva-MV -! 3.3
parikalpita-clharma-vikalpa-MV -! 5.2.4
-bh 3.9,
parikalpita-rupa-MV-! 1.1.4, 3.10.0 (x2)
3.1,3.3; MV-! 3.3 (x2)
parikalpita-svabhava-MV-bh 3.6; MV-! 1.1.3 (x2)' 3.1, 3.2, 3.4
parikalpita-svabhava-abhiniveSa-vasana-MV-bh 3.4
parikalpyata-MV-bh 3.3; MV-! 1.1.3
parikalpyate-MV-bh 3.3; MV-! 1.1.2,3.10.0
bhava-abhava-vikalpa-rahita-MV -!
boclhi-nirvikalpa-MV -! 4.1.6
mana-udgraha-vikalpa-akhyana-MV -! 3.10.10
rupa-vikalpa-MV -bh 3.10.0
vikalpa-MV 3.8; MV-bh 3.10.10, 5.2.4 (x5); MV-! 1.2.3, 3.5, 3.8
(x3), 3.10.0,5.2.4 (x8)
vikalpa-antara-kalpita-MV-! 1.1.3 (x2)
vikalpakatva-MV -bh 3.10.10
vikalpa-klesatva-MV-! 5.2.4
vikalpa-trasa-kausidya-vicikitsa-upaSanti-MV-bh 1.2.5
vikalpa-dvaya-anta-MV-bh 5.2.4 (x5); MV-! 5.2.4
vikalpa-dvaya-antata-MV 5.2.4
vikalpa-prabheda-MV-t 5.2.4
vikalpa-prabheda-pradarsana-artha-MV -! 5.2.4
vikalpita-MV-bh 3.10.0
vikalpita-clharma-trasa-MV -! 5.2.4
*vi jfiapti -antara-parikalpita-MV -! 1.1.2
-bh 3.10.4
vyapara-kalpana-MV-bh 3.10.4
sarva-vikalpa-MV -bh
sarva-vikalpa-apraYftli-MV -t
-t 4.1.8
savikalpatva-MV -14.1.7
hetutva-kalpana-MV -t 3.10.4
*artha-sattva-atma-vijfiapti-pratibhasa-MV 1.1.2; MV -t 1.1.2 (x2)
para-vijfiapti-MV 4.1.7
vijfiapti-MV-t 1.1.4
*vijfiapti -! 1.1.2
vijfiapti-asambhava-MV -bh 5.2.4
vijfiapti-tattva-MV-bh 3.9; MV-t 3.9
*vijfiapti-pratibhasa-MV-bh 1.1.2; MV-t 1.1.2
vijfiapti-matra-MV-bh 1.1.4; MV-t 1.1.4 (x2)
vijfiapti-matra-upalabdhi-MV-bh 1.1.4; MV-t 1.1.4
vijfiapti-matra-upalambha-MV -t 1.1.4
vijfiapti-matra-jfiana-MV -t 5.2.4 (x4)
vijfiapti -matra-jnana-lqta-MV -1 5.2.4
vijfiapti-matrata-MV -t 3.9
vijfiapti-matratva-MV-t 1.1.4
*vijfiapti-matra-pratibhasa-MV-t 3.5
abhuta-artha-pratibhasata-MV -bh 1.1.4
* abhUta-parikalpa-pratibhasa-bheda-MV -t 1.1.2
atma-pratibhasa-MV-bh 1.1.2; MV-! 1.1.2
artha-pratibhasa-MV-bh 1.1.2
artha-pratibhasatva-MV-t 1.1.4
*artha-sattva-atma-vijfiapti-pratibhasa-MV 1.1.2; MV-! 1.1.2 (x2)
artha-sattva-pratibhasa-MV-bh 1.1.2; MV-t 1.1.2 (x2)
grahya-grahaka-pratibhasa-MV -1 1.1.2
grahya-grahaka-pratibhasa-bhranti-MV -1 3.2
8 JIABS 17.1
ghata-patadi-pratibhasa-MV -t 1.1.4
tat-pratibhasa-bhranti-sadbhava-MV -bh
tat-samudaya-pratibhasa-MV -! 1.1.4
-! 1.1.4
pratibhasa-MV-bh 1.1.2; MV-! 3.10.0
pratibhasate-MV-bh 1.1.2,; MV-t 1.1.2,1.1.4,5.2.4
pratibhasamana-MV-! 1.1.4
pratyeka-pratibhasa-MV-! 1.1.4
rupadi-pratibhasa-MV-t 3.5,3.10.0
sattva-pratibhasa-MV-bh 1.1.2; MV-t 1.1.2
svakara-pratibhasa-vijfiana-karaJ;latva-MV-! 1.1.4
*vijfiapti-pratibhasa-MV-bh 1.1.2; MV-t 1.1.2 (x3)
*vijfiapti-matra-pratibhasa-MV -! 3.5
vitatha-pratibhasatva-MV -bh 1.1.2
1.1.4 (x2)
animitta-MV 1.2.2; MV-! 1.2.2,2.4.3,5.2.4 (x3)
animittatva-MV-t 1.2.2,2.4.3
anyonya-nimitta-bhava-MV-! 3.8
4.1.7 (x2)
jfiana-animitta-MV-! 5.2.4 (x3)
jfiana-nimitta-MV-! 5.2.4 (x2)
jfieya-animitta-MV-! (x3)
jfieya-nimitta-MV-! 5.2.4
dul).kha-satya-nimitta-MV -bh 3.10.8
nimitta-MV 3.8, 3.10.0,; MV-bh 3.10.10 (x2),,; MV-! 1.1.4, 2.4.3,3.8 (x6),
nimitta-abhava-MV-t 2.4.3
nimitta-abhavatva-MV-! 2.4.3
nimitta-ruambana-MV -! 1.1.4
nimitta-lq1a-MV-! 2.4.3
nimitta-gata-MV-! 2.4.3
nimitta-graha-MV-t 1.2.3
nimitta-nirodha-artha-MV-bh 1.2.2
*nimitta-vikalpa-MV -bh 1.2.2; MV-!
nimitta-samudacara-abhava-MV-! 2.4.3 (x3)
nimitta-vigata-MV -! 2.4.3
nirnimittata-MV -bh 2.4.3
pragraha-nimitta-MV -! 4.1.7
praSrabdhi-nimitta -MY -!
bhranti-nimitta-MV-! 3.8
ragadi-nimitta-MV-t 5.2.4 (x3)
-! 4.1.7
viparyasa-tan-nimitta-tat-pradarsana-artha-MV -! 3.1
vedana-nimitta-lVN -bh 3.10.8
vedana-sanimitta-artha-tan-nimitta-pratipattita-MV 3.10.8
vyavahara-nimitta-MV -! 1.1.7
samathMi-nimitta-MV-bh 4.1.7; MV-! 4.1.7
sarva-nimitta-MV-t 2.4.3
sarva-nimitta-abhava-MV -bh 1.2.2
sarva-nimitta-eka-rasa-akara-MV-! 2.4.3
-t 1.2.5
siitradi-dharma-nimitta-MV -! 2.4.3
siitradi-dharma-nimitta-nanatva-asamudacara-MV -bh 2.4.3
Terms Derivedfrom K{rp: The Construction of a Mental World
The root k{rp- denotes most generally the process of ordering or regu-
lating, of giving an intentional shape or structure to something, and by
so doing fitting it for or making it conformable to some purpose. Its
range extends on the one hand in the direction of artistic creation
(kavikalpana means something like the constructively creative activity of
a poet), and on the other in the direction of simple constructive or orna-
mentational activity, as in building a house, trimming a beard, or
'caparisoning an elephant' (Monier-Williams 263). In general, lexical
items derived from this root suggest an activity the point of which is to
alter its object, by ornamenting it, analyzing it, dividing it, bringing it
together with other things, and so forth. Derivatives of this root occur
most often in this corpus (as is obvious from the lists above) with a pre-
fix, either pari- or vi-; we shall turn to those in a moment, but shall focus
to begin with on forms without a prefix.
10 nABS 17.1
Among these there are relatively few instances, including simple
nominal items (kalpa or kalpana), some active verbal forms (kalpayati,
kalpayanti) , and a rather large number of participial forms (mostly
kalpita). Among the nominal items, Kalpa occurs only in the verses of
MV, and then only for metrical reasons: it is glossed once with
parikalpa and once with vikalpa, and has no independent semantic sig-
nificance. Kalpana, though, is more important. In a cluster of cases
(3.10.4) it is best understood to mean "false judgment"-that, for
example, conditioned things can be produced by unlike causes
(samskiiradfnalJ'L or that there are no causes at all
(nirhetukatvakalpana). That a false judgment with propositional content
may be the product of kalpana is made explicit by the introduction of an
iti clause at this same text-place: kalpana that there are no conditions
such as ignorance for the coming into being of conditioned things ( ...
na santy avidyadipratyayal; samskiiradaya iti kalpanat). The MY -t to
this same text-place also uses an iti-clause with an active verbal form
(kalpyeta), as also does the MV -bh elsewhere (5.2.4), in a context in
which the object of kalpayati is the judgment that the ground of the real
might be defiled or purified (. . . dharmadhatul; samklisyate va
visuddhyate yeti kalpayati).
This emphasis on the unreality of the objects of kalpana is also evi-
dent in MY -t' s use of the same term in connection with a hare's hom-a
standard example of a nonexistent object 1.1.1).
This instance is especially striking because it occurs ina context where
vikalpa and parikalpa are widely used with slightly different connota-
tions (to be turned to in a moment); that kalpana was chosen for this
purpose suggests its special appropriateness for the labelling of an activ-
ity that produces unreal objects, whether these are judgments whose
content is false, or percepts whose content is nonexistent.
Much the same can be said of the participial form kalpita. If kalpana
denotes a constructive activity productive of false judgments or unreal
percepts, then kalpita denotes the status of such things: they have been
constructed by their subjects, but are entirely fictive. This is said, for
instance, of each of the four kinds of objects that figure, whether as con-
cept or percept, in the flow of experience-sensory organs, their objects,
selves, and mental representations with phenomenal properties (artho
'tra rilpadayas atmli vijftaptayas ca / sa ca kalpitena
svabhavenabhUtaparikalpa nllstfti, MV-t 1.1.3; compare MV-t,
where the property of being kalpitatva is predicated of objects perceived
dualistically, in terms of the split between subject and object). All of the
participial uses of k{rp without a prefix fall into this pattern.
Very similar patterns are evident in the uses of k{rp and derivatives
coupled with the prefix pari-. The prefix here has the sense of com-
pleteness or comprehensiveness: if kalpana denotes specific instances of
a constructive mental activity whose objects are false or unreal, then
parikalpa[na1 denotes a complete or comprehensive version of that same
activity, a version whose scope is universal.
Most frequently, pari + kZ.rp- terms occur in the participial form
parikalpita. This is a technical term used to denote one of the three
'aspects' (svabhava) under which experience may occur, the other two
being paratantra and There is already an extensive sec-
ondary literature on this set of ideas (Sponberg; Kochumuttom; Griffiths
1986) since it constitutes one of the central and distinguishing categories
of Yogacara metaphysics, and some of the primary sources analyzing it
are available in English translation (Tola & Dragonetti). We shall not,
therefore, go into this scheme in detail here, but shall simply note that
MV -bh 3.6 identifies parikalpitasvabhava with the agreement among
ordinary people, arrived at upon the basis of habit, as to what things
should be called, and as to when it is important to distinguish one thing
from another-the text gives the specific example of distinguishing earth
from fire and physical form from sound (yasmin vastuni sanketas01J1.-
buddhya laukikanalJ'! darsanatulyata
bhavati / prthivy eveyalJ'! nagni rupam evedalJ'! na sabda ity evamadi ,
MV -bh 3.6). The point here is that parikalpita denotes that to which
names and their correlative concepts have been applied (the same point is
made at 3.8 and 3.10.0); and parikalpa[nal denotes the activity of
applying names and concepts to the flow of experience.
The status of the objects of this activity is the same as that of the activ-
ity of kalpana: they are completely unreal (atyantam asattva, MV-!
3.10.0), or without essence (svabhavaSunya, MV-! 1.1.1). Also, as
with kalpana, such objects may be either concepts or percepts: the image
of the hare's horn is used again (MV-! 3.3), and we also find the judg-
ment that dreaming consciousness must have as its object something
previously experienced dismissed as parikalpamatra ( ... tasmat
parikalpamatram evaitad svapne vijfianam iti,
MV-! 1.1.4). Graphically, the status of those objects subjected to
parikalpa is likened to the objects of false reports, like that of a tiger's
presence where there is no tiger ( ... yatha vijfianenarthaJ:z parikalpyate
12 nABS 17.1
tathiirthasyiibhiivo iva vitathiilambanatviid
vitathapratibhiisatii, MV -t 1.l.2).
The other main locus for the use of pari + k(rp- is in the compound
abhUtaparikalpa. The MV -t explains this compound in the following
abhiitam asmin dvay3.I!l parikalpyate 'nena vety /
abhiitavacanena ca yathay3.I!l parikalpyate grahyagrahakatvena tatha nastIti
pradarSayati / parikalpavacanena tv artho yatha parikalpyate tathartho na
vidyata iti pradarSayati / (MV-t 1.1.1)
The compound 'unreal comprehensive construction' may be understood to
indicate that the duality comprehensively constructed either by it or in it is
unreal. The term 'unreal' indicates that the extent to which something is
comprehensively constructed in terms of a dichotomy between subject and
object is the extent to which it does not exist. The term 'comprehensive
construction' indicates that the extent to which an object is comprehen-
sively constructed is the extent to which it is not found.
This is very clear: the objects of parikalpa, in so far as these are phe-
nomenally marked by a distinction between subject and object, have no
reality at all. But the comprehensively misleading results of the con-
structive activity labelled by pari + do themselves have reality, as
MV clearly says (abhUtaparikalpo 'sti, MV 1.1.1). There is, through-
out this corpus, an especially close relation between abhataparikalpa
and the relative (paratantra) aspect of experience (abhUtaparikalpal)
paratantral) svabhiiva iti, MV-t 1.1.3); and this in tum suggests that
when a nominal form of pari + kZrp- is used (parikalpa or parikalpana),
rather than a participial form with a passive sense such as parikalpita, it
may sometimes denote, descriptively, the simple fact of the flow of
experience, with all its finally illusory phenomenal properties of division
between subject and object, "appearances," as MY -t puts it, "that consist
in objects, living beings, and selves and representations" (arthasattva-
atma-vijfiaptipratibhiisam, MY-t 1.1.9). Such locutions leave open the
possibility that the phenomenally rich series of mental images that
usually constitutes the flow of experience may occur without being
accompanied by a sharp phenomenological distinction between subject
and object. We shall return to this, but in so far as it is the case we
might say thatparikalpa[nal and abhataparikalpa have a dual use: they
can be used to denote both an undefiled nonerroneous flow of
experience, and a defiled and mistaken set of percepts and concepts that
results from constructive action upon that flow. In the first use,
parikalpa means simply para-tantra, the way things really are The
MY -! equates abhiltaparikalpa with dharma to make just this point. In
the second, it means pari-kalpita, the way things are when the usual
conceptual, affective, and perceptual constructions have been made. The
MV-! (1.1.1) makes this distinction, identifying abhUtapafikalpa with
error (bhrlinti) when it is defiled and with emptiness
(Siinyatii) when it is not
Vikalpa-and other ki.rp- terms with vi-, an essentially distributive
prefix-introduces a slightly different set of connotations. Vikalpa,
which we shall provisionally translate "discriminative construction," is
above all an active function: it is something that sentient beings do, an
activity whose objects can be both mental images and words (MY-! 3.8).
It produces the artificially constructed awareness of specific objects, and
in so doing produces experience whose phenomenal properties corre-
spond to nothing (kim artham punar ayalJ1. vikalpita1J1. riipam ucyata iti
ata liha I tatra hi rupavikalpaJ:! kriyata iti I yasmlid riipakhylitavijflline
aparijfilitarupasalJ1.jfiatvlid ruplibhiniveSaJ:!, MV -! 3.
10.0). These phenomenal properties consist essentially in separateness,
a separateness that is sometimes construed in terms of dualities (as when
seven kinds of vikalpa are distinguished according to a list of seven
pairs of contradictory concepts in MV-! 5.2.4), and sometimes in terms
of trinities (as when, in MY -1 5.2.1, the absence of vikalpa is identified
with nonapprehension of such linked threefold sets as gift-giver-recipi-
ent or possessor of awareness-object of awareness-act of awareness).
There is a very close link between the activities denoted by vikalpa and
the experience (perceptual or conceptual) of particular individuated
objects It is in contexts where this connection is empha-
sized that the proper relation between pari + and vi + - begins
to become clear. Things that have been subject to the former-things
that can be qualified with the term parikalpita-have been given names,
reified, and sorted into categories; the latter (vikaZpa) requires the
former's operations before it can engage in its paradigmatic function,
which is to constuct an opposition between subject and object ( ... yaj
jfllina1J1. sarvavikaZpasya ity aya7J7. 'viparylisa iti
parikalpitadharmamukhena sarvavikalpapravrttiJ:! I
ato nlimamlitraprativedhajfilinalJ1.
'viparyasa ity uktam, MV-! It follows, then, that it is precisely
14 JIABS 17.1
an awareness that penetrates to. the misleading functions of parikalpa
that will dispose of vikalpa.
The obverse of this is the claim that the way things really are-the
"ground of the real" (dharmadhiitu)-is inaccessible to awareness
characterized by vilwlpa aviparyliSo dharma-
dhiitiiv eva / tasya MV-t
There are no individuatable particulars in the dharmadhiitu, and so
vilwlpa can work on it only by creating concepts and percepts that in fact
are absent from it. To put this rather differently: awareness free from
vilwlpa is identical with emptiness (sanyatii) which in turn is called the
'sphere in which there is no vilwlpa' (avilwlpadhiitu, MV -t 1.2.0, 1.2.2).
Parilwlpa, as we have shown, has the potential to be pure and error-free;
vilwlpa does not: it is what produces defilement and error in the flow of
concepts and percepts. Paul O'Brien (242 n.) has put the point in simi-
1ar fashion.
Awareness in which there is no vikalpa is, therefore, properly con-
formed to the nature of things. It is free from concepts and percepts
whose objects are unreal, as well as from all misleading phenomenal
properties. Is it then free from all concepts and all percepts? Consider
viparyaso hi vikalpaJ;1 I vikalpanaIambanatvan na viparyasavastu I
nimittanirodhad animittam iti I atranimittatvaIp- nimittanirodha ucyate I
etad eva pradarsanartham aha I sarvanimittabhavad iti I sarvair eva
samsIqtasamslq1animittaiJ? siinyata siinyety animittam iti I (MV-t 1.2.2)
Error is discriminative construction. [Emptiness, understood as] free from
error is so because it is not an object for discriminative construction.
[Emptiness, understood as] free from mental images is so because mental
images have ceased in it. This means that it possesses the property of
being without mental images, which in turn is indicated by the words
'because of the absence of all mental images.' Emptiness is empty of the
mental images of all things, conditioned and unconditioned: this is what it
means to say that it is free from mental images.
. We have translated the technical term nimitta in this passage as "mental
images"-a point to which we shall shortly return. For the moment we
simply note that this passage clearly equates the absence of discrimina-
tive construction with the absence not only of misleading qualia in par-
ticular moments of experience, but of all qualia, all mental images with
phenomenal properties of any kind (if this is indeed what nimitta means
So far we have been translating terms by "construct" and deriva-
tives. It is time to note that this is not the most common choice. Since
the time of Stcherbatsky that has probably been "imagination" and
derivatives. Thomas Kochumuttom, Bimal Matilal, and others, have
regularly made this choice. According to Matilal, for example, vikalpa
or kalpana has a specific technical and philosophical use in Indian
thought which gives it very significant commonalities with the technical
use of "imagination" by Hume or Einbildung by Kant. It is, he sug gests,
the faculty that organizes the raw data of perception, differentiating such
data into classes and conceptual categories: it is the '''connecting or
uniting power which operates in two dimensions'. It is the instrument
of our perceptual awareness of both kind-identity and individual-
identity, concept-identity, and object-identity" (309). Moreover, as we
have shown, in the MY -corpus the objects created by vikaZpa are often
said to be simply nonexistent
The functions ofvikaZpa mentioned by Matilal, as well as con-
nections with illusionism, certainly provide some overlap with the
semantic range of "imagination" in English. Both imagination and
creatively construct new concepts and percepts; and the objects con-
structed by both may be taken to be illusory, not present where they
appear to be (or indeed anywhere). But there are also very significant
differences. terms do not have to do only-or even mostly-with
the manipulation of images. They more often denote either phenomenal
properties of the flow of experience, properties (such as the division
between subject and object) that may have no connection with images; or
the activity of the mind in creatively constructing such properties. We
suggest, therefore, that a translation such as the one we have adopted,
focussing as it does upon the constructive elements of kl.rp-, may be
more revealing: the exercise of is more like the act of building a
house than the act of manipulating mental images, and its primary result
is a comfortably habitable mental world comprising mental images
whose essential property is that they appear to belong to a subject and to
intend an object It should be quite clear from what we have said so far
that mental images of this kind db not remain in emptiness. Are there
other kinds that might?
16 nABS 17.1
Representations, Appearances, Mental Images
The terms under consideration here are vijiiapti, pratibhlisa, and nimitta.
Bruce Hall (8-9) has pointed out that vijfiapti is a technical term appro-
priated from the Sarvastivada abhidharma by Yogacara theorists for their
own uses. It is derived from the causative form of the root jfia-, "to
know," with the same distibutive prefix (vi-) as that found in vikaZpa.
Vijfiapti connotes, then, a communicative act, something that makes
something known to someone. Yogacara theorists generally use it to
denote any mental event that communicates something, any mental event
with phenomenal properties. A possible translation, therefore, and the
one that we shall adopt here, is "representation."
The MY -corpus emphasizes, as do other Yogacara works, that repre-
sentations-mental events with phenomenal properties-are all there is,
usually using some form of vijfiapti + mlitra ("representation-only") to
indicate this. This point is given its most detailed statement in the MY -
corpus at 1.1.4. Technically, the MY-corpus says that vijfiaptaya(i are
one of the four kinds of appearance (pratibhiisa-a term to which we
shall return) in which the comprehensive imagination of the unreal
consists (1.1.2). The other three are nonsentient objects (artha), sentient
beings (sattva), selves (iitma), and the four are linked with the Yogacara
theory of the eight kinds of consciousness, a theory whose exposition is
beyond our scope here. But in addition to this technical sense, there is
also a broader sense of the term in which the last three of the four cate-
gories just mentioned can be understood as kinds of vijfiapti. And in so
far as the term is taken in this way, every instance of vijfiapti must, in
virtue of the fact that it "represents" something to someone, have phe-
nomenal properties that are in prinCiple accessible to description. But
this does not entail-nor even suggest-that vijfiaptaya(i simply cease
for an awakened one (buddha). Vijfiapti can be used in a sense neutral
as to this possibility. Further help might be gained from looking at the
usage of pratibhiisa and nimitta.
Pratibhiisa-"appearance" or "manifestation," from the root Mas-,
"to shine," "to appear," "to be manifest"-together with its verbal forms
(pratibhiisate and so forth) occurs in the MV -corpus mostly in 1.1.2
and 1.1.4. It almost always indicates a phenomenally rich but false or
misleading appearance. MV-corpus 1.1.2 is concerned with the modes
in which the comprehensive construction of what is unreal may appear
to those for whom it is an experiential fact. It is explained there that the
four kinds of appearance referred to in the preceding paragraph are all
comprised in the second of the four truths, that which explains how it is
that suffering arises (etiiny arthasattviitmavijfiaptipratibhiisiiny
vijfiiiniini sasamprayogiini samudayasatyasangrahiit, MY -! 1.1.2), and
so are more or less unreal (vitatha). If suffering is to be abandoned,
they too must be abandoned. In all these respects, pratibhiisa is like
vilwZpa: both it and its products are systematically misleading and to be
But does the removal of systematically misleading appearances mean
the removal of all appearances, the removal of all mental events with
phenomenal properties? MY-corpus contains a discussion often
kinds of non-erroneousness (aviparyiisatva), one of which is freedom
from error about objects (artha). Pratibhiisa figures prominently in that
discussion. Objects, we are told, appear (pratibhiisate) with a dualistic
mode of appearance (iikiira), and they do not exist as they appear
because they are naturally without duality (advayapralqtitviit) (MV-bh But this does not mean that objects are completely without
existence: on the contrary, they exist precisely as misleading appearances
(pratibhiisabhriintisadbhiiva, MV-bh, and it is precisely in
virtue of being aware of this fact that, as MY -! puts it, the bodhisattva
penetrates to the reality of all things, which is just that they are essen-
tially free from the duality of subject and object (aneniiviparyiisajfiiinena
bodhisattvo griihyagriihakasvabhiivarahitiin sarvadharmiin prati-
vidhyati, MV-! Notice that it is not said that such penetration,
such freedom, consists in or is produced by the absence of appearances
with specifiable phenomenal properties-not even by the absence of
appearances with the phenomenal property of subject-object dualism.
Instead, penetration consists in not being misled by this phenomenal
property-by, in effect, knowing enough about the real nature of these
phenomenal properties not to be misled by them. The possibility that
appearances continue (though not, of course, erroneous judgments about
them) for the bodhisattva who has penetrated to emptiness is thus left.
open: the occurence of appearances does not entail the presence of error.
A somewhat similar case can be made for nimitta, which we are here
translating "mental image." This term is sometimes used to mean
something close to "cause," as when MV-t glosses it with kiirat/a
chamathaJ:z / samathiidinimittOJf1. samathiidi
kiirat/am, MV-! 4.1.7; compare 3.10.8). But it more often means the
image of an object in the mind (arthapratibimba is used as a gloss for it
in MV-! 1.1.4); and even when its connection with chains of cause and
18 nABS 17.1
effectis emphasized (MV-! 3.8: anyonyanimittabhiivad nimittam), the
context is always that of explaining the causes that produce particular
affective or cognitive states in an experiencing subject. And primary
among such causes is the presence of some mental image-understood
broadly, to comprise both concepts and percepts. The discussion of the
six kinds of distraction in is typical. One of these six
is ("distraction by mental images"), and the reference
appears to be to mental images arising in meditation that might produce
distraction. A practitioner might, for example, experience a mental
image that she takes to be her Self (dhyayy ayalJl mahiitmety eVQl}l
sambhavanatmanfty anena nimittena samadhau prayuktasyliSaya-
vilayatvalladbhiid alabdhlid va ity
ucyate, MV-!, and be distracted by it.
In our discussion of vikalpa we have already noted that emptiness is
said to be animitta, free from mental images (1.2.2); this might seem to
be the strongest piece of evidence we yet have for the conclusion that
there can be no mental images therein. But let us look a little more
closely. In 2.4.3 there is an interesting analysis of the obstacles
(avarm:za) to progress on the part of the bodhisattva through the ordered
stages (bhiimi) of the meditational path. In the discussion of the seventh
stage MV-bh says that in it one removes diversity (nlinatva) in one's
experience because one no longer has any mental images (nimitta).
MV -! explains that since there is no diversity in the ground of the real
(dharmadhiitu) all mental images-even those that have aided !he
practitioner in penetrating to it-must become undifferentiated therein,
and one will have an awareness in which all mental images are of the
same kind (sarvanimittaikarasilkarajfilinena, MV-! 2.3.2). One enters a
condition, it seems, in which mental images are in some significant
respect all of the same kind, and so one no longer fights against or is
concerned about conventional reality, which consists precisely in mental
images that are of different kinds (yataf! sarvanimittliny animittatvena
pratividhyati ca vyavahiirQl}l na virodhayati, MV-t 2.3.2).
This condition, the texts go on to say, becomes effortless or spontaneous
(anoohoga) on the eighth stage.
But this is not precisely a condition in which there are no mental
images of any kind. It is, rather, a condition in which, in the most
important respect of all, every mental image shares the same property:
that of not producing cognitive or affective error, which requires that
every mental image be free of phenomenal properties that might produce
such error. The prime candidate here, of course, are those properties
produced by the discriminative construction that the MY -corpus calls
vikalpa. The predicate "imagelessness" (nimimittata) then has a double
meaning: there are no images in emptiness if by nimitta is meant an
image with error-producing phenomenal properties; but there are images
in emptiness ifby that is meant a phenomenally rich flow of experience
in which all objects are experienced directly and without distortion. The
MY -corpus in fact goes on to suggest just this when it says that in the
ninth stage the practitioner gains mastery (vaSita) over certain kinds of
awareness as a result of her effortless entry into "imagelessness." The
kinds of awareness in question here have to do with such phenomenally
complex matters as knowledge of the grammar, meaning, syntax, and
lexica of natural languages (technically, the four pratisamvit: of dharma,
artha, nirukti, and pratibhiina), and such awareness necessarily
involves the presence to its possessor of rich phenomenal content
A strong case can be made, then, for the conclusion that phenomenally
rich mental images-designated by vijfiapti, pratibhiisa, nimitta, or
abhiitaparikalpa-do remain in emptiness but that these cannot have
been subject to the constructive activity denoted by vikalpa.
We began with the question of whether more can be said than was said
by Nagao about what 'what remains' in emptiness is like. We hope at
least to have shown that the technical terminology employed in the MY -
corpus for mental imagery suggests strongly that one can say that
unconstructed nimittlini, vijfiaptayaJ:!. and pratibhiisiiJ:! remain in
sunyatii; and that the freedom from constructive mental activity that
characterizes these mental events is evident in the fact that they neither
give rise to nor are constituted by error. Most important, they do not
give rise to the error of thinking that there are experiencing subjects and
experienced objects, nor to the error of experiencing the world in terms
of such a dichotomy.
But what would consciousness of this kind, the consciousness pos-
sessed by Buddha, be like? It would not simply rest in an imageless
void, but would continue to experience a flow of mental images
(nimitta), appearances (pratibhiisa), and representations with phenome-
nal properties (vijfiapti). It would not, however, experience any sort of
conceptual construction (vikalpa), since this necessarily involves the
20 nABS 17.1
reification of these illusory appearances, the separation of their phenom-
enal properties, the formation of names and categories, and their bifurca-
tion into subject and object. In more standard Yogacara terms, Buddha
would still perceive the pure flow of phenomena which constitutes the
paratantrasvabhava, but without the dualities and distinctions which
constitute the parikalpitasvabhava. However, this raises the further
question of just how an awakened being could continue to function
without the operations of vikalpa. Wouldn't the absence of such con-
ceptual constructions impose a rather strict limitation upon Buddha's
experiences and actions?
One of us (Griffiths 1990) has raised a similar question with regard to
the Yogacara doctrine of omniscience (sarvakarajfiatli). If we under-
stand omniscience to be a kind of awareness based on the direct un-
mediated presence of an appearance, free of conceptual construction,
then this would seem to impose certain serious limitations on the content
of such knowledge. Not only would an omniscient being not know any
volition or temporal change; such a being would also not know the
experience of a duality between subject and object
In the MV -corpus a similar paradox is raised by the attainment of
nirvikaZpajfiana-a state in which the conceptual distinction between
subject and object is absent, as also is its phenomenal correlate. At least
from our own deluded and unawakened viewpoint, an experience in
which there could be no distinction between subjects and objects would
seem to be rather restricted. Moreover, in the event that one could attain
such a form of nonconceptual, nondual awareness, would such aware-
ness bear any resemblance to the way in which ordinary deluded human
beings experience the world, or would it be entirely different? This
question has very direct and very serious soteriological implications.
For if an awakened being experiences reality without conceptual distinc-
tions or their phenomenal correlates, how then is it able to interact with,
instruct, and aid ordinary human beings, who still dwell within a world
of subjects and objects? A being who could not perceive the world as a
subject confronting an object would appear to be oddly limited-par-
ticularly if its goal were to help ferry sentient beings to the further shore
of awakening. Attempting a systematic account of the nature of Buddha
that would deal with these problems was, it seems to us, one of the main
impulses behind the development of systematic theorizing about Buddha
after about the third century CE.
But there are also more strictly philosophical problems raised by the
MY-corpus's treatment of mental imagery after awakening. This treat-
ment, as we have expounded it, rests upon the claim that there is such a
thing as experience prior to and independent of conceptual activity
(which means also prior to and independent of linguistic and every other
kind of cultural activity). This view is not easy to defend-it runs
counter to much (probably most) contemporary English-language phi-
losophy, as it did also to much philosophical thinking in India-and it
has extremely complex philosophical ramifications. One dimension of
these was worked out in the epistemological analyses of the differences
between and anumiina offered by Buddhist thinkers after
Dignaga; and another was explored in the debate between Yogacara the-
orists after Sthiramati as to whether consciousness is inherently sakara
or niriikiira. It does not appear likely to us that the position can, in the
end, be successfully defended; but our purpose here has not been to
explain why this is, but only to clarify the usage of technical terms in a
particular corpus on the topic of just why experience does not end in
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Tatia, Nathmal, ed. 1967. Patna: K. P. Jayaswal
Research Institute.
Tola, Fernando & Carmen Dragonetti, trans. 1983. 'The Trisvabhava-karika
of Vasubandhu." Journal of Indian Philosophy 11 :225-266.
Wood, ThomasE. 1991. Mind Only: A Philosophical and Doctrinal
Analysis of the Vijiianavada. Monographs of the Society for Asian and
Comparative Philosophy 9. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
Yamaguchi Susumu, ed. 1934. Madhyantavibhliga!lkli: exposition systema-
tique du Yogacaravijiiaptivada. Vol. 1 (Sanskrit text). Nagoya: Librairie
Yamaguchi Susumu, trans. 1935. Madhyantavibhliga.tlkli: exposition systema-
tique du Yogacaravijiiaptivooa. Vol. 2 (Japanese translation). Nagoya:
Librairie Hajinkaku.
o sas1Ia.sarIra (N 17; Y 1-9; P 3-9)
1 (N 17-27; Y 10-63; P 9-50)
1.1 abhUtaparikalpa (N 17-22; Y 10-45; P 9-35)
1.1.1 (N 17-18; Y 10-16; P 9-14)
1.1.2 (N 18-19; Y 16-21; P 14-18)
1.1.3 (N 19; Y 22-23; P 18-19)
1.1.4 (N 19-20; Y 23-29;
P 19-24)
. 1.1.5 (N 20; Y 29-31; P 24-25)
1.1.6 (N 20; Y 31-32; P 25-26)
1.1.7 (N 20-21; Y 32-35; P 26-28)
1.1.8 (N 21-22; Y 35-44; P 28-34)
1.1.9 abhUtaparikalpap41<;Iartha (N 22; Y 44-45; P 35)
12 sunyata (N 22-27; Y 45-63; P 35-50)
1.2.0 sunyata: prologue (Y 45-46; P 35-36)
1.2.1 (N 22-23; Y 46-49; P 36-38)
1.2.2 siinyataparyaya (N 23-24; Y 49-51; P 38-40)
1.2.3 siinyataprabheda(N 24-26; Y 51-59; P40-47)
1.2.4 sunyatasadhana (N 26-27; Y 59-61; P 47-49)
1.2.5 sunyatapiI).c;lartha (N 27; Y 61-63; P 50)
2 (N 28-36; Y 64-109; P 51-82)
2.1 paficavaraI).a (N 28; Y 64-68; P 51-53)
22 (N 28-29; Y 69-75; P 53-57)
2.3 (N 29-33; Y 75-89; P 57-68)
2.3.1 (N 29-32; Y 75-83; P 57-64)
2.3.2 (N 31-33; Y 84-89; P 64-68)
2.4 (N 33-36; Y 89-107;
P 68-81)
2.4.0 prologue (N 33)
2.4.1 avaraI).a (N 33; Y 89-94; P 68-71)
2.4.2 paramitasv (N 33-34; Y 94-97; P 72-74)
2.4.3 (N 34-36; Y 97-107; P 74-81)
24 nABS 17.1
25 (N 36; Y 107-108; P 81-82)
2.6 (N 36; Y 108-109; P 82)
3 daSavidhatattva (N 37-49; Y 110-165; P 83-124)
3.0 daSavidhatattva: prologue (N 37; Y 110-111; P 83-84)
3.1 miUatattva (N 37-38; Y 111-113; P 84-86)
32 (N 38; Y 114-116; P 86-87)
3.3 aviparyasatattva (N 38-40; Y 116-119; P 87-91)
3.4 phalahetutattva (N 40-41; Y 119-123; P 91-93)
35 (N 41-42; Y 123-127; P 94-97)
3.6 prasiddhatattva (N 42; Y 127-129; P 97-98)
3.7 visuddhigocaratattva (N 42; Y 129-130; P 99)
3.8 saIigrahatattva (N 42-43; Y 131-133; P 99-101)
3.9 prabhedatattva (N 43-44; Y 133-135; P 101-103)
3.10 daSavidhakausalyatattva (N 44-48; Y 135-163; P 103-123)
3.10.0 kausalyatattva: prologue (N 44; Y 135-142; P 103-108)
3.10.1 skandhartha (N 45; Y 142-143; P 108-109)
3.10.2 dhatvartha(N 45; Y 143-144; P 109)
3.10.3 ayatanartha (N 45; Y 144-148; P
3.10.4 pratityasamutpadartha (N 45-46; Y 148-150; P 112-
3.10.5 sthanasthanartha (N 46; Y 150-154; P 113-116)
3.10.6 indriyartha (N 46-47; Y 154-157; P 116-118)
3.10.7 adhvartha (N 47; Y 157-158; P 118-119) .
3.10.8 catuJ:1satyartha (N 47; Y 158-159; P 119)
3.10.9 yanatrayartha (N 47-48; Y 159-160; P 120-121)
3.10.10 samslqtasamslqtartha (N 48; Y 160-163; P 121-123)
3.11 tattvapi:g.9artha (N 48-49; Y 163-165; P 123-124)
4 (N 50-59; Y 166-198; P 125-148)
4.0 prologue (Y 166; P 125)
4.1 (N 50-55; Y 166-187; P 125-140)
4.1.0 prologue (N 50; Y 166; P 125)
4.1.1 catvansmrtyupasthanani (N 50; Y 166-170; P 125-127)
4.1.2 catvansamyakpraha:g.ani (N 50; Y 170-172; P 128-129)
4.1.3 catvara (N 51-52; Y 172-176; P 129-132) catvararddhipada1).: prologue (N 51; Y 172-
173; P 129-130) (N 51; Y 173-174; P 130) (N 51-52; Y 174-175;
P 130-132)
4.1.4 paficendriyani (N 52; Y 176-177; P 132-133)
4.1.5 paficabalani (N 52-53; Y 177-180; P 133-135)
4.1.6 saptabodhyangani (N53-54; Y 180-182; P 135-136)
4.1.7 ll{ltamargangani (N 54-55; Y 182-185; P 136-139)
4.1.8 (N 55; Y 185-187;
P 139-140)
42 (N 56-57; Y 188-192; P 140-144)
4.3 (N 57-58; Y 192-195; P 144-
4.4 (N 58-59; Y 196-198;
P 147-148)
5 yananuttarya (N 60-77; Y 199-262; P 149-193)
5.1 trividhanuttarya (N 60; Y 199-201; P 149-150)
52 (N 60-73; Y 201-251; P 150-186)
5.2.0 prologue (N 60; Y 201;
P 150-151)
5.2.1 paramapratipatti (N 60-62; Y 201-209; P 151-156)
5.2.2 manasikarapratipatti (N 62-64; Y 209-213; P 157-160)
5.2.3 anudharmapratipatti (N 64-69; Y 213-233; P 160-173) anudharmapratipatti: prologue (N 64; Y 213-214; P
160) (N 64-65; Y 214-216;
P 160-162) daSavidhaviparyasa (N 65-68: Y 216-226;
P 162-169) daSavidhavajrapadani (N 68-69; Y 226-233;
P 169-173)
5.2.4 antadvayavarjanapratipatti (N 69-73; Y 233-251;
P 173-186)
5.2.5 (N 73; Y 251; P 186)
5.3 aIambananuttarya (N 73-74; Y 252-254; P 186-188)
5.4 samudagamanuttarya (N 74-75; Y 255-258; P 188-190)
55 sastninamavylikbyana (N 75-76; Y 258-259; P 191)
5.6 yananuttaryapi1)<;lartha (N 76-77; Y 259-262; P 192-193)
Anti-Chan Polemics in Post-Tang Tiantai
Introduction: Historical Background
The period following the death of the sixth Tiantai patriarch Jingxi
Zhanran (711-782) has been described as the second "dark age" of
It was a prolonged state of crisis extending from the Tang into
the Five Dynasties and Northern Song, an age marked internally by the
deterioration of distinctive Tiantai ideas and marked externally by the
loss of crucial texts and monastic institutions, especially after the perse-
cution of 845 (a period that saw the increased influence of Chan).
Zhanran's reconstitution and revival of Tiantai had succeeded in part on
the strength of his incorporation of Huayen "nature-origination" (xingqz)
into the further development and schematization of the "nature-
inclusion" (xingju)3 conceptions that Zhanran saw in classical Tiantai.
Zhanran seems to have regarded this incorporation as a method by
which Tiantai nature-inclusion could be reinstated while sublating the
Huayen strains of thought which had been gaining ground.
After the
persecution, however, with the dispersion of texts and loss of institu-
tional supports, the Tiantai school found itself in need of reconstitution.
The non-dialectical and idealistic trend of "tracing principle and cutting
off the nine realms of delusion" had come to dominate the world of
Chinese Buddhist scholasticism by this time, making inroads into TIantai
thought as well. This influence is evident already in the teaching of
Zhanran's disciple Dao Sui,S and becomes more pronounced in syn-
cretist figures such as Zhi Yuan (768-844) (who studied first at Mt
1. Ando Toshio, Tendai seigu shisio ron, trans. Yenpei fashi (Taipei:
. Tianhua chubanshe, 1989) 174.
2. The doctrine that phenomenal dharmas "arise from" the buddha nature, but
are not inherently included in it, such that it remains forever pure and unde-
fIled by any determinate phenomena.
3. The doctrine that all phenomenal dharmas are inherent to the buddha
nature. Both of these conceptions will be explained in more detail below.
4. Ando Toshio 185.
5. Ando Toshio 178.
Tiantai and then at Mt Wutai, combining Heze Chan with TIantai teach -
ings)6 and Daochang Ningfen (754-828) (who also combined Chan and
Tiantai tendencies, and made his home at Mt. Tiantai).1 Mer the
persecution, the Chan elements of this synthesis came into prominence.
Even Deshao (881-972), renowned in his time as a reviver of Tiantai,
was closely associated with the Fayen branch of Chan. 8 His student
Yongming Yenshou (954-974) took this synctetic tendency even fur-
ther, attempting to unify Tiantai, Huayen and Yogacara teachings under
the auspices of a form of Chan theorizing emphasizing the "one pure
formless mind,"9 a notion owing much to the Awakening of Faith, the
Perfect Enlightenment Satra, and especially Guifeng Zongmi's (780-
841) adaptation of the "numinous awareness" of the Heze school of
Chan. Zongmi's infatuation with Heze Chan had all but eliminated the
Tiantai influences, especially the notion of the evil inherent in the buddha
nature (xing e), evident in the thought of his teacher, the fourth Huayen
patriarch Qingliang Chengguan (738-839), who had spent some time
studying under Zhanran himself and whose work incorporates elements
of both Chan and Tiantai traditions. Zongmi moved the pure undefiled
buddha nature, identified with undifferentiated and objectless awareness,
to center stage.
Indeed, as Peter Gregory has shown. Zongmi radically
reinterpreted the Huayen tradition, taking away the centrality and
ultimacy of "the non-obstruction of phenomenon with phenomenon"
(shi shi wu ai) characteristic of Fazang's (643-721) teaching and replac-
ing it with an ultimacy of ''the non-obstruction of phenomenon with
principle" (li shi wu ai).1l For Zongmi, "principle" was identical with
"mind" or rather the "numinous awareness" of the Heze line of Chan. In
earliest proto-Huayen thought, as found in the works attributed to
Dushun, on the contrary, prinCiple equals emptiness. 12 Fazang at times
identifies prinCiple with the mind as suchness, and phenomena with the
mind of birth and death (a distinction deriving from the Awakening of
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid. 179.
8. Ibid. 181. Deshaobowever appears to have been highly critical of the
Chan claim to have a "special transmission outside the teachings," as can be
seen from Shimen Zhengtong, juan 5, and Ando 181-2.
9. Ibid. 182-3.
10. Ibid. 184.
11. Peter N, Gregory, Tsung-mi and the Sinijication of Buddhism (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1991) 157-165.
12. Ibid. 7.
28 JIABS 17.1
Faith),13 thereby beginning the trend toward tathagatagarbha idealism
that would come to culmination in Zongmi's Chan-friendly teaching. In
Tiantai, principle is equivalent to the three truths and practice is centered,
as we shall see, on contemplation of not the mind but of the nature of
mind (xin xing) as identical with this principle. In Zongmi's own classi-
fication of teachings, this Tiantai system was made to appear quaint and
cumbersome, falling short of a new trend which seemed to have carried
the day: the emphasis on the undefiled numinous awareness. To further
complicate matters, alternate versions of crucial texts attributed to Zhiyi
were being recovered, mainly from Japan, giving normative authority to
sometimes diametrically opposed doctrines and assertions. 14
It was in this atmosphere that an embattled llantai tried to reconstitute
itself. Two opposite paths were taken to meet these challenges. One
approach tacitly admitted the superiority of these new elements (the one
pure mind, the original absence of defIlement, etc.) by claiming that these
were originally Tiantai doctrines. The other approach held that the view
of the Tiantai tradition was different from and superior to the Zongmi I
Chan view. The first approach was that of what was later polemically
designated as the "Shanwaijia" (Masters Outside [Tiantai] Mountain, i.
e., the heterodox), while the second was taken by the "Shanjia" (Home
Mountain Masters, i. e., the orthodox). It is in the polemics between
these two opposed representatives of the Tiantai tradi tion that some of
the most developed Tiantai critiques of strains of thought identified with
Chan are to be found, as they battled each other for the mantle and the
name of "TIantai."
The texts left in the wake of such disputes present interpreters with
many daunting difficulties. Present day readers may well wonder, when
making their way through these writings, what exactly is at stake in
these convoluted debates. It is clear from examining the social and insti-
tutional setting in which these texts were produced that abbotships,
donor patronage, and official imperial support, for example (which were
often directly dependent on a monk's prestige and reputation) were at
stake. A monk's scholastic reputation was also instrumental in gaining
13. Ibid. 157.
14. The direct impetus of the debates hinged on the long and short versions
of Zhiyi's Jinguangming xuan yi, which seemed to imply different attitudes
toward the contemplation of the mind. The former versions (embraced by the
Shanjia) called for detailed contemplation of all the deluded phenomena of
mind, while the latter recommended, for those of highest ability, the direct
contemplation of the true mind, ignoring the deluded pheonomena. See the
account in the FOlutongji, juan 8 (T. 49.192b), and also Anda, op. qt. 186.
entrance to the dharma-lineage of a particular tradition, which, once
gained, brought material advantages in this life. There were post mor-
tum benefits from such a position in the lineage as well, for one would
be sacrificed to and cared for as part of a dharma line, if, of course, one
was considered not to have already achieve enlightenment in this life -
time. Furthermore, the authority granted by the tradition's validation of
one's achievement (represented by one's final place in the gallery of
dharma-ancestors) would fulfill one's "filial" obligations to one's teach-
ers as well as one's vows on behalf of one's "descendants." All of this
was something worth fighting for, especially if the prestigious dharma-
heirship of a particular line of transmission that carried with it a certain
degree of prestige became a matter of scholastic dispute. By means of a
highly arcane discourse, the members of a particular class of monks
were able to define themselves and maintain their positions by excluding
those who had less perfectly mastered its literary conventions, thereby
maintaining their position, their niche in the food-chain, and their
monopoly on their particular type of power.
Their texts, of course, represent the stakes of these disputes very dif-
ferently. According to their own declarations, the participants in these
debates were seeking the accurate transmission of the experience of truth
discovered by Sakyamuni, clarifying the highest teaching, contributing
to the salvation of all sentient beings. They claimed to be seeking and
explicating the truth, a truth which had soteriological significance.
Understanding and practicing in accord with this truth would lead to
enlightenment and liberation from samsara. In their endeavor to clarify
this salvific truth, these polemicists systematically developed philosophi-
cal positions, which they were forced to explicate in much more rigorous
detail than was the custom under less contentious conditions in China.
These claims have a considerable philosophical interest in their own
right Yet even from this perspective, the import of the texts is far from
clear, and it takes some patience and induction to unravel the implica-
tions of some of the Song and post-Song Tiantai polemics against cer-
tain aspects of the Chan tradition.
Most of these polemics emerged as a kind of overflow from the in-
fighting between the two contending branches of the Tiantai tradition
referred to above. According to the texts that passed between represen -
tatives of these two branches, the Shanjia felt the Shanwai had been
unduly influenced by Huayen and Chan, especially by Zongmi (with his
Huayen-flavored version of Chan "doctrine" or Chan-flavored version
of Huayen doctrine), thereby polluting and diluting the distinctive, and
30 JIABS 17.1
moreover, true and salvific Tiantai tradition. Almost all of the . attacks on
Chan "doctrine" discussed below appear in the context of this TIantai in-
fighting, focusing particularly on Zongmi's version of this doctrine, a
version especially influential among the Shanwai exegetes. Where Chan
is attacked directly (for example, in the works of Siming Zhili [960-
1028], the most eminent and vitriolic advocate of the Shanjia position), it
is typically presented as a counterattack, with allusion to Chan sympa-
thizers having disparaged Tiantai as inferior to the teaching of Zongmi
and his sympathizers. IS The Chan tradition itself is accepted by Zhili as
a legitimate part of the Buddhist heritage, and thus has its place, like
other teachings, in his jiaopan (classification of teachings): itis part of
the "special teaching" (biejiao). Zhili seems to have no particular
vendetta against Chan per se; 16 he is annoyed only when claims are
made that it surpasses the Tiantai "perfect" or "rounded" teaching
Main Points o/the Tiantai Critique
The critique put forward by Zhili and his followers attacks Chan on a
number of distinct but related fronts, which may be summarized as
1. The excessive emphasis on meditation at the expense of doctrine,
allegedly advocated by many Chan masters, was disparaged. The
Tiantai polemicists claim to value doctrine and meditation equally.
TIlis issue has little real content; it was for the most part a mechanical
comparison of the slogans of the two traditions; with little interest in
the actual content of these slogans. Indeed, there was far greater
attention given to the precise mechanics of sitting meditation in TIantai
than there was in Chan.
2. The Tiantai exegetes were harshly critical of Chan's alleged rejec-
tion of words, which grew, they said, out of a failure to see that words
are a necessary vehicle to enlightenment. Although it can be argued
that Chan writers advocated nothing of the kind (or at least had more
15. See for example Zhili's correspondence with Chan Master Tiantong Ning
in Siming jiaoxing lu, (Taisho 46, 891-897 [=T. 46.891-897])
16. Indeed, as Wang Zhiyuan has pointed out, there is evidence that Zhili's
teaching technique was deeply influenced by methods we would now associ-
ate strongly with Chan, e. g., shouts and blows leading, according to the
hagiography, to sudden enlightenment experiences. See Wang, Sungchu
Tiantai Foxue qinmao (Beijing: Zhongguo jianshe chuban she, 1989) 63-64.
subtle understandings of it than what was portrayed in Tiantai this
polemic), many in the Chan tradition did seem to take the famous slo-
gan about "a special transmission outside the teaching, not depending
on words and letters" in a way that would not have been satisfying to
a Tiantai exegete. Also involved here is a charge of a fundamental
misunderstanding of the whole concept of upiiya, which is central to
the TIantai view of the ultimate reality. In traditional Tiantai, the truth
to be realized itself includes both the means to its realization and the
process of realization. The three-fold buddha-nature described in the
NirviilJa Sutra are the three causes of enlightenment: (1) the cause
proper (zhengyin), that is, the objective truth to be realized, (2) the
"revealing" cause (liaoyin), the process of coming to know this truth,
and (3) the "conditioning" cause (yuanyin), the process of cOming to
act according to this truth, and in such a way that furthers one's
knowledge of it. These cannot be subtracted from the final effect,
buddhahood, without causing a misapprehension of its fundamental
nature. Indeed, the term "buddha-nature" must be taken to include all
three of these aspects. The doctrine of upaya as expressed in the
Lotus Sutra, as interpreted by Zhiyi, the de facto founder of the TIantai
tradition, is also important here: the perfect teaching is typically distin-
guished from the special teaching in that the former "opens up" all
previous upiiyas to "reveal" their ultimate truth (kaiquan xianshi).
This is taken to mean that the perfect teaching sees all the upiiyas as
necessary parts of the ultimate truth and its realization, inseparable
from it and indispensable, such that all of them are "upaya which are
intrinsic to the entity (of truth) itself (tineifangbian)." Part of what
enlightenment consists in, according to this view, is an understanding
of the entire Buddhist tradition itself (i. e., panjiao), in other words,
how all the teachings, sutras, upiiyas, fit together into one coherent
whole with one single flavorof enlightenment throughout. Such an
understanding obviously depends strongly on the existence and
understanding of specific texts.
3a The Shanjia exegetes were critical of Zongmi' s version of Chan
doctrine (putatively representing the Heze line of Shenhui), which cast
this doctrine in terms of Huayen thought, because it depicted all phe -
nomenal reality as included in buddhahood, but only indifferently. In
other words, for Zongmi, all that is, whatever it is, is the ultimate real-
ity, the unchanging dharmakaya, subject to various conditions
(sui yuan ) (the finite determination of which is external to the dharma-
kaya). The various differentiated things in the world are the dharma-
32 nABS 17.1
kaya. Here the fundamental model of wave and water is stressed. All
waves are water, but the specific shapes of the different waves is not
what is "watery" about them. It is irrelevant what shapes there are; it
would be equally water whether or not there were waves. For the
Shanjia, however, all that is, as it is specifically, is the ultimate reality,
the dharmakaya. It is the nature of ultimate reality, not merely to
assume any shape at all, but to be precisely these ten realmsP these
three thousand suchnesses.
Buddhahood inherently includes all the
other realms, all the other finite determinations in the universe. This
makes the Shanjia in one sense much more firmly attached to tradi-
tional Buddhist cosmology; it is the Buddha's nature to be these ten
particular realms, with their ten particular suchnesses, etc. We are told
not only that anything is the Buddha, nor only that everything is the
Buddha, but rather that Buddha is this everything that can be delimited
into three thousand suchnesses. We are told what Buddha is, not
only that he is whatever there is. The absolute is not to be conceived
as an indifferent, indeterminate blank, capable of taking on any finite
determination that happens to come its way, as Zongmi's mirror anal-
ogy and mind metaphor suggest Its nature is determinate; it is pre-
cisely the world that is the absolute, nothing more and nothing less.
Distinctions and determinations are not merely an effect of delusion;
they do and should exist. They are, in fact, part of the substance of tre
dharmakaya, which differentiates itself and comes to know itself in all
its finite determination, by means of this process of delusion and sub-
17. The realms of purgatory, hungry ghosts, animals, asuras, humans, devas,
sravakas, pratyekabuddhas, bodhisattvas and buddhas.
18. There are ten "suchnessness" (rushi) to each realm: appearance, nature,
entity, power, activity, primary cause, secondary cause, effect, response, and
consistency from beginning to end. The terms come from Kumarajiva's
translation of the "Upaya" chapter of the Lotus, and come to be applied to
each realm by Zhi Yi in the Fahuaxuanyi and elsewhere. There are said to be
three thousand suchnesses because each realm contains all the others (10 x
10), each of which has the ten suchnesses (X 10), all of which is applied to
the world as skandhas, as sentient beings or as physical environment (X3).
10 X 10 X 10 X 3 =3,000. The "three-thousandness" in particular is stressed
by Zhili, as his renegade disciple Renyue derisively noted after going over to
a modified Shanwai position. The specificity of this three thousand in the
thought of Zhi Yi is much more problematic, as can be seen by his treatment
of the Ten Thusnesses in the Fahua xuanyi, where they are treated as one
scheme among many for categorizing what exists. Zhi Yi says, in effect, that
all things can be integrated into one dharma (mind), or two (name and form),
or three, or four, or a hundred million, as you wish, but the Lotus does it
according to these ten (T. 33.732);
sequent enlightenment, which do not fall outside of it As Zhili puts it,
"Our teaching makes clear that the substance with its three thousand
dharmas follows various conditions to give rise to the Function
(phenomena) with its three thousand dharmas. When it is not follow-
ing these conditions, the three thousand are still there just the same.
Thus the differentiated dharmas and the substance are not two,
because even when delusion is eliminated, the distinctions remain."19
3b. Strenuous exception was taken to Zongmi's version of the Chan
doctrine of the status of mind, which Zhili considers to have been a
corrupting influence on the so-called Shanwai Tiantai monks. The
point of contention is whether mind, however construed, has some
special ontological status among all dharmas, as their source or ulti-
mate ground, or whether it is in principle on equal footing with any
other given dharma. The latter is Zhili's position, and he interprets the
statements about the primacy of mind in Zhanran and Zhiyi to refer to
a particularly effective meditation technique, selected because mind
happens to be what is closest to the practitioner. Mind, here, is the
ordinary, deluded mind of one who has not yet practiced meditation,
rather than a purified or original mind. The mind is indeed the
"source" of all other dharmas, to which everything can be reduced and
by which everything else can be explained, but the same could be said
of any other dharma, including any speck of dust or sound or smell.
To contemplate mind is the easiest way to come to this understanding.
Zhili alleges that the Shanwai have adopted the provisional "special
teaching" (biejiao) of the Huayen school, which is also Zongmi's
version of the underlying doctrine behind Chan's "special transmis-
sion." Indeed, the "mind" that is transmitted through the Chan lineage
is this pure, ontologically ultimate mind, according to Zongmi.
4. The Chan lineage claimed a special authority deriving directly from
Sakyamuni himself and forming a special transmission of the buddha-
mind outside of that recorded in the siitras. The TIantai polemicists
hold this claim to be historically unfounded and religiously misguided
Siming Zhili's Critique of GUifeng Zongmi:
Three Types of Identity Between SaTflSara and Nirvli1Ja
Let me explicate these points now in greater detail. Zhili explicitly tar-
gets Zongmi and his version of the Chan lineage and doctrine in the f01-
19. Zhili, Shi buennen zhiyao chao, T. 46.715b. Emphasis added.
34 JIABS 17.1
lowing passage from the Shi buermen zhiyao chao ("Notes pointing to
the essentials of [Zhanran's] 'The Ten Gates of Nonduality"'):
Question: It has been passed down to us that three of Bodhidharma' s dis-
ciples attained the dharma, but at different depths. Nizongchi said, "[Your
teaching is] to cut off defilements and realize enlightenment." The master
said, "You have got my skin." Daoyu said, "Deluded, it is defilements;
enlightened, it is enlightenment." The master said, "You have got my
flesh." Huike said, "Fundamentally there is no defilement; it is originally
enlightenment." The master said, "You have got my marrow ." [Your] pre-
sent [thesis], that "Defilement is identical with enlightenment," and so on,
seems to be the same as the "skin" and "flesh" views. How can it be called
unsurpassably perfect and sudden?
Answer: Scholars of our teaching, because of these words, are confused by
names and miss the meaning. To use that to make determinations about
this entraps and dissipates our teaching. Truly, it is because they do not
exhaust the meaning of the character ji ("identical"). It should be made
known that our understanding of "identical" is forever different from that of
all the [other] teachers. This is because [for us] it is not a matter of two
objects joined together, nor of two sides of something turned over. Rather,
to be called "identical," this very substance [before us, just as it is] must be
completely [the other] (dangti quanshi). And why? Defilement and
saJ!lsara are manifested [lit., practiced] evil (xiu e); their whole substance is
the dharma gate of inherent evil (xing e). Hence there is no need to cut off
and excise them, nor to tum them over. Since the other schools do not
understand inherent evil, they need to tum evil into good, or cut off evil
and realize good. Thus even the "extremely sudden" still say,
"Fundamentally there is no evil; it is originally good." Since they are not
able to take the complete [manifested] evil as [inherent] evil, none are able
to perfect the meaning of "identical." Thus (Zhanran) says in the Miaofa
xuanhuajing xuanyiji,juan 7, "Since in their carelessness they have never
even heard the name 'inherent evil,' how could they believe there is such a
thing as the practice of inherent meritorious properties (xingde zhi xing)?"
[Question]: In that case, why not say "Defilement is identical to defile-
ment," and so on? Why do you speak instead of enlightenment and
Answer: Truly it is not a separate meaning; it is just because inherent evil
is all-penetrating and all-fusing, and quiescent, that it itself is given the
names enlightenment and niTVli!!a. These names are set up [for this inher-
ent evil] from the point of view of the ultimate truth. How is this similar
to the "skin" and "flesh" views? Moreover, since defilement and so on are
completely inherent evil, how could one just say categorically,
''Fundamentally, there is none"?
But this story you have quoted, where Bodhidharma gives his seal
[authorizing genuine dharma transmission] to Master Ke, with his
"Fundamentally, there is no defilement, it is originally enlightenment" and
so on, is all Zongmi's heretical explanation, which has led later people to
take this as the ultimate, thus abandoning the three [evil] paths
and only
contemplating the "true mind." The Zutangji just says, "The second patri-
arch bowed three times, and stood in his position.,,21 Where does he say
that defilement exists and enlightenment does not? Thus we should not
use Zongmi's heretical explanations to make determinations about our
school's marvelous doctrines.
20. The "three paths" (san dao) is a peculiar Tiantai expression, used by Zhi
Yi to refer to duJ;kha, karma and klefa, and thus to defiled, unenlightened
samsaric existence as such. These three are meant to cover the entire nidana
chrun, with ignorance, attachment and appropriation comprising "klefa," dis-
positions and becoming comprising "karma," and the rest comprising
"duJ;,kha." The three paths are identical to the three tracks and finally to the
three virtues of enlightenment (dharmakaya, prajiiil and liberation). They are
not to be confused with the three lowest paths of samsara (usually called
santu in these contexts), i. e., purgatory beings, hungry ghosts and animals.
Zhill's point here as that evil, deluded existence, the deluded mind, must not
be abandoned in meditative praxis; rather, it is to be the focus of that praxis,
the nature of which is to be revealed and realized rather than left behind.
21. The extant version of the Zutangji includes neither version of this story.
Instead, Bodhidharma simply states that these three disciples had attained his
skin, flesh and marrow respectively, and moreover prophesies that his dharma
heirs will begin to get worse and worse after six generations. (See Feng
Minzuo, Chan yulu, vol. 2 (Taipei: Xingguang chuban she, 1982) 551. In
the Jingde chuandeng lu,juan 3, the story appears as follows: "Bodhidharma
said to his disciples, 'The time is at hand; let each of you speak of what you
have attained.' Daofu said, 'As I understand it, to neither cling to language
nor leave language behind is the function of the way.' The master said, 'You
have attained my skin.' Nizongchi said, "As I now comprehend it, it is like
beholding with joy the buddha-land of which one sees only once
and then never beholds again.' The master said, 'You have attained my
flesh.' Daoyu said, 'The four great elements are all empty, the five skandhas
do not exist, and so, as I see it, there is no dharma that can be attained.' The
master said, 'You have attained my bones.' Finally, Huike bowed, and then
stood in his position. The master said, 'You have attained my marrow.'"
This version of the story seems to derive from that which was available in
Zhili's time.
22. In the Taisho the original version says: 'This transcends even the expla-
nation that 'got the marrow.' Even if the intention behind Master Ke's view
was based on this, the way of expressing it was imperfect Question: In your
present explication of the perfect teaching, how could it be that you do not
speak of cutting off delusion to realize principle, and of turning over delusion
36 nABS 17.1
Now we speak of "cutting off' from the point of view of this identity, so
there is nothing to be extinguished. We speak of enlightenment from the
point of view of this, so there is nothing to turn over. Defilements and
srupsara are the dharmas of the nine realms [of hell beings, hungry ghosts,
asuras, animal, humans, devas, sravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and bodh-
isattvas]. Since [the teaching] is only called perfect if the ten realms [of the
above nine plus the realm of buddhas] mutually inhere and contain one
another, how could the buddhas destroy or transform the nine [other
realms]? Only thus can [the Buddha] be said to "have mastery within evil"
and only then can it be said that "The realm of the demons is itself the
Buddha." Thus the perfect teaching's cutting off, realization, delusion, and
enlightenment are spoken of only with respect to [subjective] taint [i. e.,
attachment] and purity, not with respect to [objective] good, evil, purity, or
impurity. Since the other teachings do not understand that the [buddha-]
nature inherently possesses all ten realms, they lack the perfect [teaching's
understanding of the] meaning of cutting off and enlightenment. Thus they
have attained the word "identical" but not the sense. This is the great path
of the whole teaching of our school. 23
This passage sets forth the doctrinal foundations of the Shanjia case
against Zongmi's version of Chan, but it will be necessary to untangle
Zhili's own doctrinal position to get a sense of what exactly he is object-
ing to here. ZhiH's dilemma is that one of the positions that Zongmi's
Chan (represented here by Huike) claims to have transcended sounds
very much like the Tiantai position. ZhiH must in effect prove, first of
all, that there is no genuine scriptural authority for the story that
Bodhidharma approved of this evaluation of the relative merits of the
teachings. The fact that he bothers to do this suggeSts that Bodhidharma
to approach enlightenment? If you do speak of these things, how is it any
different from Chiyu's explanation? Answer: How could it be, even with
Master Ke, that there is no cutting off or overturning of delusion? And yet
how could that make his view the same as that of the former two? Thus we
can know that whenever there is talk of divisions between gradual and sud-
den, it is a matter of the motivations and methods of the cutting off and over-
turning." According to the Siming zunzhe jiaoxing lu (T. 46.896c), Zhili
replaced this passage from the original version with the passage beginning,
"But this passage you have quoted ... " after Zhili's correspondence with the
Chan master Tiantong Ning. The new passage identifies the source of the
quotation, which had been contested, and at the same time more specifically
targets Zongmi. The target of the attack is not Bodhidharma, Huike, or the
other luminaries of the early Chan lineage, but rather Zongmi's later miscon-
strual thereof. Zhili claims that Zongmi put forth the version refuted here in
his GUifeng houji.
23. T. 46. 707.
was to him a figure whose authority mattered, while Zongmi was not.
This is important, for it indicates the underlying ambivalence of Zhili's
polemic against what we are here calling "Chan." For it seems that he is
not targeting the entire Chan tradition and everyone in it, nor even every
explicit doctrine of those included in this lineage, which are quite multi-
Rather, it is Zongmi's authority and doctrine which are ques-
tioned. He has no authority to speak for the tradition, Zhili asserts, and
moreover his own doctrine is fundamentally wrongheaded. It is he who
arbitrarily characterized and ranked the teachings in this way, and he is
not to be trusted. 25
Zhili's Critique o/Zongmi's Concept o/Mind
In particular, Zhili objects to the influence of Zongmi's idea that "The
one word 'awareness' (ziti) is the gate to all marvels," and that "What
Bodhidharma transmitted was just this numinal awareness (lingzhi) and
nothing more."26 Let us look at this objectionable doctrine of Zongmi' s
in more detail. In the Chanyuan zhuquanji du xu, juan 2, he writes:
All sentient beings have the empty, quiescent, true mind, the nature of
which is naturally pure from beginningless time, bright and undarkened,
clear and ever aware. Ever dwelling undestroyed throughout future time, it
is called the buddha-nature. . .. This awareness is not the same as that
involved in coming to realize or know something. The point [of calling it
awareness] is to make clear that the true [buddha] nature is not the same as
empty space or trees and stones; hence it is called 'awareness.' It is not the
consciousness of following objects and making distinctions, nor is it the
wisdom which reflects on the essence and fully comprehends it. It is sim-
ply the single nature of true suchness, which is spontaneously always
aware. Thus the bodhisattva said, "True suchness is in its own
substance true and substantial, conscious and aware." ... Wisdom and
24. Indeed, the authority of Yongjia Xuanjue (675-713), a figure associated
with both Tiantai and Chan teachings, is respected elsewhere in this same
text, and great pains are taken to show that Zhili is not contradicting him.
Zhiyao chao, T. 46.709b.
25. Indeed, Zhili's contemporaries also noticed that this rejection of Zongmi
did not entail a refutation of Chan as a whole. The Chan master Tiantong
Ning, in his correspondence with Zhili, seems, if I understand him correctly,
freely to admit that Zongmi's works contained many contradictions, and
moreover that he had unjustly exalted Heze Chan and underemphasized the
teachings of Niutou Chan. See Jiaoxing lu, T. 46.895.
26. Both statements can be found in Chanyuan zhuquanji du xu, juan. 2 (T.
48.405b). Tiantong Ning seems to be in complete agreement with Zhili on
this objection to Zongmi.
38 nABS 17.1
awareness differ in that wisdom is restricted to the sages and does not reach
to the ordinary, whereas awareness is possessed by everyone, sage or ordi-
nary ... , The Ratnagarbha Sastra says, "Knowing being is perishable,
knowing non-being is corruptible"-this is all merely the wisdom which
knows being and non-being-"but knowing true awareness does not recog-
nize being or non-being"-since it does not recognize being and non-being,
it is the non-discriminating awareness of the self-nature. The mind of
numinous awareness thus revealed is the true [buddha] nature, no different
from the Buddha. ... This is the "third type" of Chan in its entirety,
directly revealing the mind-nature. . . . Why then do the partisans of
"destroying marks" [such as Madhyamika] only speak of quiescence and
disallow the teaching of true awareness, while the specialists in "explaining
marks" [such as Yogacara] cling to the notion that the ordinary differ from
the buddhas, and will not allow the teaching that [ordinary beings] are iden-
tical to the Buddha? ... This teaching uses the single true mind-nature to
transcend and also to encompass all tainted and pure dharmas. It transcends
all as discussed above: it is concerned only with the substance, directly
pointing to the numinal awareness, which is the mind-nature. Everything
else is delusion. Thus it is said, "It is not cognized by consciousness, not
an object of the mind," and so on, up to, "not a nature, not a mark, not the
Buddha, not sentient beings, apart from the four possible propositions, cut-
ting off all negations." It encompasses all in that all the tainted and pure
dharmas are mind. When mind is deluded, it delusively gives rise to
karma, thus leading to the four types of birth and the six paths of existence,
and all the impure lands and realms. When mind is enlightened, it gives
rise to function in accord with its substance, the four virtues [kindness,
pity, joy, and equanimity] and the six perfections, and on to the four differ-
entiations and ten powers, marvelous bodies and pure lands, all manifest in
it. Since this mind manifests all dharmas, all dharmas are entirely identical
(quan ji) to this true mind. It is just as when a person dreams: all the
things he manifests in the dream are that person himself. When vessels are
made from gold, all the vessels are gold; when images appear in a mirror,
all the images are the mirror.
This awareness, also called the true mind, for Zongmi transcends being
and non-being, good and evil, all of which however it manifests or
" c r e ~ t e s " as the objects of its awareness. At the same time, it is carefully
distinguished from ordinary discriminating consciousness, the appre-
hension of external objects, logical thought, and from the specifically
enlightened consciousness of the Buddha. All these particular forms
27. T. 48.404c-405a.
and characters are manifested in and by it, but by clinging to or concen-
trating on them, one misses the awareness itself, which is at the base of
them all. The absolute nature itself is characterless and quiescent, differ-
ing in substance from all phenomena, and hence neither sacred nor pro-
fane, good nor evil, and so 011. Deluded thoughts and enlightenment are
both equally manifestations of this mind, equally dependent on it and
transcended by it
As Zongmi puts it, "The dao is the mind itself. . .. Evil is the mind
itself." The mind is ever aware and this alone is important; whatever the
object of awareness is, it is illusory compared to the mind. The object
derives its importance and its reality solely from the fact that it is mani-
fested in the mind, which alone is the Buddha. It is true that all phenom-
ena are thus nothing but the absolute nature, that is, the mind, but this is
not because of what they are in particular; but only because whatever
they are, they are actually just this mind, which is the absolute. This is
Zongmi's interpretation of "understanding that all characters are no char-
acters"-all specific characteristics are reduced to illusory configurations
of the mind, which alone is real. Objects are real in their substance,
which is mind, but unreal in their qualities. As Peter Gregory puts
Zongmi's point, "[T]his doctrine meant that all phenomenal appearances
(hsiang [xiang]) only had reality insofar as they were seen to be mani-
festations (ch'i [qi]) of the nature (hsing [xing])."28 Thus one can see
the Buddha everywhere, not so much because the Buddha "is" every-
where, but more importantly because seeing itself is the Buddha. The
Buddha is seen equally in each object, the same operation is repeated
over and over. Hence he can say, "Originally there is no defilement."
for impurities, the differentiations of things, the suffering of finitude, are
all illusory manifestations of the true mind itself; all of them are only real
in that they are mind, which is in reality all they have ever been from the
beginning. Hence, "Originally it is enlightenment" The true awareness,
the mind, is in and of itself devoid of all characters, but all characters are
manifest in it
1his mind is to be understood directly from one's constant experience
of it. Intellectually, however, "mind" is not a simple concept, but rather
a complex of ideas, and this way of speaking, saying that all things are
the manifestation of the true awareness, suggests how the world is to be
encountered. The fact that the absolute is characterized as "mind"
implies that its relationship to all finite things is analogous to the rela-
28. Gregory 251.
40 JIABS 17.1
tionship between a perceiving mind and the things it perceives. The
single perceiving mind is complete in each of its many perceptions. It
"negativizes" (i. e., de-absolutizes) them, "transcends" them as Zongmi
puts it ("not a nature, not a mark," etc.), for whatever it perceives is only
a perception, rather than the mind or the thing itself; everything in mind
is a relation; a perception is a manifestation of the relation between the
object and the mind; everything in it refers to something outside itself. It
is always aware, and yet always must be aware of something. The mind,
in ordinary perception, both is and is not all the things it perceives, and
those perceptions are both it and something else. In Zongmi' s descrip-
tion of the situation, all objects are both posited and superseded by the
absolute, in the same way that objects are both posited and superseded
by the perceiving (but not the cogitating) mind. The mind can abstract
from any of its perceived objects and still be the mind, and yet all the
objects are in the mind. In order to be itself, the mind is therefore not
dependent on any of its objects, and yetit must have some object. How-
ever, the objects retain their independence-that they appear is due to the
mind, but not what they appear as. This is understandable in the case of
the metaphor, the ordinary perceiving mind, but in the case of the abso-
lute, we are left to wonder where these particular determinations come
from. The principle of relativity is here constricted to the dependence
between mind and objects; the mutual dependence of objects, which
gives them their particular characters, is left out of the account. Zongmi
of course claims that the absolute, the mind, produces the individual
forms it manifests, due to "deluded thoughts from beginningless time";
the mind is itself neither enlightened nor deluded, but can be enlighten-
ment or delusion. Still, the manifestation of enlightenment is "the arisa!
of function in accord with substance," while the manifestation of delu-
sion is the "confused production of karma." There is some sense in
which the substance is more similar to the enlightened manifestation
than it is to the deluded manifestation, although it is the same mind in
either case. The inner nature of the absolute bears a closer resemblance
to some of its manifestations than to others, and this would seem to sug-
gest that it is in fact "marked" by certain characteristics, leaving the
deviations from these original characteristics inadequately explained.
For Zhili, this is not the ultimate teaching, although it does have a
place among the legitimate doctrines of Buddhism. It is one form of the
"special teaching," the second highest of the four general divisions of the
Buddha's teachings, according to Zhiyi's classification of teachings. It
falls short of the perfect teaching for two main reasons. First, it gives
special status to something called mind or awareness. True, the claim is
made that this mind has no characteristics, i. e., is not a "something" at
all, is no particular dharma. Nonetheless, it is described as manifest in
certain types of activity, for example, in the sentience of sentient beings,
as perceptivity, which is a certain type of dharma, although perhaps a
peculiarly problematic one, as discussed above. This distinction goes
back to Zhanran's doctrine (put forth in the lingang Bei) that inanimate
objects possess the buddha nature, a doctrine which would seem to pre-
sent difficulties for this identification Of the buddha nature with the
activity of awareness.
For 1:he Tiantai school, as Zhili interprets it, the buddha nature is not to
be identified with the any dharma simply called "mind" or "awareness."
It is conceived first and foremost as the three truths: emptiness, provi-
sional positing, and the mean (kong, jia, <hong). These are interpreted
in different ways in each of the four teachings. In the perfect teaching,
these three truths are claimed to be of equal value, none more "ultimate"
than the other two. Each is said to imply the other two, and any two can
be reduced to the other one. Emptiness signifies the lack of self-nature
due to conditioned arising. Provisional positing signifies the condi-
tioned arising due to lack of self-nature. The mean signifies the harmo-
nious conflict or non-obstruction of these two opposed points of view,
the fact that they express exactly the same thing, while still being
The special (or separate) teaching is said to cling to "only the mean"
(danzhong), a view of the union, and thus transcendence, of these
opposites. The absolute is understood in the perfect teaching, on the
other hand, to be "not only the mean" (budanzhong), a unity of oppo-
sites in which the opposed pair remain opposed although reconciled,
"sublated" rather than left behind. Anyone of the three truths brings
with it the other two; one cannot speak of emptiness without thereby
admitting provisional positing, and its harmony with emptiness. One
cannot speak of provisional positing without thereby admitting empti-
ness and its harmony with provisional positing. According to Zhili, the
truth of provisional positing in the perfect teaching signifies, more
specifically, neither the conditioned arising nor merely the
"establishment" or positing of dharmas, as in the lower teachings, but
rather "inherent inclusion," Uu), the integration of all dharmas by each
dharma, the fact that each dharma "avails itself' (jia) of all other dharmas
42 nABS 17.1
to become what it is.
This is the basis of the claim, found in Zhiyi's
Sinianchu and derived from the prajfiaparamitii sl1tras, that "all dharmas
go to [i. e., are reducible to] form, to scent, to each speck of dust," etc.,
so that we can speak of "form only, scent only, sound only" as well as
the more usual "consciousness only." Consciousness is emphasized
only because of its greater utility for purposes of contemplation and cul-
tivation. As Zhili puts, any dharma, chosen at random, is the totality, the
single unifier of all dharmas (Suiju yifa jie de wei zong).30
Any given dharma is thus to be regarded as (1) thoroughly negated
(other-referenced, passive, dependent), and also as (2) provisionally
posited as a certain particular entity with specific characteristics, and at
the same time, one is to see (3) the perfect harmony, indeed mutual
implication of these two views of the same dharma. To view the perfect
harmony is to preserve the particular characteristics of a given dharma
while seeing that this phenomenon is the center and essence of every-
thing else, a self-creative power, the one explanatory principle to which
everything else can be reduced, availing itself of everything else (self-
sufficient, independent, irreducibly what it is).
These three truths are correlated in Tiantai with "the three tracks"
(sangui), i. e., the track of subjective consciousness (guanzhao, con-
templation), action (zicheng, literally, what is depended on for becoming
and completion, i. e., practice) and objectivity (zhenxing, the true nature).
In Zhiyi' s Jinguangming xuanyi, ten triads are correlated, representing
ten stages along the three tracks. 31 Each triad, therefore, contains one
member correlating with each of these three general ideas: subjectivity,
action and objectivity. These range from the "three paths," i. e., karma
(action), defilement-vexations (subjective consciousness) and suffering
(objectivity, i. e., the truth about what exists), to the three buddha
natures: the active cause (yuanyin) of the achievement of buddhahood,
the revealing cause (liaoyin) and the objective cause (zhengyin), and
finally to the three virtues: liberation (action), prajfia (subjective con-
sciousness) and dharmakaya (objectivity). 32 Here we see all phenomena
analyzed into an omnipresent trinity of action, subjectivity and
objectivity. The moment of negation, of emptiness among the three
truths, is correlated with subjectivity, provisional positing is correlated
29. See Zhili, Siming shiyi shu, T. 46.836a.
30. Zhiyao chao, T. 46.708b.
31. The ten triads are also discussed in the Fahua xuanyi, T. 33.744a.
32. See Wang Zhiyuan, Sungchu Tiantai Foxue qinmao (Beijing: Zhongguo
jianshe chuban she, 1989) 16-25, for a fuller discussion of these ten trinities.
with action. Their mutual non-obstruction and inclusion, the mean, is
the element of objectivity, the ultimate truth about them. The three truths
give us the inner structure of all the terms in the three tracks, understood
in terms of the root idea of conditioned arising.
The status of mind is conceived very different! y here than it had been
by Zongmi. The phenomenon of awareness as manifested in human
beings and other sentient beings is a form of one of the three tracks,
subjective consciousness, necessarily bound up with and implying the
contrary tracks of objectivity and action, each of which also implies the
unification of the other two. All of these are regarded as unfoldings of
the implications of the simple doctrine of conditioned arising. Hence
consciousness has no special or prior status relative to physical form, or
to anything else. It is indeed the absolute itself, but this is equally true of
any other given dharma Indeed, the only consciousness experienced is
not a "numinal awareness," but something thoroughly conditioned, and
it is precisely this fact that makes it "marvelous"; it is this conditioned-
ness that is the basis of all the three truths as manifested in everything.
The momentary joining of object and sense organ in the deluded con-
sciousness makes this consciousness a useful object of contemplation.
Zongmi says of the numinal awareness, "the mind is self-knowing, not
dependent on conditioned arising, not arising due to the object The one
word awareness is the gate to all marvels." 33 But this would make it a
useless object of contemplation for Zhili, since what is to contemplated
is precisely conditioned arising and the necessary implication of all three
truths and all they entail. The goal of all practice and contemplation is to
see the three truths, not to see mind, which is just a special instance
This is a point of great importance for Zhili: Zongmi's doctrine is
pernicious because of its negative effect on practice. To enjoin begin-
ners to contemplate the true mind is to cut off their entry into the truth,
for the purpose of completed contemplation and practice is finally to per-
ceive this true mind, which is necessarily also to perceive true form, true
scent, true skandhas and so on. This absolute is indeed everywhere, as
"even a child knows," but this is merely the "identity of name," (the first
and lowest of Zhiyi's six levels of identity between samsara and
nirvana) not the final identity of realization (the last). Zongmi describes
the cultivation of this "awareness":
33. Zongmi, Chanyuan zhuquanji du xu, juan. 2. (T.48.405b)
44 nABS 17.1
Non-cutting, non-cultivating, freely following [the mind-nature]--only this
is called libemtion. The nature is like space, neither augmented nor dimin-
ished; what need is their to add to or repair it? Simply extinguish karma in
all times and places and nourish the holy embryo, and it will increasingly
manifest, naturally divine and marvelous. This is true awakening, true cul-
tivation, true realization. ... Awareness is without any [determinate]
thought or form-where then can there be any mark of self or other in it?
When one realizes that all marks are empty, the mind is without thought.
When a thought arises, one becomes immediately aware of it, and once one
is aware of it, it becomes nothing. The marvelous gates of practice all
depend on this .... After one realizes that all marks are no marks, one nat-
urally cultivates without cultivation .. ."34
The essence of cultivation is here portrayed as seeing that any determi-
nate fonn or thought that might arise in consciousness is actually nulli-
fied because it can be seen as simply the mind itself, rather than that par-
ticular fonn. The mind itself is without any determinate character. To
see that all determinations are manifestations of this indetermination
(marklessness) is enlightenment; this is to reduce the particular determi-
nations to indetermination, giving them value only in that determination
per se is in fact a manifestation of indetermination, and hence is the
absolute. This absolute is equally accessible through any perception,
and the procedure in any case is the same: to ignore the determination
itself (see it as "no determination," "no mark") and reduce it to the
markless mind. What particular thing it is simply does not matter. The
recognition of this ever-present awareness is, according to Zongrni, what
all the Chan patriarchs up to Shenhui had been obliquely indicating, and
it was what Shenhui openly proclaimed, because he could not find any-
one of sufficient karmic acuity to understand it through silent direct
In the elaborate meditation techniques advocated by the
Tiantai patriarchs, attention is directed specifically to particular types of
phenomena, dealing with them in their finite determination and offering a
different analysis of each, showing how this particular dharma is a
manifestation of the structure described by the three truths. To claim that
one need only be constantly mindful of this mind is to imply that these
techniques are unnecessary. Such an implication is unacceptable to
34. Ibid.
35. Ibid.
The authors of these polemics, both Tiantai and Chan, accepted many
of the same texts, but interpreted them according to their school's indi-
vidual doctrines. Thus, Zhili and Zongrni would agree on the identity of
defilement and enlightenment. Zhili' s point in his critique of Zongmi is
the mere claim of identity tells us very little because it can be taken in a
wide variety of ways. When Zongmi claims that all things, every scent
and sight, are the absolute, he is, according to Zhili, taking this to mean
that since they are all actually mind, and mind is the absolute, scent and
sight are the absolute. That is, they are mediated by another term, mind,
in attaining their status as absolute. This speck of dust is absolute, not in
that it is a speck of dust, but in that it, like everything that manifests, is
manifested in mind, has no being other than that of the mind, and hence
is absolute. There is nothing absolute about "dustness" per se. As Zhili
says of the Zongmi-influenced Shanwai scholars:
They directly point to the dharma of mind and call it principle [i. e., the
absolute]; they do not point to [all] phenomena as being identical with
principle. Only because the two phenomena, sentient beings and buddhas,
are reduced to mind do they call them identical to principle. For them,
each dharma does not immediately, right here, possess the three thousand
dharmas [comprising the universe]. Thus we know these teachers, although
they quote [Zhiyi's] dictum about "form only," twist it so that it only
means [an instance of] "only the true mind."36
Here we have the problem of what identity means for these various
exegetes, as discussed by Zhili in his discussion of Bodhidharma' s three
disciples. This identity is conceived by Zhili as consisting in the fact that
the three thousand dharmas, the determinate features of the entire uni-
verse as seen from every point of view, are implicitly contained in every
particular dharma, both in principle and in phenomena. Any given
dharma, for example, a speck of dust, is the universal totality (zong), and
every other dharma is its particular manifestation or part (hie) in two
1. In principle, all the three thousand, including all the phenomena in
the experience of buddhas and hell beings, mutually inhere in any
given speck of dust-its nature is the three-thousandness of the three
thousand, including all their mutual connections and determinations;
they are what make it what it is, they are its innermost essence. To
36. Zhili, Zhiyao chao, T. 46.709a.
46 JIABS 17.1
look at this one dharma is to look at all actually existing dharmas. To
speak of this dharma is to speak of the entire totality of the universe as
manifested here and now, with this particular aspect forming the focal
point and all the others fonning the background. To speak of another
dharma is to speak of this same totality, but with a different focal point
highlighted. This relationship is what is elucidated by the three truths,
the simultaneous being-itself and being-others of every dharma, and
the ten tracks that grow out of them. This is the "root of non-
dwelling,"37 the mean which is neither emptiness nor positing-by-
availing (jia), but is both. Without this speck of dust, the absolute
(which is itself three thousandness) would not be the absolute; part of
what it is to be the absolute is to include this speck of dust, which has
a particular place in the system of the three thousand dharmas. As
such this dharma, even if it is an experience of a being in the lowest
hell, can never be eliminated
2. Each dharma is equal to the totality in phenomena in the sense that,
as the Vimalakfrtinirdesa Sutra says, the defilements are the seeds of
That is, this speck of dust can develop into any other
of the three thousand; it has the potential to become any of them with-
out exception, it is the starting point from which any other can be
attained, merely by developing, in actual fact, (some ot) the potentiali-
ties of its own inner nature, which is in fact just this three-thousand-
ness. For a buddha-dharma to become a hell-dharma, or for a hell-
dharma to become a buddha-dharma, does not require any perversion
of its own inner essence as such, nor even a relinquishing of its par-
ticular finite detennination; it is merely a change in focus in the totality.
From this point of view, defilement is identical to enlightenment in that
whatever detennination is in defilement, in the phenomenal world, all
the three thousand phenomena, is also in enlightenment, and in the
absolute which is neither and both, in the essence of things, and can
never be eliminated. The absolute includes the realms of both hell
being and buddha, both ultimate and provisional teachings, and in fact
these all include each other, since the totality is the essence of each.
Any particular dharma, with all it characteristics and distinctions, is
37. See Mou Zongsan, Foxing yu Bore, vol. 2 (Taipei: Xuesheng shuju,
1989) 675-760, for a full discussion of the importance of the concept of the
"root of non-dwelling," a notion taken from the Vimalikfninirdesd Satra, in
Tiantai thought.
38. See Zhili, Shiyi shu, T. 46.835b.
fully accounted for in the essence of any other particular dharma.
Dustness per se is an essential part of the absolute itself, which cannot
be correctly conceived without dustness, without this particular speck
of dust. Moreover, dustness (or better, this dustness) is an essential
part of deluded mind, of buddhahood, of asura experience, of deva
experience, of hell being experience, and vice versa, they are all essen-
tial to this dustness. This finite determination is itself an exemplifica-
tion of the essential threefoldness, of the three tracks, of the three
truths, of the mutual implication of negation and positing, of Ire
moments of subjectivity, objectivity and action, all of which are
involved in a specific way in each particular dharma. Thus by com-
prehending thoroughly (via contemplation of the three truths in medi -
tation) the nature of this speck of dust or this moment of thought per
se, of its particular determinations, we understand the absolute.
Whatever may be the problems involved in this line of thought, it is
clearly very different from that embraced by Zongmi. We can now
understand the criticism of the latter view quoted at the. beginning of this
essay. Zhili speaks of three types of identity. First, there is the union of
two separate things. According to Zhili's follower Kedu, 39 this corre-
sponds to Nizongchi's position that delusion is to be cut off in order to
realize principle, that is, that the two are joined together in everyday
experience, and one can be eliminated, leaving the other intact. Next
there is turning over of a single thing which has two sides, which Kedu
says corresponds to Daoyu's view that when one is deluded, all is delu-
sion, but when one is enlightened, it is the way-that is, one object is
seen from now one angle, now another, but the object itself apparently
has these two distinct aspects, which can be seen in separation from one
another. It is this position which sounds dangerously close to the
Tiantai view; the difference is that for Tiantai both versions must be pre-
sent and visible simultaneously, with no change in the object. This
means that ZhiU did not say what kind of identity was implied by the
position put forth by Huike, i.e., the poSition of Zongmi himself. He
merely says that this type of identity is unable to take (manifest) evil as
(inherent) evil, and hence does not reach the complete meaning of
identity, that is, the total identification of this thing just as it is with its
39. In his Shibuermen zhiyao chao xiangjie, ZZ 2-5-2. (Xuzang jing, vol.
100 [Taipei: Xinwenfeng] 339-341).
48 nABS 17.1
It would seem then that the Zongmi I Huike view would involve an
identity where one of the terms was asserted to be a complete illusion, or
a misperception of the other thing, as if one were to mistake a rope for a ~
snake; the rope and snake are identical in that there is no snake, and what
you were perceiving as the snake was in fact precisely the rope. Here
the misperceiving supplies the determination "snake," and this falls out-
side the rope itself, in the observer, who somehow stands apart. For
Zhili, on the contrary, it is part of the nature of the rope that it be per-
ceived as, and manifest itself, as a snake. This snakeness itself is in fact
part of what the rope is, and in fact, if thoroughly understood through
correct practice, contains the whole nature of the rope; to understand the
snake is to understand the rope. The nature of snakeness is the nature
of ropeness, and this nature is not a blank marklessness, but includes the
determinations of both snake and rope.
Zongmi uses the metaphor of the mar;.i jewel in his critique of the
Hongzhou school of Chan. The jewel represents "the one numinous
mind; its perfectly pure luminous reflectivity, empty tranquil awareness;
and its complete lack of coloration, the fact that awareness is intrinsically
without any differentiated manifestations." 40 The colorless jewel reflects
any color it comes into contact with, as the mind "follows condi tions."
For Zongmi, the Hongzhou doctrine that all ordinary activities are
manifestations of the original mind is like seeing a jewel that is next to a
black object, and concluding that blackness is the jewel's marvelous
reflectivity. Consequently, the Hongzhou take any similar black object
to be the jewel, and can never apprehend its true colorless state, reflect-
ing nothing, as in the mind's state of "no thought."41 Zhili's poSition
differs from both the putative Hongzhou position (with its potential anti-
nomian consequences) and Zongmi's critique thereof. For Zhili, there
can never be a time when the jewel is reflecting nothing; it is always col-
ored. To apprehend its "colorlessness" means rather just to see the
whole array of contrary colors it is capable of reflecting, all of which, in
their particular differences from one another, are intrinsic to the notion of
reflectivity. "Reflectivity as such" makes no sense; to understand reflec-
tivity is to understand all that can be reflected, including blackness. To
understand that the color seen in the jewel is only a reflection is to see
that the jewel, even in its blackness, is capable of whiteness with no
change at all in its nature, such that, since all black is reflected black,
40. Gregory 245.
41. Ibid. 246.
black has white intrinsically "in it" and white has black intrinsically "in
it" Neither white nor reflectivity need be sought outside the blackness
presently being reflected. There is still a premium set on whiteness
here, rather than on reflectivity as such (as in Zongmi) or the putative
wertjreiheit of the Hongzhou school, which values neither whiteness
nor blackness nor reflectivity above anything else. For Zhili, it is simply
that this whiteness is intrinsic to blackness, and vice versa, and when
this is realized, the blackness is identical to whiteness (not only to
"reflectivity").42 This is taking evil as evil, and seeing complete identity
in the thing just as it is.
'This is why Zhili lays such stress on the doctrine of inherent evil (xing
e), or the evil inherent in the buddha nature, for only this makes the par-
ticular evil determinations themselves the whole absolute. This evil phe-
nomenon itself is inherent in the absolute, and it may thus be called
inherent evil; since this inherent absolute includes all the three thousand
dharmas, penetrating even to the buddha-dharmas, it is "marvelous" in
its own right Indeed, the Buddha is only the Buddha due to his having
realized his identity with the other nine realms; he could not relinquish
them without destroying his own nature, and ceasing to be the Buddha.
They are eternal parts of the essence of the Buddha himself, who can
never eliminate his inherent evil. Moreover, each of these parts contains
the whole, and hence every evil dharma is itself, just as it is, the abso-
lute. Elsewhere Zhili elaborates on the importance of inherent evil in his
conception of identity:
We discern the difference between different types of identity by means of
whether or not there is inherent inclusion [of all, including evil, determina-
tions]. How is this? If the dharmadMtu about which one is deluded does
not in itself inherently possess the three obstacles [karma, defllement and
retribution], and only has these three obstacles because of [one's own]
tainted [understanding, ran], then even if we speak: of the one [buddha]
nature following along with conditions, the taint and delusion are still con-
sidered self-sufficient (zizhu), and the poison and harm are creative of some-
thing new; to go back to the source, the three obstacles must be destroyed,
and thus the meaning of identicalness is not complete. This cannot yet be
called the poison which is identical to principle and the [buddha] nature,
and thus this doctrine belongs to the special teaching. ... If, however,
42. From this we can see how Zhili might have criticized the Hongzhou
school, which in spite of its historical ascendancy within Chan was never as
influential among Shanwai theorists as Zongmi's ideas, and hence is not
directly confronted in these polemics.
50 nABS 17.1
the dharmadhatu about which one is deluded originally and inherently
includes the three obstacles, which manifest because of one's tainted-
[understanding, which is itself inherently included therein], then the taint
and delusion are dependent [on the buddha nature], and the poison and
harm create nothing that was not already there. When one returns to the
source, the taint and poison are still there as always. Only this perfects the
meaning of identity .... Thus we should know that the substance inher-
ently possesses the three obstacles, and when it gives rise to the function of
the three obstacles, it still functions in accordance with substance. ... In
the perfect teaching, since inherent evil has been explained, delusions of
view and thought, large and small, are poisons which are identical to the
[buddha] nature. This being the case, these poisons themselves are that
which is capable of overcoming and destroying [poisons]. Since the poi-
sons are what can destroy poisons, they can be absolute just as they are-
where is there any differentiation between that which destroys and that
which is destroyed, that which traces and that which is traced? Poison and
harm are identical to the mean, all dharmas are reducible to harm, the
awareness that negates it and posits it are mutually identical. . .. 43
Here Zhili goes so far as to assert that the defilements, in that they are
"identical" to buddhahood and other defilement-conquering dharmas,
contain in themselves their own conquest. TIlis conception can be traced
back to Zhiyi's comparison of evil to a piece of bamboo, which includes
in its own nature the potential for fire (good), which, when manifested,
in fact consumes the bamboo; moreover, when the bamboo is gone, the
fire also vanishes.
In practical terms, there is no need to go in search
of something outside of the defilements to overcome them; in meditation,
one merely concentrates on the deluded mind itself, not by contemplating
it by means of or in terms of some other pure mind, but merely by
seeing what is only implicit in this suffering, that is, the true nature of
this suffering, which will become manifest through this practice of
concentration. Implicit in this suffering and delusion are the three tracks,
grounded on the three truths. When fully manifest, these three tracks are
called dharmakaya, prajfia and liberation. When still implicit, they are
called samsara, delusion and karma. In either case, the entire sequence
43. Zhili, Shi Qing Guanyin shu zhong xiaoju san yong (T. 46.872c,
Jiaoxing lu, juan 2).
44. Fahua xuanyi, T. 33.743c-744a. Cf. also Zhanran's statement: "Not
only are the substance and nature of ignorance and dharmata one in what is
contemplated; the consciousness doing the contemplating is itself ignorance."
(Quoted by Zhili in Ibid.)
of implicit and explicit states are inherent in each, and the final stages,
when fully explicit, are not to be understood apart from the prior implicit
ones, nor from the entire process of revelation of what had been implicit
According to Zhili, only this relationship between phenomenal suffering
and ultimate liberation can be called a relation of identity.
Zhili thus asserts that the resemblance between his teaching and that
which is transcended in Zongmi's story is only superficial; There is a
crucial difference in understanding between the two doctrines in ques-
tion: what is lacking in the rejected views of Daoyu and Nizongchi is, in
sum, the peculiarly Tiantai doctrine of inherent evil. Without this notion,
in Zhili's view, all understandings of the relationship between the oppo-
sites of delusion and enlightenment, and specifically what is meant by
their identity, are superficial and fall short of the perfect teaching.
The Status of Upaya and the Nature of Dharma Transmission
This notion is closely linked with the Tiantai doctrine concerning upliya.
For just as the Buddha contains within himself all the other realms, and
would not be the Buddha if hell beings and hungry ghosts did not also
inhere in him, so the ultimate truth cannot be separated from provisional
truth, and would not be itself without the lesser teachings that precede it
The provisional truth can never be eliminated or left behind, because the
ultimate truth would then fail to be the ultimate truth; it is only ultimate
by virtue of its mutual inherence in the provisional truth, which is also,
therefore, ultimate. In Tiantai, upliya is seen as having a profound onto-
logical significance as the most perfect manifestation of the three truths.
Hence the Lotus, with its focus on upliya, is honored by them above all
other scriptures. Huaize, a Yuan dynasty follower of Zhili's, in his
Tiantai Chuan Foxinyin ji, quotes the Lotus as saying, "The real ultimate
mark of all dharmas is none other than provisional upaya and real ulti-
macy." (zhuja shixiang buchu quanshz), which he glosses by saying:
"All dharmas" are the good and evil active cause and revealing cause [or
buddha natures, that is, the second and third causes of buddhahood,
corresponding to the second and third of the three tracks, provisional
positing and emptiness], sharing the same substance within upltya; the real-
mark is the good and evil objective cause [or buddha nature, the f"Irst of the
three causes of buddhahood, i. e., the objective cause proper, corresponding
to the rrrst of the three tracks, the mean] sharing the same substance within
45. Xuzangjing, vol. 101 (Taipei: Xinwenfeng) 802.
52 nABS 17.1
Here the real nature of all phenomena is asserted to be none other than
the principle of upiiya itself, of a provisional positing which is perpetu"',
ally exposed as false and superseded. The truth, in other words, is the '
process of falsehood [partial truth] leading to truth.
All dharmas are
here characterized as quan, provisional, upiiya, a term used originally to
apply to types of teaching; the application of this concept thus overflows
from the pedagogical into the ontological. The logic behind this over-
flow is seen in the notion that the phenomenal world is a "cause" of
buddhahood. Technically, it is two of the three causes (identified in the
Nirvii1}a Sutra) associated with consciousness and action. These two
causes pertain to the moral sphere of practice, as opposed to the "object"
of cultivation, the truth to which one is to become awakened. In both
cases there is necessarily "good and evil," since these are all considered
necessary conditions for the accomplishment ofbuddhahood.
the direct cause, the truth, the real -mark, turns out to be nothing more
than the two other causes. The provisional steps along the path, seen in
their necessary totality in their mutual non-obstruction as the third truth
(the mean), is nothing but the relationship of the other two truths. Thus
Huaize is able to speak of "Universally manifesting the form body from
the position of the fruit [of buddhahood] , hanging down and forming the
nine realms, playing in the six paths of existence." Here the nine realms
(everything there is besides the Buddha) are depicted as something put
forth by the Buddha as a teaching device, on the model of the provi-
sional teachings described in the Lotus. Moreover, Huaize insists that
this "putting forth" is not a deliberate miraculous act by the Buddha, but
is rather a direct and natural expression of his own innermost nature, for
46. If taken seriously, and put, for example, into mathematical terms, this
suggests a very strange situation, since one of the two terms is said to be
equal to itself plus something else. That is, if X=ultimate truth and
Y=provisional truth, we are here told that X=X+Y. This reduces to,
X= Y +(Y +(Y +(Y +(Y .... )))), and so on ad infinitum. If we were to be so fool-
ish as to "solve" this equation, we would find only that Y =O,and that X=
this infmite structure of mutually superceding zeroes, and this, indeed, reveals
something important about the Tiantai notion of the absolute. The provi-
sional phenomenal world is nothing more than the absolute, nothing in addi-
tion to it, and thus nothing in a sense, in that it is nothing in its own right;
but at the same time it is an intrinsic part of the definition of the absolute
47. Huaize goes on to specify that the good causes are the ten thusnesses of
the buddha realm, while the evil causes are the ten thusnesses of the nine
other realms, all of which necessarily mutually inhere.
the real-mark includes provisional positing within itself. This, he ex-
plains, is what is meant by "non-creation" and "non-doing." The world
is thus to be experienced as a teaching device, something that is in itself
false if taken literally but true in that it is manifested by and in fact
inherent in the truth itself. The world is a means devised skillfully to
lead one to the truth, which will turn out to be this principle of truth and
half-truth itself, fully elaborated.
TIlis doctrine is important in the Tiantai attitude toward Chan, and
toward the attitude toward upiiya expressed in Chan rhetoric. Indeed,
Huaize's work ends with an extended critique of the Chan tradition con-
cerning the transmission of a special doctrine to Mahakasyapa Interest-
ingly, it does not deny that Mahakasyapa received the transmission of
the dharma, for this had been declared at the beginning of Zhiyi's Mohe
miguan, with Mahakasyapa identified as the first patriarch of the Tiantai
lineage. Instead, he denies that what was given to this patriarch was a
"special transmission outside the teaching." Huaize reasserts the ulti-
macy of the Lotus, the importance of the doctrine of inherent evil as a
cause of realized buddhahood,48 and thus defines "transmission" as
what was given to all those about whom the Buddha prophesied in the
Lotus, which ultimately includes all sentient beings. Those who receive
the transmission are described as:
diligently studying the buddha-vehicle and broadly transmitting the holy
transforming [teaching]; or in the presence of their teacher, earnestly receiv-
ing instruction-this is known through meeting with him; or studying the
subtleties and searching out the secrets of the siitras and commentaries--
this is known through hearing him. Between the meeting and the hearing,
the two minds shine on each other, with a mysterious comprehension and
silent tallying-this is called transmission. My mind originally possesses
it, it is not attained from others-this is called non-transmission.
Although mind originally possesses it, it only becomes known when indi-
cated and shown. This is called transmitting this non-transmitted marvel,
like a seal stamped on the mind-this is called the mind-seal.
48. As he says later in the same text, "The man of the perfect teaching inher-
ently includes both good and evil, just as 'The superior man is not a special-
ized vessel' [Analects 2:12]. He is capable of both good and evil, his sub-
stance and function are not two. But the man of the special teaching does not
inherently include both good and evil, just like a purely good man who is
unable to create evil. Only when he is fettered by delusion can he create
evil." Ibid. 833.
54 nABS 17.1
Huaize goes on to say that this mind-seal is associated with enlighten-
ment from the side of self-practice, and that it was passed on to all the
bodhisattvas in the Lotus Sutra, which he quotes in support of his claim.
He goes on to assert that a special charge was indeed given to
Mahakasyapa, but that it concerned only "transformation of others," that
is, the spread of the teaching, the beginning of a lineage, and quotes
many texts in support of this distinction. This charge was given gener-
ally to the whole assembly and also especially to Mahakasyapa. The
latter received a special charge for a number of specific reasons. For
example, his ascetic practices would make the dharma long endure, and
that by attaching this charge to someone with small CIDnayana) attain-
ment' it would lead more easily to practice and transformation of others.
In other words, this transmission of the dharma to Mahakasyapa was
wholly a matter of upiiya, which according to Tiantai doctrine is always
necessarily both provisional and ultimate, like all other parts of the doc-
trine. It was not that he had some special realization that the others
lacked, but just that he was the one who could pass on the dharma to
later ages-in other words, his selection had to do solely with the trans-
formation of others. Huaize asks, "How could it be that the transmis-
sion of the seal of the buddha-mind was given to Mahakasyapa alone,
and all the others did not comprehend it? The people of the world, being
unclear about this, have cheated the saints and sages, and deludedly
given rise to pernicious doctrines, unable to know the meaning of
transmission of self-practice and transformation of others." This parry,
like ZhiH' s attack of Zongmi, is, by Huaize's own account, a response to
a critique of the Tiantai doctrine by Chan sympathizers, and seeks to turn
the tables. In his description of the transmission of the mind seal,
aspects like self-practice and the transformation of others are carefully
distinguished and their textual referents identified. The stress is clearly
on long study and specific practices, a characteristic of the Tiantai
approach that stands in stark contrast to Chan rhetoric on this issue.
For the Tiantai tradition, this relationship between self-practice and
transformation of others, stressed in the last line quoted above, is of
crucial importance; the two have a specific, determinate relationship,
corresponding to particular stages on the Buddhist path and supported
by specific texts, and must be clearly distinguished. At the same time,
according to Tiantai notions of the ontological status of upliya, the two
are in fact mutually inherent. Both sides of this relationship, their dis-
tinction and their identity, are to be kept in view; only then is their true
structure understood. This is analogous to the conception of the three
truths, where the true structure of emptiness and provisional positing is
understood only by seeing their distinction and simultaneously seeing
their mutual non-obstruction, the mean-this is to see "not oruy the
mean." Hence the transmission of a "direct pointing," which purport-
edly did away with upaya, separating self-practice from the transforma-
tion of others and treating the latter as inessential, is not the transmission
of the whole truth. By a familiar TIantai paradox, dispensing with upaya
is just what marks it as upaya, as holding to "only the mean," the
"special" or "separate" teaching. The rounded or perfect teaching is
characterized by "not only the mean," which must include upiiya, the
means for teaching others, within itself. Thus Huaize does not mean to
denigrate Mahakasyapa; rather, he undercuts the Chan tradition by say-
ing that he was indeed great, but only in that he alone understood the
importance of upaya, the mutual inherence of self-realization and trans-
formatiQn of others. He alone realized that true enlightenment was
inseparable from the process of going on to teach others employing the
full range of upiiya used by the Buddha throughout his career. It is for
this reason that he is credited with founding the lineage. Thus, the tables
are turned on the Chan tradition: what made Mahakasyapa the patriarch
was not that he had some special transmission outside the teachings
which could dispense with upaya. Rather, he was the patriarch precisely
because he mastered all the teachings, that he alone, of all who had
become enlightened, understood and utilized upaya exhaustively.
1his line of attack is perhaps even clearer in the Southern Song monk
Fadeng's work, Yuandwz zongyen, the central concern of which is just
this issue. Fadeng's work begins as follows:
The [Mohezhiguan] says, "[The dharma that was preached] fIrst in the Deer
Park, next on Vulture Peak and finally in the Crane Grove [where
Sakyamuni died]-this dharma was given to Mahakasyapa." This shows
that the Tathagata's treasury of the true dharma-eye was given to
MahakaSyapa, which was then passed on [to his dharma-heirs] in sequence
and never cut off. The reason it was given to MahakaSyapa was because of
his advanced years and eminent virtue, his ascetic practice of cleansing dis-
ciplines (dhuta), which made him able to propagate [the dharma]. It was
also because the proper karmic conditions were with him. But wherein lies
[the essence of] the dharma passed on to him? How was it passed on?
What was its size [i. e., its place in the classification of teachings, from
"small" (Hinayana) to "large" (Mahayana)]? Here I will try to put forth [the
answers to] these [questions].
56 nABS 17.1
Some say, "At the dharma meeting on Vulture Peak, the World-honored
one held up a flower, and Kasyapa smiled; this is the mark [of the dharma
he received]." But this theory has no basis at all in the Indian scriptures,
and must be considered merely a metaphor created by later people.
Some say, "In the prajiil1pl1ramitl1 siitras there is preaching through
another [that is, the Buddha speaks through one of his disciples]; t1!is is the
passing on of the dharma." But this theory still does not specify what it is
that is transmitted. Moreover, in the prajila siitras it is Subhiiti and
Sariputra who receive [the Buddha's miraculous power in this way], not
Some say, "The Tathagata was giving out [the dharma] constantly,
everywhere he went; how could it be restricted to one time and place?"
This theory is extremely vague and unfocused. ...
But if the explanation of the passing on of the dharma is not made clear,
we do not know what dharma it is that is being transmitted, nor how it is
that the patriarchs passed it on to each other. Not knowing its essentials, it
is difficult to [further] transmit it. In this way, we have only the words
"transmitting the dharma," but not the actuality. Alas! To "hear it on the
road and then immediately go speaking of it in the streets" (A reference to
Analects 17:14) was already ridiculed by the ancients; how much more
[would they ridicule those] who do not even know the reason? The glory
of the teaching of the buddhas and patriarchs is flourishing especially in the
present age; how cotild there be no reason for it?
People of later ages gave rise to heretical views, and thus we have the
"special transmission outside the teaching," also known as "[The transmis-
sion is] simply holding up a flower and that is all." But among students
of the Buddha, although there is a difference between Chan [meditation]
and doctrine [teachings], since they all depend on the Buddha, they must
all take the buddhadharma as their standard. The buddhadharma is pre-
cisely that which was transmitted to Kasyapa. What was transmitted to
Kl1syapa was nothing but that Dharma that was first [preached] in the
Deer Park, next on Vulture Peak andfinally in the Crane Grove; when was
there an additional "special transmission"? If we seek out the reason [for
this erroneous theory], it is that [these people] did not comprehend the
source, and fearing that Chan and doctrine wotild be mixed together, they
came up with this theory of the "special transmission," not knowing that
the "special" [teaching, in the Tiantai classification] is itself unacceptable .
. . . Some say, "We transmit the mind with the mind." But I would like to
know, how is it that they know this mind can be transmitted? Is it not
through the explanations given in the teachings? How much more so in
that "Words and letters are free of any self-nature; they are identical to
liberation"? (Quoting from the Vimalikirti Sutra.) From this we know
that Chan and doctrine both point to what was given on Vulture Peak.
How could what KaSyapa transmitted be in conflict with the buddhas and
patriarchs? ...
The transmission of the dharma is the transmission of the essence of the
buddha-mind. You should know that this essence can be looked at in its
wholeness or in its division into parts. Its parts are all the teachings that
were preached throughout the Buddha's career . ... In its wholeness, it is
the Lotus Sl1tra's "opening of the provisional to reveal the real," which
explains the Buddha's wisdom and vision, and reveals the source and self-
nature of all dharmas. All earlier preaching was upiiya. But now that
the real has been revealed, it all becomes Buddha's wisdom and vision.
KaSyapa did not understand the ftrst time. The next time, it was explained
with the parable of the "high, vast, great cart" and Kasyapa heard it and
rejoiced in his heart, and thus truly received it. Truly it is because this
wisdom and vision of Buddha includes and integrates all knowledge and
all views that it is said, "The unexcelled correct dharma is given to
Kasyapa. "49 . This shows that the mark of passing the dharma was right
there on Vulture Peak, and has no other explanation. It just refers to the
Buddha's wisdom and vision. Although the dharma includes Hmayana
and Mahayana, at this point they all revert to a single path. ... When the
ancients said the World-Honored One held up a flower and KaSyapa smiled,
was it not this [wisdom and vision of the Buddha conveyed in the Lotus]
they were symbolizing?
This wisdom and vision of Buddha-what person does not possess it?
What Q.harma is not thus? The essence of what was given on Vulture Peak
lies in this alone. What the patriarchs transmitted was just this dharma.
What Zhiyi was greatly enlightened to was just this dharma, and the vast
river of his discerning explanation was all the explanation of this dharma
The ultimate truth propagated by Nagilljuna with words and letters was this
dharma. The inconceivable three contemplations with the one mind in
[Zhiyi's] Mohe zhiguan is simply reflection on this dharma. Riding the
bejeweled chariot straight to the bodhima!1-4a is to realize this dharma.
When Bodhidharma exclusively transmitted the mind-seal, he was transmit-
ting this dharma. How great this dharma is! It is the source of both Chan
and doctrine. Although its streams differ, the source is the same. The
essence of what all [these streams] reduce to is also only one. Those who
chase after the streams and lose the source are ignorant of the essentials of
what is transmitted. This is to betray the Buddha's appearance in the
world, since the enlightenment he transmitted will be destroyed by this.
49. A reference to the Buddha's commendation of Kasyapa in the "Prophe-
cies" (shouji) chapter of the Lotus, after KaSyapa has recited the verse version
of the story of the "prodigal son."
50. Xuzangjing, op. cit., 399-400. Emphases added.
58 JIABS 17.1
There is much that is noteworthy in this passage. Leaving aside for the ... -
moment the typical Tiantai interpretations of other figures in Buddhist
hagiography, we notice that, again, the transmission to KaSyapa is rec-
ognized as legitimate; it is the nature of what was transmitted that is
contested Kedeng wishes to assert that what MahakaSyapa and all who
followed him (including, presumably, Bodhidharma) transmitted was
none other than the buddhadharma as recorded in the scriptures; it is not
a special transmission outside the doctrine. The acknowledgment of
KaSyapa in the Lotus ensures that this transmission is indeed legitimate.
Nonetheless, it is only one of the many forms that this teaching took,
one of the "parts" (bie) of the Buddha's teaching, the totality of which is
given in the Lotus, which in fact revealed that the parts were all parts of
a whole. The parts are naturally no different from the whole; the whole,
divided, is the parts and the parts, together, are the whole. But no one
part can replace the whole. The error of these Chan exponents is to take
Kasyapa's transmission as sufficient unto itself; in truth it must be con-
sidered in its proper context with all the other teachings, compared to the
discourse in the scriptures, which, Kedeng asserts, are utilized by the
Chanists themselves quite freely for their fundamental conceptions. For
Tiantai, the intellectual acquisition of these conceptions, although not the
ultimate realization of truth, are a necessary and integral part of the pro-
cess of that realization.
Hence words and letters cannot be considered
external to the ultimate truth transmitted, as Chan rhetoric seems to
claim. Indeed, the career and teaching methods of the Buddha are
intrinsically not separable from the content of the ultimate truth that is
transmitted The truth that is transmitted includes the determinations of
being "first [preached] in the Deer Park, next on Vulture Peak and
finally in the Crane Grove." It must include all parts of the teaching,
even those that have been superseded; these are not to be left behind, but
included in the final realization of truth. Thus the ultimate is described
as "the Buddha's wisdom and vision," characterized as the integration
and inclusion of all knowledge and views, that is, the points of views of
all other sentient beings. These are constitutive of the Buddha's wis-
dom, which is simply the integration of all of them, overcoming their
mutual exclusivity while omitting none. The content of the Buddha's
wisdom includes the views of all beings, which serve as the conditions
51. It is, for example, classified as the second of the "six identities," i. e.,
the identity of name. This consists simply in hearing or reading the words
that tell one that one is in fact identical with the Buddha.
for the various distinct teachings he put forth during his career. Hence
Kedeng says, "All earlier preaching was upiiya. But now that the real
has been revealed, it all becomes Buddha's wisdom and vision."
The Tiantai view is inherently syncretic, since it claims that the truest
teaching is the one that excludes no other. It is no surprise, then, that
here, as in Zhili, there is no attempt to place Chan completely outside the
pale of Buddhism; rather, it must be "put in its place." . But there are
many ways of putting all the parts together, and many types of
syncretism. Although Kedeng's rhetoric and tone may be more
accommodating than Zhili's, both probably advocated the same position
for Chan in the overall system of teachings.
Tiantai in Zongmi's Classification o/Teachings
But there are other ways of accommodating Tiantai and Chan. Almost
every school of Chinese Buddhism that employed a classification of
teachings included competing teachings but relegated them to a non-
ultimate status. It is instructive to consider Zongmi's own treatment of
Tiantai, which he seems to consider a particular type of Chan. Zongmi,
contrasting the "three truths" of the Tiantai school, as representative to
the "nature teaching," with the "two truths" of the Madhyarnika, repre-
sentative of the "emptiness teaching," to show the superiority of the
former, writes:
The emptiness teaching says that all worldly and superworldly dharmas do
not escape the two truths. . .. The nature teaching integrates all natures
and marks and own-substances into the three truths. All physical form and
other dharmas arise through conditions; this is the worldly truth. Causally
arisen dharmas have no self-nature, and thus all dharmas are empty; this is
the supermundane truth. ... The one true mind-substance is neither
emptiness nor.jorm, but is capable of being either emptiness or form.
This is the middle way, the ultimate truth. It is like a bright mirror, which
also can be viewed from three perspectives. Of the images reflected in the
mirror, we cannot call the green yellow; the beautiful and ugly are naturally
distinguished. This is like the worldly truth. These images have no self-
nature, each of them is completely empty. This is like the supermundane
truth. The substance [of the mirror] is always bright, and is neither empty
nor green or yellow, but is capable of being empty and of being green or
yellow. This is like the ultimate truth. . .. Thus the Tiantai school cul-
tivates the three types of concentration and insight according to these three
60 nABS 17.1
truths, in order to accomplish the three virtues [of nirviiJ;la, i. e., prajiia, lib-
eration, and the dharmakaya].52
The characterization of the mean here is especially worthy of notice: it is
called the "one true mind-substance" (yiz/len xinti). Thus Zongmi inte-
grates the Tiantai way of thinking into his own; the ultimate truth is
characterized as specifically "mind," and conceived on the model of a
mirror which can reflect all forms without itself being attached to or
stained by any of them. This teaching is honored by Zongmi as a non-
ultimate form of the ultimate teaching, the content of which is identical to
that advocated by Zongmi's version of Huayen and Chan, but expressed
in a less felicitous way.
It was this conception of the mean as "mind" that so irked ZhiIi, who
insisted that the "mind" mentioned by Zhiyi in connection with the
contemplation of the mean referred to the ordinary unenlightened mind,
and was not meant as a characterization of the mean itself. The mean
could be described equally well by any dharma; mind itself is to be con-
sidered no more than a dharma among dharmas, with no greater or lesser
a claim to ultimacy than any other. To call the absolute "mind" is to link
it intimately to one particular type of dharma, the dharma of mind, at the
expense of all others. Even if this mind is asserted to be fundamentally
different from the phenomenal dharma we ignorantly call "mind," this
use of the term "mind" indicates at least a kind of root metaphor by
which the absolute is to be conceived. Zhili stresses that in coming to
understand the absolute, there is no choice but to start from what is near-
est in ordinary experience. The process of understanding and transcend-
ing and integrating these dharmas of direct experience are part of what
enlightenment is.
Zongmi's conception of the absolute, as something which is neither X
nor not-X, but capable of performing as either X or no-X, echoes a con-
ception that goes back at least to the Huainanzi, and probably much
further. This is the conception that the Tiantai exegetes would character-
ize as "only the mean," characteristic of the "special teaChing." The
determinations themselves fall outside the absolute; the X that the abso-
lute is not but is capable of being could be anything at all. The metaphor
of the mirror is taken originally from Zhili's Mohe zhiguan. There,
however, we find the following:
52. Chanyuan zhuquanjidu xu,juan 3 (T. 48.407b). Emphasis added.
It should be known that one moment of thought is identical to emptiness,
to provisional positing, to the mean. All of these are ultimate emptiness,
all are the tathagatagarbha, all are the real mark. They are not three and yet
three, three and yet not three. They are neither joined nor separate, and yet
joined and separate, and not not joined and not not separate. They cannot
be identical or different, and yet they are identical and different. It is like a
bright mirror: the brightness symbolizes being identical to emptiness, the
image symbolizes being identical to provisional positing, the mirror sym-
bolizes being identical to the mean. These are neither joined nor separate,
and yet their togetherness and separateness are there as always. They are
not one, two or three, and yet their twoness and threeness is not impeded.
The mirror simile here serves to illustrate the relationship between the
three truths, asserting their mutual implication and identification. The
idea being stressed is that, although these three aspects can be picked out
and isolated in thought, they are in reality inseparable. There can be no
talk here of "only the mean," that is, only the mirror is real. The simile is
meant to suggest that, when considering any particular image in the mir-
ror (the context here has to do with meditating on a particular moment of
thought in the mind), one cannot separate the image itself from the light
reflected by the mirror or from the substance of the mirror which is
doing the reflecting; when looking at this image, it would be absurd to
ask, "Which are you looking at, the image, the light, or the mirror?" To
look at any is to look at all three. Nonetheless, one can understand what
is meant by the question, keeping the three meanings distinct in one's
mind Hence the three are joined and not joined, separate and not sepa-
rate. 'This is the point of Zhiyi's simile.
Zongmi takes it in a very different sense, stressing the sole ultimacy of
the mirror (the mean), and identifying it with the mind. There is nothing
intrinsically yellow or green about the mirror; the fact that these particu-
lar forms appear in it is dependent on something other than the mirror.
The absolute is a kind of pure potentiality, which remains unchanged
and unstained by any of its accidental differentiated actualizations.
Hence the two earlier aspects remain one-sided here, and neither in itself
seems to imply the other two; they must wait for the third truth to be
integrated and related, and once that third truth is reached, they are no
longer in force. Zongmi was thus able to take the Tiantai teaching of
three truths as characteristic of the teaching he wished to advocate, a step
that was to have, from Zhili' s point of view, disastrous results among
53. Mohe zhiguan, juan 1(T. 46.9a).
62 JIABS 17.1
scholars who claimed to belong to the Tiantai tradition itself, who would
confuse this version of the Tiantai teaching with that of the Tiantai
From the above, we can perhaps come to understand some of the com -
plex issues involved in the Chan / Tiantai confrontation, a confrontation
which left its traces in the texts and elsewhere. Many other relevant
issues and texts will have to be left unexplored for the moment. When
pressed to do so, Tiantai exegetes criticized Chan claims to a special kind
of transmission superior to any other, and were highly critical of a par-
ticular formulation of Chan doctrine, which also claimed a special pre-
eminence over highly exegetical and doctrine-specific teachings, such as
those favored in Tiantai circles. The conception of the absolute advo-
cated by this formulation of Chan doctrine, and indeed underlying the
claim to a special transmission of the buddha-mind outside the teachings,
was criticized by the Tiantai writers for its lack of specificity, and for its
ability to be conceived apart from the whole of the Buddhist tradition
and teachings, and apart from the specific universe of three thousand
particular types of dharmas that conditioned the process of gaining
enlightenment. From this we can see, in a wider perspective, that of all
Buddhist schools the Tiantai was perhaps more deeply committed to
certain aspects of the mythological Buddhist universe, the a priori
necessity of which they worked into their general theory of the absolute
with great subtlety and sophistication. For these exegetes, the realization
of the absolute necessarily involves the understanding of asuras, hungry
ghosts and so on; without these, the absolute cannot be what it is. For
other schools, it would be easier to say instead that whatever there is, the
absolute is not that but is capable of functiOning as that; the essential
thing about the absolute is its ability to be neither this nor that, and also
both this and that, whatever the this and that might be. The Tiantai
writers prided themselves on a more richly determined conception of the
absolute, but ironically this may have limited their appeal, and allowed
the competing doctrines to make inroads with the many educated people
who were sympathetic to an articulated theory of the absolute such as
this, but were not convinced of the literal truth of the Buddhist descrip-
tion of the cosmos. The durability of the Tiantai doctrine over years of
changing social conditions and increased knowledge of the world would
thus perhaps have been limited by the thoroughness and profundity of
their doctrine.
The Chan tradition profited from opposite features; ties to specific
practices, world-pictures, and even doctrines were systematically mini-
mized, a condition which made it both versatile and durable. Zongmi's
version of Chan doctrine was one of the more definitive and influential
formulations (although it had its Chan critics) and therefore served as the
most common target of Tiantai polemics. Yet it is important to remem-
ber that Zongmi did not exhaust the positions and practices of the tradi-
tions called Chan. In practice, the "absolute" in Chan was even more
indeterminate than Zongmi's version of it. Zongmi's was a definite
doctrine that openly proclaimed itself, but even his version was much
too indeterminate for the Tiantai writers. What the Chan writers were
definite about, however, was their lineage and their special transmission.
This was the source of their authority. Thus the Tiantai attacks on the
doctrinal presuppositions behind the Chan view of a special transmis-
sion, and its implications for upaya, may be considered the most endur-
ing aspect of the polemics considered here.
64 JIABS 17.1
dangti quanshi
dan zhong
Guifeng Zongmi
Jingxi Zhanran
kaiquan xianshi
kong, jia, zhong
Ii shi wu ai
quan ji
shi shi wu ai
Siming ZhiIi
suiju yifa jie de wei zong
tinei fangbian
xing e
xin xing
xing de zhi xing
xiu e
yizhen xinti
. zhengyin
zhufa shixiang buchu quanshi
Yuan-wu K'o-ch'in's (1063-1l35) Teaching of Ch'an
Kung-an Practice:
A Transition from the Literary Study of Ch'an Kung-
an to the Practical K'an-hua Ch'an
The compilation ofCh'an kung-an (public case) texts during the Sung
. dynasty (960-1279) was aimed at producing literati literature.
Once the
iconoclastic styles of Ch' an pedagogy had been written down as texts
annotated with elusive poetryand polished prose, only people with sub-
stantialliterary credentials-dominantly male-<:ould approach them.
This delimitation is further reflected by the fact that Ch' an monks of the
Sung had close associations with Sung literati (shih-ta-fu). Ch'an
Buddhism in the Sung may thus be generally labeled as a type of
"literati Buddhism."2 The literary approach to Ch'an (wen-tzu Ch'an),
however, would seem to contradict Ch' an' s doctrine of "not depending
upon words and letters" (pu-li wen-tzu). This paper is a study of the
practice ofCh'an kung-an taught by Yuan-wu K'o-ch'in (1063-1135),
a monk of the Lin-chi school from the Szechuan region. He played a
significant role in transforming the literary approach to kung-an into the
practical k' an-hua Ch' an (Ch' an of investigating the critical phrase or
word, hua-t'ou, of kung-an). Moreover, it is in part through the teach-
ings of Yuan-wu that the Ch'an tradition of Szechuan which had been
1. See Robert M. Gimello' s discussion of the relationship between Ch 'an and
literati culture during the Sung in "Marga and Culture: Learning, Letters, and
Liberation in Northern Sung Ch'an," Paths to Liberation: The Marga and Its
Transformations in Buddhist Thought, ed. Robert E. Buswell, Ir. and
Robert M. Gimello; Studies in East Asian Buddhism 7 (Honolulu:
University of Hawaii Press, 1992) 371-437.
2. This term is derived from Erik Ziircher; see his definition of using "gentry
Buddhism" to label Chinese Buddhism in the fourth and the fifth centuries,
in The Buddhist Conquest of China: The Spread and Adaptation of
Buddhism in Early Medieval China, 2 vols. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1959) 4-6.
marginalized (both geographically and culturally) strove to merge into
the mainstream of Sung religious and cultural life.
In recent decades, much has been written about Ch' an kWlg-an and
k'an-hua Ch'an. Scholars have discussed the use of kWlg-an in the
Lin-chi Ch' an school, ascribed the emergence of k' an-hua Ch' an to Ta-
hui Tsung-kao (1089-1163), and analyzed the process of using hua-t'ou
in Ch' an kung-an praxis. However, little attempt has been made to link
an individual Ch'an monk's regional background with his treatment of
Ch' an teaching and practice, nor has there been much focus on the
transition from the literary study of kung-an to the practical k'an-hua
Ch' an. Moreover, some scholars, who have held the view that Ch' an
during the Sung was in a period of decline, blame the deterioration of
Ch'an on the emergence of wen-tzu Ch'an by using Yuan-wu's Pi-yen
lu (Blue Cliff Record) as an example. 3 The present paper, then, aims to
introduce Szechuan as an important place in the case of Ch'an's
response to Sung literati culture and to give much more positive
recognition to Yuan-wu K'o-ch'in, the master of Ta-hui Tsung-kao, in
the evolution of the mature k'an-hua Ch'an.
Geographically, Szechuan was a peripheral, landlocked area that had not
been brought under effective central control until the founding of the
Sung empire. Though Szechuan had long been in contact with Central
Plain culture, geographical seclusion and the lack of central regulations
and restraints allowed the local people to pursue their own cultural and
religious life, which might even appear "unorthodox" to those who in
the capital region .. Moreover, without the patronage of the central
authorities, Buddhism, Taoism and even the local elite had to rely more
on the support from the common people and, therefore, paid more
attention to their needs.
3. See, for example, Kenneth Ch'en, Buddhism in China: A Historical Survey
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964) 403-4.
4. Furuta ShOkin, however, recognizes the great importance to Yuan-wu's
teaching ofCh'an kung-an in the evolution of kung-an practice, in "Koan no
rekishi-teki hatten keitai no okeru shinrisei no mondai," in BukkyiJ no lwmpon
shinri, ed. Miyamoto ShOson (Tokyo: Sanseido, 1956) 820-6.
68 nABS 17.1
In the case of Buddhism, both Tao-hsuan's (596-667) Hsu kao-seng
chuan (Further Biographies of Eminent Monks) [645-667] and Tsan-
Ding's (919-1001) Sung kao-seng chuan (Biographies of 'Eminent
Monks compiled during the Sung) [988] indicate that among the thirty-
three eminent monks in Szechuan during the T'ang dynasty (618-907),
those who were engaged in translating the Buddhist scriptures (1) and
interpreting the Buddhist doctrines (6) were less numerous than those
who were famous for mystical communication (8), reciting the scriptures
(5), practicing meditation (4), producing merit (4), and so on.
ently, in Szechuan Buddhism during the T' ang the common people were
the target audience, in particular, in the Buddhists' struggles with the
The Ch'an history in T'ang Szechuan further shows that
during the eighth century the major tendency in the Ch'an school here
was toward a radical anti-textual, antinomian movement.
We do not know much about the development of Buddhism in
Szechuan under the two independent regimes, the Former Shu (907-
925) and the Latter Shu (934-965). The extant historical records focus
mainly on the Five Dynasties in north China and the kingdoms around
the Lower Yangtze Valley such as the Wu-yueh (907-978) in Chekiang,
the Min (909-960) in Fukien, and the Southern T'ang (937-975) in Nan-
ching (in the Kiangsu province).8 All one can say is that during this
5. See the statistics by Kiyoshi Fuji, in "TOdai Shoku chiho ni okeru shomin
to Bukkyo," in Bukkyo shigaku 3:4 (1953), 19.
6. See HKSC, in T. 50, 530c-531a, 600b-601b, 642b-643a, 688a-b, 698a,
etc. Also see Kiyoshi Fuji, ibid., 20-2.
7. See the study by Yanagida Seizan, "The Li-taifa-pao chi and the Ch'an
Doctrine of Sudden Awakening," trans. Carl Bielefeldt, in Early Ch'an in
China and Tibet, ed. Whalen Lai and Lewis Lancaster, Berkeley Buddhist
Studies Series 5 (Berkeley, Calif.: Asian Humanities Press, 1983) 13-49.
8. The kingdoms in southeast China were regarded as the most flourishing
regions for Buddhism during the period of Five Dynasties and Ten
Kingdoms. See Chih-p'an (1220-75), Fo-tsu t'ung-chi (A Comprehensive
Chronicle Record of the Buddhas and the Patriarchs; hereafter cited as F7TC)
[1269] 51, T.49.451b, 453a, 454b; Nien-ch'ang (1282-1323), Fo-tsu Ii-tai
t'ung-tsai (A Comprehensive Record of the Successive Generations of the
Buddhas and the Patriarchs; hereafter cited as FTLTIT) [1341] 17 & 18,
T.49.650b-659c; so can be seen in Tsan-ning's SKSC. Indeed, the
biographies of the Szechuan monks (including those who were from and those
who were active in Szechuan) between the ninth century to the mid-tenth
century recorded in the large, officially-sponsored Buddhist historical texts are
very few; Kuan-hsiu (832-912) [in SKSC 30, T.50.897a-b] and Ta-sui Fa-
chen (833-919) [in CTL 11, T.51.286a-b] were probably the most eminent
period of disunity, Ch'an in Szechuan did not playa prominent role in
Chinese Ch' an Buddhism. In terms of the development of the use of
"encounter dialogue" (chi-yuan wen-ta), which became mainstream in
the Ch' an movement during this time, Ch' an in Szechuan was neither
significant nor influential. Though, as Yanagida Seizan has pointed out,
Ma-tsu Tao-i (709-788), the founder of the Hung-chou school and the
pioneer of the use of the "encounter dialogue," came from Szechuan and
was deeply influenced by the Szechuan Ch'an movement of his time, his
school later flourished mainly in the Kiangsi region, far away from Ma-
tsu's native place.
This point becomes even clearer as we examine the two early Ch'an
lamp texts: the Tsu-t'ang chi (Collection from the Patriarchal Hall; here-
after cited as TTC) [952] and Tao-yuan's (n. d.) Ching-te ch 'uan-teng
lu (The Record of the Transmission of the Lamp Compiled in the Ching-
te Era; hereafter cited as CTL) [1004]. The TTC was the earliest of the
Ch' an lamp histories extant in complete form. It was compiled at Fukien
by two disciples in the lineage of Hsueh-feng I-tS'un (822-908). It
contains some two hundred cases of the exchanges betweenCh'an
Buddhists in the form of "encounter dialogue," with the main focus on
Fukien,Kiangsi, Hunan and Chekiang. to The geographical seclusion of
Szechuan was certainly one reason why the compilers of the TTC
included very few Szechuan Ch'an figures. But even in the CTL, a
comprehensive, state-sponsored Ch'an historical text that records the
biographies of some nine hundred and sixty Ch' an monks, the Ch' an
ones, but Kuan-hsiu was actually a native of Chekiang and went to Szechuan
until the founding of the Shu regime. For the modem studies of Buddhism
in this period, see Michihata RyoshU, ChUgaku bukkyoshi (Kyoto: Hozokan,
1958) 175-8; Makita Tairyo, Gadai sMkyo kenkyil (Kyoto: Heirakuji shoten,
9. Yanagida Seizan, Shaki zenshU shisho no kenkyil (Kyoto: Hozokan, 1967)
335-347; and idem, "The 'Recorded Sayings' Texts of Chinese Ch'an
Buddhism," trans. John R. McRae, in Early Ch'an in China and Tibet, 185-
10. TTC, compiled by Ching (n. d.) and Yun (n. d.) of Southern T'ang. Re-
edited by Yanagida Seizan, in Zengaku sosho 4 (copied by Kyoto: ChUbun
shuppan sha, 1984). I only found out five biographies of Szechuan monks
included in TTC: 2.31-36, 108-110; 2.44, 114; 4.33-44, 260-5; 5.34-35,
330-1; and 5.107,367. Among them, actually only Ta-sui Fa-chen was from
and active in Szechuan during the Five Dynasties period; the other four were
from Szechuan but active outside the Szechuan regions in the T'ang.
70 nABS 17.1
monks in Szechuan who had sayings recorded were still very few,
especially compared to those in south-east China. 11
The situation in Szechuan changed after the founding of the Sung.
The state was now eager to bring Szechuan under more effective central
control. The huge project of the Sung ruling house to print the entire
Buddhist canon in Ch'eng-tu, was certainly not simply because
Szechuan by the end of the T' ang had developed into an important center
of wood-block printing; 12 it had political considerations: to strengthen
central surveillance over Szechuan and to unify both Han and non-Han
peoples in this area by using Buddhism as an ideological tool. In addi-
tion' the imperial patronage of printing the Buddhist canon was also a
result of the early Sung court's decision to establish a civil (wen) order
through promoting literary learning and activities extensively.13 Thus in
972, orders were given by Sung emperor T' ai-tsu (r. 960-975) that the
task of cutting woodblocks be started in Ch'eng-tu. In 983, the printing
of the first edition of the Chinese Trip(taka was completed. 14
While the state wanted to integrate the Szechuan region with the rest of
the empire, the Szechuan literati, who had been on the margins of the
Chinese culture for hundreds of years, were also eager to joih the main-
stream of all aspects of Sung Chinese life. For many descendants of the
"great families," whose ancestors had fled from the Central Plain to
11. The number of the monks in or of Szechuan during the ninth and the
tenth centuries recorded in CTL is less than twenty; see CTL, T.51: 11, 285c,
286a-b, 287c; 12, 296b-c; 17, 339b; 19, 359c; 20, 365a; 22, 387a-b; 23,
390c, 393a-b, 395a and c, 397a; 24, 404c, 405c; 26, 421b.
12. Chiu Wu-tai shih [6 vols.], compiled by Hsueh Chii-cheng (912-981) et
al. (Beijing: Chung-hua shu-chil, 1976) chUan 43, in vol. 2, 588-9. For the
reference to the privately printed almanacs in Szechuan, see Wang Tang (fl.
1101-1110), T'ang yU-lin (reprint, Shanghai: Commercial Press, 1939) chUan
7,203-4. In English, see Thomas F. Carter, The Invention of Printing in
China, 2nd ed. (New York: The Ronald Press Company, 1955); Ancient
China's Technology and Science, compiled by the Institute of the History of
Natural Science, China Academy of Science (Beijing: Foreign Languages
Press, 1983) 383-91.
13. Peter K. Bol, "This Culture of Ours": Intellectual Transitions in T' ang
and Sung China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992) 150-5.
14. FTTC 43, T.49.396a, 398a-b; ibid. 53, T.49.463b. For the Sung records
about the tasks of translating the Buddhist scriptures and the monasteries
built for translating scriptures, see Sung hui-yao (The Important Documents
of the Sung) (copied by National Pei-p'ing Library, 1936), "Tao-shih"
(Taoism and Buddhism), vol. 200, 2/4-9. Also Ch'en, Buddhism in China,
Szechuan in the rebellions of An Lu-shan [744-757] and Huang Ch'ao
[874-884] and during the period of turmoil that followed the end of the
T'ang empire, they saw in this newly reunited Sung Chinese empire a
chance to resume their leading political and cultural roles. According to
the Szechuan T'ung-chih (Szechuan Gazetteer) [1816], the biographies
of the Sung shih (Sung History) included more Szechuan men than did
those in the preceding dynastic histories. is Winston W. Lo's study of
Sung Szechuan officials furthermore suggests that Szechuan literati
played a relatively important part in Sung political life. 16
The tendency toward literary pursuits among Szechuan men as a
response to the new Sung civil order is found not merely in the secular
circles but also in the Ch' an circles. And if Sung Szechuan literati were
anxious about participating in the mainstream of Sung culture and poli -
tics, Ch' an monks of Szechuan might also have felt an urgent need to
move from their obscure situation to a dominant position in Sung reli-
gious life. The creation of kung-an literature with its distinctive language
and elegant style was therefore a result of Ch' an' s response to the Sung
court's promotion of literary endeavors. That poetry, the apex of
Chinese literary products, became an indispensable element in Ch' an
kung-an anthologies is an indication that men of the letters were the tar-
get lay audience of Ch' an kung-an texts. Moreover, although it was the
emperor who patronized the huge task of printing the Buddhist canon,
scholar-officials must have played an influential role in the selection of
Buddhists texts. The production of refined literary writings by Ch' an
Buddhists of the Sung, then, aspired to the secular standard and tastes of
their contemporary literati, in the hope that their works could be included
in the Sung Tripi/aka. All this accounts for a shift toward literary
engagement in the Ch' an of Szechuan after the founding of the Sung.
Hsueh-tou Ch'ung-hsien (980-1052), the fourth patriarch and reviver
of the Yun-men Ch'an school, is a good example of a Ch'an monk from
a humble family in the marginal Szechuan region who eventually became
well known in national literati circles. 17 A native of Sui-chou, Hsueh-
15. SCTC, compiled by Yang Fan-ts'an et al.; infonnatioili is drawn indi-
rectly from Winston W. Lo, Szechuan in Sung China: A Case Study in the
Political Integration of the Chinese Empire (Taipei: The University of
Chinese Culture Press, 1982) 157-8.
16. Lo, ibid., 148-156.
17. For Hsueh-tou's biography, see his tomb epitaph, in T.47.712a-713b;
also Ruth Fuller Sasaki and IssM Miura, Zen Dust: The History of the Koan
72 nABS 17.1
tau was one of the two Ch' an masters of his time engaged in compiling
kung-an anthologies; the other was Fen-yang Shan-chao (947-1024), a
Ch' an master of the Lin-chi school who was active in Shansi of north
With his extraordinary poetic talent, Hsueh-tou was fond of
using poetry as a vehicle to express his appreciation for the gist of Ch' an
kung-an. His kung-an text, the Pai-tse sung-ku (One Hundred Old
Cases and Verses [to the Cases]; hereafter cited as PTSK), demonstrates
both his literary effort and talent It is a collection of one hundred most
representative "old cases" to which Hsueh-tou also added his own
explanatory verse; approximately eighty-two were taken from the 1700
cases in the Ching-te ch 'uan-teng lu and eighteen were drawn from the
kung-an originated by Yun-men Wen-yen (864-949), the founder of the
Yun-men school. Hsueh-tou's PTSK, together with his other works,
earned him a literary reputation and a successful monastic career.19
More than this, Hsueh-tou brought his way of Ch' an to the Sung cul-
tural center; he lived in Chekiang, which was one of the most prosper-
ous provinces in south China, for thirty-one years until he died in 1052.
Literary activity no doubt facilitated Ch'an's growing acceptance
within the literati circles. But it might well have resulted in the degener-
ation of the spirit of Ch' an and hence put an end to Ch' an. The task of
revitalizing the written Ch' an kung-an in the context of Ch' an praxis
was what Yuan-wu K'o-ch'in, a tenth-generation heir in the Yang-ch'i
[Fang-hui (992-1049)] branch of the Lin-chi school and a native of
Szechuan, sought to accompliSh.
Study in Rinzai (Lin-chi) Zen (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1966)
18. The collections of kung-an is in Fen-yang's yU-lu (in T.47.595b-629c),
chUan 2. Also see the discussion in Zen Dust, 12 and 355-6.
19. There is no independent version of the Pai-tse sung-ku in the Taisho
canon or Dai Nihon zokuzokyo (hereafter cited as ZZ). The independent ver-
sion in one volume, however, can be found in Ssu-pu ts'ung-k'an (Various
Collections in the Four [fraditional Bibliographic] Categories), ser. 2, vol.
370 (Shanghai: Commercial Press, 1935). For a study of Hsueh-tou's Pai-tse
"Sung-ku, see Yanagida Seizan, "Kaisetsu," in SetchO juko, Zen no Goroku 15
(Tokyo: Chikuma shobO, 1981) 281-311; also Zen Dust, 12-3. For Hsueh-
tou's other works, see T.47.712c29-713a2.
Yuan-wu was born into the Lo family of P'eng-chou, Szechuan, in
1063. From the record, we know that his family "had been studying
Confucianism for generations" and that "in his early youth he could
memorize one thousand words every day."2o The brief description of his
family background and his acquisition of elementary literacy suggests
that, fIrst, some of his ancestors or contemporary family members may
have obtained minor official positions through passing the civil service
examination (they were certainly not so exalted as to be recorded in his
biography); and, second, Yuan-wu may have received his literary
education for the purpose of taking civil examinations. As for his devo-
tion to Buddhism, we are told: "When he occasionally visited the Miao-
chi Monastery near his home, he read the Buddhist scriptures and felt
very moved. He, then, said to himself: 'In my previous lifetime, I must
have been a Buddhist monk.' Yuan-wu then left home and received the
tonsure in the Miao-chi Monastery."21
Considering the overwhelming influence of the examinations on the
lives of numerous youth during the Sung period, we may also speculate
Yuan-wu did not do well in the civil examinations, and chose with his
parents' permission to enter the Buddhist monastery, a center that could
provide him with the best conditions for continuing his intellectual pur-
suits without too much secular (i. e., Confucian) restraint and pressure.
Whatever the truth of Yuan-wu's motive to become a monk, his later
engagement in the teaching of kung-an practice demonstrates that what
he opposed most was exactly the study of the "dead words" (ssu-chii),
words that led only to literary knowledge and textual mastery.
When Yuan-wu fInally fInished his study under Wu-tsu Fa-yen
(1024?"II04) and began to build his national reputation, he was in his
forties. On the whole, Yuan-wu had a very successful monastic career;
not only did he have close connections with some powerful scholar-
officials but he also, mainly on their recommendation, received patron-
20. Wu-teng hui-yuan (The Collated Essentials of the Five Lamp [Records];
hereafter cited as WTHy) [1252] 19,7Z 2B.11.4, 369d5-6.
21. WTHY 19, 369d6-7. According to Abe ChOichi, Yuan-wu became a
Buddhist monk probably at the age 17; see Abe, Chugoku zenshii no kenkyu
(Tokyo: Seishin shooo, 1963) 435.
74 JIABS 17.1
age from the Sung court. Kuo Chili-chang (n. d), who was a chin-shih
(metropolitan graduate) of the year 1065 and a military commander of
Ch'eng-tu at that time, had supported Yuan-wu's Buddhist activities in
Szechuan; he invited Yuan-wu to preach in the Chao-chueh Monastery
near Ch'eng-tu when the latter returned to Szechuan to take care of his
old mother during the Ch'ung-ning period (1102-1106).22 Chang
Shang-ying (1043-1121), a former Chief Councilor, met Yuan-wu in
Heng-chou, Hunan, during the Cheng-ho period (1111-1117); Chang
was very impressed by Yuan-wu's teachings. Later, Yuan-wu was
further invited by the prefect of Li-chou (Hunan) to reside in the Ling-
ch'uan Monastery at Mount Chiao 23 Teng Hsun-wu (styled Tzu-ch' ang;
1055-1119), a Palace Secretary, was impressed by Yuan-wu's
distinctive teaching and reported to Emperor Hui-tsung (r. 1100-1125);
the emperor then bestowed upon Yuan-wu a purple robe and the honor-
able title "Fruition of Buddha" (Fo-kuo ) in 1114.24 In 1127, mainly
owing to the recommendation of the Prime Minister Li Kang (styled Po-
chi; n. d.), Yuan-wu was appointed by Emperor Kao-tsung (r. 1127-
1162) to the T'ung-yu Monastery in Chin-shan, Kiangsu.25
An examination of Yuan-wu' s private instructions or letters also indi -
cates that he was closely involved in the literati circles; more than one-
third of his letters were written to laymen who were men of letters or
civil bureaucrats.
Yuan-wu was well acquainted with Keng Yen-hsi
(n. d.) and Chang Chiln (1079-1164); the former was a court academi-
cian and the latter a chief military officer leading the Imperial Armies
against the Jurchen invasion. Both of them studied Ch'an with Yuan-
wu and each wrote a preface for Yuan-wu's Recorded Sayings (yii.-lu)
22. WTHY 19, 370aI2-13. Kuo, Sung shih, 355122B.
23. WTHY 19, 370a13-bI2. Chang, Sung shih, 351/2B.
24. WTHY 19, 370bI2-13. Teng, Sung shih; 329/5.
25. FTLTIT 20, T.49.686b13-14. Li's biography, Sung-shih, 358/1.
26. Yuan-wu's instructions or letters written to individuals, about 145 pieces
altogether, were collected under the title Fo-kuo K'o-ch'in ch'an-shih hsin-yao
(Essentials of Mind [Expounded] by Ch'an Master Fo-kuo K'o-ch'in), 2 fas-
cicles, in ZZ 2.25.4, 349c-395c. It was compiled by Yuan-wu's disciple
Hung-fu Tzu-wen (n.d.) after Yuan-wu's death and published during the Chia-
hsi era (1237-1240). All thefa-ya (Dharma-teaching delivered to the individ-
uals) in Yuan-wu's Recorded Sayings, in T.47.714a-81Oc, can be found in
this Hsin-yao text
published in 1134.27 In addition, the scholar-officials with whom Yuan-
wu was associated include: Ch'en Huan (1057-1122), who had been
appointed as Erudite of National University and called himself Layman
Hua-yen; Hsu Fu (1075-1141), a Han-lin Academician; Li Mi-hsun
(1089-1153), a chin-shih of the year 1109; Su Fu (d. 1156), who was a
grandson of the famous literary man Su Shih (1036-1101);Chao Ling-
chin (d. 1158), who was a descendant of Sung royal family and called
himself Layman Ch'ao-jan; and so on.
During his monastic career, moreover, Yuan-wu had been summoned
by the emperors and was frequently assigned by imperial orders to
reside in several major monasteries. In 1128 when Emperor Kao-tsung
(r. 1127-1162) journeyed to Yang-chou (Kiangsu), he summoned
Yuan-wu and furthermore bestowed him with the name "Ch'an Master
Perfectly Enlightened" (Yuan-wu ch'an-shih), which became a well-
known name in Ch'an history. After Yuan-wu's death in 1135, tre
posthumous title "Ch' an Master Truly Enlightened" (Chen-chueh ch 'an-
ahih) was bestowed upon him. 29
As the above account shows, Yuan-wu made a candid alliance with
power and stood successfully between the two leading groups-the
emperor on the one hand and the scholar-officials on the other. Appar-
ently, Yuan-wu understood well that without official patronage his
Buddhist mission would be hard to carry out and that to seek patronage
from the ruling classes, he should rrrst cultivate close contacts with the
local elite, in particular, his fellow Szechuan citizens. A survey of
Yuan-wu's monastic career further reveals that he had a strong sense of
regionalism; though he went to many other provinces, he finally still
returned to Szechuan and stayed there for the rest of his life from 1129
to 1135. Thus we find that among Yuan-wu's lay associates, Chang
Shang-ying, Teng Hsun-wu, Ch' en Huan, Chang Chiln and Su Fu were
all natives of Szechuan. Moreover, not only was Yuan-wu's master,
27. Keng's preface (1133) in T.47.713b20-c28. For his biography, see Sung
shih hsin-pien (Revised Edition of the Sung History), 12219B. Chang's pref-
ace (1134) in T.47.713c29-714aI5. For his biography, Sung shih, 361/1.
28. Sung shih: Ch'en Huan, 345/lOB; Hsu Fu, 37217; Li Mi-hsun, 382/20;
Su Fu, 338/18; Chao Ling-chin, 244/20.
29. WTHY 19, 370b; and FTLTTT 20, T.49.686a-b
76 nABS 17.1
Wu-tsu Fa-yen, a native of Szechuan but also many of his disciples
were from the Szechuan region. 30
The sense of regionalism, or the concern for making alliance with men
from Szechuan also helps explain why Yuan-wu would use the Yun-
men master Hsueh-tou Ch'ung-hsien's PTSK, not his Lin-chi prede-
cessor Fen-yang Shan-chao's kung-an anthology, as his basis for
teaching Ch'an kung-an. Yuan-wu's specific emphasis on the proper
kung-an practice might also have been a deliberate move to distinguish
his branch from the Huang-lung [Hui-nan (1002-1069)] branch of the
Lin-chi school, or to differentiate himself from his contemporary Chueh -
fan Hui-hung (1071-1128), a third generation of the Hung-lung line
who was an active advocate of wen-tzu Ch' an and had close associations
with Kiangsi literati)1
Starting from the year 1112 on, some sixty years after Hsueh-tou's
death, Yuan-wu then began to give a series oflectures on the PTSK. The
result is the Pi-yen lu, the most famous of all kung-an anthologies. 32
And as we shall see, in terms of content and structure, the Pi-yen lu was
very different from the kung-an texts written by Fen-yang and Hsueh-
tou; that is, instead of indulging himself in writing elusive poetry or
elegant prose, Yuan-wu provided his audience with clear instructions
not only about the correct approach to Ch' an kung-an but also about the
proper way to read Hsueh-tou's appended verses.
30. Abe ChOichi has listed twenty-four disciples of Yuan-wu; the number of
disciples who were from Szechuan is six, the highest portion of this group.
But Abe also points out that mosCof Yuan-wu's disciples were active in the
Chekiang province (Ta-hui, who was a native of Anhui, was one among
them), i. e., thirteen out of twenty-four; see his Chagoku zenshu, 442-453.
31. For Hui-hung's biography, see WTHY 17, 342c2-343a7; Nukariya Kaiten,
Zengaku shisoshi, vol. 2 (Tokyo: Genkosha, 1923; reprint, Tokyo: Meisho
kankosha, 1969) 219-228. For the alliance between the Huang-lung branch
and Kiangsi literati, see Abe ChOichi, Chagoku zensha, 284-335. This is not
to suggest that Yuan-wu and Hui-hung attacked each other; Yuan-wu had a
high regard for Hui-hung's literary talents and eloquence; see Tsu-hsiu (n. d.)
of the Sung, the Seng-pao cheng-hsu chuan 2, ZZ 2B.1O.4, 291d6. Nor does
this mean that Hui-hung had no alliance with the literati outside the Kiangsi
region; Chang Shang-ying, for example, was one of his supporters.
32. T.2003.48.140a-224b. The Pi-yen lu was published in 1128 and was said
to have been burned by Ta-hui Tsung-kao around 1140. The present version
in the TaishO is a Yuan (1280-1368) edition published in 1300. The com-
plete text has been translated by Thomas and J. C. Cleary, The Blue Cliff
Record, 3 vols. (Boulder: Shambhala, 1977). For a general analysis of the
Pi-yen lu, see Sasaki and Isshii,Zen Dust, 356-8.
Hsueh-tou's Real Intention/or Writing the PTSK
In his commentaries and annotations, Yuan-wu tried hard to elevate the
value and function of Hsueh-tou' s literary composition in the context of
Ch' an kung-an instruction and praxis. He admired as an
excellent writer who could grasp the key points of each kung-an and
expressed them in a clear and concise way.33 In some cases, he would
explain to his audience why Hsueh-tou selected that case in particular
and made a verse for it. Or, he pointed out to his students the particu-
larly outstanding poems in the PTSK 34 But fearing that some people
would not benefit from reading these poems and would become entan-
gled in them, Yuan-wu usually annotated the poems line by line.
Indeed, many of these poems are not only highly symbolic but also rich
in allusions to both Chinese secular literature and Ch'an history; one can
hardly understand them without Yuan-wu's additional annotations.
As a monk of the Ch'an school, however, Yuan-wu did have more to
do with such a refined literary Ch'an work. One urgent task for Yuan-
wu was to exculpate Hsueh-tou from the charge of making Ch' an
merely a literary activity. He explained to his students the real intention
of Hsueh-tou's literary engagement:
If Hsueb-tou were not so compassionate [in the attempt] to make people see
[the import of the kung-an] by bringing it out in verse, bow could be
obtain fame as a good friend [of eh'an practitioners]? When men of the
past acted like this, it was all something they bad to do. Because later
practitioners become attached to their words and give rise to conceptual
interpretations (ch'ing-chieh), they fail to see the former masters' inten-
For Yuan-wu, Hsueh-tou was unselfish in the sense that after he
achieved his own enlightenment, he stin tried to help others obtain
awakening, even though he would bear the notoriety for violating the
Ch'an tradition of "not depending upon words and letters." Hence the
motive behind Hsueh-tou's PTSK was nothing more than the hope to
33. PYL 1, T.48.I47c21-3; 2, I59c25-6; 6, 189c18-20; etc.
34. PYL 10, T.48.215a26-27; 3, T.48.165b14-5; etc.
35. PYL 1, T.48.I48c17-19.
78 JIABS 17.1
annihilate people's habitual ways of thinking and to let them see into
their intrinsic buddha-minds. 36 In other words, it was because of
Hsueh-tou's fear that people would pursue intellectual understandings of
the kung-an that he picked up the ancient cases, put forth his own expla-
nations, and composed the verses.
In the view of Yuan-wu, moreover, it was not Hsueh-tou who should
be blamed for "depending upon words and letters"; rather, the people
who misunderstood the master's intention behind his words should take
the responsibility for the deterioration of Ch' an. "If you produce words
upon words, phrases upon phrases, and meaning upon meaning, making ..
up interpretations and conceptualization," Yuan-wu warned his audi-
ence, "you will not only get me into trouble, but you will also turn your
back on Hsueh-tou." Yuan-wu certainly understood well that he was
doing what he himself warned against, but he maintained that an enlight-
ened Ch' an master's explanation of the real message of Ch' an was dif-
ferent from a practitioner's conceptual interpretation of the kung-an. His
defense of Hsueh-tou in the Pi-yen lu was a self-defense; as he went on
to say, "Although the phrases of the men of the past appear so
[contradictory to Ch'an doctrine], their intention is not so; they never
create any principle to dominate people."37
The Attempt to Legitimize and Consolidate the Ch' an Tradition
Through a: series oflectures on Hsueh-tou's PTSK, Yuan-wu thus clari-
fied that this Yun-men Ch' an master's intention was much more than the
display of his own literary skill and poetic talent. But as a member of
the school of Ch' an, Yuan-wu also felt an urgent need to consolidate
Ch'an's legitimacy and perpetuate Ch'an's tradition. In his lectures in
the Pi-yen lu, Yuan-wu then made apologies for his religion.
The school of Ch'an, Yuan-wu argued, was transmitted by a living
succession of human exemplars. Ch'an, therefore, could be practiced by
students of various levels of understanding under different circum-
stances and hence was superior to other Buddhist teachings, which
appeared bookish and static. And since the experience of enlightenment
was supposed to be personal and intuitive, "none of the teachings con-
36. PYL 3, T.48.162b6-7; 2, 155cl-2.
37. PYL 1, T.48.145b29-c2.
tained in the Trip(taka can explain it thoroughly," Yuan-wu said.
he would say to his audience:
The men of the past clearly told you: "In terms of this matter [i. e.,
enlightenment], it is not in words and phrases." If it is in words and
phrases, then, do not the twelve parts of the teaching of the three vehicles
contain words and phrases? What further need is there for Bodhidharma
[the first patriarch of the Chinese Ch' an school] to come from the West?39
For Yuan-wu, Ch' an' superiority to other Buddhist schools lay
mainly in its unique pedagogical methods. Yuan-wu argued for the effi-
cacy of Ch' an teaching devices, saying: "In all the great teachings of
in the five thousand and forty-eight fascicles of the Buddhist
canon, they cannot avoid discussing the mind, the nature, the sudden,
and the gradual. Still, has there ever been this kind of information [like
Ch'an that would awaken people to the truth]?"40 Or, after explaining a
kung-an about Yun-men Wen-yen, Yuan-wu then pointed to the stu-
As soon as [Yun-men] picks up his staff, we immediately see the
boundless, marvelous function [of this gesture]. ... Monk Ch'ing (n. d.),
who was in charge of the Tripi/aka Hall, had said, "Has there ever been
such teaching in the five thousand and forty-eight fascicles [like Yun-
In order to emphasize the supremacy of Ch'an Buddhism, Yuan-wu
also told his audience about the glorious history of the Ch' an school
whenever he had the chance. For example, Yuan-wu mentioned that the
T'ang Emperors Su-tsung (r. 756-762) and Tai-tsung (r. 763-779) not
only liked to study Ch'an but also showed their respect to National
Ch'an Master Hui-chung Nan-yang 0-776).42 Apparently, by using
these T' ang emperors as exemplars, Yuan-wu tried to provide a legiti-
mate precedent for a good relationship between Sung rulers and Ch'an
From a Confucian viewpoint, however, the bold language used by
Ch'an monks was often regarded as disrespectful to the emperor, or
38. PYL 1, T.48.141b23.
39. PYL 2, T.48.155b4-6.
40. PYL I, T.48.148b6-8.
41. PYL 6, T.48.192b29-c1.
42. PYL 2, T.48.158a5-1l; also, 10, 222b.
80 nABS 17.1
even subversive to the state. In the poem appended to case three,
Hsueh-tou wrote:
The sun faces the Buddha, the moon faces the Buddha;
What were the so-called Five Emperors and Three Kings?43
When Emperor Shen-tsung of the Sung (r. 1068-1085) was on the
throne, he refused to include this verse in the Buddhist canon for the
reason that the above lines subordinated the emperors to the Buddha.
Yuan-wu, then, explained, "People generally do not see Hsueh-tou's
meaning [behind his words], but only blame him for ridiculing the state.
Such conceptual interpretation is really a misunderstanding [of his
verse]."44 In Yuan-wu's view, the message behind Hsueh-tou's verse
was simply to tell people that because every one in essence is equal and
has the same potential to achieve enlightenment, any ordinary person can
become a sage-king.
The whole process in forming the Pi-yen lu itself demonstrates an
ironical phenomenon in the development of Ch' an Buddhism: Ch' an
monks eventually had to pile words upon words in an effort to explain
clearly the nonconceptual essence of Ch' an doctrine. The Yun-men
Ch'an master Hsueh-tou Ch'ung-hsien frrst collected one hundred kung-
an to which he also appended his own explanatory verses. Since the
elegant poetry in the PTSK by Hsueh-tou easily led people to assume
that Ch'an was nothing but a literary game, Yuan-wu K'o-ch'in of the
Lin-chi school now had to provide introductory remarks, additional
commentaries and interlinear annotations to elucidate the soteriological
intents of the original cases and Hsueh-tou's verses as well. Thus came
the Pi-yen lu.
But on the other hand, we may also see the Pi-yen lu as a Ch'an mas-
ter's effort to rectify people's tendency toward the literary approach to
Ch' an kung-an. Instead of writing elegant poetry to epitomize the main
gist of kung-an, as the former Ch'an masters had done, Yuan-wu
endeavored to explain and annotate the original old cases and also the
appended verses. Throughout the Pi-yen lu, Yuan-wu taught that a
kung-an anthology should not be read as a collection of "dead words"
but should be used effectively as "live words" (hua-eM), words that can
43.PYL 1, T.48. 142c29-143al.
44. PYL 1, T.48.143a5 & 21-2.
lead to true insight into the enlightened nature of the mind. The distinc-
tion between "investigating the meaning" (ts' an-z) and "investigating the
word" (ts'an-chii) then played a pivotal role in Yuan-wu's teaching of
kung-an practice. Yuan-wu's emphasis on the investigation of the "live
words," moreover, had significant impact on Ta-hui Tsung-kao, a native
of Anhui who is known as the most vigorous advocate of k'an-hua
Ch' an during the Southern Sung period.
"Live Words" versus "Dead Words"
The polemical issue in kung-an practice exists in the tension between
"investigating the meaning" and "investigating the word." The former
concerns understanding the kung-an in terms of conceptual, rational
analysis whereas the latter is to renounce conceptual thoughts and to dis-
cover the ultimate truth, which is literally inconceivable and is originally
present in all sentient beings' minds.
But since a Ch' an kung-an con-
sists of these two elements- "words" (chii) and "meaning" (i)-we
might wonder how the practitioner could investigate the word without
becoming entrapped in the danger of "investigating the meaning."
45. The distinction between the "live word" and the "dead word," as Chang
Chung-yuan has pointed out, was ftrst made by the Yun-men Ch'an master
Tung-shan Shou-ch'u (?-990); see his Original Teachings olCh'an Buddhism
(New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1969) 271. But the source is found not in the
CTL, the text on which Chang's translation is based, but in Chueh-fan Hui-
hung's Lin-chien lu (Records Drawn from [Ch'an] "Groves") [1107], ZZ
2B.21.4, 299bl1-13. In addition, Te-shan Yuan-mi (n. d.), a contemporary
of Tung-shan and also a disciple of Yun-men Wen-yen, was said to teach stu-
dents to investigate the "live words"; see WTHY 15, 281cl-2. For a discus-
sion of the distinction between the "live word" and the "dead word," see
Robert E. Buswell, Jr., "Ch'an Hermeneutics: A Korean View," in Buddhist
Hermeneutics, ed. Donald S. Lopez, Jr., Studies in East Asian Buddhism 6
(Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1988) 246-248; idem, "The 'Short-
cut' Approach of K' an-hua Meditation: The Evolution of a Practical Subitism
in Chinese Ch'an Buddhism," in Sudden and Gradual: Approaches to En-
lightenment in Chinese Thought, ed. Peter N. Gregory, Studies in East Asian
Buddhism 5 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1987) 348. Robert M.
Gimello also discusses this issue in "Marga and Culture," 376.
82 HABS 17.1
Yuan-wu's teaching of kung-an practice enables us to see how he tried
to resolve this tension in Ch' an kung-an practice.
For those who approached Ch'an kung-an practice, Yuan-wu's sug-
gestion was: "Hear clearly the words outside the voice; do not seek for
anything within the meaning (wen-ch'ing sheng-wai chU; mo-hsiang i-
chung ch'iu)."46 He often took his own enlightenment experience as an
example. One day when Yuan-wu was studying with Wu-tsu Fa-yen,
an official came to visit Wu-tsu with questions about the way of Ch' an.
Wu-tsu gave him a verse of which two lines read as follows:
Repeatedly calling Hsiao-Yii actually has nothing [to do with her];
All this is only to let Lover T' an (T' an-lang) recognize my voice.
The verse was about a lady who, when her lover came, felt too shy to
leave her bedchamber and therefore called her serving girl, Hsiao-yii, as
a means to let her lover know that she was in. Although the official
might not have gotten the point of this verse, Yuan-wu, who was beside
them, immediately understood what his master intended to say. 47
Yuan-wu's caution against "seeking for anything within the meaning"
in kung-an practice becomes clearer with his example which indicates
that the "truth" was comprised "outside the voice." Were one to use the
ordinary, conceptual way of thinking to analyze why this woman called
the name of her maid, Hsiao-yii, one would be led to the false presump-
tion that the woman had need of her maid when in fact she did not. By
the same token, if one approached the paradoxes or riddles in Ch' an
kung-an by "investigating the meaning," this would reveal but "dead
words" since conceptualization is useless and would furthermore lead
the practitioner to be entrapped by the words.
Yuan-wu's attitude toward the proper approach to kung-an can be
further seen from his interpretation of the dialogues between a monk and
the Yun-men Ch'an master Chih-men Kuang-tso (d. 1031) in kung-an
twenty-one of the Pi-yen tu.
One monk asked, "What is the lotus flower like when it has not yet come
out of the water?"
Chih-men said, "A lotus flower."
46. Yuan-wu ya-lu 2, T.47.719M.
47. WTHY 19, 370a1-6; also Yuan-wu ya-lu 13, in T.47.77Sb1-4.
The monk asked, "How about after it has come out of the water?"
[Chih-]men said, "Lotus leaves."
Yuan-wu then said to his students:
Tell me, what does the master in the past try to mean [in this kung-an]?
Actually there are not so many concerns. . .. If you pursue words and fol-
low after phrases, there will never be any connection [with awakening]. If
in the midst of words you can penetrate through words, in the midst of
meanings you can penetrate through meanings, and in the midst of encoun-
ters you can penetrate through encounters, letting yourself be unbound,
only then can you see the point of monk Chih-men's response .... Practi-
tioners these days do not realize the intention of the men in the past; they
just go forward to argue, trying to distinguish "[the lotus flower that] has
come out of the water" from "[the lotus flower that] has not yet come out of
the water." What is the connection [with spiritual awakening]?48
1hrough the above case, Yuan-wu warned his audience that the correct
approach to kung-an was not to give a logical solution to the "meaning"
of Jamg-an but to penetrate to the real message of the kLmg-an.
Implicitly, Yuan-wu seemed to suggest that if one recognized that the
"encounter dialogues" contained in the kLmg-an cases were intended to
transmit the nonconceptual essence of Ch' an doctrine, one would realize
that any attempt to analyze the paradoxes or riddles of the kWig-an in
terms of ordinary conceptual thought was actually meaningless. One
would, then, reject any kind of intellectualization of the kWig-an.
The futility of "investigating the meaning" warned against by Yuan-
wu becomes even more significant when the vast number of Ch'an
kWig-an published during the Sung is taken into account. Yuan-wu
admonished Ch' an practitioners that the textual study of numerous
Ch'an kung-an as a means of assimilating the enlightened minds of
ancient Ch' an masters would itself become an obstacle to enlightenment.
As he said, "If you only look for phrases and mysteries [of the kung-
an], when will you achieve enlightenment? There were thousands of
persons, and each of them had different ways of interpretation [of the
kWig-an]. So whose words should you follow?,,49
48. PYL 3,. T.48.161c18-20 and 161c29-162a28.
49. Yuan-wu yU-lu 13, T.47.772b6-7.
84 JIABS 17.1
Yuan-wu's practical teaching of kung-an arose as a result of his
attempt to spread the correct approach to Ch' an among Sung literati. In
a letter to anEdict Attendant surnamed Chiang (Chiang tai-chih), Yuan-
wu criticized the attitude the scholar-officials generally held towards the
practice ofCh'an:
Every time I met with the scholar-officials, many of them said that they are
entangled in mundane things and do not have free time for this [i. e., the
practice of Ch'an]. When these [mundane] things have been taken care of,
they said, they will then wholeheartedly engage themselves [iri Ch' an
practice]. Although what they said is honest, they only regard [their] secu-
lar pursuits [of fame and wealth] as important and so busily run in and out
of a pile of the rotten bones (the "dead words"; here probably refers to the
ancient Confucian classics). Having become well-versed [in these classics],
they merely call this the mundane task; [they feel] only when they further
clear away all the involvement in the mundane world can they turn to
[Ch'an practice]. Well, this [kind of attitude toward Ch'an practice] is
exactly what we [Ch'an Buddhists] would say: "[Even if] he practices
[Ch'an] all day long, he has never [truly] practiced; [even if] he uses [his
mind] all day long, he has never [really] used it." How can there be any
other great causes and conditions [for achieving enlightenment] outside the
mundane world?50
The above words of Yuan-wu were certainly addressed to Confucian
scholar-officials, who pursued "dead words" and regarded Ch'an as
something totally unrelated to their everyday activities. These men failed
to realize that the mundane world was the only true ground for practicing
Ch' an and attaining enlightenment. And even if they did practice Ch' an.
they would usually approach kung-an in one of two ways: either
through rational, logical analysis, or through simple memorization.
Yuan-wu told those who studied Ch' an kung-an through logical analysis
that conceptualization could never enable them to transcend the per-
ception of birth and death; as he said, ''To transcend birth and death, one
has to open and penetrate the mind-ground (hsin-ti). The kung-an is,
then, a key to opening the rnind-ground."51 By the same token, he cau-
tioned those who simply memorized the entire kung-an that memoriza-
tion was not unlike "drawing cakes" as a means of overcoming starva-
50. Ibid. 15, T,47.784c28-785a4.
51. Ibid. 15, T.47.785a21-4.
tion and that the result would be nothing but "a pile of bones" (ku-
tung).52 Literary study of Ch'an kung-an, Yuan-wu thus repeatedly
warned, would be a great hindrance to awakening.
Nonconceptualization, that is, investigating the "live words," was
therefore the path to the proper use of the kung-an. As Yuan-wu said:
Hold your tongue and do not give rise to any conceptualization. One
should investigate the "live words" and not investigate the "dead words."
What is realized and achieved through the "live words" will ensure that one
never forgets for an eternity of kalpas. What is realized and achieved
ihrough the "dead words" cannot even make one save oneself.
For Yuan-wu, only when one renounced ordinary conceptual thinking
could he be said to investigate the "live words." The "live words" are
thus the words that directly point to one's enlightened mind and readily
manifest one's intrinsic wisdom.
An even more concrete illustration of the purpose of using kung-an in
Ch'an practice was given by Yuan-wu as follows:
For the neophytes or the senior students, who wanted to practice [Ch'an]
but had no way to get the point, the former virtuous masters showed their
kindness by asking them to investigate the ancients' kung-an. They tried
touse this means to bind [the practitioner's] wild thoughts and perverse
plans, causing him to calm his consciousness and anxiety so as to reach the
state of concentration and oneness. He, then, would suddenly discover [the
fact] that the mind was not obtained from outside. The kung-an is always
[used as] nothing but a tile to knock the door .... You should keep quiet,
serene, calm, and observant before you dwell upon (eha) and investigate
[the kung-an]. After [investigating] a while, you then should know where
your root exists. If you use language and words to interpret language and
words, you merely get the benefits of understanding more, but you do not
have the conditions to enter into this [Ch'an] Dharma gate.
As an interpreter of Ch' an kung-an himself, Yuan-wu thus warned his
students that though the teacher's teaching of kung-an was instructive
52. Hsin-yao, 358b7-9.
53. YU-lu 11, T.47.765bI2-14. In WTHY, however, the language similar to
Yuan-wu's is found in the section of Te-shan Yuan-mi; see WTHY 15, ZZ
2B.l1.3,281c1-4. .
54. Hsin-yao, 385a7-13.
86 nABS 17.1
and necessary, the attainment of enlightenment still had depended on the
practitioner himself. .
Soteriological Role of Faith and Doubt in the Kung-an Practice
So far we have seen that Yuan-wu taught Ch' an practitioners not to con-
ceptualize Ch' an kung-an by advising them to investigate the "live
words." Still, we might wonder how people who were so used to habit-
ual ways of thinking could totally relinquish all random or false thoughts
in a single moment during the course of kung-an investigation. In other
words, though the practitioner now understood well the futility resulting
from conceptualization, about which Yuan-wu cautioned, he might still
have the problem of how to effectively keep himself "quiet, serene, calm.
and observant before he dwells upon and investigates the kung-an."
Here, we may take a look at the differences between Yuan-wu's soteri-
ology and that of his disciple Ta-hui Tsung-kao.
It should be said that Yuan-wu did not go beyond the Lin-chi tradi-
tion in which the cultivation of faith (hsin) was regarded as the most
essential foundation of Ch' an practice. 55 Like Lin-chi, Yuan-wu simi-
1arly emphasized that one should believe in one's intrinsically enlight-
ened mind and that the "faculty of faith" (hsin-ken) was of vital impor-
tance for one's achieving enlightenment.
By developing faith in his
originally enlightened mind, one simultaneously generates "counter-
illumination" (hui-kuang fan-chao).57 That is, the practitioner, motivated
by sufficient faith, is now able to "trace back the radiance emanating
from the mind," 58 and comes to realize his inherent buddha nature.
55. For Lin-chi's teaching of faith, see Chen-chou Lin-chi Hui-chao c h ' a n ~
shih ya-lu (Recorded Sayings of Ch'an Master Lin-chi Hui-chao of Chen-
chou), T.47.496b29cc2; 497b5-10; 499a4; 501b14; etc. Also see Yanagida
Seizan, "Kanwa Zen ni okeru shin to gi no mondai," in BukkytJ ni okeru shin
na mandai, ed. the Nihon Bukkyo Kyokai (Kyoto: Heirakuji shoten, 1963)
147-8; and Miriam L. Levering, "Ch'an Enlightenment for Laymen: Ta-hui
and the New Religious Culture of the Sung," diss., Harvard University,
1978,288-293. As Buswell further concludes, Lin-chi's emphasis on the cul-
tivation of faith can be seen as an attempt to repair Ma-tsu Tao-i's radical
subitism, in "K'an-hua," 338-343.
56. Hsin-yao, 358d18-359al.
57. Yuan-wu ya-lu 5, T.47.737b14-15, etc.
58. This translation is Robert Buswell's; see "K'an-hua," 347.
The emphasis on faith ;uso led Yuan-wu to assert that the practice of
kung-an was not so crucial in Ch' an training as long as one had suffi-
cient faith in one's self-nature. As Yuan-wu once said:
If one is endowed with the great faculty [i. e., faith], one does not need to
look into the ancients' words or kung-an. [Every day] starting in the
morning one just needs to rectify the precarious thoughts and to tranquilize
the precarious mind; no matter what one encounters, one achieves [this
task] without fail. After achieving this, one then further picks up [the kung-
an] to investigate it more closely. One [now] understands where it comes
from and what it is made of.
What Yuan-wu means here is that if one has sufficient faith in the
innate wisdom of his own mind, he will then fully develop the enlight-
ened source of the mind in the midst of ordinary life. As a result, every
aspect of one's daily conduct is a natural expression of the enlightened
mind. By the same token, one's practice of kung-an may also be seen as
one of the phenomenal activities (shih) guided by the inherent principle
(li) of the mind. Hence, only when one believes sufficiently that the
mind is always enlightened and untainted are one's activities in the phe-
nomenal realm truly validated. In this sense, then, the kung-an in Yuan-
wu's teaching is used more like a test, rather than a catalyst, for one's
attainment of enlightenment. As a corollary to his emphasis on the fac-
ulty offaith, Yuan-wu regarded "doubt" (0 as the primary obstacle that
Ch' an practitioners should make an effort to overcome. That is, in the
view of Yuan-wu, the "sensation of doubt" (i-ch'ing) was harmful to
one's faith and should never occur in the mind, let alone during the
course of kung-an investigation. In Yuan-wu's teaching, the word
"doubt" was thus still treated in its traditional, negative sense as a great
mental hindrance to enlightenment 60
The main difference between Yuan-wu and his disciple Ta-hui Tsung-
kao, the most active proponent of k' an-hua Ch' an, lies in the fact that tre
latter, without precedent, gave the "sensation of doubt," rather than the
"facu1ty of faith," a role to play in Ch' an kung-an investigation. That is,
in the view of Ta-hui, the sensation of doubt was not only a powerful
59. Yuan-wu ya-lu 15, T.47.758a6-9.
60. For Yuan-wu's use of "doubt," see ibid. 3, 723c12; 6, 74Oc24-25; 8,
750b20-21; 14, 776b4-6; etc.
88 nABS 17.1
antidote to one's conceptual thinking but also the indispensable force
which drove the adept toward awakening.
On the whole, the mind is not enlightened through reading scriptures or
doctrinal teachings, nor through reading the causes and conditions by which
the virtuous masters in the past entered into the way. [Rather,] it is only at
the time when you feel confused, frustrated, and bored-just as if you were
biting an iron bar-that you can rightly make effort [for achieving
Ta-hui thus claimed: "A great doubt will definitely be followed by a
great awakening."62
For Ta-hui, the investigation of hua-t' ou (the critical phrase of Ch' an
kung-an) was exactly the most effective way of generating doubt.
TIrrough the single-minded investigation of the hua-t'ou, the practitioner
would find that his rational, conceptual ways of thinking were really
useless at this moment. The illogical hua-t'ou, then, worked as a cata-
lyst which enabled the practitioner to foster in his mind the sensation of
doubt to the maximum extent The pressure of doubt in turn forced the
person's mind urgently to seek a sudden breakthrough. As Ta-hui
taught his students:
Just investigate a single hua-t' ou of [the kung-an by which] men in the past
entered the way. Shift the mind which day after day produces deluded
thoughts here [to the hua-t'ou]. [Focus your attention] on the hua-t'ou,
then no [conceptual thought] would ever be generated. A monk asked
Chao-chou [Ts'ung-shen (778-897)]: "Does a dog have buddha-nature or
not?" Chou said: "No!" (wu) Just this one word (i. e., wu) is exactly "the
knife that cuts off the road leading to birth and death" [i. e., the way to
transcend birth and death]. Just dwell upon this word wu. Dwell on it
over and over again. Abruptly information [through conceptual thought] is
severed. It is then at this point that you return home and sit fIrmly.63
61. Ta-hui P'u-chueh ch'an-shih yu-lu (Recorded Sayings of Ch'an Master
Ta-hui P'u-chueh) 19, T.47.891a22-23. This, however, does not mean that
Ta-hui did not value faith. As Yanagida Seizan has pointed out, Ta-hui also
fIrst emphasized the signifIcance of faith in his teaching of Ch'an practice,
and it was from his emphasis on faith that he developed the theory of doubt
in k' an-hua meditation; see Yanagida, "Kanwa Zen," 152.
62. Ta-hui yU-Iu 17, T.47.886a28.
63. Ibid. 22, T.47.903b29-c5.
Unlike Yuan-wu, who did not specifically mention the investigation of
hua-t' ou in his teaching, Ta-hui consistently taught his students to
investigate the hua-t' ou rather than the entire kung-an.
But although Ta-hui should be credited with providing a systematic
theory of the role of doubt in k'an-hua soteriology, Ta-hui himself
nonetheless attributed the idea of doubt to his master Yuan-wu.
According to him, when he was studying under Yuan-wu,the latter
gave him several kung-an to work on and warned him: "It is not easy for
you to get to this stage. [However,] it is a pity that you, having died, are
unable to be alive. Not having doubt for words and phrases is a great
illness."64 But since we find no mention of this anecdote in Yuan-wu's
sayings and writings, we may assume either that doubt here did not yet
have the technical sense in Yuan-wu's mind, or that the story was Ta-
hui's deliberate attempt to portray his idea as deriving from the orthodox
transmission of Ch' an teaching through his teacher, Yuan-wu.
The differences between Yuan-wu and T a ~ h u i regarding the teaching
of kung-an now become clearer. While doubt in Yuan-wu's terms
means lack of faith in one's inherent buddha-nature, in Ta-hui's inter-
pretation it came to mean the loss of confidence in the conceptual and
intellectual approaches to attaining ultimate enlightenment. For Yuan-
wu, innate faith was the preliminary requirement for Ch' an practice, but
for Ta-hui, the force in the process of "counterillumination" was mainly
derived from doubt through encountering the hua-t' ou of the kung-an.
Whereas "counterillumination" might appear as a more static term in
Yuan-wu's teaching of meditation practice, it was definitely regarded by
Ta-hui as a dynamic process in which doubt served as an introspective
force drawing the meditator to look into his inherently pure and enlight-
A comparison of Yuan-wu and Ta-hui, moreover, shows that Yuan-
wu, while teaching the practitioner of kung-an why he should eliminate
the mental tendency toward conceptualizing kung-an, failed to provide
an effective solution of how one could succeed in doing so. That is to
say, although Yuan-wu provided Ch' an practitioners with a concrete
explanation of those terms like ts' an-chiil ts' an-i and huo-chiil ssu-chu,
he did not specifically value the practice of hua-t'ou as a primary means
to enlightenment, as did Ta-hui. Ta-hui, on the other hand, was more
understanding of human beings' difficulties in casting away habitual
64. Ibid. 17, T.47.883a21-22.
90 nABS 17.1
patterns of perception and so was more practical in the approach he
taught in meditation practice. His advocacy of hua-t'ou investigation
appeared as the most effective way in which one could avoid the danger
of investigating the "meaning" of kung-an and attain, via the sensation of
doubt, the enlightened mind
The practice of Ch'an kung-an taught by the Szechuan Ch'an monk
Yuan-wu K'o-ch'in presents us with a case ofCh'an's attemptto inte-
grate itself into the mainstream of Sung literati culture without losing its
identity and integrity. Yuan-wu used a highly literary kung-an text-the
PTSK by Hsueh-tou Ch'ung-hsien-as his stepping stone to spread
Ch'an within the cultured elite. But rather than merely making himself a
famous monk of his day, Yuan-wu made great contributions to both his
religion and sect. In the Pi-yen Iu, Yuan-wu thus tried hard to shift
people's attention from the literary meaning and value of the PTSK to its
instructive aspects and practical function. By so doing, he revitalized the
Ufe of this collection of Ch' an words; that is, they were not "dead
words" but "live words." From Yuan-wu's Pi-yen lu on, the pedagogi-
cal and meditative function of Ch' an kung-an texts became both more
visible and more feasible.
In order to direct Ch' an practitioners toward the proper approach to
kung-an practice, Yuan-wu furthermore gave a clear explanation of tre
differences between "investigating the word" and "investigating the
meaning" in the course of kung-an practice. Although Yuan-wu was
not the first monk to teach that any attempt at conceptualization should
be renounced in Ch'an practice, he was the first Ch'an master in the
Y ang-ch' i branch of the Lin-chi school to adopt the term "live words" to
refer to "nonconceptualization" and to explain clearly why one should
investigate the "word" and not investigate the "meaning."65 His advo-
65. This point is clear as we read the Recorded Sayings of Yuan-wu's prede-
cessors: Yang-ch'i Fang-hui's Recorded Sayings, in T.47.640a-648c; Pai-yun
Shou-tuan's (1025-1072) Recorded Sayings and Kuang-lu (A Compre-
hensive Record [of Sayings and Writings)), in ZZ 2.25.3, 191a-200a and
200d-225a; and Wu-tsu Fa-yen's Recorded Sayings, in T.47.649a-669a. In
cacy of "investigating the word" exerted significant influence on his dis-
ciple Ta-hui's teaching of hua-t'ou investigation, an approach through
which one concentrated on the critical phrase of the kung-an and hence
might avert the mind from being distracted by the "meaning" of the case.
Yuan-wu K'o-ch'in's teaching of kung-an practice thus marked a
turning point in the evolution of Ch' an kung-an practice; the task of
systematizing the k'an-hua technique by giving "doubt" a specific sote-
riological role had to wait for his disciple Ta-hui Tsung-kao. While
Yuan-wu's instructions of Ch'an kung-an practice indicated his aware-
ness of the crisis of the ossification of Ch'an's soteriology and his con-
sequent attempt to resolve this perceived crisis within the Ch'an move-
ment, Ta-hui's advocacy of hua-t'ou investigation with a systematically
elaborated theory revealed a further sensitivity among Ch'an masters to
the practical need for narrowing such a gap in Ch' an praxis. Finally, it
can be said that Yuan-wu's engagementin the teaching ofCh'an kung-
an practice proved to be a decisive move, for neither the Yun-men
school nor the Huang-lung branch of the Lin-chi school could retain
their prominence in the next generations. Later, Ta-hui Tsung-kao
further succeeded in spreading k' an-hua Ch' an to the important cultural
centers of the Lower Yangtze Valley. The Lin-chi Yang-ch'i branch
eventually became the most dominant Buddhist school in Southern Sung
In this regard, k'an-hua Ch'an may also be viewed as a
successful attempt by the Lin-chi Yang-ch'i masters to revitalize the life
of the written Ch'an kung-an.
their teachings of Ch'an, none of them used terms like huo-chat ssu-cha,
ts'an-chat ts'an-i, etc.
66. Tao-jung, Ts'ung-lin sheng-shih (The Glorious Events in Ch'an Monas-
teries) [1197], in ZZ 2B.21.1,45c4.
92 JIABS 17.1
An Lu-shan
Chang Chtin
Chang Shang-ying
Chao-chou TS'ung-shen
Chao-chueh ssu
Chao Ling-chin
Ch' ao-jan chti-shih
Chen-chou Lin-chi Hui-chao
ch' an-shih yii-Iu
Chen-chueh ch' an-shih
chi-yuan wen-ta
Chiang tai-chih
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Yun-men Wen-yen
X 11
Honen and Popular Pure Land Piety:
Assimilation and Transformation
This study will explore one of the many complex issues in the develop-
ment of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism. From a broad perspective
Japanese Pure Land can be seen as a component of the East Asian Pure
Land tradition. It was based on Chinese texts, ideas, and practices, some
of which had been derived from India and central Asia. Yet the
Japanese did not simply preserve what they had received from China;
they made distinct contributions to East Asian Pure Land Buddhism.
Japanese modifications of the received tradition began in the Nara period
(646-794) soon after the introduction of Pure Land Buddhism to Japan
(Shigematsu 1964, 13-60), continued during the early Heian period
(794-ca. 1000; Inoue 1975, 83-156), and in the late Heian (ca. 900-
1185) and early Kamakura periods (1185-ca. 1250) produced major
transformations. The thought of Honen-bO Genk11 (1133-1212) is
especially remarkable for its departures from earlier Pure Land. His
innovations and those of his disciples not only greatly altered the Pure
Land tradition, they initiated a new phase of Japanese religious history
called Kamakura New Buddhism. Whence did Honen derive his new
ideas? Did he get them directly from Chinese texts as he claimed, or
was he influenced by indigenous Japanese thought?
It was posited several decades ago by both Hori Ichiro and Ienaga
Saburo that Honen was the inheritor of a rich fund of popular Japanese
ideas and practices which he systematized into the thought of his Pure
Land School (Jado shU) on the basis of continental, i. e., Chinese,
Buddhist doctrines and texts.
Like these two scholars, Japanese histo-
An earlier version of this study was delivered to an Association for Asian
Studies panel on Japanese Pure Land Buddhism in March 1993. I wish to
thank respondent Jacqueline Stone, fellow panelists and my colleague Kevin
Trainor for helpful suggestions.
1. Hori 1953, 324-25; Ienaga 1963, 26-28. Hori actually locates the sources
of Honen's systemization in the Ojoyosha and criticizes Honen for an incom-
rians in general have tended to emphasize the importance of Honen's
indigenous, popular legacy (Ienega, Akamatsu and Tamamuro 1967-68,
1.327-41,2.31-32; Inoue 1975, 315-18), while Pure Land denomina-
tional scholars have tended to deemphasize the Japanese components of
Honen's thought and accentuate his debt to continental ideas (Ishida
1952,96-103; Fujiwara 1957, 215-21; Ishii 1969, 158-60). I would like
to begin sorting out what Honen derived from late Heian Popular Pure
Land piety, what he acquired from continental thought, and how he
related these diverse influences. Here I will explore the origins of just
one of Honen's ideas, his view on effective practice for PUfe Land
Honen taught that the only practice necessary for rebirth into Amida
Buddha's Pure Land was vocal nembutsu, that is, calling upon Amida
(Sanskrit, AmitabhaJAmitayus) with the invocation, "namu Amida
Butsu," "Homage to Amida Buddha," or, "I take refuge in the Buddha
of Limitless Light and Life." My thesis is that Honen derived from
Pure Land piety this position on sole nembutsu cultivation,
augmented and systemized it by means of continental thought, and
related this systemized thought to a Pure Land scriptural canon, enhanc-
ing its credibility and emphasizing its autonomy.
For information on the popular piety which may have influenced
Honen I will refer to Japanese scholarship on Heian period "accounts of
rebirth" (ojoden); I will consider Shan-tao (613-81) the major continen-
tal influence upon Honen; and I will utilize Honen's Passages on the
Selected Nembutsu of the Original Vow (Senchaku hongan nembutsu
shaY as the most important and only fully authenticated formulation of
his thought
Honen and Popular Pure Land Piety of the Late Heian Period
It is well known that Honen claimed sole cultivation of vocal nembutsu
as the best practice for Pure Land rebirth. In Chapter 2 of his Passages
plete systemization. Ienega was primarily concerned with the derivations of
Shinran's ideas, but the systemization which he credits to Shinran began, of
course, with Honen. I might add that while Honen discovered continental
Pure Land thought in the Ojoyoshu, he then bypassed that text and drew
directly upon continental thinkers like Shan-tao.
2. By "popular" I mean the religion of both clergy and lay persons of all
classes and occupations except that of the nobility and upper echelon warriors;
see Inoue 1975, 158, n. l.
3. See References for fuller bibliographic information.
98 nABS 17.1
he maintains that exclusive Pure Land cultivation is much more effective ~ .
than "adulterated practices" (zogyo), and that among Pure Land prac-
tices, calling on Amida Buddha's name is the "assured act" (shojo no
gO) certain to bring about rebirth (T. 83.2c14-4b20);4 in Chapter 3 he
claims that vocal nembutsu is the sole practice selected by Amida and
guaranteed by his eighteenth original vow for the rebirth of all sentient
beings (T. 83.4b-6c); in Chapter 6 this nembutsu is presented as the best
practice for an age of final Dharma (mappo; T. 83.8b-9a); and in
Chapter 12 Honen explicitly rejects meditation, observance of precepts,
recitation of scripture, filial behavior, the performance of good deeds and
other "meditative and non-meditative meritorious acts" (josan nizen)
because he claims they were not selected by the eighteenth vow (T.
83. 14c-17a). In short, Honen maintained that calling the BudcJ!1a's name
was the best and only practice necessary for rebirth.
As we have indicated, our concern is to determine whence Honen
derived these views. He claimed that he obtained them from the
Mahayana scriptures as interpreted by the continental master Shan-tao
(T. 83.19a5-12). In a moment we will examine to what extent this claim
was justified, but first let us summarize the popular Pure Land piety of
Honen's time and especially its beliefs on how to be reborn in the Pure
Some of the most revealing glimpses into popular Buddhism of the
late Heian period, the eleventh and twelfth centuries, are provided by six
collections called "accounts of Pure Land rebirth" (ojoden). The earliest.
Nihon Gokuraku ojoki, was compiled in 985 by Yoshishige no
Yasutane, and was followed over a century later by the Zoku honcho
ojoden of Oe no Masafusa in 1101-04, by the ShUi ojoden and GoshUi
ojoden of Miyoshi no Tamayasu compiled between 1111 and 1139, the
Sailge ojoki by Shami Renzen soon after 1139, and the HonchiJ shinshU
ojoden by Fuji no Munetomo between 1134 and 1139 (Inoue and Osone
1974, 711-760). All together they contain some 340 vignette describing
the faith, practices and rebirth of mostly contemporaneous persons into
Amida's Pure Land. And while these stories cannot be taken as histori -
cal fact, they nonetheless give us considerable insight into the views of
the compilers and of their contemporaries on the availability and means
to Pure Land rebirth. Hori, Ienaga, Shigematsu and Inoue have con-
ducted extensive studies of these compilations (Hori 1953, 304-17;
4. This reference is to volume number 83, page 2, tier "c," line 14, to page
4, tier "b," etc., of "T.," the Taishif shinshU daizokyo.
I!!naga 1963, 1-44 and 201-218; Shigematsu 1964, 122-309; Inoue and
Osone 1974,711-760; Inoue 1975, 158-265).5 They find that the sub-
jects of the rebirth tales are persons of all classes and circumstances-
nobility and commoners, warriors and free cultivators, lay persons and
clergy, women as well as men-but that those from the lower ranks of
society are more numerous, that women, both lay and clerical are well
represented, and that hijiri and shami, the evangelists and leaders of
popular Buddhism, are prominent. The hijiri were clergy who left the
degenerating centers of monastic Buddhism to pursue an ascetic, fervid
religious life either as recluses dwelling at monastic retreats (bessho), or
as itinerants circulating among the populace in towns and villages. The
shami were unordained "householder novices" (zoku shami) or
"wayfarers" (nyudo) who, while remaining married and in lay occupa-
tions, assumed an austere lifestyle, engaged in assiduous devotions and
performed various religious functions for their fellow townspeople and
villagers (Hori 1958; Ito 1969; Inoue 1975,215-56).
As depicted in the accounts of rebirth, the Pure Land piety of this
mixed populace had the following features: belief in the advent of the
final age of the Dharma (mappo), conviction of heavy karmic burden,
anxiety about reincarnation in hell, simultaneous participation in an
eclectic Lotus Sutra, Kannon, Miroku, Amida and Jizo devotionalism,
as well as practice of various austerities and esoteric rituals, all in pursuit
of this-worldly benefits as well as Pure Land rebirth. The practices
depicted most frequently as eventuating in Pure Land rebirth are Lotus
Sutra veneration, especially chanting and copying the sl1tra, and Pure
Land nembutsu, especially ontemplation of Amida.
Frequently both
kinds of devotion are pursued by the same person (Shigematsu 1964,
These collections also reveal shifts in beliefs and practices from the
earlier compilation of 985 to those compiled in the twelfth century. They
show a heightened sense of personal evil and an increased anxiety,
amounting to almost a certainty, of falling after death into a Buddhist
hell. Amida and Jizo come to be emphasized as soters who have vowed
5. Moreover, Kotas 1987 summarizes much of the Japanese scholarship on
the ojtJden and translates a number of tales.
6. The locus classicus of this exercise is the Kuan Wu-liang-shou-fo ching I
Kan Muryojubutsu kyo; see Ryukoku University 1984 or Muller, Sacred
Books of the East, vol. 49. For discussions of this exercise in Japan and
China, see Andrews 1973 and 1993.
100 JIABS 17.1
to save their devotees from this fate.
Exclusive devotion, especially t o ' ~ ' ..
Amida or the Lotus Sutra, becomes more frequent. Vocal nembutsu
becomes more common, and these later collections also show a tendency
toward cultivation of huge quantities of vocal nembutsu---,-lO,OOO or
100,000 nembutsu per day or 1,000,000 during a fixed period. Sole
cultivation of vocal nembutsu makes its appearance in a few tales as
There is a noticeable increase in the incidence of rebirth of "evil
persons" (akunin)-butchers, warriors, skeptics, and flagrant offend-
ers-and especially of their conversion upon their deathbeds and rebirth
by just a few utterances of the Buddha's name.
And finally, fanatical
rebirth-suicide-devotees immolating or drowning themselves in expec-
tation of immediate Pure Land rebirth-are more frequently depicted as
These eleventh century accounts also reveal a shift in the types and
activities of the hijiri and shami. The hijiri more frequently emerge from
their retreats and interact with laymen as itinerants who travel about from
village to village (Ito 1984). Both hijiri and shami become more
involved with Pure Land piety and in general they assume the roles of
evangelizers and leaders of popular Buddhism, instructing and organiz-
ing the populace as preachers, healers and magicians in the style of the
famous "hijiri of the market place," Kuya (893-972). For example, they
serve as priests of local temples and shrines, organize Pure Land and
other devotional groups (nembutsu shu, etc.), lead pious ceremonies
(nembutsu kiJ, mukae kiJ, etc.), collect meritorious donations for temple
and village projects, conduct funerals, exorcise malevolent spirits, heal
the sick, organize social service projects, and in general serve the many
needs of the populace while recruiting them to Buddhist faith and espe-
cially to Pure Land piety (Inoue 1975,226-56). However, despite these
tendencies the rebirth accounts nonetheless reflect a Pure Land piety at
the close of the Heian period that continued overwhelmingly to be incor-
7. Found by Inoue (1975, 230-254) also in the contemporaneous tale collec-
tion, Konjaku nwnogatari shU.
8. Inoue (1975, 250-51) identifies only four instances in the ojoden and two
in the Konjaku monogatari shu, but because all these cases describe the prac-
tices of commoners, including those leaders and evangelizers, the hijiri and
shami, he maintains that such exclusive devotion to Amida and sole nem-
butsu cultivation must have been fairly common in this period.
9. Ienaga (1963, 14-18) identifies 19 such cases in the twelfth century
ojoden. .
porated into an eclectic popular devotionalism of many faiths and prac-
When we compare this popular Pure Land piety with Honen's teach-
ings on sole cultivation of vocal nembutsu it is clear that several of its
tendencies coincide with Honen's positions: emphasis on the vows of
Amida, on exclusive Pure Land devotion, on vocal nembutsu, on
affIrmation of the rebirth of commoners, women and even: evil persons
by vocal nembutsu, and their emphasis on sole nembutsu cultivation. It
would seem reasonable to conclude, as some Japanese historians have,
that Honen was strongly influenced by his contemporary, popular
We should also note that during his lifetime Honenhad ample oppor-
tunity to absorb popular influences. Much of his clerical career was
spent among the rural populace and close to those popular evangelists,
the hijiri and shami. From the age of nine until his mid-teens he served
in a provincial temple and was no doubt exposed to all sorts of popular
piety. At age fifteen he received priestly ordination upon Mt. Hiei, but
within a few years retired from Tendai's ecclesiastical center to a rural
.ffionastic retreat (bessho) on the western slopes of Mt. Hiei, called
Kurodani, where he dwelt for twenty-five years (Tamura 1972, 61-103).
Kurodani, like all such monastic retreats, served as a center where hijiri
congregated and from whence they departed to preach and evangelize in
the towns and villages (Takagi 1973, 357-375; Kikuchi 1982). While
Honen himself does not appear during those twenty-five years to have
left Kurodani to proselytize, he was nonetheless in close contact with
these leaders of popular piety (Ito 1981,42-72). Moreover, after his
departure from Kurodani in 1175 Honen established a teaching center at
Yoshimizu in the suburbs of the capital where he taught scores of
disciples and followers. 11 Many of these adherents then went out into
the city and countryside in hijiri fashion, spreading the sole-nembutsu
faith among the populace (Ohashi 1972, 143-47; Tamura 1959, 148-56;
Ito 1969 and 1981, 73-136). Throughout his career, Honen was well
10. We must keep in mind that the rebirth accounts by their very nature
emphasize Pure Land piety and tell us less about important trends in other
varieties of popular religion. Thus our claim is not that they reveal an overall
shift toward Pure Land piety, but just that they show some trends within
popular piety as a whole and within Pure Land devotionalism in particular.
11. In 1204 some 170 disciples and followers indicated their assent to
Honen's teachings by signing his Shichikajo seikai (Seven Article Pledge);
see Tamura 1959, 146-48 and Nakano 1985.
102 JIABS 17.1
positioned both to be influenced by, and exert influences upon, popular
Honen and Shan-tao on Practice
Yet, whatever popular influences we may detect in Honen's thought; as
we have noted, Honen himself claimed that his teachings were based on
the interpretations of Shan-tao. Thus we must examine Shari-tao's posi-
tion on effective practice.
Shan-tao twice concisely formulated correct and effective Pure Land
practice, once in his Wang-sheng li-tsan chieh (Hymns in Praise of Pure
Land Rebirth) and again in his Kuan Wu-liang-shou-fo-ching shu
(Commentary on the Amitabha Contemplation Siitra). The former (T.
47.438c-439a) urges (1) veneration of Arnitabha with offerings of
incense and flowers, (2) singing the praises of Arnitabha, his entourage
and his Pure Land, (3) contemplating Amitabha, his entburage and his
land, (4) vowing and praying to be reborn in the Pure Land, and (5)
dedicating all one's own karma and the good karma of others to mutual
rebirth in the Pure Land. This formulation completely omits the practice
of calling on the name, except perhaps as an implicit accompaniment to
veneration or contemplation. The Commentary on the Contemplation
Sutra formula (T. 37.272a-b) 12 gives priority to invoking the Buddha's
name, but also recommends accompanying this with the practices of
reciting the Pure Land siitras and contemplating, venerating, and praising
Amitabha. In another of Shan-tao works, his Kuan-nien Acmi-t'o-fo
hsiang-hai san-mei kung- te fa-men (Methods and Merits of Samadhi of
Contemplation and Reflection upon Amitabha), he prescribes contem-
plating the auspicious signs of the Buddha's physical body, but also
urges as many as ten thousand to one hundred thousand daily invoca-
tions of the Buddha's name, interspersed with other devotional acts such
as reciting scripture, making offerings and siriging praises (T. 47. 23b8-
14). In general, Shan-tao was an austere monastic and a fervent devotee
who insisted on total dedication to Amitabha through constant, ardent
engagement in an array of devotional activities.
Yet, fundamental to Shan-tao's thought were two tenets: First, that he
and virtually all of his contemporaries were helpless, morally degenerate
"ordinary persons" lfanfu) living in an age of final Dharma, and second,
that for such persons the practice most certain to result in Pure Land
rebirth was the act empowered by the eighteenth vow, calling on the
12 .. Cited by Honen in Chapter 2 of his Passages, T. 83.2c16-22.
Buddha's name. I 3 Shan-tao's position on practice was, therefore,
ambivalent. While on the one hand he frequently urged constant perfor-
mance of the most arduous contemplations and devotions, on the other
hand he thought that most persons were capable of little more than call-
ing on the Buddha's name.
Honen himself (T. 83.14<.:17-20) and modem Pure Land denomina-
tional scholars (Ishida 1952, 96; Fujiwara 1957, 215 and 218; Ishii
1969,526-27) have heavily based their claim of Shan-tao's advocacy of
sole invocational nembutsu on a passage in Shan-tao's Commentary on
the Contemplation SiJtra interpreting Sakyamuni's final transmission of
his Contemplation Satra discourse to Ananda. This passage reads,
[The section of the Contemplation Sutra] from, "The Buddha said to
Ananda, 'Keep these words well! [To keep these words is to keep the name
of the Buddha of Limitless Life.']," rightly reveals the bestowal of
Amitabha's name for transmission to future generations. Even though
[Sakyamuni] had hitherto taught the benefits of the meditative and non-
meditative Dharma-gates, [he] saw that the meaning of [Amitabha]
Buddha's original vow consisted in sentient beings calling solely and
exclusively on the name of Amitabha Buddha.
Here Shan-tao seems to be saying thatSakyamuni Buddha wanted
Ananda to convey to sentient beings in the future not the contemplations
and ethical practices which he had just taught in the Contemplation
Satra, but rather the sole practice of invocational nembutsu urged by
Amitabha himself in his eighteenth vow. However, this is but one terse
and ambiguous passage in all of Shan-tao's voluminous writings, and to
use it to relegate categorically buddha-contemplation to the status of an
inferior practice would be to overSimplify Shan-tao' s rich thought. IS
13. In the first section of his Commentary on the Contemplation Sutra, T.
37.245-251, Shan-tao argues at length for the degeneracy of his age and the
decadent condition of his contemporaries. He interprets the eighteenth vow as
urging invocation at T. 47.27a16-19 and T. 47.447c23-26.
14. T. 37.278a23-26 by Shan-tao, interpreting T. 12.346b15-16 of the Con-
templation Sutra, cited by Honen in his Passages at T. 83.14c17-20.
15. Some Pure Land denominational scholars also claim that the Commen-
tary on the Contemplation Sutra was Shan-tao's fmal and most mature work
(for example, Fujiwara 1957, 204-09), and therefore that its position on the
priority of the eighteenth vow's vocal nembutsu should take precedence over
passages in Shan-tao's other works urging contemplative and other practices.
While the Commentary on the Contemplation Satra is probably Shan-tao's
most mature work, there is no historical evidence that it is his last compo-
104 JIABS 17.1
Although there are scattered about in Shan-tao's writings passages
which urge invocation to the exclusion of contemplation (e. g., T. 47.
439a24-26), we should keep in mind as well fIrst that Shan-tao fre-
quently urged observance of the Buddhist precepts and performance of
rites of repentance, and secondly that three of his five works are liturgi -
cal, designed for use in ritualistic worship services.
Was Honen therefore justified in ascribing his position on sole nem-
butsu to Shan-tao's interpretations? On the one hand, Shan-tao did
interpret the practice of the eighteenth vow as calling on the Buddha's
name and urge this practice as best for his contemporaries. On the other
hand, his writings enthusiastically encourage the cultivation of buddha-
contemplation and other Pure Land devotional practices. Thus, while
Honen did not find "sole nembutsu" per se in the writings of Shan-tao,
he was clearly influenced by Shan-tao's powerful arguments for the
special status and efficacy of invocation.
However, aside from Shan-tao's position on buddha-recollection
itself, there was another feature of his thought, a more basic feature,
which was a prerequisite for Honen's formulation of a sole nembutsu
doctrine. Before Honen could conceive of nembutsu as among all prac -
tices a superior practice which should be cultivated solely, it was neces-
sary for him to perceive Amida as a special object of devotion to be
worshiped to the exclusion of all other soters and sacralities. In Japan,
the tendency had been to subsume Pure Land piety within either non-
Pure Land doctrinal systems or, as we have seen, within an eclectic
popular matrix. Moreover, even by the twelfth century exclusive devo-
tion to Amida, according to the accounts of rebirth, had barely begun to
emerge. In China, on the contrary, the line of Pure Land teachers from
T'an-luan (ca. 488-554) to Shan-tao had for centuries been exclusively
focused on Amitabha Buddha. Shan-tao rejected totally any spirituality
except that committed to Amitabha and Pure Land rebirth. Thus tre
practices he recommends, as we have seen above, were all practices
expressing devotion to Amitabha. Honen encountered in Shan-tao this
exclusive commitment to Pure Land rebirth and exclusive reliance on
practices in devotion to Amitabha. And this exclusive focus on
Amitabha made it possible for Honen to formulate the even more thor-
oughgoing exclusiveness of his sole nembutsu position. 16
16. Honen develops his exclusive Pure Land stance initially in Chapter 1 of
his Passages, basing his position on citations from Tao-ch'o (562-645) and
Honen's Transformation of Popular Pure Land Piety
As I proposed above, it is my view that Honen drew from both his con-
temporary religious milieu and from continental thought and that he
synthesized these influences so as to systemize a unique doctrinal posi-
tion. Let me make three points: First, that Honen used continental
thought to extract the sole nembutsu idea from its Japanese multi-faith,
multi-praxis popular matrix; secondly, that he borrowed from Shan-tao
certain of Shan-tao's notions on Pure Land praxis and used these to
formulate a system of doctrines around the idea of sole nembutsu; and
thirdly, that Honen related his teachings on sole nembutsu practice to a
Pure Land scriptural canon, thus supplying them with some legitimacy
and considerable autonomy.
Regarding the first point, based upon Shan-tao's exclusive commit-
ment to Amitabha and his insistence upon the cultivation of Pure Land
practices only, Honen was able first to extricate in theory Pure Land
piety from its eclectic popular mix. Then based upon this exclusive Pure
Land devotionalism and Shan-tao's high regard for buddha-invocation
he was able to develop his subsequent poSition of just one Pure Land
practice, thereby extracting vocal nembutsu also from its eclectic amal-
gam. In some ways the highly focused Pure Land exclusivity Honen
derived from Shan-tao was more important for Honen's historical role
than his better known position on sole nembutsu, because it made pos-
sible, after centuries of co-option and subordination, the formulation by
Honen of autonomous forms of doctrine and praxis essential for the
development of the various Kamakura period Pure Land sectarian
My second point is that Honen borrowed from Shan-tao certain of
Shan-tao's notions on Pure Land praxis and used these to formulate a
system of doctrines around the idea of sole nembutsu. As noted above,
by the seventh century in T' ang China Shan-tao had already devised a
rich system of Pure Land praxis. He saw the nienjo, i. e., nembutsu,
empowered by the eighteenth vow as the major act establishing a nexus
of mutual devotedness between sentient being and buddha (T. 37.268a4-
13), an act to be cultivated with sincere, deep and focused faith (T.
37.270c-273b), reverently, exclusively, constantly and to the end of
one's life (T. 47.439a7-18). All this, as well as the identification of the
nien-fo of the eighteenth vow with the utterance of the Buddha's name
other continental masters, and subsequently amplifies this doctrine drawing
heavily on Shan-tao.
106 nABS 17.1
ten times as described in the Contemplation Satra, had already been
worked out by Shan-tao. These systemic ideas and others were bor-
rowed by Honen, enriching his notion of sole nembutsu and providing a
rationale for its effectiveness.!7
My third point is that Honen associated his teachings on sole nem-
butsu with a Pure Land canonical corpus, thereby enhancing their legiti-
macy and establishing their autonomy in relation to other doctrinal sys-
tems. There can be no question that a major concern of Honen in his
Passages was to authenticate his teachings by showing how they were
based upon Pure Land and other Mahayana scriptures. In the opening
chapter he claims for his Pure Land School a canon called "the three part
Pure Land scripture" (jodo sambukyo), consisting of the Wu-liang-shou
ching / Muryoju kyo (Sl1tra of Limitless Life), Kuan
ching / Kan Muryojubutsu kyo (Sutra of Comtemplation on the Buddha
of Limitless Life, or Amitabha Contemplation Sutra), and the O-mi-t'o
ching / Amida kyo (Amitabha Sl1tra).18 Subsequent chapters of the Pas-
sages, with the exception of chapters 2,9, 14, and 15, begin with a cita-
tion from one of these scripture intended to justify a particular claim
regarding sole nembutsu or some related doctrine. (Chapters 2, 9, 14,
and 15 begin with citations from the works of Shan-tao, which for
Honen also had canonical authority.) This direct link to a defined set of
scriptures associated with the Buddha Amitabha was also intended to
liberate Pure Land doctrines from dependence on the canons of other
schools, thereby giving these doctrines autonomy as well as legitimacy.
Let me conclude by reiterating that Honen did not simply adopt the raw
features of popular faith into his teachings. He returned to the Chinese
sources of much of Japanese popular Pure Land piety 19 and used those
texts and teachings to modify, systematize and defend popular Japanese
17. See Honen's Passages on the Selected Nembutsu, T. 83.9a23-b7; 9c3-
12b25; 12b27-c10; 4b26-c6.
18. The influence of Shan-tao is apparent here also. These three siitras were
the ones he recommended reading and reciting in one of his formulations of
Pure Land practice (see section 3 above and T. 37.272b2). On Honen's
formulation of this canon and other features of his Pure Land School, see
Andrews 1987.
19. Inoue and others (Shigematsu 1964; Sato 1956; Andrews 1989, 1990,
1991) have documented the impact of Chinese Pure Land upon early and mid-
Heian Japanese Pure Land devotionalism, especially upon the Djoyosha, and
the impact of this text in turn upon popular piety.
beliefs and practices. Moreover, this hybrid character of Honen's
thought was important for the further development of Japanese
Buddhism: Because it was based upon popular ideas and practices,
Honen's thought had great popular appeal, and because it now consti-
tuted a system of doctrines invested with credibility and autonomy, it
was able to serve, with later modifications of course, as the basis for
several institutionalized Buddhist sects-the Jooo Shu, the JisM and the
Jooo ShinsM.
Andrews, Allan A. 1973. The Teachings Essential for Rebirth: A Study of
Genshin's Ojoyoshu. Monumenta Nipponica Monograph. Tokyo: Sophia
University Press.
______ . 1987. "The Senchakushii in Japanese Religious History:
The Founding of a Pure Land School." Journal of the American Academy
of Religion 55.3.
______ . 1989. "Genshin's Essentials of Pure Land Rebirth and the
Transmission of Pure Land Buddhism to Japan, Part One: The First and
Second Phases of Transmission of Pure Land Buddhism to Japan-The
Nara Period and the Early Heian Period." Pacific World: Journal of the
Institute of Buddhist Studies. (N. S.) 5.
______ ,. 1990. "Genshin's Essentials of Pure Land Rebirth and the
Transmission of Pure Land Buddhism to Japan, Part Two: The Third Phase
of Transmission of Pure Land Buddhism to Japan-A Quantitative Survey
of the Resources Utilized by Genshin's Essentials of Pure Land Rebirth for
the Cultivation and Efficacy of Nembutsu." Pacific World: Journal of the
Institute of Buddhist Studies. (N. S.) 6.
______ . 1991. "Genshin's Essentials of Pure Land Rebirth and the
Transmission of Pure Land Buddhism to Japan, Part Three: The Third
Phase of Transmission of Pure Land Buddhism to Japan-An Examination
of the Continental Ideas and Modes of Nembutsu Introduced by Genshin's
Essentials of Pure Land Rebirth." Pacific World: Journal of the Institute
of Buddhist Studies. (N. S.) 7.
______ . 1993. "Lay and Monastic Forms of Pure Land Devotion-
alism: Typology and History." Numen 40.
Fujiwara Ryosetsu. 1957. Nembutsu shisiJ no kenkyu [Studies on nembutsu
thought]. Kyoto: Nagata Bunshodo.
Honen. Passages on the Selected Nembutsu of the Original Vow (Senchaku
hongan nembutsu sbii). T. 2608.
108 nABS 17.1
Hori Ichiro. 1953. Shakyoshi hen [Religious history]. Waga kuni minkan
shinkoshi no kenkyu 2 [Researches on the folk beliefs of our land 2].
Tokyo: Shogen Shinsha.
______ . 1958. "On the Concept of Hijiri (Holy-man)." Numen 5.2:
129-160, and 5.3: 199-232.
Ienaga Sabur5. 1963. Chase Bukkyo shisoshi kenkyu [Studies in the history of
medieval Buddhist thought]. Rev. ed. Kyoto: Hozokan.
Ienega Saburo, Akamatsu Toshihide, and Tamamuro Taijo, eds. 1967-68.
Nihon Bukkyo shi [A history of Japanese Buddhism]. 3 vols. Kyoto:
Inoue Mitsusada, and Osone ShOsuke. 1974. Ojoden-Hokegenki [Accounts of
Rebirth and Miraculous Tales of the Lotus Sutra]. Nihon shiso taikei 7.
[Compilation of Japanese thought 7]. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten.
Inoue Mitsusada 1975. Nihon Jodokyo seiritsushi no kenkyu [Studies in the
history of the establishment of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism]. Rev. ed.
Tokyo: Yamakawa Shuppansha.
Ishida Mitsuyuki. 1952. Nihon Jodokyo no kenkyu [Studies on Japanese Pure
Land Buddhism]. Kyoto: Hyakkaen.
Ishii KyOOo. 1969. Senchaku shu zenko [Commentary on the Senchaku shu].
Kyoto: Heirakuji Shoten.
Ito Yuishin. 1969. "Amida no hijiri ni tsuite: Minkan JOOokyo e no ichi
shiten" [Amida hijiri: A perspective on popular Pure Land Buddhism].
Nihon Jodokyoshi no kenkyu. Eds. Fujishima and Miyazaki. Tokyo:
Heiryakuji Shoten.
______ . 1981. Jodoshu no seiritsu to tenkai [The establishment and
development of the Pure Land Denomination]. Tokyo: Yoshikawa
______ . 1984. "JOOo shinko to hijiri no katsudo" [pure Land faith
and hijiri activities]. Amida ShinkO [Amida faith]. Ed. Ito Yuishin. Minshu
shOkyoshi sosho [History of folk religion series]. Tokyo: Osankaku
Shuppan K. K.
Kikuchi Yujiro. 1982. "Kurodani Bessho to Honen" [Kurodani monastic
retreat and Honen]. Honen. Eds. ItO Yuishin and Tamayama Jogen. Nihon
meiso ronshO 6 [Studies of eminent clergy 6]. Tokyo: Yoshikawa
Kotas, Fredrick J. 1987. "OjOOen: Accounts of Rebirth." Diss. University of
Kuan Wu-liang-shou-fo ching / Bussetsu kan Muryojubutsu kyo. (Amit1i.bha
Contemplation Sutra.) T. 365.
Muller, F. Max, ed. 1969. Buddhist Mahliyana Texts. Sacred Books of the
East 49. 1894. New York: Dover Publications.
Nakano Masaaki. 1985. "Nisonin shozo Shichikajo seikai ni tsuite" [On the
Seven Article Pledge text of Nisonin Temple]. Honen ShOnin to Jodo Sha
[Honen ShOnin and the Jodo Denomination]. Eds. Ito Yuishin and
Tamayama JOgen. Nihon Bukkyo shiishi ronshii 5 [Studies on the denomi-
. national history of Japanese Buddhism 5]. Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kobunkan.
Ohashi Toshio. 1972. Honen: Sono ktJdo to shiso [Honen: His life and
thought]. Tokyo: Hyoronsha
O-mi-t' 0 ching / Bussetsu Amida kyo. (Amitabha Sfitra.) T. 366.
Ryukoku University Translation Center, trans. 1984. The Sutra of Contem-
plation on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life as Expounded by Sllkyamuni
Buddha. Ed. Meiji Yamada. Kyoto: Ryukoku University.
Saw, Tetsuei. 1956 "Eizan ni okeru JOdokyo no keitai" [The development of
Pure Land Buddhism on Mt. Hiei in the Te][ldai School]. Bukkyo no kom-
pon shinri [The fundamental truths of Buddhism]. Ed. Miyamoto shOson.
Tokyo: Sanseido.
Shan-tao. Kuan Wu-liang-shou10-ching shu / Kan Muryojubutsukyo sho
[Commentary on the Amitabha Contemplation Siitra] . T. 1753.
______ . Wang-sheng li-tsan chieh / Ojo raisan ge [Hymns in
Praise of Pure Land Rebirth]. T. 1980.
______ . Kuan-nienA-mi-t'01o hsiang-hai san-mei kung-tefa-men/
Kannen Amida Butsu sokai sammai kudoku hOmon [Methods and Merits of
Samadhi of Contemplation and Reflection upon the Ocean-like Aspects of
Amitabha Buddha]. T. 1959.
Shigematsu Akihisa 1964. Nihon JOdokyo seiritsu katei no kenkyii [Studies
on the process of establishment of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism]. Kyoto:
Heirakuji Shoten.
TaishO shinshU daizokyo [TaishO Period revised edition of the Buddhist
Canon]. 1924-32. Eds. Takakusu Junjiro and Watanabe K. 100 vols.
Tokyo: TaishO Shinshii Daizokyo Kankokai.
Takagi Yutaka. 1973. Heian jidai Hokke Bukkyoshi kenkyu [A study of the
history of Heian period Lotus Buddhism]. Kyoto: Heirakuji shoten.
Tamura EnchO. 1959. Honen. Jimbutsu sosho 36 [Biographical series 36}.
Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kobunkan.
____ ~ _ . 1972. Honen ShOnin den no kenkyu [Studies on the bio-
graphies of Honen ShOnin]. Rev. ed. Kyoto: Hozokan.
Wu-liang-shou ching / Bussetsu Muryoju kyo [Siitra of Limitless Life]. T.
110 JIABS 17.1


Honen-bO Genkfi
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Guenther's Saraha:
A Detailed Review of Ecstatic Spontaneity
Herbert Guenther. Ecstatic Spontaneity: Saraha's Three Cycles of
Doha. Nanzan Studies in Asian Religions 4. Berkeley: Asian Humani-
ties Press, 1993. xvi + 241 pages.
Saraha and His Scholars
Saraha is one of the great figures in the history of Indian Mahayana
Buddhism. As one of the earliest and certainly the most important of the
eighty-four eccentric yogIS known as the "great adepts" (mahasiddhas),
he is as seminal and radical a figure in the tantric tradition as Nagarjuna
is in the tradition of sutra-based Mahayana philosophy.l His corpus of
what might (with a nod to Blake) be called "songs of experience," in
such forms as the doha, caryligfti and vajragfti, profoundly influenced
generations. of Indian, and then Tibetan, tantric practitioners and poets,
above all those who concerned themselves with experience of Maha-
mudra, the "Great Seal," or "Great Symbol," about which Saraha wrote .
so much. He is reckoned as a spiritual ancestor by oral traditions in all
of the "second wave," gSar rna pa, Tibetan Buddhist schools,especially
the bKa' brgyud, and his teachings were known, too, by those who
transmitted and promulgated the "first wave" rNying rna pa tradition of
the "Great Perfection," rDzogs chen. And, though the Indian Buddhist
culture of which Saraha was a part perished in the fourteenth century,
echoes of his songs are to be found in non-Buddhist Indian traditions
that survive to this day, especially those influenced by the Naths and
1. For the traditional late Indian account of Saraha, see, e. g., Keith Dowman,
Masters of Mahiimudra: Songs and Histories of the Eighty-Four Buddhist
Siddhas (Albany: SUNY Press, 1985) 66-72; and James B. Robinson,
Buddha's Lions: The Lives of the Eighty-Four Siddhas (Berkeley: Dharma
Publishing, 1979) 41-43.
112 JIABS 17.1
Sants, from the Bauls of Bengal, to the Kabir Panth of the Hindi-speak-
ing north, to the Warkari movement of Maharashtra. 2
Even more than Nagarjuna, though, Saraha is historically obscure and
linguistically and philosophically elusive. We virtually nothing
with certainty about his life or times, and the vast majority of his works
are available only in Tibetan translation. There is an extant Apabhrarpsa
version of his best-known work, the Dohlikosagiti, which has served as
the basis of analysis andlor translation by, most notably, M.
Shahidullah,3 P. C. Bagchi,4 D. B. Dasgupta, 5 Rahul SlUplqtyayan
David Snellgrove.
This version of the "People Dohas,"
however, is almost certainly incomplete, and even if Apabhrarpsa is the
original language in,which Saraha composed, his thought cannot seri-
ously be studied without taking into consideration the works under his
name that are found only in Tibetan. Over a score of works are
attributed to Saraha in the bsTan 'gyur, 8 the most important of which are
the so-called ''People,'' "Queen" and "King" doha-collections that later
were grouped together as the Three Cycles of Doha (Do ha skor
gsum)9; three collections ofvajragiti (the "Treasuries" of body, speech
2. See, e. g., June McDaniel, The Madness of the Saints: Ecstatic Religion in
Bengal (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), esp. 166-179; and
Karine Schomer and W. H. McLeod, eds., The Sants: Studies in a Devotional
Tradition of India (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987); Schomer's essay, "The
Dohii as a Vehicle of Sant Teachings" (61-90), is one of the best discussions
in English of the poetic form used by Saraha.
3. Les Chants Mystiques de KllT}ha et de Saraha: Les et les Caryll
(Paris: Adrien-Maisonneuve, 1928) 123-225.
4. Dohiikosa, Calcutta Sanskrit Series 25c (Calcutta, 1938).
5. Obscure Religious Cults, 3rd ed. (Calcutta: Firma K. L. Mukhopadhyay,
1976 [1969]), esp. 3-109; and An Introduction to Tllntric Buddhism, 3rd ed.
(Calcutta: University of Calcutta, 1974).
6. Doha-kos (Patna: Bihar Rastr-bMsa Parisad, 1957).
7. Edward Conze, ed., Buddhist Texts Through the Ages (New York: Harper
& Row, 1954) 224-239.
8. See, e. g., James Robinson's list in Buddha's Lions, 291-292.
9. The "People DoMs" (S. Dohiikosa-glti; T. Do hii mdzod kyi glu) is Peking
catalogue no. 3068, found in Daisetz T. Suzuki, ed., The Tibetan Tripi!aka,
Peking Edition [hereafter PTI1, vol. 68 (Tokyo-Kyoto: Tibetan Tripi(:aka
Research Foundation, 1957) 256/1/6-259/1/1 (= bsTan 'gyur, mi 74b-81b);
and Tohoku [sDe dge] catalogue no. 2224, found in A. W. Barber, ed., The
Tibetan Tripi/aka, Taipei Edition [hereafter DT], vol. 28 (Taipei: SMC
Publishing Co., 1991) 921140(6)-941153(3) (= bsTan 'gyur, wi 70b-77a). The
"Queen DoMs" (S. Dohllkosa-upadefagUi; T. Mi zad pa'i gter mdzod man
ngan gyi glu) is Peking no. 3111, found in PTT, vol. 69, 85/5/3-88/1/6 (=
tsi 34a-39b); and Tohoku no. 2264, found in DT, vol. 28, 173/56(6)-
175/66(4) (= zhi 28b-33b). The "King DoMs" (S. Dohiikosa-nllma-caryagiti,
and mind)lO; and a song of instructions on Mahiimudra, the Dohakosa-
nama-mahamudra-upade1a. 11 What is more, Saraha's writings must be
set in their theoretical and practical context, as an expression (and often
radical condensation) of a great many strands of Indian Buddhism, from
Madhyamika and Yogacara philosophizing, to classical meditation the-
ory, to-most importantly-the complexities and subtleties of tantric
theories, contemplations and rituals, especially those related to what
came to be known as the yogini tantras of the anuttara yoga class.
Very few scholars possess the linguistic and philosophical credentials
to approach, let iUone to engage and translate Saraha, but Herbert
Guenther-for over forty years a pioneer in the study of Indian and
TIbetan Buddhist tantra-certainly is one of them. In Ecstatic Spon-
taneity he has fulfilled a long-standing desideratum in tantric and
Buddhist studies: a complete translation of Saraha's Three Cycles of
Doha. It undoubtedly will stand as one of the most important and chal -
lenging publications of his distinguished career. This is not, of course,
Guenther's first presentation of Saraha. In 1969, he published The
Royal Song of Saraha, 12 an annotated translation of the shortest of the
Three Cycles of Doha, the "King Dohiis," together with the commen-
T. Do hli mdzod ces bya ba spyod pa'i glu) is Peking no. 3110, found in
PTT, vol. 69, 84/5/3-8515/2 (= tsi 31b-34a); and Tohoku no. 2263, found in
DT, vol. 28, 173/52(6)-173/56(6) (= zhi 26b-28b).
10. These are tbeKliyakosa-am.rta-vajragiti (T. sKu'i mdzod 'chi med rdo
rje'i glu), Peking no. 3115 and Tohoku no. 2269; tbe Vlikkosa-rucira-svara-
vajraglti (T. gSung gi mdzod 'jam dbyangs rdo rje'i glu), Peking no. 3116
and Tohoku no. 2270; and tbe Cittakosa-aja-vajragiti (T. Thugs kyi mdzod
skye med rdo rje'i glu), Peking no. 3117 and Tohoku no. 2271. All tbree are
found in vol. 69 of PTT (103/3/3-108/112 [= tsi 77b-89b) and vol. 28 of DT
(196/212[4]-199/233[2] [= zhi 106b-117a]).
11. T. Do hli mdzod ces bya ba phyag rgya chen po man ngag, Peking no.
3119 (PTT vol. 69, 110/2/2-111/116 [= tsi 94b-97a) and Tohoku no. 2273
(DT vol. 68, 200/243[3]-2011247[7] [= zhi 122a-124a]). The autborship of
tbis text is in some doubt. In botb lhe sDe dge and Peking editions, lhe
colophon states lhat lhe text was composed by ri khrod chen po saraha. If
lhis is taken to mean "lhe great mountain hermit Saraha," lhen lhe aulhor is
our Saraha. Guenlher ansi Barber botb read it tbis way. If tbe yxpression is
taken to refer to Maha-Sabara Saraha, tben it may point to Sabaripa, tbe
mahlisiddha who was a disciple of Saraha. The Peking follows tbis assign-
ment, as do Robinson (op. cit., 291) and Jampa Thaye, who has translated
the text into English as "The Doha Treasure Mahamudra Instructions" (A
Garland of Gold: The Early Kagyu Masters in India and Tibet [Bristol:
Ganesha Press, 1990] 80-86).
12. The Royal Song of Saraha: A Study in the History of Buddhist Thought
(Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1969).
114 nABS 17.1
tanes of sKye med bde chen (= Bal po A su, eleventh century) and
Karma 'phrin las pa (1456-1539).13 The Royal Song was both the fIrst
serious study of the historiography of Saraha and a fascinating portrait
of the ways in which later thinkers understood the "King DoMs." In
The Tantric View of Life (1972),14 perhaps his most eloquent discussion
of Buddhist tantra, Guenther quoted copiously from many important
Indian tantric works, including, quite prominently. all three of Saraha's
Cycles of Doha. Now, after nearly two decades in which his attention
has been devoted primarily to translating and explaining the rDzogs chen
tradition of the rNying rna school, Guenther has, with Ecstatic Spon-
taneity, returned to Saraha. The book is divided into two general sec-
tions' ''Ecstatic Spontaneity," which provides historical and philosophi-
cal background for understanding Saraha's writings, and "Saraha's
Three Cycles of Doha," a heavily annotated translation of the Tibetan
versions of the "People DoMs" (Dohakosa-gUi), "Queen DoMs"
(Dohakosa-upadeiagUi) and "King DoMs" (Dohiikosa-nlima-carya-
gm), followed by a bibliography and trilingual index. I will discuss each
of the two main sections of the book in turn.
Guenther's Introduction: General Reflections
The introductory section, "Ecstatic Spontaneity," is divided into four
chapters: "Saraha," "Wholeness," "The Body" and "Complexity." The
chapter on Saraha is, as Guenther admits, but a slightly revised republi-
cation of the first chapter of The Royal Song of Saraha, the reincarnation
of which is justified by the fact that the earlier study has, regrettably,
gone out of print. In the chapter, Guenther translates the biography of
Saraha from Karma 'phrin las pa's commentary on the Three Cycles of
Doha, and then proceeds to argue that, the claims of previous scholar-
ship notwithstanding, we know virtually nothing of Saraha's life, time
or provenance. His arguments to this effect are convincing, as is his
claim that "the ApabhraIpsa text [of the 'People DoMs'] is a bowdler-
ized and fragmented version of an earlier work that has been lost" (9).
Guenther also analyzes Tibetan scholastic disputes about the authenticity
of the "Queen" and "King" Dohiikosas, letting Karma 'phrin las pa, in
affIrmation of their legitimacy, have the last word. He concludes the
chapter by tracing the lineage of the Three Cycles from India to Tibet,
13. Do hli slwr gsum gyi .tikl1 'bring po sems kyi roam thar ston pa'i me long
(Thimphu, Bhutan: Druk Sherig Press, 1984).
14. Boulder and London: Shambhala, 1976 [1972].
again with considerable assistance from Karma 'phrin las pa, as well as
'Gos 10 tsa ba's Blue Annals. Though nearly a quarter century has
passed since The Royal Song, nothing has come to light in the interven-
ing years that would cast serious doubt on the conclusions or details
Guenther presented there. Granted, his arguments would be even more
persuasive had he occasionally referred to the efforts of other scholars
(there is one brief, dismissive reference to the work of Shahidullah and
Snellgrove), but this objection notwithstanding, the chapter on "Saraha"
in Ecstatic Spontaneity stands, as did its predecessor, as the most defini-
tive and convincing available account of the historical and textual prob-
lems presented by Saraha.
The next three chapters treat, respectively, three topics crucial for
understanding the Three Cycles of Doha. "Wholeness" is concerned
with exploring the various ways in which Saraha sings of "a wholeness
whose presence we somehow sense as the driving force in our quest for
its recovery" (16), via an analysis of the most important and difficult
terms in the doha's: the four mudras, especially Mahamudra, which
Guenther explains as "a wholeness that can be experienced in the
immediacy of ecstasy as a conneCtedness with the beingness-of-being"
(19); "complementarity-in-spontaneity" (sahaja; lhan skyes); "the
inmost mentor" (bla ma); "pristine awareness" (gnyug ma'i sems);
"ownmostness" (svabhltva; rang bzhin); the "fourfold function of mind"
as outer, inner, arcane and "holistic" (phyi, nang, gsang and de kho na .
nyid); and the "four dimensions of symbolic expression," L e., memory,
nonmemory, non-origin and transcendence (dran, dran med, skye med
and blo'das). In the chapter, Guenther draws primarily on other works
by Saraha to support his discussion, especially the Kayakosa-am.rta-
vajra-gfti, from which he quotes extensively. For secondary support, he
draws on a number oftexts from the rDzogs chenisNying thig tradition,
and the by now familiar range of modern Western writers, including
lung, Bateson, Whitehead and the physicist David Bohm. "The Body"
deals primarily with what is usually called the "subtle body"
(sulqmasarira), with its interrelated systems of cakras, nlif/ls, prartas
and bindus, which are not only descriptions, but symbols, embedded in
richly evocative two- and three-fold semiotic schemes. The chapter's
broader theme is the tantric view of human beings as "the outcome of
numerous, hierarchically interlaced processes, not unlike a standing
wave generated on a field of intersecting energies" (44), a "living and
embodied ... center of a constellation of ... forces" (ibid.) that has its
116 nABS 17.1
roots in the "mental" dimension of the "lumen naturale (' od gsal) ...
that constitutes us in our ownmostness (rang bzhin)." (53) Here,
Guenther bases his discussion almost entirely on literature from the
rDzogs chen/sNying thig tradition. "Complexity" is an exploration of
the symbolism of the five ''resonance domains" (rigs), which are refrac-
tions of Kun tu bzang po, ''the openness/nothingness (stong pa) of
Being . .. [which is] a veritable matrix of both its own radiant intensity
... and that of the lumen naturale of the human individual" (59). These
resonance domains constitute a complex m ~ 9 a l a containing-as one's
perspective shifts-paired male and female "regents" (rgyal balrgyal
rna), "instinctive sensibilities" (nyon mongs), pristine awarenesses (ye
shes), aggregates (phung po), "supportive cosmic forces" (khams), sen-
sory apparatuses (dbang po), empowerments (dbang bskur) and colors
(kha dog). Not only may each "domain" of the ma1,l9ala be seen in a
variety of ways, but the five domains themselves may be understood as
constituting a hierarchy, whether cosmogonically, as stages in a process
of cosmic becoming, or soteriologically, as stages'in a spiritual pro-
gression. In "Complexity," as in "The Body," Guenther bases his dis- .
cussion primarily on the rDzogs chen/sNying thig tradition.
Taken together, these latter three chapters of the introductory section
are a remarkably concise, yet comprehensive, treatment of most. of the
major themes of tantric Buddhism. They also serve to display both the
strengths and weaknesses of Guenther's approach to Buddhist tantra in
general and Saraha in particular. It has long been Guenther's contention
that Buddhism, especially in its tantric forms, is virtually unique among
pre-modern philosophical/spiritual traditions in its uncompromising
espousal of precisely the kind of "holistic," "hermeneutical," "process"
approach to reality that in one way or another informs such modem
Western enterprises as the "New Physics," existential phenomenOlOgy,
process philosophy and analytical psychology. Leaving aside for the
momept the possible incompatibilities among these various ways of
approaching the world, or the degree to which they mirror the concerns
and perspectives offrrst-millennium Indian Buddhists, one cannot but be
impressed by the passion and erudition with which, over the years,
Guenther has woven together a variety of strands, Buddhist and West-
ern, humanistic and scientific, into a complex and apparently seamless
tapestry that depicts at once the message of Buddhism, a scientific
understanding of the nature of the world, and an existential assertion the
possibilities for authenticity open to human beings. It may well be that,
a century from now, Guenther will be remembered as a great and
visionary thinker, who more than any other scholar or philosopher of his
time was able to bring Asian and Western ways of thinking together into
a creative and ennobling synthesis. What is more, there undoubtedly is a
good case to be made that there really are correspondences or analogies
among the various approaches to the world invoked by Guenther-he is
far from the only interpreter of Buddhism (though he was among the
ftrst) to notice that it may fruitfully be compared to certain modem West-
em perspectives on reality.
Correspondence, analogy and comparison, however, are not the same
as complete identification, and if there is a. crucial weakness in
Guenther's approach, I think it is in his tendency not to rest content with
"suggestive juxtapositions" of different world-views, but to treat them as
if they are identical, or at the very least perfectly complementary. Thus,
it is not sufficient to point out that a figure like Saraha may pre-figure
one or another modem understanding of the world; for Guenther, Saraha
is that understanding, but in a different guise. As a result, Saraha's
mode of expression is perfectly interchangeable with certain modern
modes of expression: his thought may be stated using modem concepts
and language, and his words may be translated into the language of,
e. g., contemporary hermeneutics, or cosmology, or both. IS When
Saraha is seen thus, he may become a very cogent figure for suffering
beings of the late twentieth-century West, but he loses his status as a
historically situated figure: he takes on meaningful content at the cost of
his context. If Guenther were merely asserting a correspondence
among, say, Saraha, the New Physics and existential philosophy, then
the possible differences between the two Western perspectives, or
between them and Saraha, could merely be accepted as inevitable, minor
flaws in a nevertheless suggestive set of analogies. When identity is
asserted or assumed, however, we must look rather more carefully at the
15. Guenther would deny what I have just asserted. Indeed, in the introduc-
tion to From Reductionism to Creativity: rDzogs-chen and the New Sciences
of Mind (Boston & Shaftesbury: Shambhala, 1989), he says: "My use of
modem scientific terms ... is not an attempt on. my part to show that
Buddhism is somehow another form of science, but is meant as a tool to
bring to light that which has remained unsaid in what has been said and
thereby to show that Buddhism still has 'something to say,' and that this
something is significant" (6). Nevertheless, to the degree that Guenther actu-
ally gives us Buddhist thinkers through modem concepts, rather than simply
comparing the two, he seems implicitly to treat them as if they were virtually
118 nABS 17.1
terms and systems that are being identified, lest the importation of a term
from one system seriously distort our understanding of the terms of
another system. Thus, one must ask whether, in fact,the New Physics
and existential philosophy even are complementary ways of approaching
the world, let alone identical. For instance, is the insistence, by some
existential thinkers, upon the ambiguity and absurdity of human
existence compatible at all with the often strongly teleological character
of some proponents of the' New Physics? Maybe, maybe not; but the
case for their compatibility needs to be demonstrated rather than merely
asserted or assumed.
Even if one can make a case for the perfect complementarity or identity
of various modem perspectives, there still remains the even more impor-
tant question of whether it is legitimate to explain and translate Saraha
via those perspectives. Are there differences of outlook or terminology
sufficiently important that they vitiate the identification? Again, the
answer is uncertain, but there are at least two areas of possible discrep-
ancy that deserve mention: (1) "Being"-talk and (2) the language of
(1) Guenther long has argued that, as process-oriented thought,
Buddhism cannot and should not, as Eliot's Prufrock has it, be fixed in
"a formulated phrase ... formulated, sprawling on a pin ... pinned and
wriggling against the wall." In line with this belief, Guenther has modi-
fied his terminology and translation-equivalents again and again over the
years, as new books passed across his desk or new perspectives opened
up to him. Amidst all this change, however, there has been a constant, a
sort of terminological pole star, which is Guenther's injection of the
word "Being" into both discussions and translations of Buddhist texts.
It is, of course, a rich and malleable word; for Guenther, it seems to
suggest the source and the fundamental nature of the world and its
beings, an appreciation of which will bring one into harmony with one-
self and all that is. Guenther always has been careful to specify that
Being's nature is "openness/nothingness" (stong pa nyid), and that it
should not be confused with the metaphysical absolute of Western the-
ology and philosophy. Unfortunately, "Being" (especially when it is
capitalized) carries with it a great deal of precisely the sort of metaphysi-
cal baggage Guenther would like to shed. It is very difficult to read the
word without hearing echoes of Parmenides, Aristotle and Aquinas, and
even if the reverberations are from a more recent figure, like Heidegger,
there remain difficult questions about whether anyone writing in the
Western tradition can escape the hypostatization the term inevitably
seems to invite.
More importantly, for all his many uses of the word over the years,
Guenther never has convincingly explained what term in the Indian or
Tibetan Buddhist lexicon "Being" is supposed to translate. In his analy-
ses, Guenther generally uses the term without specific justification, as if
it were perfectly natural; in his translations, he usually places it in
brackets. Any term that must is bracketed as often as "Being" is by
Guenther will begin, to the skeptical reader, to look like a candidate for
Occam's razor. Furthermore, in those few cases where the term is
translated without brackets, one still wonders what its equivalent is in
the source language. For instance, Guenther translates a synonym for
Mahamudra, namely, gzhi rtsa med pa, as "Being-a ground that is
without a ground" (17). Lexically, at any rate, it is only when one elimi-
nates "Being" from the translation that the Tibetan phrase is approxi-
mated. Again, he translates de kho na nyid (tathata) as "Being-in-its-
beingness" (26); a lexical translation yields only "thusness" or
"suchness." The point here is that Buddhist writers most often chose the
words they did, and their negative and/or indirect rhetorical style, as a
way of avoiding terms that were susceptible to essentialization or hypo-
statization. Certainly, early writers self-consciously eschewed terms like
brahman, litman, jiva, etc., precisely so the dynamic outlook of
Buddhism could be mirrored in its language; and even if later writers,
whether in the Sl1tra- or Tantrayana traditions, became more comfortable
with "affirmative" terms and metaphors, these more often than not
received carefully "negativized" interpretations. One might argue that in
the Tathagatagarbha literature, certain tantras, and the writings of the
rDzogs chen and the gZhan stong traditions, affirmative language is not
explained away. This may be, but the problem of what term "Being" is
supposed to translate remains unsolved; and even if a candidate is sup-
plied from this corpus (kun gzhi? gshis? kun tu bzang po?), the question
remains whether (as Guenther does in his chapters on "The Body" and
"Complexity") one should read one style of Buddhist predominantly
through the lenses of another-should Mahamudra really be read via
rDzogs chen, or Saraha via kLong chen pa?
(2) If the language of "Being" in Saraha seems largely to be a
Guentherian interpolation, so, too, do the less numerous, but neverthe-
less noticeable, references to what might be described as an "onto-cos-
mogonic vision"-a notion of Being as manifesting, concretizing, or
120 JIABS 17.1
intensifying itself, whether synchronically or diachronically. "The idea,"
says Guenther, "is that a rupture occurred within the unity and symmetry
of Being, and that this rupture gave rise to the space-time continuum.
This eruption of Being into space and time was accompanied by a mas-
sive wave of intense, supracognitive energy that found its way into the
heart of every embodied being ... , where it serves as the organizing
principle for the bodily evolution of that being" (24, n. 25). Once again,
the reader is likely to be surprised, for nearly as often as they have been
depicted as avoiding language suggestive of metaphysical absolutes,
Buddhist thinkers have been regarded as uninterested in issues of cos-
mogony, which would seem more properly to be the preoccupation of
those for whom some conception of "God" (or gods) is centrally impor-
tant It is Guenther's contention, however, that "[t]he perennial quest for
Origins-still present today in humanistic cosmologies-also marks the
treatment of hominization by the thinkers of the sNying-thig tradition.
For them, the 'beginning' contains the code for all human becoming, and
decoding it gives us understanding of the human individual" (58). In a
footnote, Guenther identifies "humanistic cosmologies" as those of
Teilhard de Chardin and proponents of the "anthropic prinCiple." The
former is explicitly, if unconventionally, theistic, while the latter has
often been interpreted as justifying a theistic world-view. (This, in turn
leads to questions about what Guenther means by "Being" that cannot be
pursued here.) The hermeneutical key to the last-quoted passage is the
reference to "the sNying-thig tradition." There can be little doubt that the
question of origins has been an important one for sNying thig, which
Guenther regards as "probably the most profound examination of
wholeness to be found in non-Western intellectual history" (ibid.); and
if, as Guenther suggests earlier, "wholeness" is an appropriate transla-
tion of both mahlimudra and rdzogs pa chen po (16-17), then isn't it
reasonable to view Saraha, for whom Mahamudra: is a central theme,
through sNying-thig lenses, and therefore as implying (or even stating)
an vision? I think not, unless one is willing to assume,
as Guenther here appears to, a homology between Mahamudra: and
rDzogs chen so strong that obvious terminological and systemic differ-
ences may comfortably be ignored-and I do not think that differences
among Buddhist traditions ought to be written off any more blithely than
those among Western traditions or between (one or more) Buddhist tra-
ditions and (one or more) Western traditions. 16 Again, Guenther's ten-
dency toward "identification" creates problems.
Before passing on to the translation, I want to touch briefly on one
other general issue raised by the introductory chapters: the way in which
Guenther treats his philosophical or scholarly "foils." Guenther is an
eloquent advocate of a "holistic," multi-dimensional approach to the
world and living within it, and a tireless translator of Indian and Tibetan
Buddhist thinkers who seem to endorse such an approach, so one cannot
but be struck by the irony that, despite his (and his sources') rejection of
such intellectual bugaboos as "dichotomic thinking" and "reductionism,"
he seems on occasion to fall prey to just these tendencies. Thus, in the
Preface to Ecstatic Spontaneity, he delineates a number of general oppo-
sitions that help to shape his approach: representational vs. hermeneuti cal
thinking, speculative vs. experiential mysticism and static vs. dynamic
views of reality (xiv-xv). Polarities such as these certainly have heuristic
value for purposes of analysis, but they do have the disadvantage, if
wielded carelessly, or taken too seriously, of imprisoning those who
would use them inside a cage of, yes, dichotomic thinking, whereby any
system or thinker must be placed on one or another side of a great
spiritual and intellectual divide. Guenther has invoked such dichotomies
often in the past, setting up oppositions between, inter alia, Eastern and
Western philosophy, 17 HInayana and Mahayana. 18 Sl1tra and Tantra,19
Indian and Tibetan thought, 20 dGe lugs and rNying malbKa' brgyud
thought, 21 or even all other Buddhist philosophical views and that of
16. On the question of the relationship between Mahmnudra and rDzogs chen,
see, e. g., The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Kindness, Clarity and Insight (Ithaca:
Snow Lion, 1984) 200-224; Samten Gyaltsen Karmay, The Great Perfec-
tion: A Philosophical and Meditative Teaching of Tibetan Buddhism (Leiden:
E. J. Brill, 1988) 197-200; and David Jackson, "Sa-skya PaI)cJita the
'Polemicist': Ancient Debates and Modem Interpretations," The Journal of
the International Association of Buddhist Studies (13.2: 1990), esp. n. 28,
75-78 and n. 87, 95-96.
17. See, e. g., The Life and Teaching of Naropa (London: Oxford University
Press, 1963) 124-130 ..
18. See, e. g., From Reductionism to Creativity, 125.
19. See, e. g., Buddhist Philosophy in Theory and Practice (Baltimore:
Penguin, 1971) 169-170.
20. See, e. g., Meditation Differently: Phenomenological-psychological
Aspects of Tibetan Buddhist (Mahamudra and sNying-thig) Practices from
Original Tibetan Buddhist Sources (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1992) xi.
21. See, e. g., Mind in Buddhist Psychology (with Leslie S. Kawamura;
Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1975) xii.
122 nABS 17.1
rDzogs chen.22 The inevitable result of overvaluing this kind of
dichotomy is reductionism, with its built-in tendency to overlook
exceptions and nuances. In Ecstatic Spontaneity, for instance, Guenther
deliberately sets up an opposition between Saraha, who celebrates "the
immediacy of experience" and his purported disciple, Nagarjuna,
founder of the "much overvalued Madhyamaka system of philosophy,"
which Saraha is said to have criticized for its "logical reductionism" (9).
Saraha does make a passing, unflattering reference to Madhyamikas in
the Kayakosa-am.rta-vajragiti, but his disparagement, in verse 6 of the
"People Dohas," of those who "run after the Mahayana" does not,
Guenther's contention notwithstanding, seem directed specifically at the
Madhyamaka (see 91 and 161, n. 12). Even if it is, it is hardly proof
that Saraha and Nagarjuna stand on opposite sides of a great chasm:
Madhyamaka, after all is a long and complex tradition of thought in both
India and Tibet. Simply to write it off as "logical reduc tionism" (and
I'm not convinced that Saraha actually does this) is to overlook the
degree to which Madhyamika thought came to be intertwined with the
tantric outlook, and even the Mahamudra literature, to which Saraha's
work is so basic. Conversely, it also overlooks the degree to which
Saraha himself is steeped in the discourses of "conventional" Siitrayana
Buddhism, whether it is negative rhetoric of Prajfiaparamita and
Madhyamaka, affirmation of the three or four buddhakayas, or tre
vocabulary of meditative concentration.
This proclivity toward reductionism also is evident in Guenther's atti-
tude toward scholars working in his field: he tends either to ignore or
dismiss them. Thus, one will hunt in vain in the bibliography to Ecstatic
Spontaneity for references to the work of, e. g., Agehananda Bharati,23
David Seyfort Ruegg,24 Per Kvaeme,25 Alex Wayman
or Michael
22. See, e. g., From Reductionism to Creativity, 184.
23. The Tantric Tradition (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1970 [1965]).
24. E. g., "A Karma bKa' brgyud Work on the Lineages and Traditions of the
Indo-Tibetan dBu rna (Madhyamaka)," in Orientalia Iosephi Tucci Memoriae
Dicata (Serie Orientale Roma, 56,3, 1249-1280); and Buddha-nature, Mind
and the Problem of Gradualism in a Comparative Perspective (London:
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1989).
25. An Anthology of Buddhist Tantric Songs: A Study of the Caryligfti (Oslo-
Bergen-Tromso: Universitetsforlaget, 1977); "On the Concept of Sahaja in
Indian Buddhist Tantric Literature," Temenos 11 (1975): 88-135.
26. E. g., The Buddhist Tantras: Light on Indo-Tibetan Esoterism (New
York: Samuel Weiser, 1973).
Broido.27 Guenther does refer (8, n. 14) to earlier work on Saraha by M
Shahidullah and D. S. Snellgrove, but the former is passed over quicldy,
while the latter is dismissed for his "less than adequate" understanding
of and Tibetan-an assessment that, whatever the defects
of his translation of Saraha, hardly does justice to Snellgrove's large and
well-respected TIbetological oeuvre.
What is perplexing in all this is
that Guenther clearly is an immensely learned and subtle scholar, capable
of analyzing philological nuances or historiographical problems as
adeptly as he employs Heidegger or Jung or David Bohm-yet he
persists in oversimplifying complexity and "reducing reductionists." In
doing so, he threatens to undermine the very values he so eloquently
defends, to belie by his style the vital and visionary content he very
much wants us to take to heart One wishes sometimes that Guenther
would hearken to the words of a poet with whom he should have a great
deal of sympathy, Blake, who advised his readers to embrace the
complexity symbolized by "fourfold vision," and to overcome the
temptation to "single vision, arid Newton's sleep."
The Translation: General Comments
The second part of Ecstatic Spontaneity features a translation of the
"People," "Queen" and "King" Dohiikosas, organized and numbered
according to the text-divisions supplied by Karma 'phrin las pa.
Guenther never makes it entirely clear which version of the Tibetan
. translation of Saraha he is working from. His bibliography lists only the
Peking bsTan ' gyur volume and folio numbers, yet he follows Karma
'phrin las in accepting the sDe dge arrangement of the "Queen Dohas." I
can only presume that in preparing his rendition of ''the nowadays stan-
dard Tibetan translation preserved in the bsTan-'gyur" (159, n. 6), he
probably has drawn on both the Peking and sDe dge editions (which are
generally-but not always-identical in their readings). The translation
of the "Queen Dohas" is, so far as I know, the first into any Western
27. E. g., "Padma dkar-po on Tantra as Ground, Path and Goal," The Journal
of the Tibet Society (4: 1984): 5-46; "Padma dkar-po on the Two Satyas,"
The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies (8, 2:
1985): 7-60; "Sa-skya p ~ " i t a , the White Panacea and the Hva-shang Doc-
trine," The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies (10,
2: 1987): 27-6.
28. E. g., Buddhist Himalaya (Oxford: Cassirer, 1957); The Hevajra Tantra,
2 vols. (London: Oxford University Press, 1959); and Indo-Tibetan
Buddhism: Indian Buddhists and Their Tibetan Successors, 2 vols. (Boston:
Shambhala, 1987).
124 nABS 17.1
language, while the "People DoMs" is given a complete translation for
the first time. The translation of the "King Dohas" is a lightly revised
version of that published in The Royal Song of Saraha-almost all 1re
emendations are for the purpose of updating translation tenninology.
Here, I will comment briefly on the translation's general features, then
point to some particular passages where alternative readings or rendi-
tions might be proposed.
If Guenther's vision of Buddhism and his approach to scholarship
have been-and may legitimately his understanding of
the Tibetan language has not. Indeed, what has frustrated more than a
handful of Guenther's readers over the years was the sense that here
was a Westerner who could read Tibetan as well as any non-Tibetan
alive, yet whose published translations were so encoded in the author's
idiosyncratic terminology that they were virtually inaccessible to anyone
who did not have before them the Tibetan original and all the books
Guenther had ever read. Readers expecting to find Guenther's rendition
of Saraha' s Three Cycles of Doha any easier than his previous transla-
tions will be disappointed. He does not, after all, see himself as in the
business of providing "easy" translations. Buddhist (and especially
tantric) thought, he has pointed out again and again, is not easy: it is
richly evocative and complex, and only a suitably complex translation-
scheme can begin to convey the full sense of the original. In line with
his long-standing approach, therefore, Guenther translates Saraha into
English that befuddles the eye and stumbles off the tongue, and is
undeniably complex and evocative-though whether the complexity and
evocativeness of Guenther's Saraha are the same as the complexity and
evocativeness of the original is, of course, debatable. Guenther argues
that because we have lost the melodies of Saraha's songs, and because
"the natural rhythms of [his] language disappear in the Tibetan transla-
tion ... we must rely heavily on the notions of wholeness, body and
complexity to capture the flavor of Saraha's work" (85). In other
words, since the "true original" is forever beyond our ken, we may as
well translate according to later commentaries or concepts that seem to
capture the original's "spirit." The practical effect of this is that
Guenther's reading of Saraha is shaped as much by his reading of
Karma 'phrin las pa's sixteenth-century commentary and by his own
synthesis of Buddhism, hermeneutics and the New Physics, as by the
Tibetan text Thus, though the syntax, grammar and overall sense of the
Tibetan are (in general) faithfully rendered, the reader must work
through one or two other layers of discourse to approach what a more
"straightforward" version of the original might convey. I put
"straightforward" in quotes out of deference to Guenther's contention
that the belief that there is any such thing as a "straightforward transla-
tion" is delusive. I agree, but in the same breath would argue that there
are at least degrees of straightforwardness, and that when in doubt,
translators ought to hew closer to literalism; add less, rather than more,
to their renditions; and, as much as possible, keep commentary identifi-
ably separate from translation.
These theoretical qualms notwithstanding, I want to emphasize that a
careful comparison of his translation with the Tibetan editions of til:!
originals available to me-those published in Taipei (sDe dge) and
Tokyo-Kyoto (peking), 30 respectively-<:onvinces me that Guenther
has construed the syntax, grammar-and sense-of Saraha with
remarkable fidelity. What is more, although his translation terminology
is as challenging as ever, Guenther makes a much greater effort here
than in some of his earlier works to apprise the reader of what in the
Tibetan original a particular word or phrase may translate, as well as his
reasons for translating it thus. Indeed, the entire apparatus of notes to
the translation is superb, incorporating detailed discussions of alternative
readings of Saraha's text found in various commentaries (with all of
which Guenther seems familiar), and intriguing, provocative analyses of
difficult and important terms. This kind of detailed annotation makes it
far easier to approach the translation itself, and Guenther and/or his edi-
tors are to be congratulated for the care they have taken with this crucial
aspect of the book. .
It also must be said in favor of the translation that on the one
Dohlikosa for which alternative translations are available, the "People
Dohas," Guenther's effort marks a real improvement over its predeces-
sors. In comparison to Snellgrove's, for instance, Guenther's transla-
tion is more complete (since it incorporates the full Tibetan text, rather
than just those verses that have been found in Apabhrmpsa), and appears
to offer more accurate renditions of a number of important passages. To
take just two instances, Guenther translates verse 119 (rdo rje pa dma
gnyis kyi bar gnas pa I bde ba gang gis roam par rol pa yin I ci ste de
29. For an articulate summary of this view, written over two decades ago, and
with Guenther even then in mind, see R. A. Stein, Vie et Chants de 'Brug-pa
Kun-Iegs Ie Yogin (Paris: G.-P. Maisonneuve et Larose, 1972) 29-36.
30. For bibliographical information on these editions, see above, n. 9.
126 JIABS 17.1
bden nus pa med pas na / sa gsum re ba gang gis rdzogs par 'gyur)
as: "He who enjoys the pleasure that / Resides in between the diamond
and the lotus-/ So what! since there is no capacity [to effect anything]
in this pleasure / With what will he fulfil the expectations people have in
the triple universe of theirs?" (116). Snellgrove, on the other hand
(perhaps following Shahidullah), misses the irony of the original: "That
blissful delight that consists between lotus and vajra, / Who does not
rejoice there? / In the triple world whose hopes does it fail to fulill?" (his
verse 94, in Buddhist Texts Through the Ages [BIT A], 237). Similarly,
in translating verse 142 (stong pa'i sdong po dam pa'i snying rje min /
gang la slar yang rtsa ba me tog 10 'dab med / de la dmigs par byed pa
gang yin pa / der lhung bas ni yan lag med par ' gyur), Guenther has:
"Ifin someone this solid tree of [Being's] nothingness is such as not to
show compassionate concern / It will not even have roots, leaves, and
flowers./ Anyone who makes this [barren tree] the object of his concen-
tration/ Will fall into [the extreme of nihilism] and become one who is
without the tools [to extricate himself from it]." This may not be mel-
lifluous poetry, but is, overall, better attuned to the nuances of the text
than Snellgrove's rendition: "So the fair tree of the Void also lacks com-
passion, / Without shoots or flowers or foliage, / And whoever imagines
them there, falls down, /Forbranches there are none" (verse 109, BITA
239). These are important examples of Guenther;s improvement upon
Snellgrove (and Shahidullah's) translation; there are many others that
could be cited, and the overall effect is a rendition of the text that is con-
siderably more faithful to the syntax and grammar of the original than
we have had before.
Guenther's translation is a remarkable one; let nothing detract from
that basic fact. There are, however, just a few passages where his rendi-
tion struck me as imprecise or potentially misleading in relation to the
Tibetan of Saraha' s doMs, and a few others that reveal apparent incon -
sistencies in terminology or awkwardness of grammatical construction.
In addition, I have detected several instances where lines of Tibetan are
not reflected in the translation, and a number of typographical errors. In
what follows, I will catalogue most, but not all, of these passages. My
suggestions are not to be taken as "corrections" of Guenther, but, rather,
as "queries" about alternative readings of the text, about which I am
quite ready to be corrected. The "People DoMs" will be abbreviated as
"P," the "Queen D6has" as "Q," the "King Dohas" as "1(." the Peking
edition of the bsTan ' gyur as ''Pe,''31 the sDe dge edition of the bsTan
'gyur as "D" and Guenther as "G." It should be noted that Guenther
does not usually make it clear which version of a particular line or verse
of Tibetan he is uSing for his translation. A comparison of his transla-
tion with the Peking and sDe dge versions available to me usually has
permitted identification of the original Tibetan from which he is work-
ing, but there may be instances where Guenther and I are not referring to
the same verse(s)-and in those cases, my comments may require revi-
The Translation: Analysis of Specific Passages
In considering passages where I think the translation may be either
imprecise or misleading, I will not generally address Guenther's system-
atic translation choices ("egologically predisposed awareness" for yid,
"complementarity-in-spontaneity" for lhan slcyes, "the beingness-of-
Being" for de kho nanyid, etc.), or the problems raised by his bracketed
interpolations, (e. g., of "Being" -talk). I have discussed some of these
issues generally above, and to examine all of them in detail would
require a book----:-and even that probably still would fail to settle all the
issues involved. Rather, I will simply point to some of those instances
where I think that Guenther's rendition may lead the reader away from a
"straightforward" sense of the original verses even within the parameters
of his own translation-scheme.
P 26d reads: srid dang mnyam nyid tha das rna 'byed par; G's trans-
lation reads: "Without differentiating between samsara and nirvana"
(95). "Nirva-lla" may be a connotation of mnyam nyid (samata), espe-
Cially when it is paired with srid [pal (= bhliva, smp.sanc becoming),
but the denotation is something more like "sameness." As in the
Samadhiraja Satra, mnyam nyid certainly refers to the t r u ~ nature of
things, and by extension to the realization of that nature that a Buddha
(who has, at the very least, attained nirvfil).a) enjoys, but this seems to me
not completely to "translate" into the idea of nirvfil).a.
31. In sections ''The Translation: Analysis of Specific Passages," and "Some
Technicalities," I will usually cite the Peking version of Saraha, since that is
the edition listed by Guenther in his bibliography; variant readings found in
the sDe dge will be indicated in footnotes.
128 nABS 17.1
P 36ab reads: sems ni nam mkha' 'dra bar gzung
bya ste I nam
mkha'i rang bzhin nyid du serns gzung
bya; G's translation reads:
"One's psychic background ... must be understood to be like the sky ...
and fIhe sky must similarly be understood [to be like] one's psychic
background" (97-98). The first line is unproblematic; in the second,
however, it seems to me that the du postpositional to rang bzhin is like-
lier to make it the object rather than the subject of the sentence which,
rather than reversing the sentence of the first line, intensifies it: "Mind is
to be apprehended as like the sky; I As the very nature of sky is mind to
be apprehended." Here, the "natural" (rang bzhin du) identity of mind
and sky asserted by the second line is even stronger than the mere simi -
larity asserted by the first G's reading ofP 36b is far from impossible,
but it seems marginally the less likely of the two.
P 60d reads: soms
so zhe na gcig gi mam pa las
mi bskyod; G's
translation reads: "If you know [that sensation or thought or action] ... I
Is [your] mentation, [you win have realized that] there is nothing that has
not sprung from it" (103). While I agree that Saraha's point here is that
there is nothing that has not sprung from mind, the Tibetan here does not
clearly justify G's double negative construction. More importantly, G
(perhaps following a commentarial emendation) seems to read bskyod
(shaken, moved) as bskyed (sprung, generated), and therefore the last
part of the line simply as a reiteration Of the first half. The second part
of the line is difficult to construe, but if we accept bskyod as the correct
form, then the whole line would be translated by something like: ''When
you [know] that [sensation or thought or action] is mind, you will not be
shaken from that single perspective."36 Alternatively, one might take
sensation, etc., as the subject and translate: "When you [know] that
[sensation or thought or action] is mind, [you know that] they are not
shaken from that singular aspect"
P 77cd reads: gang tshe rlung rgyu
de ni mi g.yo ste I 'chid3
tshe na mal 'byor pas ci bya; G's translation reads: "Even while the
32. D: bzung.
33. D: bzung.
34. D: sems, which seems preferable.
35. D: lao
36. This is the sense conveyed by Snellgrove (BITA, p. 231), though he fol-
lows Shahidullah in translating the frrst part of the line by "Abandon thought
... ," reflecting a translation of the ma{Ul cha4cju-the latter
imperative verb is not reflected in the Tibetan translation.
37. D: rgyud, which seems preferable.
38. This probably should be 'chi.
biotic forces may stir, the innermost mentor remains unshakable. I At the
time of your dying, what can the Lady of Enchantment (mal 'byor ma)
do?" (107). In line d, G (at least following Molq;akaragupta; see 174, n.
87) reads a feminine suffix where Pe and D have the masculine; a trans-
lation based on the latter would ask what at the time of death a yogi (mal
'byor pa) can do. Line c-following as it does two lines that describe
the guru's ability to comprehend the cessation of mind (sems) imd winds
(rlwzg) without ever closing his eyes-may refer implicitly to the guru
in the terms described by Guenther, but his reading seems to me to leave
line d somewhat isolated from the rest of the verse. If one takes the last
two lines as disjunctive from the first two, emphasizing the contrast
between the guru and a mere yogI, and takes the yOgi of line d as the
subject of line c, then the lines read: "[But] when the flow of winds
moves no more, I Then, at the time of death, what is a yogI to do?" One
cannot, of course, give this translation if one follows G's reading of line
d; if one does, then his translation is probably the more plausible
(though I think that there is an ironic edge to the ci bya construction that
Guenther's translation, and his note, miss).
P l06c reads: chags dang chags bral spangs nas dbu mar mugs; G's
translation reads: ''Enter [and reside in] Being's immanent wholeness in
you, once it has discarded this attachment and [its] attachment-free
phase" (114). G states in a footnote that his rendering is based on a
version of the doha "as commentated upon by Karma 'phrin las . . .,
... and Advaya Avadh11ti" (188). This leaves
ambiguous whether the particular verse in question is preserved by these
commentators in a different form from that of Pe and D; if not, it is diffi-
cult to see how dbu mar mugs can be taken as "Enter ... Being's
immanent wholeness"--denotatively, it seems to refer to the anuttara
yoga tantrasalJ1pannakrama "entry" of the yogI'S energies and aware-
ness into the central "psychic channel" (dbu ma). The phrase may have
connotations like those drawn out by G, but if it is based on the same
wording as found in Pe and D, his rendering strays far enough away
from a straightforward reading of the original that it obscures at least one
important sense that is conveyed.
P 138b
reads: sems ni ngo bo nyid kyis dag pa na; G's translation
reads: "Since mind's 'stuff' (sems kyi ngo bo) is by virtue of the 'stuff'
[the universe is made of, ngo bo nyid kyis] pure" (121). Here, the ngo
39. This is actually line c in Pe, which reverses lines b and c, and gives a
truncated version of (its) line b; G appears to be following D here.
130 nABS 17.1
bo that is implied parenthetically to modify serns is not present in the
original: it is just "mind" (sems) that is the subject, and what is predi-
cated of it is simply that it is ngo bo nyid kyis dag pa, "naturally" or
"essentially" pure. Even if G's interpretation in terms of the "stuff of the
universe" is not grammatically unwarranted by the original, it does seem
to add considerable semantic (and metaphysical!) complications to it
P 141 reads: stong pa'i sdong bo
dam pa me tog rgyas I snying rje
dam pa sna tshogs du rnar [dan I lhun gyis grub pa phyi rna'i 'bras bu
ste I bde ba 'di ni gzhan pa'i sems min no; G's translation reads: "On
the solid tree of [Being's] nothingness a flower has opened I With many
varied [petals expressive of Being's] genuinely compassionate concern. I
[Though being Being's] complementarity-in-spontaneity it later bears
fruit that is I Ecstasy. This [ecstasy] is not some other mind" (121). In
line c, "complementarity-in-spontaneity" (G's standard translation for
lhan cig skyes pa) seems an inappropriate equivalent for lhun gyis grub
pa, which usually has the sense of "spontaneously accomplished" or
"spontaneous accomplishment." Granted, lhan skyes is lhun grub, but
the latter's rendition as "complementarity-in-spontaneity" seems to me to
miss the original verse's strong use of contrast: although the tree is
"nothing," it still bears flowers of compassion; although ecstasy (or is it
compassion?) is spontaneously accomplished, it bears fruit later. line d
certainly can be read the way G proposes-it helps to underscore the
identity of stong pa nyid, snying rje and bde ba-but Snellgrove's sug-
gestion is possible, too: "This joy has no actual thought of others" (his
verse 108, BTIA, 239).
Q 3a reads: dpyad pas rna 'ongs de bzhin nyid kyi ye shes ni; G's
translation (his verse 3b) reads: "Of this pristine awareness of Being's
beingness [which is this beingness] one cannot have enough, however
much one may indulge in it ... " (124). I confess I cannot understand
the derivation of G' s translation of dpyad pas rna 'ongs, which modifies
de bzhin nyid kyi ye shes: a more straightforward translation of this char-
acterization of the "pristine awareness of Being's beingness" would
seem to me to be something like "which does not come about (rna
'ongs) through analysis (dpyad pas)."
Q 7 reads: dngos por skye ba dngos po med par rab zhi zhing I de yi
phyogs dang bral ba mkhas pa de nyid kyis I blon po rnams kyi blo la
rang gis dpyad bya na I skad cig grol ba de la chos kyi sku zhes bya;
G's translation reads: "What has become 'existence' comes to rest in
40. D:po.
'non-existence' and / When this very knowledge that is dissociated from
either alternative / [Though already present even] in the intellect of stupid
people, is investigated by itself [in its emerging], / The moment [the ex-
ternal and internal] dissolves [in the immediacy of Being's] dynamic
freedom, is said to be Being's meaning-rich gestalt" (125). Aside from
the introduction to line d of the unbracketed "dissolves," which is not
reflected in the Tibetan, G's translation is certainly a possible' one. It is
possible, however, to construe the mkhas pa in line b as referring to a
knowledgeable or skillful person, and to suggest that when such a per-
son investigates what even fools have in (or as) their minds, the
Dharmakaya ensues; the doha might thus be translated: ''What arises as
entity comes to rest in non-entity; / When those same wise persons who
are impartial about [entity and non-entity], / Themselves investigate what
is in the minds of fools, / Then instantaneously they will be freed-that
is called Dharmakaya."
Q 34d reads: chos mams thams cad rkyen med par ni skye rna yin;
G's translation reads: "All these entities of your reality are in the absence
of conditions [to the contrary], not [something that] is being born"
(134). This is an ambiguous line, which might be taken either as negat-
ing or asserting the arising of the sense-objects on which, in the previ-
0us line, one has been advised to depend. It may, with equal grammati-
cal plausibility, be translated: "No dharma lacking conditions arises" or
"All dharmas, lacking conditions, do not arise." Given the general tenor
of Saraha's rhetoric, one would be inclined toward the latter. This
seems to be the direction of Guenther's translation, but his bracketed
interpolation of "to the contrary" confuses me: wouldn't the absence of
conditions to the contrary assure that something would be born, while
the absence of conditions assure that it wouldn't?
Q 41ab reads: ye shes skyes pa'i mal 'byor gang la'ang dogs med
pas / dbang phyug rtags [D: thabs] dang ldan pa-,41 mthar skyes gtsal
bar bya; G's translation reads: "A [Saivite] yogi in whom a
[pseudoexistential] pristine awareness [allegedly imparted to him by
Siva himself] has come about, [and hence] in whom there is no fear, /
Will, whilst wearing the insignia of Siva [as a charm] look for a woman
born in the outskirts. / [Or, a Buddhist yogi in whom the pristine aware-
ness of the unity of masculine and feminine forces (that are working in
and through him) has come about, should look for an anima-figure ( rig
rna) born in the border region (of his consciousness and the uncon-
41. D: pas.
132 nABS 17.1
scious) who will impart lasting bliss and who has the excellent indica-
tions of inner spiritual wealth.]" (135-136). It is evident from G's note
(204, n. 51) that he has drawn his reading from Karma 'phrin las pa,
who takes the two verses in question as referring critically to a Salva
yogI's search for a consort in external border-regions, and then interpo -
lates a contrasting description of a Buddhist yogI's inner search. The
mooted term here is dbang phyug (ifvara), which often has Saiva con-
notations. This undoubtedly posed a problem for Saraha's Buddhist
commentators, but may not have much preoccupied Saraha himself: he
might have found it perfectly conceivable for a Buddhist yogI to wear
Saiva insignia, especially if Bharati is right that Saraha and the other
mahiisiddhas originated in a rustic, mixed (or proto-) Buddhist-Hindu
milieu, and were considerably less doctrinaire than their commentators. 42
A second solution is provided by the fact that dbang phyug need not
invariably have Saiva connotations: it may simply refer to something or
someone powerful. Either reading frees us to give a more straight-
forward reading to line a, whose subject now can be taken as a Buddhist
yogI, whose ye shes need not be bracketed away as G (and apparently
Karma 'pOOn las pa) have insisted it be. The passage thus would read:
"A fearless yOgi in whom gnosis has arisen / Should, with powerful [or:
Siva's] insignia [or-if we accept D-with powerful methods], seek [a
woman] born on the outskirts."
Q 45cd reads: yon tan bzung nas
rang gis rig pa'i ye shes sbyin /
skabs su TO snyoms gnyug ma'i phyag rgya bzung; G's translation
reads: "Taking in her qualities he will [reciprocate by] offering his pris-
tine awareness, / Reverberating with the intensity of [their] immediate
experience, and, / For the time being, he will take this pristine aware-
ness-heightened in its sensibility through Being's genuineness
[operating in it], approximating in flavor [Being's nothingness replete
with everything in highest perfection]-as the Mahamudra experience"
(137). G's translation adds a full line of English ("Reverberating .... ")
that is neither found in Pe or D, nor noted by G to occur in any other
recension of the dohil. Also, his rendition of line d distinguishes less
clearly than usual what material is in the Tibetan and what is not; a more
42. The Tantric Tradition, 29-30. It must be noted, however, that the pre-
ponderance of Buddhist technical terminology in Saraha's works leave little
doubt that he was, in fact, an educated Buddhist-regardless of whether all
the ideas imputed to him by later commentators were actually intended by
43. D: na.
streamlined version of his own translation would read: ''For the time
being, he will take Being's genuineness, approximating in flavor
[Being's nothingness ... ] as the [maha]mudra." One might also trans-
late the two lines in a way that brings out the language of "give-and-
take" more strongly; hence: "Having taken on her qualities [faith, etc.],
he gives her the gnosis he himself knows; / At that time, he takes the
seal of the original single flavor." Granted, the seal referred to is proba-
bly Mahamudra, and the "original single flavor" needs to be filled out-
perhaps along the lines suggested by G-to be comprehensible, but any
expansion of the material ought to indicate clearly what is in the original
and what is not, and in this case, G has failed to do so.
Q 62ab reads: dngos grub kun gyi rtsa ba rdo rje slob dpon te 44 /
legs par sbyangs pa'i
rgyu nyid 'bras bu kun kyi Ius; G's translation
reads: "The root of all achievements is the rdo-rje slob-dpon, who /
From [the perspective of] our thoroughly cleansed [disposition to
wholeness] is the cause-factor of why all realizations as its fruition occur
in our bodily existence." (143) The translation of the first line is
unproblematic. G's version of line b, however, does not seem justified
by the syntax: if rgyu nyid were modifying 'bras bu kun gyi Ius, it
would probably be found at the end of the line; furthermore, if fruitions
were to occur "in" bodily existence, one would expect the last phrase to
read, e. g., lus su 'bras bu kun. My own reading of line b is: "[The rdo,.
rje slob-dpon] is the very cause of [our] thorough purification, the body
[sic.] of all results." I confess that I do not know quite how to take Ius
here, except perhaps in the metaphorical sense of a structure, or support,
in the sense that the tantric master is both the source and support of our
achievement of spiritual results.
Q 63-65areads: ehos dang longs spyod rdzogs dang sprul pa'i sku
/ ngo bo nyid kyi sku ni rgyu 'bras rab shes bya / sgro bskur gnyis kyis
stong pa gnyis med ehos yin te / ngo bo nyid kyi bde ba de nyid
spyod ehe II sna tshogs pa yi 'gro ba thams ead sprul pa yang48 / dbyer
med ye shes ngo bo
nyid ni kun gyi bdag / skye bar byed dang bya
ba'i50 rang bzhin mi dmigs kyang / goms pa'i mthu yis dogs pa thams
44. D: yin.
45. D:pa.
46. D: ehos kyi sku dang longs spyod rdzogs dang sprul pa'i sku.
47. D: ni, which seems preferable.
48. D.las.
49. ngo bo missing from D.
50. D: skyed par bya dang byed pa 'i.
134 JIABS 17.1
cad zil mnan nas / 'bras bu nyid ni rang dang gzhan gyi
phun tshogs
yin. G's translation reads: "chos-sku, longs-sku, sprul-sku, ngo-bo-
nyid-sku [and by implication bde ba chen po'i sku) are to be known as
standing in a cause-effect relationship. / [The pristine awareness in
which] there is no duality, devoid of positive and negative imputations,
is the chos-sku, / [Its open-dimensional field-character is] the ngo-bo-
nyid sku, [its feeling-tone of ecstasy] is the bde-ba chen-po'i sku, [its
spanning the individual's spiritual dimension] is the longs-sku, / And
[its self-manifestation in concrete guiding images] according to the var-
ied inclinations of all living beings is the sprul-sku. / The pristine aware-
ness modes of [these five gestalts in their] indivisibility is the 'authentic
Self' [hidden] in [and being] the whole [of Being]. / Although in these
pristine awareness modes] nothing whatsoever of something to be cre-
ated and someone creating is to be observed, / It is through the power of
your having become accustomed to [ the working of your dichotomizing
mind that this duality with its apprehensions and] fears [has come
about], but once these have been overcome [by these pristine awareness
modes] / A double repercussion [is intimately felt and brought to life]:
invaluable self-fulfillment and other-enrichment." (143-144) This
important and difficult passage contains one of Saraha's few explicit ref-
erences to the buddhakliyas. The greatest difficulty posed by G's trans- .
lation-and in this I take him to be following Karma 'phrin las pa-is its
introduction of a "tantric" fifth kaya (the bde ba chen po'i sku) into a
passage that, on the surface, appears to mention only the four kayas of
later Sl1trayana Mahayana-though Saraha's account of the four cer-
tainly does not lack tantric referents. An alternative translation might
read: "The Dharmakaya, perfect Sambhogakaya, / And
Svabhavakaya are clearly known as cause and result: / Nonduality void
of both eternalism and nihilism is the Dharmakaya, / [One's] natural
bliss is the Sambhogakaya, / Manifestation for all the various sentient
beings [is the I And the Svabhavakaya, the gnosis of the
inseparability [of bliss and voidness?], is the lord [or self] of all. /
Although [by] nature no creator or created is observed in arising, / By
virtue of one's accustomation [to that fact?], one suppresses all doubt, /
And the result is the exaltation of oneself and others." Again, this is a
difficult passage, which could itself be the subject of a whole article
(exploring, for instance, Saraha's interweaving of imagery from both the
Sl1trayana and Tantrayana traditions). Quite apart from the question of
51. D: don.
the number of kliyas asserted, there is the problem of the nature of 1he
"cause-result" relationship that obtains among the kiiyas that are
asserted. G maintains (209, n. 86) that the Dharmakaya, Svabhavakaya
and Mahasukhakaya (bde ba chen po'i sku) are the causes, and the
Sambhogakaya and the results. My own interpretation
suggests that the Mahasukhakaya is not mentioned, and that there are
two possible readings of the relationship among the remaining four. In
reading (a), the Svabhavakaya is asserted as the "cause" (kun gyi bdag)
of the Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya and and although it is
their "cause," there is nothing in it related to creator or creation, while at
the same time one's familiarity with it will lead to all good results for
oneself and others. This would seem justified by the placement of
statements regarding the non-existence of creator and created immedi-
ately after the definition of Svabhavakaya-Ianguage relating to causa-
tion follows logically on mention of a "lord of al1." This, however raises
the difficult doctrinal issue of how the nondual voidness that is the
Dharmakaya could be a result. Therefore, I would be somewhat more
inclined to an alternative reading, (b), in which the Dharmakaya stands
in causal relation to the Sambhogakaya, and Svabhava-
kaya. In a series of verses that is based strongly on structural paral-
lelisms, this would allow the cause-result ordering of the kliyas to mirror
the order in which they first are asserted (63b: rgyu 'bras), and, by
making the "lord of all" subordinate to pure voidness, it also would
eliminate the doctrinal inconsistency that reading (a) seems to entail-it
must be admitted, however, that where tantric terminology is invoked,
the "classic" patterns of Sutrayana traditions are not always respected!
K 5 reads: ji ltar Chu
' dzin gyis ni rgya mtsho las I chu blang nas ni
sa gzhi gang byas kyang I de nyiJ53 rna nyams nam mkha' dag dang
mnyam I 'phel ba med cing 'grib pa dag kyang med; G's translation
reads: "As a cloud that rises from the sea I Absorbing rain the earth
embraces, I So, like the sky, the sea remains I Without increasing or
decreasing" (151). Line b here is not entirely clear; exactly what is the
earth "embracing"? Is it the cloud or the rain? For that matter, where in
the original is the word for "embracing"? An alternative translation,
which might clarify these issues, is: "A cloud absorbs water I From the
sea, [or] the earth may [absorb rain], yet I [The sea] does not shrink; it is
the same as the sky: I It does not increase, nor does it decrease." My
52. D: chu'i.
53. D: ni.
136 JIABS 17.1
translation of lines a and b is not much more literal than G's--a literal
rendition would read: "[When] a cloud absorbs water I From the sea,
whatever the earth may do, yet .... " TIlis literal version fails fully to
bring out the point that the verse seems (if we believe the commenta-
) to be making, namely, that even when ocean water evaporates
into clouds, or the rain from the clouds is absorbed by the earth, the
ocean does not increase or decrease, any more than the sky grows when
it is clear or shrinks when it is clouded-the implication being that the
same may be said of the mind of sahaja.
K10cd reads: phun tshogs rna yin phun tshogs brtan pa'i sems I yang
m"55 phun sum tshogs pa skarn par 'gyur; G's translation reads: " ...
[in] a mind that is firm I But full of qualities that are not perfect; I These
imperfections will in time dry up" (152). At issue here is the translation
of phun sum tshogs pa in line d as if it had a negative prefix, hence
"imperfections." TIlis leaves it unclear whether Saraha is suggesting that
what will "dry up" are qualities that are useless to enlightenment
(underdeveloped phun tshogs) or qualities that are hindrances to it (non-
or anti-phun tshogs, such as klesas). If we leave out the negative prefix,
however, the line straightforwardly makes the former point: "[In] a mind
based on perfections that are not perfect, I Those 'perfections' will dry
K 13ab reads: dang potha rna de bzhin gzhan na med I thog ma tha
rna bar du gnas pa med; G's translation reads: "It is in the beginning,
the middle and I The end; yet end and beginning are nowhere else"
(152). If the problem in the previous stanza was the interpolation of a
negative prefix not in the original, here it is in the omission of a negative
that is there. The second line (= G's first) clearly states that "It is not in
the beginning, end or middle."56 The first line is rather more difficult: we
may follow G in taking it disjunctively ("But beginning and end are
nowhere else"), or we may follow the syntax more closely and, taking
"it" as the subject of both lines, read them as in apposition: "It is not fIrst
or last or otherwise; I It abides not in the beginning, end or middle."
K 19ab reads: gti mug gsaZ bas ye shes mi gsaZ te I gti mug gsaZ bas
sdug bsngaZ gsaZ ba
bzhin; G's translation reads: "Knowledge shines
54. RSS, 99-101.
55. D: na ..
56. Of the commentators cited by Gin RSS, Karma 'phrin las pa seems to
support this reading (126), while sKye med bde chen seems inclined toward
the intexpretation reflected in G's translation (124).
57. D: pa.
not in the dark, but when the darkness I Is illumined, suffering disap-
pears [at once]" (153). Given the ambiguity and richness of the term
gsal-which may mean, inter alia, "shine," "appear," "illuminate" or "be
illumined"-G's translation is by no means implausible. It is based on
seeing a shift in the meaning of gsaZ from the first line to the second,
such that in line a it simply means "appear," while in line b it means "is
illumined" -in effect, "lit up and seen for what it is." If, on the other
hand the gsal ba is read similarly in all four instances, the result is:
When darkness shines, gnosis does not shine; I When darkness shines,
suffering shines." The second half of the dohli goes on to cite the farnil-
iar example of cause-and-effect, seeds producing shoots producing
leaves, but I do not think that this points decisively toward one reading
or the other, as "causation" may be invoked in support of either.
K 21cd reads: gang mig khyirn nas byung nos. sgo drung du I kit rna
rU pa'i gtam ni 'dri bar byed; G's translation reads: "Like a man who
leaves his house and standing at the door I Asks [a woman] for reports
of Sensual delights" (153). It may well be that kit rna ra pa has conno-
tations of "woman," or, more specifically, the kannamudrit.
Kit rna ru
pa, however, also may refer to Assam, and it is possible to read the
verse-whose first two stanzas criticize those who take "the delights of
kissing" (kha sbyor bde ba) as an ultimate (don dam)-as saying that
such people are like a man who stands in his doorway and "asks for
news of Assam," i. e., concerns himself with distant externals when all
he needs is right before him, that is, in his own body (for which, of
course, the house is frequently a metaphor in Buddhist writings).
K 24c reads: 'ching bar byed pa shin tu dkrungs byed
de; G's
translation reads: "[Those who are attached to certain inner yoga prac-
tices] confuse I That which fetters with that which gives release" (154).
The implication of the verse is certainly that expressed by G, but there is
no mention of "release" in the original, which simply asserts that these
misguided "yogIS" "bind themselves, utterly confused."
58. Of the commentaries quoted by G in RSS, that by sKye med bde chen
seems to support G's reading, that of Karma 'phrin las pa my own (140-142).
59. This seems to be the view of both commentators cited in RSS (146-152);
I can only presume that they are interpreting the same Tibetan word, rather
than one that more overtly denotes a woman.
60. D: byas.
138 nABS 17.1
K 29ab reads kun rdzob bden pa dran pa med pa ste / sems gang
sems ni med par 'gyur ba'o62; G's translation reads: "Convention's
truth is 'memory' that [on closer inspection] turns out to be
'nonmemory' / And [thus a] mind that has become no-mind" (155).
This important and difficult passage is taken by G, following sKye med
bde chen and Karma 'phrin las pa (RSS, 169-173), to refer to Saraha's
views of conventional and ultimate truth, in terms of the "four dimen-
sions of symbolic expression" (dran, dran med, skye med and b 10
'das). G's translation here captures the full sense of the commentarial
view, but is somewhat about what is and is not in the origi-
nal' which makes no explicit mention of "memory"; in fact, G's earlier
translation seems more closely to reflect Saraha's verses: "Nonmemory
is convention's truth, / And mind which has become no-mind [is ulti-
mate truth]" (RSS, 69). In light of the "four dimensions," it may well be
that the conventional truth expressed as "nonmemory" is "memory" that
has been rightly understood, but G's indication of this would have been
clarified had he moved his bracket to left of "memory." The second line
makes no explicit reference to ultimate truth, and it is possible that the
"mind that has become no-mind" is simply a further description of the
process involved in the conventional recognition of "nonmemory"-
although the next line's characterization of "that" (no-mind, presumably)
as "utterly pure, the highest of the high" (yongs su dag par mchog gi
mchog)63 does give it the unmistakable ring of "ultimacy."
In D,64 K 39ab reads: gang gis gang du gang
la de dag med / de
yis66 de ru de la dgos pa byas; G's translation reads: "What has been
done and where and what in itself it will become / Is nothing: yet thereby
it has been useful for this and that" (157). This is a difficult verse, sus-
ceptible of more than one reading. G's translation is quite plaUSible, and
seems to me to capture the overall sense of the original. He has, how-
ever, added verbiage to lines that are quite concise: neither "will
become," "has been done," nor "nothing" is clearly indicated in the
61. D: dang.
62. D: gyur pa'o. This appears to be the reading followed by G.
63. Or, as G, seeming to follow D (yongs su gyur pa mchog gi mchog), has
it: "This is fulfilment, this is the highest good."
64. I opt for D's reading here because it appears to be the one followed by G,
and because it is more symmetrical than Pe's. Though we cannot, of course,
be certain that this symmetry was present in the original, it is not an atypical
structure in the Buddhist poetic tradition.
65. Pe: de.
66. Pe: yi
original, nor, for that matter, is a subject, "it." Also, he does not reflect
as closely as he might have the parallel structures found in the Tibetan;
he chooses to read the de yis at the beginning of line b as providing an
instrumental (''thereby'') that links the clauses, but he sacrifices thereby
any real play with the parallelisms of the Tibetan: gang gis / de yis, gang
du / de rn and gang la / de lao An alternative reading might be: "There is
no 'by what,' or 'for what' or 'in what'; / 'By that,' and 'for that' and
'in that' are entailed." The disadvantage of this reading is that it leaves
lines a and b somewhat unconnected, and it is surely the intent of the
original to assert that negation not only does not contradict affirmation,
. but may be its very basis. The Tibetan of line a lacks the final kyang or
pas that would establish a connection while preserving the parallel
structures, so G's solution is a possible one; I would opt for preserving
the parallels and adding a bracketed "yet" or "so" at the end of line a.
Alternatively, one might accept an unspoken "That" as the subject, and
translate: "[That] has no 'by what,' or 'for what' or 'in what,' [yet/thus]
/ By that, for that and in that [all things] are entailed."
The reader who has followed the rather detailed discussion in this sec-
tion will recognize that in most cases where I have suggested alternative
translations, G's version is certainly a plausible one-the more so when
the commentaries on which he relies are taken into account. I have sim-
ply sought to draw attention to those passages where my own reading
convinces me that he has significantly added to or subtracted from what
is in the original Tibetan verses. Here, I have attempted to supply
"straightforward," non-commentary based readings of these passages,
while acknowledging (a) that wholly "straightforward" readings are in
principle impossible, and espeCially problematic when the texts are
tantric, and (b) that the debate over the degree to which commentarial
perspectives-whether from later Buddhist tradition or modem Western
philosophy and science-ought to be incorporated into translation, is far
from settled. Still, as must be clear, my own inclination is to argue (a)
that there really are (relatively) more and less straightforward readings
of texts, and (b) that the less encumbered by extrinsic perspectives a
reading is, the better.
Some Technicalities
In this section, I will note a number of rather more minor technical
points where corrections might be proposed: (a) some instances where
140 nABS 17.1
G seems to have missed a line of Tibetan, (b) some awkward construc-
tions or phrases, (c) some informational and terminological inconsisten-
cies or overlaps and (d) some typographical errors.
(a) G's translation ofP 94 reads: "In each and every house, people
talk about it, I But the abidingness of ecstasy is not at all known. I
Saraha says: All living beings are confused about it" (111). Both Pe and
D, as well as the Apabhrrupsa, 67 there is fourth line, the Tibetan of
which is de ni bsam med sus kyang rtogs ma yin: "That non-thought is
understood by no one." Guenther's translation of P 131 reads:
"Imagination [that pertains to one's egologically predisposed awareness]
operates with having an objective reference and without having an
objective reference, I [In either case] it is an aspect of ecstasy" (119). In
both Pe and D, there is a line in between the two translated by G, which
reads: sgom dang mi sgom tha snyad med: "there is no designation:
'imagination' or 'non-imagination.'" In Q, each set often verses is pre-
ceded by e rna mkha' 'gro gsang ba'i skad; G translates this, appropri-
ately, as ''E-ma-The mystical language of the Qaka I QakinIS" each
time it occurs, but it is unclear from his placement of this refrain-itali-
cized along with Karma 'phrin las pa's section titles-that it is, in fact,
found in the Tibetan text
(b) P 60 (103) would read more clearly if line a ran: "If you know that
what has become seeing ... Is [your] mentation, [you will have realized
that] there is nothing that has not sprung from it." K 12 (152) would be
less ambiguous if line a read "Though it is ineffable, never is one unsat-
isfied." K 23(154) would seem less like a fragmentary sentence if line a
read: "It is as when a bralunin, who with rice and butter .... "
(c) On two different occasions (p 113b and Q 79d), Saraha refers to
the bcu bmi pa'i sa, which G renders, appropriately, as "the fourteenth
level" (115, 149). His notes on the two occurrences, however give dif-
fering' if not necessarily contradictory, accounts of what the "fourteenth
level" denotes: on 190 (n. 134), it is identified as the "detection thresh-
old" that is the last of the levels numbered by adding the six levels of the
world of desire to the four levels each of the worlds of form and form-
1essness; on 210 (n. 98), it is said to be the experience of ecstasy (bde
ba), a "supraordinate level" above the traditional ten bodhisattva levels
and the superadded tshogs lam, sbyor lam and "'Buddha'-experience."
Is Saraha using the term differently in the two different cases? G does
67. See Shahidullah, 154, and his translation on 178; cf. Snellgrove's in
not indicate. I would be more inclined to follow the second reading,
since the first would seem to place one within sllI!lSara, in the sphere of
neither-perception-nor-non perception, and the condition Saraha is
describing hardly seems srupsaric.
G generally is consistent in trans-
lating one TIbetan term by one English expression, but there are at least
two instances in which the same English phrase reflects different TIbetan
originals: "Being-in-its-beingness," the usual translation for de [kho na]
nyid (see 26 and, e. g., PIa, 89] is used to translate rang bz/lin nyid
from P 20d (93)-the latter is more often taken by G to refer to Being's
"ownmostness"(see 28-30); while (as noted above) "complementarity-
in-spontaneity," the usual translation for lhan cig skyes pa (see 21-23
and, e. g., P 7b) is used to translate [hun [gyis] grub [pal in P 141c-
the latter is more often translated by, e. g., "pure spontaneity" (see 59).
Finally, G refers often in his notes to P (e. g., 159, 171, 173, 181,183)
to the "original" ApabhrrupSa of the text, in spite of having argued earlier
(9) that the ApabhraIJ1sa version we have is "bowdlerized and frag-
mented version of an earlier work that has been lost"; only once (182)
does G refer to the text to which he is referring as the "standard" ver-
sion, which would seem to be closer to his view of it
(d) On 11, line 7, for: Doha" read: Doha. On 12, line 13, for: 'Gos
read: 'Gos. On 42, n. 72, line 5, for: 'Phrin-la's read 'Phrin-las'. On
94, verse 21, line 2, for: (mam-rtog) read: (mam-rtog)]. On 94, verse
21, line 3, for: (sems), evolving read: (sems), [evolving. On 142, verse
61, line 8, for: complementarity-in-spontaneity read: Complementarity-
in-spontaneity. On 143, verse 63, line 2, for: sku) read sku]. On 169, n.
54, line 3, for: Avayavajra read: Advayavajra.
Concluding Remarks
Let me summarize my main points:
(1) The worlds of Indology, TIbetology and Buddhology are greatly in
Herbert Guenther's debt for this careful and erudite, yet immensely
68. An alternative explanation of the fourteen stages may be arrived at by
adding to the basic ten bodhisattva levels the traditional three kayas of
Mahayana buddhology, with the fourteenth level then being, e. g., the
Mahasukhakaya. In still another version (listed in both the Kalavlra Tantra
and the Dharmasa1J1graha), the three bhamis beyond the traditional ten are
called samantaprabhli, nirupamli and jiilinavatz; the fourteenth would pre-
sumably transcend even these (see Gustav Roth, "The Symbolism of the
Buddhist Stiipa," in Anna Libera Dallapiccola, ed., The Stiipa: Its Religious,
Historical and Architectural Significance [Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag,
1980] 196).
142 nABS 17.1
stimulating study and translation of the three most important works of
one of India's greatest poet-yogi-philosophers, the mahasiddha Saraha.
As he consistently has over the years, Guenther provides learned histor-
ical and philological analyses of the subject-matter, suggestive compar-
isons between the world views of pre-modem Buddhists and contempo-
rary Western thinkers in both the humanities and sciences, and annotated
. translations of Buddhist texts that closely reflect the grammar and syntax
of the original, while offering terminological equivalents that incorporate
Guenther's own distinctive and challenging ancient -cum-modem idiom.
(2) Neither Guenther's general approach to Saraha nor his translation
is beyond reproach. Questions may legitimately be raised about his ten-
dency to, e. g., uncritically confiate ancient Buddhist and modem West-
ern views, adopt suspiciously reductive views of "reductionists," ignore
or dismiss most other scholars in his field, and overburden his transla-
tions with "commentarial" interpolations that both reflect eras and
ontologies different from Saraha's and drain nearly all "poetry" from the
original. Further-though this may safely be said of any translator-he
provides some readings of the original for which alternatives might be
proposed. .
(3) Guenther is not about to apologize for his approach, let alone
change it. He has argued for decades now that "objective,"
"representationalist" translations of Buddhist texts are based on a mis-
understanding both of the "dynamic" and "processive" nature of the
world and the way Buddhists, realizing this, use language. And, for
decades, he has struggled to find a lexicon that could capture what is
essentially elusive and no-thing at all, utilizing terminology and perspec-
tives from any thinker or field that seemed to offer some approximation.
The result has been a body of work that is always difficult, occasionally
frustrating-but which is based on a coherent, consistent and hermeneu-
tically sophisticated vision that has irreversibly affected the way in
which scholars think about Buddhism and the translation of Buddhist
(4) The Saraha we meet in Ecstatic Spontaneity is unmistakably
Guenther's Saraha: philosopher more than poet, an ancient voice speak-
ing in modem words. Guenther certainly has left room for other transla-
tors who might give us a more poetic, I\1ore "traditional" or more histori-
cally situated Saraha; and, in any case, any figure as great and complex
as Saraha deserves-indeed requires-more than a single translation. It
is probably safe to say, though, that we will wait a very long time before
we see a translation as philosophically challenging as Guenther's or one
whose vision resonates so suggestively backwards and forwards across
eras, cultures and disciplines.