References: 274 The Heart of the Heart Sutra

The 2nd Chapter of Shobogenzo: Maka-Hannya-Haramitsu (Maha-Prajna-Paramita)

Lecture (1)

Rev. Shohaku Okumura

Director, Soto Zen Buddhism International Center

(This article is rewritten based on my lecture at Clouds in Water Zen Center, Minnesota in 2004, transcribed and edited by Rev. Charlie Korin Pokorny. Rev. Kando Dorsey edited the revised version.)

About the text of Shobogenzo “Maka-Hannya- Haramitsu”

This is the second chapter of the 75 chapter Shobogenzo.

The first chapter is Genjokoan. Yet “Maka-Hannya-Haramitsu” was written earlier than Genjokoan. In terms of the chronological order of Dogen Zenji’s life, this was the first chapter written within Shobogenzo.

Dogen Zenji came back from China to Japan in 1227. He was 27 years old and for a few years he stayed at a Rinzai monastery named Kenninji in Kyoto. He had practiced there for several years with his first teacher of Zen, Myozen, before he went to China. In that year, immediately after he

  came back from China, he wrote the first version of Fukanzazengi (Universal Recommendation of Zazen). This version was lost therefore we cannot read it. He probably revised it in 1233, the year he wrote “Maka-Hannya- Haramitsu” and Genjokoan. This version in his holograph still remains and is stored at Eiheiji. Much later, probably in his forties, he revised Fukanzazengi again and put it in the eight volumes of Eiheikoroku (“Eihei Dogen’s Extensive Record”), which is the version we recite, read and study today.

After a few years staying at Kenninji, he left the monastery because he Soto Zen master whose name was Nyojo (Ch. Rujing), and who transmitted Soto Zen. He also found that Kenninji monastery had lost a genuine spirit of practice after the founder Eisai died and Myozen went to China. Myozen and Dogen went to China together in 1223. Myozen died there and Dogen came back by himself.

He left Kenninji in 1230, and started to live by himself in Fukakusa south of Kyoto when he was thirty years old which was the year he wrote his second writing, Bendowa. My translation of Bendowa is The Wholehearted Practice of the Way, and I translated Uchiyama Roshi’s teisho, or commentary, on this writing. The title of that book is Wholehearted Way (Tuttle, 1997). Bendowa is an excellent and important text to understand Dogen’s teaching about zazen practice. Since the 17th century when it was found, Bendowa has been considered as the first chapter of the 95 volume version of Shobogenzo. However, Bendowa was not included in any collection of Shobogenzo by Dogen Zenji and his successors.

Dogen lived by himself, or probably with a few of his students, in this hermitage, outside of Kyoto for a few years. Here he established his first monastery named Koshoji, in 1233, and during that first summer practice period, which was the very first practice period of the Soto Zen tradition in Japan, he wrote this writing, “Maka-Hannya-Haramitsu.” This is his third writing after Fukanzazengi and Bendowa.

In the very beginning of practice with his own sangha, he wrote these comments on the Heart Sutra. This shows that his zazen practice was based on his insight of the Mahayana teaching of prajna paramita or Hannya-Haramitsu.

In my understanding, “Maka-Hannya-Haramitsu” and Genjokoan are very closely related. Genjokoan is one of the most important writings of Dogen to understand his basic teaching. “Maka-Hannya-Haramitsu” was written in the summer during the practice period and Genjokoan was written in the fall of the same year, 1233. A few months after he wrote “Maka-Hannya-Haramitsu” he wrote Genjokoan, so those two are even chronologically very close.

After he wrote those two early writings in the Shobogenzo, he did not write another chapter of the Shobogenzo until 1238 when he wrote Shobogenzo “Ikka-no-myoju” (“One Piece of Bright Jewel”). For almost five years he did not write anything in the Shobogenzo, but instead he wrote more basic or practical writings such as Tenzo Kyokun. Tenzo Kyokun is “Instruction for the Cook”, or tenzo.

He also wrote Gakudo Yojinshu (“Points to Watch in Studying the Way”), which is a collection of 10 independent, short essays about the important points we should keep in mind when we practice the buddha way. He also wrote a manual for the tokudo ceremony to become a home leaver. He wrote those practical writings in order to establish practice at his monastery, because that was the first time Soto Zen had been transplanted to, and actually practiced in Japan.

Whole Body Seeing Emptiness (Text)

“The time of Avalokiteshvara bodhisattva practicing profound prajna paramita is the whole body clearly seeing the emptiness of all five aggregates. The five aggregates are forms, sensations, perceptions, predilections, and consciousness. This is the five-fold prajna. Clear seeing is itself prajna.”

This chapter is almost like a commentary on the Heart Sutra. This is a translation I made when I lived in Minneapolis. With a small number of people I had a translation workshop once a week for 3 years, and we translated this chapter of the Shobogenzo, and also my teacher, Uchiyama Roshi’s teisho, on “Maka-Hannya- Haramitsu.” Unfortunately after I left Minneapolis I did not have time to really work on it, so it is not yet published.

When you read the first sentence, it is very clear that this is just a paraphrase of the first sentence of the Heart Sutra. If you are familiar with the Japanese version of the Heart

  Sutra, the first sentence is:

“Kan ji zai bo satsu gyo jin han-nya ha ra mi ta ji sho ken go on kai ku do issai ku yaku. (観自在菩薩行深般若波羅蜜 多時照見五 皆空度一切苦厄)

The English translation in Soto School Scriptures for Daily Services and Practice is as follows: “Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, when deeply practicing prajna paramita, clearly saw that all five aggregates are empty and thus relieved all suffering.”

Dogen Zenji did not mention that last part, “thus relieved all suffering.” This is interesting to me because in the Sanskrit version of the Heart Sutra we can read today, this part is not there, and Dogen took it out.

This sentence in the Heart Sutra, and Dogen’s first sentence in this Shobogenzo “Maka-Hannya-Haramitsu”, are almost the same. The only difference is that he put in one word – that is ‘whole body’. In Japanese what Dogen wrote is:

“kan ji zai bo satsu no gyo jin han-nya hara mita ji wa konshin no sho ken go un kai ku nari.” (観自在菩薩の行深 般若波羅蜜多時は、渾身の照見五 皆空なり。)

The words in bold face are what Dogen added to the sentence in the Heart Sutra. “kan ji zai bo satsu no.” “No (の)” is a Japanese word to show ‘of’ or “’s”, “Avalokiteshvara’s .” “Wa (は)” is a particle which shows the subject of the sentence. In Dogen’s sentence, the subject of the sentence is not Avalokiteshvara as a person, but “the time of Avalokiteshvara’s deeply practicing prajna paramita.” “Nari (なり)” is an auxiliary verb which shows that the subject and the predicate are equal. A particle and an auxiliary verb are called dependent words which cannot be used independently. They are always together with independent words such as noun, verb, adjective etc. and they themselves have no meaning.

The only independent word which shows some concept Dogen added to the original sentence in the Heart Sutra is “kon shin (渾身)”, whole body. I think this word is really important because this insertion shows Dogen’s understanding of what prajna paramita is.

In my translation, “The time of Avalokiteshvara

Bodhisattva practicing prajna paramita is the whole body clearly seeing the emptiness of all five aggregates.” This is a strange sentence not only in English but also in Japanese. It does not make sense in our logic or common sense. Some people who were working with me on this translation had a question about what this meant. This is a strange sentence, but I wanted to keep the Japanese structure for this sentence because to me this is a very important point Dogen would like to teach us. If we read in Japanese, probably because you are familiar with the Japanese way of chanting the Heart Sutra, this is something like: Kan ji zai bo satsu gyo jin hannya hara mi ta ji, is “kon shin” no (whole body’s) sho ken go on kai ku (clearly seeing five skandhas are empty). This time of practicing profound prajna paramita of Avalokiteshvara is the whole body’s clearly seeing the emptiness of the five skandhas. Dogen Zenji changes the subject of this sentence from “Avalokiteshvara” to “the time” of Avalokiteshvara. Basically what this sentence says is that “the time” is “the whole body.” How can a certain time be the whole body, or the whole body clearly seeing the emptiness of all five aggregates?

This expression of “whole body” came from, or is at least related to, the koan story about Avalokiteshvara from the Blue Cliff Record. Dogen Zenji wrote one chapter of the Shobogenzo on this koan story. The chapter is entitled “Kannon.” Kannon is another name of kan ji zai bosatsu. This name, Kannon bosatsu is more well known in the Buddhist community. Kan ji zai bosatsu and Kannon bosatsu (or Kanzeon bosatsu), are different translations of one name in Sanskrit – that is Avalokiteshvara.

Kanzeon bosatsu is a translation made by Kumarajiva in the Lotus Sutra. Bosatsu is bodhisattva and Kanzeon (観 世音) means “seeing the sounds of the world.” Ze is world, and on is sound. The bodhisattva who sees or contemplates the sounds of the world is the meaning of the name of Kanzeon bosatsu. In the case of Kan ji zai bosatsu, ji zai is freedom, liberation, or being within the self, so kan ji zai is the bodhisattva who sees liberation or who sees freely.

The difference in meaning came from the difference of interpretation of the Sanskrit word Avalokiteshvara. In Kumarajiva’s interpretation (kanzeon) Avalokiteshvara is avalokita and shvara. Shvara means the sound and avalokita is to see. The other translation, kan ji zai bosatsu,


  was made by Genjo (Hsuan Tsang), the great Chinese translator who traveled to India and lived there to study Buddhism for 17 years and went back to China with masses of Buddhist texts which he translated from Sanskrit to Chinese. The Heart Sutra we usually chant was translated by Genjo (Hsuan Tsang), and he interpreted this name of the bodhisattva as avalokita and ishvara. Ishvara is to be free, or a person liberated. That is the meaning of kan ji zai, seeing freely or seeing freedom.

In this koan story Avalokiteshvara was called Great Compassion Bodhisattva (Daihi-bosatsu) who has thousands of hands and eyes. The koan story is about two Chinese Zen masters in our lineage; Dogo Enchi (Daowu Yuanzhi, 769-835) and Ungan Donjo (Yunyan Tansheng, 780-841). Ungan Donjo was the teacher of Tozan Ryokai (Dongshan Liangjie, 807-869), who was the founder of the Chinese Soto School. Dogo Enchi was Ungan’s dharma brother, and it is also said that they were literally brothers.

They practiced together for many years visiting different teachers and one time Ungan, the younger brother, asked Dogo, “What does the Great Compassion Bodhisattva do with so many hands and eyes?” Avalokiteshvara can manifest his/her body in thirty-three different forms. Thirty-three here means numberless, or infinite, and one of the forms of Avalokiteshvara is with 1,000 hands and 1,000 eyes. You may have seen a picture of the bodhisattva with a thousand hands (where the hands look like wings). Each hand holds something, which means Avalokiteshvara is helping each and every being in the way each and every one need. Avalokiteshvara’s thousand hands and eyes are the symbol of Buddha’s compassion.

The question in this koan is: What does Avalokiteshvara do with so many hands and eyes? This is an interesting question. Dogo, the elder dharma brother said, “It (Avalokiteshvara’s activity) is like a person groping for a pillow at night with his hands behind his back.” This means while this person is sleeping in the night, and night actually means total darkness. These days, even at midnight we have some light, so we do not experience real darkness unless we are in the basement and switch the light off. But in ancient times, when it was dark, it was really dark. While sleeping, when we move our bodies, sometimes we lose the pillow. The pillow goes somewhere. As this person

is within complete darkness and is half asleep, while trying to find the pillow, the thinking mind is not operating. The person cannot see anything, but still by groping, somehow the person can find the pillow and go back to deep sleep.

That means she/he has no thinking, or no discrimination, and yet she/he responds to each person and every need people have, and she/he freely helps those people. This darkness, or night, is an important word in this koan. It means that at night we do not see anything and we have no discrimination. Avalokiteshvara’s work to help living beings is not based on her/his discriminating mind, but it is a natural response to each and every situation. That is what compassion means according to Dogo’s saying.

Then Ungan, the younger brother of Dogo, said, “I get it.” Dogo asked, “How do you understand it?” Then Ungan said, “The whole body is hands and eyes.” In the original sentence this whole body is henshin (遍身). Henshin, Avalokiteshvara’s entire body, is hands and eyes means that for Avalokiteshvara her/his entire body is hands and eyes to see things clearly, as in the Heart Sutra. This seeing clearly is not discrimination. To see things as they are without discrimination is prajna. Avalokiteshvara’s one thousand hands and eyes clearly see the reality of all beings without discrimination and perform skillful means to help each and every being. What Ungan said is that Avalokiteshvara’s entire body is hands and eyes. Hands and eyes are not a part of his body, but the entire body is eyes and hands. This is referring to wisdom and the functioning of wisdom that is compassionate activities.

Then Dogo said, “You expressed it almost completely, but only 80 or 90%.” Your answer is almost complete and yet it is not perfect. There is a little bit more we should say. Ungan then asked, “My understanding is like this, how about you, respected brother?” Then Dogo said, “The whole body is hands and eyes.”

This is almost the same thing, but the difference is that Ungan said henshin and Dogo said tsushin (通身). The words are different but the meanings are the same. Hen and tsu both mean entire or whole and shin means body. When we read this very short Chinese sentence, we do not really understand what the difference is between Ungan’s expression and Dogo’s expression. Both of them are saying


  that Avalokiteshvara’s entire body, or whole body, is hands and eyes.

To make one possible interpretation, in the case of Ungan, it seems like hands and eyes are in all parts of Avalokiteshvara’s body. I think that might be the meaning: that each and every part of Avalokiteshvara’s body is his or her hands and eyes. Dogo’s expression probably means that it is not a matter of hands and eyes are all different parts of his body, but rather that his single body as a whole is eyes and hands. There is a very slight difference. As an expression it is not really clear, the meanings are almost the same.

One English translation – is that the first one is translated as the whole body is covered with eyes and hands and the other is that the whole body is eyes and hands. I think that is a similar interpretation of the difference. In the case of Ungan he still thinks about the body of Avalokiteshvara and hands and eyes as two things and he says these are one. In the case of Dogo, these are not two things in one, these are one and the same thing. I think that is the difference. Dogen put the similar word, konshin (渾身), whole body, or entire body, into the first sentence of the Heart Sutra, so when we understand Dogen’s sentence in Shobogenzo “Maka Hannya-Haramitsu,” we need to understand this koan, otherwise we do not really understand why Dogen was writing this way. This word konshin has the connotation “with all one’s might,” and used for example, in such expressions as: to put all one’s energies into one’s work or to give it everything one has got.

The activity of using the hands is the function of wisdom because when we see the reality of a situation, we try to do things based on that reality that we see or are awakened to. That is the connection or meaning, of hands and eyes. In the case of the Heart Sutra, when we see the emptiness of the five skandhas, we have to do things based on this seeing or understanding or awakening of emptiness. That is the meaning of eyes and hands. Avalokiteshvara is the symbol of compassion, but that compassion needs to work. It needs to do something to help living beings. Darkness or night, in some Zen literature such as in the Sandokai, “Merging of Difference and Unity” refers to the absolute or ultimate truth beyond any discrimination. Light, or brightness, in the Sandokai refers to our day-to- day life in which we see things clearly with discrimination.

In the darkness we have no discrimination, but the point is that the branching stream, which is our day-to-day lives, flows within the darkness. That means our concrete, actual, day-to-day life is actually flowing in the darkness. This means wisdom beyond discrimination. So this is a very paradoxical expression. It is almost like discrimination within nondiscrimination, or actual concrete activity or practice based on ultimate reality beyond any discrimination. Those two are really one thing and interact with each other. That is our actual life.

In our practice, when we sit facing the wall in the zendo we are completely free from discrimination. We can let go of all discrimination, all thoughts, and we can be really free from any thought, even the thought that discriminates between discrimination and non-discrimination. Do you understand? We do nothing. But within this doing nothing, all different kinds of thoughts are coming up, and yet we do nothing. Within nondiscrimination, all discriminating thoughts are coming up and going away, that is our zazen. Dogen Zenji describes this in Fukanzazengi as, “Think of not thinking. How do you think of not thinking? Beyond thinking.”

However, in our daily lives outside of the zendo, we have to do something, and in order to do something, we have to make distinctions and make choices—which is better, which is the best, in this certain situation and these conditions. And yet when we are doing things using our discriminating mind, still this entire activity is done within the reality that is beyond discrimination. These two are what are referred to when the Sandokai says, “the spiritual source shining clearly in the light.”

The spiritual source is ultimate reality (darkness), but this is within light, and branching streams (light) are within darkness, which is reality beyond discrimination. These two lines are a paradox. These are two seemingly opposite things mentioned within one sentence, and that is the most important part of the Sandokai. Two opposite things are penetrating each other, and yet, as they are, completely one.

In both cases thinking and not-thinking, or thinking- of-not-thinking and beyond thinking, are working with each other. Both are there in our zazen in which we let go of everything, and in our daily lives where we need to use our discriminating mind. This relates to Katagiri Roshi’s

  expression, total dynamic work. Both sides are really working as a total dynamic work (zenki, 全機) whether we are sitting quietly or doing things in our busy day-to-day lives.

New Heart Sutra translation by Thich Nhat Hanh

On 11th September Thay completed a profound and beautiful new English translation of the Heart Sutra, one of the most important sutras in Mahayana Buddhism. This new English translation is based on the new Vietnamese translation that Thay began working on three weeks ago at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Germany.

Below the sutra you can read Thay’s explanation of why he made this new translation.

This new translation will now be used in all Plum Village chanting sessions and ceremonies, and it will appear in the next edition of the Plum Village Chanting Book. The chant is being set to music and will be available soon.

The Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore Avalokiteshvara while practicing deeply with the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore, suddenly discovered that all of the five Skandhas are equally empty, and with this realisation he overcame all Ill-being. “Listen Sariputra, this Body itself is Emptiness and Emptiness itself is this Body.This Body is not other than Emptiness and Emptiness is not other than this Body. The same is true of Feelings,Perceptions, Mental Formations,and Consciousness.“Listen Sariputra,all phenomena bear the mark of Emptiness; their true nature is the nature of no Birth no Death, no Being no Non-being,no Defilement no Purity, no Increasing no Decreasing.“That is why in Emptiness,Body, Feelings, Perceptions, Mental Formations and Consciousness are not separate self entities. The Eighteen Realms of Phenomena which are the six Sense Organs, the six Sense Objects, and the six Consciousnesses are also not separate self entities. The Twelve Links of Interdependent Arising and their Extinction are also not separate self entities. Ill-being, the Causes of Ill-being, the End of Ill-being, the Path, insight and attainment, are also not separate self entities. Whoever can see this no longer needs anything to attain. Bodhisattvas who practice the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore see no more obstacles in their mind, and because there are no more obstacles in their mind, they can overcome all fear, destroy all wrong perceptions and realize Perfect Nirvana. “All Buddhas in the past, present and future by practicing

the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore are all capable of attaining Authentic and Perfect Enlightenment. “Therefore Sariputra, it should be known that “The Insight that Brings us to the Other Shore” is a Great Mantra, the most illuminating mantra, the highest mantra, a mantra beyond compare, the True Wisdom that has the power to put an end to all kinds of suffering. Therefore let us proclaim a mantra to praise the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore. Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha! Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha! Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!”

by Thich Nhat Hanh The reasons for a new translation

Thay’s message of explanation to his students, translated from the Vietnamese. Thay wrote this text on the 22nd August 2014, after completing his very first translation draft in Vietnamese. Dear Family,

Thay needs to make this new translation of the Heart Sutra because the patriarch who originally compiled the Heart Sutra was not sufficiently skilful enough with his use of language. This has resulted in much misunderstanding for almost 2,000 years.

Thay would like to share with you two stories: the story of a novice monk who paid a visit to a Zen master, and the story of a Bhikkhu who came with a question to the Eminent Master Tue Trung.

In the first story, the Zen master asked the novice monk: “Tell me about your understanding of the Heart sutra.” The novice monk joined his palms and replied:

“I have understood that the five skandhas are empty. There are no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body or mind; there are no forms, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings, or objects of mind; the six consciousnesses do not exist, the eighteen realms of phenomena do not exist, the twelve links of dependent arising do not exist, and even wisdom and attainment do not exist.” “Do you believe what it says?” “Yes, I truly believe what it says.” the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore is a Great Mantra, the most illuminating mantra, the highest mantra, a mantra beyond compare, the True Wisdom that has the power to put an end to all kinds of suffering. Therefore let us proclaim a mantra to praise the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore.

Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha! Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha! Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!” “Come closer to me,” the Zen master instructed the novice monk. When the novice monk drew near, the Zen master immediately used his thumb and index finger to pinch and twist the novice’s nose. In great agony, the novice cried out “Teacher! You’re hurting me!” The Zen master looked at the novice. “Just now you said that the nose doesn’t exist. But if the nose doesn’t exist then what’s hurting?”

The Eminent Master Tue Trung was a lay Zen master who had once served as the mentor for the young King Tran Nhan Tong, in 13th Century Vietnam. One day, a Bhikkhu paid him a visit to ask him about the Heart Sutra. “Respected Eminent Master, what does the phrase ‘form is emptiness, emptiness is form,’ really mean?” At first the Eminent Master remained silent. And then, after a while, he asked: “Bhikkhu, do you have a body?” “Yes, I do.” “Then, why do you say that the body does not exist?” The Eminent Master then continued, “Do you think that in empty space there is form?” “No, I do not see that there is form.” “Then why do you say that emptiness is form?”

The Bhikkhu stood up, bowed, and went on his way. But the Master summoned him back in order to recite to him the following gatha: In this story the Eminent Master Tue Trung seems to contradict the Heart Sutra and challenge the sacred formula ‘form is emptiness and emptiness is form,’ considered inviolable in the Prajñāpāramitā literature. Thay believes that the Eminent Master went too far. The Master was not able to see that the mistake doesn’t rest in the formula, ‘form is emptiness’ rather, it resides in the unskillfulness of the line, ‘Therefore in emptiness there is no form.’ According to Thay, the way in which words are used in the Heart Sutra, right from the beginning up to the line: ‘no birth, no death, not defiled, not immaculate, not increasing, nor decreasing,’ is already perfect. Thay’s only regret is that the patriarch who recorded the Heart Sutra did not add the four words ‘no being, no non-being’ immediately after the four words ‘no birth, no death,’ because these four words would help us transcend the notion of being and non-being, and we would no longer get caught in such ideas as ‘no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue…’ The nose of the novice monk is still sore, even Form is emptiness, emptiness is form,is a skillful means created temporarily by the Buddhas of the three times.Emptiness is not form, form is not emptiness Their nature is always pure and illuminating, neither caught in being nor in non- being. today. Do you understand? The problem begins with the line: ‘Listen Shariputra, because in emptiness, there is no form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness’ (in Sanskrit:

 How funny! It was previously stated that emptiness is form, and form is emptiness, but now you say the opposite: there is only emptiness, there is no body. This line of the sutra can lead to many damaging misunderstandings. It removes all phenomena from the category ‘being’ and places them into the category of ‘non-being’ (no form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations or consciousness…). Yet the true nature of all phenomena is the nature of no being nor non-being, no birth and no death. The view of ‘being’ is one extreme view and the view of ‘non-being’ is another extreme view. It is because of this unskillfulness that the novice monk’s nose is still sore.

The famous gatha ascribed to the sixth patriarch Hue Nang (Hui-neng), in which he presented his insight to the fifth patriarch Hoang Nhan (Hung-jen), also expresses this notion and is also caught in the same wrong view:We can say: The insight of prajñāpāramitā is the most liberating insight that helps us overcome all pairs of opposites such as birth and death, being and non-being, defilement and immaculacy, increasing and decreasing, subject and object, and so on, and helps us to get in touch with the true nature of no birth/no death, no being/no non-being etc… which is the true nature of all phenomena. This is a state of coolness, peace, and non-fear that can be experienced in this very life, in your own body and in your own five skandhas. It is nirvana. Just as the birds enjoy the sky, and the deer enjoy the meadow, so do the wise enjoy dwelling in nirvana. This is a very beautiful sentence in the Nirvana Chapter of the Chinese Dharmapada.

The insight of prajñāpāramitā is the ultimate truth, transcending of all conventional truths. It is the highest vision of the Buddha. Whatever paragraph in the Tripitaka, even in the most impressive of the Prajñāpāramitā collections, if it so contradicts this, it is still caught in conventional truth. Unfortunately, in the Heart Sutra we find such a paragraph, and it is quite long.

That is why in this new translation Thay has changed the way of using words in both the original Sanskrit and the Chinese translation by Huyen Trang (Xuan- Originally, there is no Bodhi tree The bright mirror does not exist either From the non-beginning of time nothing has ever existed So where can the dust settle? “A white cloud passes by and hides the mouth of the cave Causing so many birds to lose their way home.”

Zang). Thay translates as follows: ‘That is why in emptiness, body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness are not separate self entities.’ All phenomena are products of dependent arising: that is the main point of the prajñāpāramitā teaching. ‘Even insight and attainment do not exist as separate self entities.’ This sentence is as important as the sentence ‘form is emptiness.’ Thay also has added ‘no being, no non-being’ into the text. No being, no non-being is the deep vision of the Buddha stated in the Kātyāyana sutra, when he offered a definition on right view. These four words, no being, no non-being, will help future generations not to suffer from a twisted nose. The Heart Sutra was intended to help the Sarvāstivādins relinquish the view of no self and no dharma. The deepest teaching of Prājñāpāramitā is the emptiness of self (ātmaśūnyatā) and the emptiness of dharma (dharmanairātmya) and not the non-being of self and dharma. The Buddha has taught in the Kātyāyana sutra that most people in the world are caught either in the view of being and non-being. Therefore, the sentence ‘in emptiness there is no form, feelings…’ is obviously still caught in the view of non-being. That is why this sentence does not correspond to the Ultimate Truth. Emptiness of self only means the emptiness of self, not the non-being of self, just as a balloon that is empty inside does not mean that the balloon does not exist. The same is true with the emptiness of dharma: it only means the emptiness of all phenomena and not the non-existence of phenomena. It is like a flower that is made only of non-flower elements. The flower is empty of a separate existence, but that doesn’t mean that the flower is not there.

The Heart Sutra made a late appearance at a time when Tantric Buddhism had begun to flourish. The patriarch who compiled the Heart Sutra wanted to encourage followers of Tantric Buddhism to practice and recite the Heart Sutra, so that’s why he presented the Heart Sutra as a kind of mantra. This was also a skillful means. Thay has used the phrase, ‘The Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore,’ because in the mantra there is the expression pāragate which means ‘gone over to the other shore, the shore of wisdom’. Pārāyana and pāramitā have both been translated as ‘crossing over to the other shore.’ In the Sutta Nipāta there is a chapter called Pārāyana which has also been translated as ‘crossing over to the other shore.’

Dear Family, I hope you enjoy practicing the new version of the Heart Sutra in English. We have an English translation and Br. Phap Linh is in the process of composing the music for the new chant. The next edition of the Chanting Book will include this new translation. Yesterday, on the 21st of August, after finishing the translation at around 3a.m., a moon ray penetrated Thay’s room.

With love and trust, Your Teacher

Aśoka Institute, EIAB, Waldbröl

 Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 198714/2-3

Why the Lotus Sutra?

— On the Historic Significance of Tendai —


In dealing with the T,ien-t,ai (henceforth Tendai) school, one cannot but ask the question as to why historically it is so central a school? Despite the fact that Tendai might have been subsequently overshadowed by other schools, the fact remains that it is the first Sinitic Mahayana school to emerge in China during the Sui-T,ang era. Other schools claim as ancient an ancestry or more, but those self-legitimating legends rose later. And except for the Pure Land school, there is evidence that the Ch,an (Zen) school which became public with Tao-hsin might have originated from under the wing of Tendai. So argued Sekiguchi (1969,pp. 271-81). There is also the anticipation of the Hua-yen (Kegon) totalism, the idea of “One is All, All is One” in the later writings of Master Chih-i. So noted Ando (1968, pp. 147-57). That plus the fact that Tendai has always, in China as in Japan, had a soft spot for Amitabha piety, albeit in its own more meditative style, means that Chinese Tendai at one point embraced the meditative emphasis of Ch,an, the intellec-

tualism of Hua-yen, the piety of Pure Land— in other words, it was the most “catholic” of schools— before these three, different paths of wisdom, insight, and deliverance went their own, separate, and more sectarian ways. It is only after the breakup of that medieval synthesis that we tend to forget exactly how central Tendai was in Chinese Buddhist history.

And is it an accident that the same story should repeat itself in Japan? There Tendai became as, if not even more, central a school in Heian. As is well known, it is the mother school to all of the Kamakura sects. The sects were all rooted in, even as they too should break away from, the home temple that was Mt. Hiei, much to the protestation of Nichiren, its reviver who nonetheless relocated to Mt. Minobu. And however much we might like to remember Tendai’s eclipse after its glory in Heian, we must not forget that Nichiren revival. Less catholic-inclusive and more selective-intolerant, still

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that Nichiren revival is behind another wave of Buddhist revival in modern times. The Nichiren wing still dominates the New Religions of Japan.

Therein as historians of religions we come back to the central question again: Why is such historic significance, such history-making potential, due the Tendai school? And here both fact and piety would have us turn to the Lotus Sutra, the Scripture of the Saddharma (True Law) of the Pundarika (Lotus, symbol of the Buddha) that is the heart and soul of this school. For indeed the glory of the Tendai school is only the derivative glory of the Lotus Sutra. But pious homage before the Saddharma is not always easy for the fac­ tual historian to take. At first glance, it is not easy to see how the highly

scholastic Tendai philosophy, most of which is said to be based on the Madhyamika (Middle Path) system, a sastra tradition, can be so derived from this Saddharma, a sutra tradition, especially since as a sutra, the Lotus really has little to say about that emptiness philosophy and does not indulge in the kind of arabesque of triple truths with which Chih-i so excelled. But accepting the wisdom of tradition, namely that the glory of Tenaai is the glory of the Lotus SUtra, then the question now becomes: Why the Lotus Sutra?

What is in this sutra that makes it the crown of Mahayana sutras, the one copied more often by medieval scribes than any other and the most ancient text (fragment) to survive? A logical question to us, it is a misplaced one to the faithful. Like the Bible to the Christians, the truth of the Lotus is self- evident. This is the Word of the Buddha {buddhavacana) that declares itself as the Eternal Logos and Saddharma. This is the good news, the preacnmg of which, like in Pauline evangelical theology, resuscitates, re-actualizes, and makes present anew every time the Word of the Buddha and the Logos- Dharma that is the Buddha himself. On that final mystery, more later. Mean­ while remaining an outsider, a novice needs to be initiated into its mystique with greater objectivity than the homilies of old. Japan still has a living Tendai scholastic tradition. But there is a need to make sense of that medieval vision for moderns, and it is hoped that through that outsider’s empathy and oDjectivity,perhaps we may acquire an understanding of its profundity,especially the issue of its historic significance the pious exegetics

overlook, take for granted, or fail to assess.

The Lotus Sutra as the Expression o f Popular Faith

One of the charms of the Lotus Sutra is that it satisfies both the simple soul of piety as well as the profound reflections of the philosopher. We will begin with the former because it is more obvious and,I believe, more original (to the sutra). Few scholars would deny that the Lotus Sutra was rootea m the veneration of the Buddha. This is not to say that this is the final end of the sutra. As we will see later, the final end of homage is to the Dharma and not the Buddha. Originally, the Lotus (Buddha) piety grew definitely out of the

 LAI: Why the Lotus Sutra? 85

cult of the relic bones, §anra^ of the World-Honored one after his untimely demise (though timely parinirvar^a and compassionate expediency in the Lotus Sutra). Originally, not finally, the Lotus piety commemorates the cult of merit-making due stupa-worshippers. It is in that sense that the Lotus Sutra had a populist base, and according to Hirakawa, a largely lay-

dominated base.1

Later tradition remembers that when the Buddha passed away, he en­

trusted the Dharma to the monks but gave his ^arira (relic bones) to the laymen. If not de jure (the original wish of the Buddha was to see his ashes scattered), then de facto (the eight princes took possession of the relics after the monks had so deliberated). In this division of labor, the monks were or had been previously instructed by the Buddha to “Follow the Dharma and not the Person” but by default, because the laymen were thought to be inca­ pable of following the strenuous career of the renunciate, the laymen were left with following the Person, not the Dharma. That is to say, they were given the expediency of venerating the Buddha’s person through his physical remains, the relics, with the explicit understanding which the monks tirelessly reiterated, namely that such acts of devotion would not lead to nirvana, but would nonetheless be so meritorious as to be efficacious in securing a better

samsaric rebirth. This is the classic division between nibbanic wisdom and kammatic good works that Medford Spiro the anthropologist has schema­ tized for his analysis of Burmese Buddhism (1970).

But classic dictums are often more ideal than real. The Buddha, being such an extraordinary figure (the foremost one deserving of veneration from those in heaven and those on earth), that homage paid him at his stupa sites (reliquaries in which the relics are enshrined) came in the end not just from the uncouth laity who knew no better but also from the monks who did. And though proverbially we associate the liberal sectarians (Nikaya Buddhists) with greater Buddha-devotion, yet as attested to by the dedications and in­ scriptions on site, both conservatives and liberals were among those who joined the laity in so honoring the Buddha. The Sarvastivadins of northwest India were not lax in this regard, but the liberal Mahasamgikas understand­

ably did give to Buddha-devotion greater prestige and status by assessment more merits due such actions than the conservatives would. Still they stopped short of making devotion the equivalent of wisdom, still regarded as the surest path to liberation. This is understandable for we should not over­ romanticize the Mahasamgikas. They might be for a larger (maha) com­

1 Hirakawa located the basis of Mahayana in the lay stupa cults and Shizutani modified this by pointing out how monks were also involved and how Mahayana as a distinct movement was

due to certain leaders known in Mahayana texts as masters of the Law (dharmabhanakas). See Hirakawa 1963,pp. 57-105 and Shizutani 1967. Abbott 1985 contains a review of the Hirak- wara/Shizutani debate on Mahayana origins. Shizutani^ more radical thesis is not available in English, but I have introduced his ideas in Lai 1981, pp. 447-69.

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munity {sahgha) that included within itself the laity, but their leaders were as much monks (bhiksus). This is not a lay movement.

Although trying to draw the line between lay piety and monk wisdom is risky at best, it is still safe to assume that after the Buddha passed away, there were two foci of faith: the Buddha and the Dharma. (The third jewel, the Sangha as Refuge, is definitely added on later.) According to these two foci, there evolved two different types of literature: the jatakas or birth stories of the Buddha that grew into the Avadana corpus, and the matrka or enumera­ tion (of teachings by numbers) that grew into the ADhidharma genre.

Buddha ——> Jataka ——> Avadana Dharma——> Matrka ——> ADhidharma

The former is kammatic literature used by monks (we suspect) to edify the populace. It is focused on the Buddha. The latter we can characterize as dhammic literature, reserved for the monks alone, and Dharma-centered.

The original, popular base of the Lotus cultus is such that it can be seen in the predominance in the Lotus Sutra of the mythopoeic tradition, i.e. the Avadana materials. This is very unlike the Prajnaparamita (Transcendental Wisdom) Sutras dedicated to the explication of the Dharma: the Lotus Sutra is fundamentally not a philosophical treatise. The final recension knew of philosophical matters, but as a whole the sutra made scant mention of empti­ ness (sunyata), was rairiy indifferent to both the Hinayana abhidharmic sub­

tleties and the Mahayana anti-abhidharmic dialectics. It can be impatient with one as with the other. The reasons for that we will see later. The impor­ tant thing to note is that in no way can the Lotus Sutra be regarded as a philosophical treatise, even less a systematic one. Its most primitive stratum is acknowledged by scholars to be very ancient and in the form of gathas, poetic verses mostly dedicated to singing the praise of the Buddha. Its strongest didache comes not in some refined doctrines but rather in the form of a series of famous parables. Even the doctrine of upaya and ekayana was formulated in terms of the parable of the burning house. In other words, Mythos and not Logos is its forte. And among the core mythic lore, the Lotus Sutra shines in a series of vyakaranas, prophecies or assurances given by the Buddha to his followers concerning their future destinies. The philosophical implication might indeed be “universal Buddhahood,’ for even Devadatta is redeemed as a future Buddha, but it is characteristic of the Lotus Sutra not to

put that forward in a line like the Nirvana Sutra’s “All sentient beings have Buddha-nature.” The importance of its not so saying we will show later.

This is not to say that the Lotus Sutra had no profound philosophical ideas. As acknowledged above, the sutra took in such doctrines as current in its surrounding, from the Hinayana skandhas to Mahayana emptiness, from the elemental dhyanas to intimation of the bodhisattNic bhumis. To say it is not a philosophical work would horrify the traditional Tendai scholastic

 Lai:Why the Lotus Sutra? 87

whose understanding is that this sutra has enough depth of insight to engage anyone for a life time. This point we do not mean to dispute. But it is as much to the credit of Chih-i in unearthing these hidden meanings (hsuan-i 玄 義 ) as it is to the merit of the sutra in keeping such mysteries, for all practical purposes, esoteric. They are so very less than obvious to the untrained eye that without Chih-i we probably would never have become cognizant of them and the arabesque structure of this text. It takes a genius to uncover what most of us can never see. But as a historian of ideas who must record the growth of ideas as a growth in the exegetical tradition that unfolded in time, I must stay first with the obvious and the apparent (the Lotus Sutra as express­ ive of popular piety) and only take into account the less obvious and the bet­ ter concealed (when we come to Chih-i). Otherwise we would let medieval scholastics overshadow the pristine gospel. Posing the problem this way brings us to the next, somewhat controversial, issue.

The Lotus Sutra as Buddhayana, Bodhisattvayana, and Ekayana

As alluded to in passing, we regard the Lotus tradition to be very different from the Prajnaparamita (Prajna or Wisdom) tradition. This is contrary to orthodox understanding. Ever since Chih-i explicated the Lotus Sutra using the tools derived from the Madhyamika philosophy, which is rooted in the Wisdom tradition, most scholars simply cannot consider the Lotus tradition as being originally (not finally) distinct from the Wisdom tradition. This af­ fects a major departure on our part from the current theory or theories on Mahayana genesis.

The genesis of Mahayana is still hidden. The older, more textualist, theory is to trace Mahayana to the Mahasamgikas. But mention has been made in the last section concerning the popularity of the stupa cult well attested to by archaeology. This fact has led Hirakawa to amend the older thesis since the older thesis cannot sufficiently account for the ideological and the sociologi­ cal break. Ideationally Maihayana took over ideas not just from the liberals but also the conservatives. Sociologically Mah5yana broke with both the lib­ erals and the conservatives. Noting the importance of the stupa cult, which is extra-canonical (i.e., separate from the Dharma entrusted to the monk lead­ ers of the sectarians), Hirakawa at first proposes that lay-dominated cultus as a more viable base for the rise of Mahayana. But as noted, the stupa cult was not an exclusively lay movement. Therefore Shizutani amended Hirakawa’s thesis by noting that (a) it was a mixed lay-and-monk cult in which (b) certain preachers {dharmabhanakas) seem to act as their communal leaders (1967). Judging from the praise given to these Dharma masters, it seems that they were the articulators for the seminal Mahayana tradition. The identity of these preachers, what exactly they proclaimed, and whether they were one homogeneous group with one homogeneous message is far from clear.

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Those issues aside, there is one major problem in the stupa-genesis thesis. Textually speaking, “Mah5ySna” by definition arose along with the Prajna­ paramita Sutras because this corpus is the first to proclaim a new Dharma, the first to claim a separate Bodhisattvayana, and the first to call that “Maha- y5na” at the expense of the “HInay5na” of the §ravakas (listeners). But this significantly contradicts the Hirakawa thesis since the Prajnaparamita tradi­ tion glorifies the emptiness of wisdom as Dharmakaya (the three terms Sunyata, prajna, and dharmakaya are here synonymous) and as a Dharma- centered movement had little good to say about sttipa worship. Specifically, it teaches that the bodhisattva should honor the Dharmakaya and not the Rupakaya — whether that be the person Sakyamuni or any of his physical remains {sanra). The bodhisattva, like the arhant after the demise of the Buddha, adheres to the dictum of “Follow ye the Dharma and not the Per­ son.” Dharma is now specifically the unborn, a synonym for emptiness, in the formulaic anutpattidharma-k^anti, a passive, meditative recognition of reality as unborn [i.e.,as being neither 01 Dirth nor of cessation]. Given its Dharma- centrism and his disparaging of Buddha relics, it is hard to see how this wis­ dom tradition could be intrinsically tied to a tradition of faith centered on the Buddha and his glorified body. Or how its ideal,a formless Dharmakaya (im­ personal), with no beginning or end (i.e., eternal) could sit well with an adoration of a very concrete, transcendental personality that is tied to what would be then the Rupakaya by his assessment. (The Lotus Sutra does not know even that Dharmakaya and Rupakaya distinction, and there was not yet

the notion of a SaipbhogakSya.)

In view of this discrepancy I propose, as a methodological necessity, that

the Wisdom tradition not be traced to the stupa cult and that the latter, the Un-Lotus tradition, be granted a separate socio-ideological lineage, following what we said earlier that there were two foci of Jewel-adherence after the Buddha passed away:

Buddha: Buddha-centric piety- [Avadlna七ased]


Dharma-centric wisdom- [abhidharma-defined]

at the stupa centers with monk-lay participation that is trans-sectarian

= Roots of a Buddhayana

for sectarian monks experiencing post- A名oka schism between village-dwelling monks and forest dwelling ascetics

= Sravaka, Pratyekabuddhayana

The canon was the Dharma (sutra-vinaya) and the sectarians were defined by the Dharma. The stupa cult was extra-canonical and thus duly trans­ sectarian. It existed side by side with the various sects, ready to accept one

 Lai:Why the Lotus Sutra? 89

and all devotees, an indiscriminate piety that would inform the Ekayana slogan later when it could declare itself as a new teaching or Dharma. The hitch was that this devotional cult, being centered on the Buddha, originally had no Dharma of its own. It could not because it had followed the person (the Buddha) and not the Dharma. According to the sectarian doctrine of the separation of the Three Jewels preserved in the vinaya, which states that the three refuges are distinct and separate — such that the goods donated to one jewel can never be used by another without its explicit permission — any physical or emtaphysical fusion of the Buddha jewel and the Dharma jewel

was disallowed. Non-aligned with the liberals or the conservatives, though patronized by both, the stupa cult originally had no Yana consciousness. Even when it did develop a Yana-identity, its Buddhayana did not fall into any of the traditional Triyanas, i.e., §ravaka-, Pratyekabuddha-, and Bodhi­ sattvayana. For its scripture it had gathas (verses), jatakas (birth stories of the Buddha), and avadanas (birth stories of other Buddhas) but it had no sutra. And that is not just because the sutra canon (the Nikaya) was in the hands of

the monks but more importantly because a formal sutra always presumes a sutra-dharma. That is to say, a sutra should always be Dharma-centered, not Buddha-centered.

One should not be too purist about this. Extra-canonical “siitras” dedi­ cated to teachings about other Buddhas such as Aksobhya and Amitabha were probably in circulation. Shizutani would date the “primitive” or Ur- MahSyana corpus at 100 B.C. to A.D. 100, that predating even the “early5,or consciously Mahayana corpus (beginning with the A^tasahasrika-prajna-

paramita Sutra, by his count, A.D. 50-250. The mark of the Ur-Mahayana corpus is that it does not know itself as “Mahayana•” And this label indeed does not appear even in the classic Sukhavativyuha corpus. I would postulate that these Vaipulya “stltras,’ were tolerated by the sectarians most probably because they were considered to be lores about other Buddhas other than Sakyamuni, and as such beyond the purview of the sons of Sakyamuni who were keepers only of the Sakya tradition.

At any rate, for some three centuries after theparinirvana of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Buddha tradition grew side by side. Then came an im­ portant change. Both the stupa cult, now a full caitya (large, temple com­ pound) center and the dharmic learning, now a full abhidharma system, flourished after A^oka lent the tradition his imperial support. But as with Constantine and his patronage of Christianity, Buddhism under A^oka also suffered the bane of worldliness that came with prosperity.

Our hypothesis is that the Prajnaparamita tradition rose up against not one but both of these developments. It indeed castigated both the stupa devo­ tion and the abhidharmic scholastics. This seminal Mahayana tradition, con­ trary to acccepted reading, rose not within but in tension with the urbane cult

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of stupas and the settled community of the village monks. Like the Desert Fathers who reacted to the secularity of the Constantinean Church — with its share of mindless magic and doctrinal nitpicking— the future Mahayana bod- hisattvas were ascetics rooted I believe in the very ancient tradition of the aryanikas, the forest-dwelling monks, who pursued, as forest-dwellers always had, a program of superhuman perfection or paramitas. Before these forest monks were remade by an adoring public into the classic bodhisattva saints, much as the desert Fathers became (despite their withdrawl from the world) the living saints and intercessors of the Church, they were probably regarded as pratyekabuddhas, the solitarily enlightened. Our hypothesis is that the pratyekabuddha was not yet seen as one who enlightened himself with no compulsion to save others. That is the later schematized reading. Pratyeka­ buddha at one time seems not to refer to some nebulous, unknown self­ enlightened but silent Buddhas. It seems to be a term used, as it is still used in Jainism, to describe the recluse ascetics. As a class of actual dhutas known to an admiring public, they are still so recognized in the Pali canon. The title of Pratyekabuddha is still an attribute given to revered forest monks in folk Theravada Buddhism and given even nowadays by modern historians to the rebel ascetics in Mahayana (Bodhidharma and the early Zen masters had been so typed).

The placement of the pratyekabuddha in the Triayana scheme remains even now problematical. We have two views of the relationship between the Three Vehicles, one assuming the three were continuous grades while the other one would have them as discrete destinies:

1.The (earlier) continuous model:

Arhant— >Pratyekabuddha一~>Bodhisattva~ >Samyaksambuddha

A person can advance from one to the next through higher virtues. Preserved by Buddhaghosa in Theravada and in the Mahayana bhumis.

2. The (classic) discrete model:

Sravakagotra, Pratyekabuddhagotra, and Bodmsattvagotra are separate.

Distinction now based on dependence/independence/advocacy. Once determined, a gotra cannot cross over into another.

I believe the first model is earlier and that certain forest-ascetics were being graded as individual saints, lesser than the Buddha but higher than his now secularized disciples in the village, the ^ravakasyand that the future Mahayana tradition (called Bodhisattvayana by the time of its proclamation) was rooted in this tradition of the solitary desert saints of Buddhism.

That this tracing of the Prajnaparamita tradition to the forest-dwelling monks is not spurious is supported by the fact that the sixparamitas nearly all spell of asceticism. Even the first {dana paramita) has little to do with dona­ tion of goods. Practising such a charitable virtue due a layman is honorable,

 Lai:Why the Lotus Sutra? 91

but by definition paramita is more than even the Eight Noble Paths. It means superhuman perfection, total giving. Dana paramita in the classic jatakas meant selfless sacrifice of the self. Thus it is a mistake to connect the primacy of dana paramita with the popular donative piety of stupa worshippers. The original bodhisattva path is the path of a few pratyekabuddhas, but this Way or Yana of a rare handful became much admired by the populace—forest dwelling monks still are so awe-inspiring as to have extraordinary powers at­ tributed to them — that as the holy ones, the great beings, Mahasattvas, they were remade or reclaimed as the Mahasattva Bodhisattvas whose way then grew into what was then renamed as Mahayana. Because of their forest

origin, this new movement existed in tension with the sravaka, the archetypal Hinayanist, a Listener, someone who kept the canon in the village. The pratyekabuddha,the solitary saint, also came under criticism later, with the added impetus of the compassionate bodhisattva ideal. Henceforth, in the classic scheme of the Triyana (see above), the pratyekabuddhas became grouped with the Hinayana. Still ambivalence remains. Mahayana typically targets the §ravaka-arhant for criticism, and much less so the pratyeka­ buddha.

Forest-dwellers of course did not start movements. Solitary souls did not create sizeable communities, any more than St. Anthony fanned the cult of the Desert Fathers. The legend of St. Anthony was spread by the Church Fa­ thers themselves in admiration of his lifestyle. So likewise may we suspect the same happened to these pratyekabuddhas. It is the popularization of their virtue (paramitas) and powers (tapas) that led to the transformation and maturation of their path into the Mahayana Bodhisattvayana. That, however, is another story.

This hypothesis of Mah5y5na genesis with the forest ascetics can be sup­ ported by an analysis of the legend concerning the formation of the Hinayana canon itself. By “listeners” is meant one who follows the teachings of the Buddha. In the institutionalized Sangha, the teaching is the sutra-vinaya and to listen is to hear these codified words repeated in and by the community of bhiksus. But forest-dwelling monks lived far away from such monasteries. Being contemplatives, they had few scriptures and even less use for them. They had few images and knew little communal matrka recitations. They at­ tained enlightenment in solitude. This is quite unlike the sectarian Buddhists, liberal or conservative, who had their sutra, vinaya, and eventually, their sec­ tarian abhidharma. So protective were they of the authority of the canon that their record would remember the First Council as one attended by all Arhants (five hundred in number). There was then no category of pratyeka­ buddhas. But there was one Arhant missing and it was the venerable Gavam- pati,who when summoned to join the council in effect refused and in the heat of tapas, extinguished himself in like manner as the Buddha. He

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represents the non-conformist pratyekabuddha who would have no part in the cult of the memorized, and later the written, the well chanted and thus well harkened to, canon. But if he should be the stubborn outsider, the five hundred Arhants who legitimized communal living also staked their claim. In order to join the council, they are said to have renounced the places they delighted in most—living in mountains, forests, near lakes, or in caves. This Church community repudiated the solitary lifestyle.

But lo and behold, whom should the early Prajnaparamita Siitras make its spokesmen? Not someone known as a Bodhisattva by name, because that as­ sociation to the Bodhisattva category was yet unknown. The teaching of Emptiness came from the disciple of the Buddha who is known to love dwell­ ing in mountains and lakes: Subhuti, traditionally known to us as an Arhant. It always seemed strange to me why Mahayana emptiness should be taught by an Arhant until I realize that Subhuti really symbolizes a pratyekabuddha, a forest ascetic, at a time when the Triyana categories have not become so schematized and discrete. And whom did Subhuti criticize? Sariputra the dis­

ciple, known not just for his wisdom as is the usual reading (Sariputra is tied later to the abhidharmic tradition) but also for being the one who instituted village-dwelling monks. He was the one who established the Buddhist monastic community close to the village to serve and be served by the laity, whose support was what provided the leisure for abhidharmic studies in the first place. Thus the Subhuti-Sariputra exchange in the earliest texts of the Prajna corpus points us back to the real source of the Wisdom tradition: ten­ sion between forest-dwelling monks and village-dwelling monks after the reign of A点oka had secularized the latter enough to make these Buddhist Desert Fathers the saints of a new era.

Making this methodological distinction between the Lotus Buddhayana and the Prajiia Bodhisattvayana would help to account for some of the pecu­ liarity of the Lotus tradition that scholars to date have failed to account for satisfactorily. A long dissertation is not possible here, so briefly, these Doints are:

a) Why, although some portions of the Lotus might predate the Prajna corpus, the Lotus as Sutra could only emerge after the Prajna tradition had effected a break with the sectarians? This is because the Prajna tradition, by proclaiming a new Dharma (the Unborn), was the first to create a new sutra (buddhavacana) with which to repudiate the authority of the Nikaya canon. It was only after this Bodhisattvayana effected the Mahayana break with Hinayana that the non-aligned and extra-canonical Lotus tradition joined the Great Vehicle.

b) To do so, the Lotus had to proclaim itself a Dharma (Saddharma). However, this involved a transormation of what was originally a Buddha- centric cult into a Dharma-centric cult. The Lotus Sutra must have a sutra-

 LAI: Why the Lotus Sutra? 93

Dharma. This explains why, though the Lotus Sutra quite obviously championed Buddha-devotion, the final position (and the official Tendai doc­ trine) is that the object of worship {horizon 本尊)is not the Buddha but the (Sutra) Dharma itself.

c) The sutra-ization of the Lotus devotion led to the displacement of the Buddha-relic by the Sutra itself. This not only led to the popularity of copying the sutra to the preservation of the Dharma, but led later to the ritual enshrinement of the writtenpustaka (book) in the stupa itself in lieu of actual physical relics. In that cultic twist, one also follows the Dharma and not the Person, even though the Saddharma declares the longevity of the Buddha.

d) Mahayana as Bodhisattvayana at first accepted the distinction of the Three Vehicles, since it was upon the discreteness of the three (sravaka, pratyekabuddha, bodhisattva) that the superiority of the bodhisattva vehicle is established. But the Lotus came after that, and continuing its primordial trans-sectarianism, repealed the three in an endorsement of itself as the One Vehicle. Ekayana refers originally to an inclusive Buddhayana,what Fa-yiin justly called the “fourth vehicle.” The Lotus Buddhayana was then more than

the Wisdom Bodhisattvayana. It is only later when that distinction was smoothed out that we now accept the orthodox reading of Mahayana, Bod­ hisattvayana, ekayana^ and Buddhayana as synonyms. At one time, however, Buddhayandi-ekayana transcended Bodhisattvayana-Triyana.

e) A qualification: Our attribution of Bodhisattvayana to the tradition of the forest-dwelling pratyekabuddhas seems to be duly contradicted by the Vimalakxrti-nirdesa Sutra where the hero is a householder bodhisattva of prosperous Vaisali. Space does not allow a full defense of our thesis. Briefly though, the Vimalakirti-nirde^a Sutra is a separate and slightly later tradition than the original Prajnaparamita Sutras, It even repudiated the forest-

dwelling tradition (the mark of Subhuti) and attacked it in a well-concealed way, namely, by having Vimalakirti mock Sariputra (!) for meditating in the forest. It transposed the mark of Subhuti, the new target, onto his old protagonist, the village-dwelling Sariputra.

A ll that is now history. The mature Mahayana tradition fused Lotus devotion and Prajna wisdom. And Chih-i is fully justified to fuse these two traditions into one, allowing Madhyamika in a “round, perfect” dialectics to make sense of the Oneness of ekayana and making it possiole for the positive reality of Dharma (the shih-hsiang of dhartnata) to modify the negative tone of empti­ ness in the Prajnaparamita corpus. After him, it is impossible to read the Lotus Siitra with the kind of critical innocence we have assumed above. But no synthesis is ever flawless, not even the Tendai one. The very imperfection can hold the key to the dynamism of the tradition itself. Of the many untold tensions we could write on, we will select a few and end with one that Ruben Habito has addressed.

 94 Japanese Journal of Reli^ous Studies 14/2-3

The Continual Tension between the Personal and the Impersonal

Despite the eventual fusion of Faith and Wisdom in Mahayana, sufficient ten­ sions survived in the Lotus tradition itself to give it a unique stamp. This is because faith in the Buddha will always be somehow more personal, more specific, more committed to a historical memory and horizon than intuition into a Wisdom that is impersonal, universal, and timeless.

The orthodox reading of the Lotus Sutra would say that it endorses the idea of a permanent Dharmakaya and teaches the universality of Buddha- nature. But neither idea can be found so literally in the Lotus Sutra. For example, except in the later-inserted Devadatta chapter (into the preferred Kumarajlva translation), the Lotus Sutra did not know of the term Dharma­ kaya. It had never used it or had use for it. Instead of that impersonal Absolute, the sutra knows the Buddha as mythopoeically having a very, very long lifespan. Longevity is not eternity. Unlike the Dharma that has neither beginning nor end, the Lotus which depicts the Buddha as having a long life still keeps to the memory of finite historicity. Namely, there is logically a be­ ginning to the Buddha career (i.e. a time when he had not embarked on the path of Bodhisattvacarya toward enlightenment, and it is assumed that one

day he would come to a well-deserved end — final parinirvana or extinction). That is the legacy of Mythos over against Logos.

Likewise, not knowing the gnostic distinction between the form and the formless, the Rupakaya-Dharmakaya dualism in the Wisdom sutras, the Lotus Sutra knows the long-living Buddha only in a glorified form. The Lotus retains simply the older, the cruder, the Mahasamgika-shared idea of a Buddha with wellnigh boundless physical form (*yehsin 色身,rupakaya), meaning in AvadSna language that the Buddha can project multiple bodies at will, assume identity with other Buddhas in time, and recall into himself the myriad Buddhas in space. A ll these are realistically depicted in the sutra itself in a language that would befuddle the modern mind but delight anyone who has any sensitivity toward the sublime. Though often philosophically categori­ zed as docetic, the mystery in the Lotus Sutra is actually never phrased in terms of Sakyamuni being some docetic shadow of some eternal Wisdom. The mystery is rather that somehow the historical Buddha preaching the sutra at Vulture Peak is at once the eternal Buddha preaching eternally this eternal sutra at this numinous axis mundi (nay, this Pure Land) and

dharmaman^a (Jpn.dojo道場JofasacredmountaininIndia.

The Lotus Siitra has no use for some cerebal formula like an eternal Dharmakaya. Such a pure Dharmakaya concept would enforce a dualism of Dharmakaya and Rupakaya, of enlightened mind and coarse body, of the pure and the polluted, whereas the genius of the Tendai tradition, following what we said above about the translucency of the physical and the noumenal,

 Lai:Why the Lotus Sutra? 95

is that it could and did weave these opposites together in Chih-i’s tripartite dialectics. It is this interpretation that modified the more abstract (<Samsara is nirv5pa” dictum of the Wisdom tradition to produce such a human (non- docetic) conception as the “Buddha with essential evil” (hsing-o 性 悪 ). The same down-to-earthliness is responsible for its preference for a personalist reading of eternity, best seen in the myth of the dual Buddhas on one lotus seat. Prabhutaratna, or “Many Jewels” (symbol of the abundant treasure of merits lodged at the stupa), is the past enlightened Buddha that somehow ap­ peared while Sakyamuni was preaching the Lotus Siitra, He broke the time barrier that divided past and present—Buddhas of the past were not sup­

posed to live into the realm of a Buddha of the present — to share the same seat of enlightenment with Sakyamuni, Buddha of the present. The Tendai scholastics say that all three times (past, present, and future) are One, but in this key episode in the Lotus Sutra history is so respected that the yet unen­ lightened Maitreya, Buddha of the future, is still kept waiting in the wing, dumbfounded and wondering what was going on. This scene only encapsu­ lated the unity of past, present, and future to come in the end of time. In this scene Prabhutaratna appears as the intimation of a Buddha of longevity. The hypostasis of the stupa with abundant merits, he had his own cult, claiming stupas of ms own decked with “many jewels” and usually grander than the stupas of Sakyamuni. There are icons as well of the Dual-Seated Buddha. In

all this, we are dealing with the extravagance of form, not the abstraction of formlessness; mythic reality, not logic.

Likewise the Lotus Sutra never said “All sentient beings have Buddha- nature.” Tms idea is embedded in the omnipresence of the Buddha which is represented in the language of the Buddha splitting his body into a multitude of Buddhas (an old, supernatural power granted the Buddha) and of recalling all these Buddhas back into himself (which happened prior to Prabhuta- ratna’s self-disclosure). His omnipotence is phrased in terms of his all­ knowing wisdom, his omniscience by a light flowing like a stream to lit up all corners of the universe in the opening chapter—a common and standard scene given prior to a demonstration of his prophetic powers or vyakarana.

In so refusing an escape into some timeless emptiness, the Lotus Sutra kept up a more historical perspective than the Wisdom Sutras. For example, the attention paid to specific vyakarana (prophecies) means that this sutra did not reduce all human fate to one homogeneous Buddha-nature. As a matter of fact, the genre of vyakarana eclipsed precisely after the Mahayana version of the Nirvarta Sutra so afforded every sentient being a share of the timeless Buddha-nature. History became irrelevant when enlightenment becomes om­ nipresent. Mah5yana lost that sense of historicity soon thereafter. Ahistorical Buddhas overshadowed the Historical Sakyamuni. The Lotus Siitra suffered that shift in the later appended chapters of the sutra away from Sakyamuni

 96 Japanese Journal ofReligious Studies 14/2-3

and history to more ahistorical Buddhas and bodhisattvas. These are inde­ pendent chapters dedicated largely to nonhistorical bodhisattvas coming from a more unstable time (second or third century A.D.). But then to its credit the sutra does succeed in drawing them under the Lotus umbrella. The historical sense is heightened by eschatological hope and despair, making the Lotus Sutra a timely sutra in moments of crisis. The revival of Lotus piety in those hours in the history of East Asian Buddhism is no accident. Nichiren and the New Religions of Japan only carried out the mission assigned within the sutra itself.

The Survival of the Buddhayana Motifs in Later Mahayana

Buddhayana and Bodhisattvayana did fuse into mature Mahayana. The Lotus and the Prajna tradition also became indisassociably one. If we look closer we can still find tension between Buddhayana and Bodhisattvayana. This is diagrammatized as follows. The bodhisattva concept has two modes, (a) In Low Buddhology, the bodhisattva is the Buddha-to-be, one still striving after wisdom, (b) In High Buddhology, the bodhisattva is already enlightened and is now exercising upaya and karuna for the deliverance of other sentient beings.

Bodhisattva as yet unenlightened . B O D H I. Bodhisattva as savior

———– PPS————•——–SDP———

The early Prajna tradition knew only the former; its six ascetic paramitas did not include upayaykarurya^ or jnana (for samsyaksambodhi). The original Lotus tradition knew only the latter; the virtues are in reverse. It is the latter tradition that would endorse a higher notion of an active Buddhahood, and consequently a higher notion of the Buddhakaya.

Although the two traditions fused, still the Lotus Buddha excels over the Prajna Dharmakaya in two aspects.(1)The Dharmakaya as empty, sunya, was by definition without attributes (nirguna), but the Lotus Buddha by his formal personality is necessarily gifted with extraordinary gunas and cannot be ontologically empty; (2) Emptiness as wisdom was knowable to the bod­ hisattva, but what is not-empty {a§unyayi.e., the marvelous attributes or gunas of the Buddha in the Buddhayana tradition) lies beyond the limits of

the bodhisattva’s wisdom. This second aspect is already stressed in the Lotus Sutra, which held its higher mystery of Buddhahood as something known only among Buddhas, something not privileged even to the highest of bodhi­ sattvas. From this noumenal standpoint of the Lotus Buddhayana (plus inputs from the Avatamsaka tradition) came the so-called Tathagatagarbha tradi­ tion. The Snmaladevi Sutra then repeats the claim that its tathagatagarbha mystery is not known to or knowable by the bodhisattvas. In addition, it for­ malized the first aspect noted above and postulated explicitly an asunya

 Lai:Why the Lotus Sutra? 97

tathagatagarbha, a not-empty store of merits stored in this matrix of the Buddha (omnipresent in all beings) that contradicted and overcame the pas­ sive nihilism of emptiness, the Nuriya tathagatagarbha.

These two lines of Buddhayana conception— the Lotus line that stresss an enpowered, not-empty, Buddhakaya actively working for the deliverance of man, and the Prajna line that stresses the self-effort of the seeker of wisdom or bodhisattva striving after Buddhahood to come— in turn affected the later reading of the dispensation of the Trikaya. As well documented by Habito,2 the Lotus line ended up in the Ratnagotravibhaga and the PrajnU line in the Mahayanasutralamkara. In the former, where significantly the emphasis is on the asunya attributes of the Buddha, it is on the Dharmakaya which is emanating into and enpowering the Sambhogakaya for the deliverance of sentient beings. Habito types this as a Buddhakaya conception from “above

down.” In the latter, which follows more closely the Prajnaparamita as the upward striving of the bodhisattva, the stress is on the Sambhogakaya as the well-deserved, self-achieved, Enjoyment Body of the seeker after \^isdom, and the centerpiece of the Trikaya scheme. This affirms our contention that the faith tradition is responsible for the conception of a concrete personality working for others and the Wisdom tradition is instrumental in the percep­ tion of an impersonal emptiness without, initially, positive gunas to effect changes in the world. The latter follows rather logically from its roots in the pratyekabuddha tradition of the solitary forest-dwelling gnostics.3

2 In a paper given at a symposium at the Nanzan Institute for Culture and Religion on Tendai Buddhism and Christianity, 16-18 March, 1987. These papers will be published in the near future by Shunjusha.

3 Habito,s thesis has changed my previous view on the place of the Sambhogakaya in the economy of the TrikSya. I had worked on the assumption that since the Lotus Sutra stressed the personhood of the transcendental Buddha, this is what injected or necessitated the postulation of a third body, the Sambhogakaya, in the two bodies theory of the Prajna-

paramitas. I was expecting the Sambhogakaya to be the key item that the tathagatagarbha- defined Ratnagotravibhaga would bring out. I was not prepared for its displacement by the Dharmakaya whose superiority I associated with the Prajna tradition. Although my hunch remains valid to a degree, yet the finer nuances are being drawn out with Habito,s finding. The Ratnagpotravibhdga does retain the Lotus-derivcd emphasis on the asunya aspect of the Dharmakaya; this is what gives primacy to Dharmakaya still. But if the personhood of the SambhogakSya should be somewhat overshadowed by the universaiism of the Dharmakaya, that should be attributed to the very notion of the tathagatagarbha itself. This synonym for Buddha-nature was derivative of the concept of Buddha-プ方a/ia,the omniscience of the Buddha, in both the Lotus and theAvaiamsaka tradition. But abstract and universal Buddha-nature is a notion unknown to the Lotus Sutra, which delights rather in numerous vyakaranas. The dis­ placement of vyakarana by buddha-gotra/dhatu by the time of the Nirvana Siitray i.e. the su­ perceding of particular, personal prophecies by the guarentee of universal enlightenment, is, in my present retrospect, one key factor for the ascendency of the impersonal over the personal, alias, the DharmakSya over the Sambhogakaya, even in the Ratnagotravibhaga. Docetism did win and modify the personalist mystique of the Lotus lineage of ideas.

 98 JapaneseJournalofReligiousStudies 14/2-3


In the above short excursion into the reasons for the historic significance of the Lotus SiitrayI have attempted to show how (a) in its core, the Lotus Siitra is one of the oldest of the Buddhist teachings, one dedicated to the venera­ tion of the Buddha and the living memory of his person despite his seeming extinction; (b) that as Buddhayana it was originally distinct from the Bod­ hisattvayana of the Wisdom Sutras into whose Mahayana camp the Lotus Sutra only later joined; but how (c) even in so doing, the Lotus Sutra was never absorbed into the gnosticism of the Prajflな tradition but preserved much better the sense of history and personality, maybe not to the extent of how History and personality are understood in the Christian tradition, but nonetheless most significantly so. And (d) not only did the Lotus Sutra

champion a higher ekaydna qua Buddhayana that opposed the teaching of a timeless Wisdom and formless Dharmakaya of the originally Triy5na-based emptiness tradition, the Lotus Sutra contributed to a more positive under­ standing of the Buddhakaya in the Trikaya scheme, enpowering the not- empty Dharmakaya to emanate into the salvaic Sambhogakaya. Furthermore (c) with its commitment to specific historic destinies in its prophetic genre (vyakarana), the Lotus tradition enhanced the eschatological gospel founa in its later chapters. All this makes for a dynamic tradition that thrives to this day and provides an objective, historical, and comparative answer to the question of why the Lotus Sutra is of such pivotal importance in Buddhist ecclesiastical history.



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 Lai:Why the Lotus Sutra? 99


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