The Life of Gautama Buddha


The Buddha and Thinkers in India

Buddhist Philosophy

Buddhist Schools and Sects

Spread of Buddhism

Survey of Buddhist Literature




Introduction: The Life of Gautama Buddha




The introduction is an attempt to provide a background for the entries in the glossary. It is a curtain-raiser for the gamut of Buddhism.

The introduction is divided into seven sections

(1) The Life of Gautama Buddha,

(2) Dharma,

(3) The Buddha and Thinkers in India,

(4) Buddhist Philosophy,

(5) Buddhist Schools and Sects,

(6) Spread of Buddhism, and

(7) Survey of Buddhist Literature.



(1) The Life of Gautama Buddha

Siddhārtha Gautama was born around 623 BC in Lumbinī grove near Kapilavastu in the family of Śākya-s. His father Śuddhodana was the chief of Śākya-s whose capital was Kapilavastu. Siddhārtha's mother Mahāmāyā died seven days after his birth. Prajāpatī Gautamī, the younger sister of Mahāmāyā, brought up Siddhārtha. An old sage Asita who visited Śuddhodana to see the newborn child, predicted that the child would be a saviour of the world and would bring salvation to people. The child was named Siddhārtha, 'one whose goal is fulfilled'. Gautama is the family name. Thus he was known as Siddhārtha Gautama. Later on he





Introduction: The Life of Gautama Buddha

became a sage and since he belonged to the Śākya clan he received the title 'Śākyamuni'. He was married to Yaśodharā and had a son named Rāhula.

     As a prince, Siddhārtha was surrounded by luxuries of life. The Buddha describes them in the following words: "I was delicate, excessively delicate. In my father's dwelling three lotus-ponds were made purposely for me. Blue lotuses bloomed in one, red in another, and white in another. I used no sandalwood that was not of Kāśī. My turban, tunic, dress and cloak, were all from Kāśī. Night and day a white parasol was held over me so that I might not be touched by heat or cold, dust, leaves or dew. There were three palaces for me -- one for the cold season, one for the hot season, and one for the rainy season. During the four rainy months, I lived in the palace for the rainy season without ever coming down from it, entertained by female musicians."

     In his youth, one day Siddhārtha came across a decrepit old man, a diseased person, a corpse and an ascetic. His heart sank at the first three sights as he pondered over the ailments of human life. The fourth sight brought to him the means to attain serenity.

     The allurements of the palace could no more bind Siddhārtha to a life of pleasures. He made up his mind to go in search of truth. That night before parting, he entered the chamber where Yaśodharā was fast asleep with Rāhula in her arms. He cast a glance at both of them, and leaving everything behind rode on the horse, Kanthaka. He crossed the river Anomā, rested for a while; handed over his garments and ornaments to Channa, the charioteer, and put on the garb of an ascetic. Siddhārtha's 'going forth' for the search of Truth is known as mahāpravrajyā [mahāpabbajjā] or Mahābhiniṣkramaṇa.

     Siddhārtha approached two spiritual masters Ārāḍa





Introduction: The Life of Gautama Buddha

Kālāma [Āḷāra Kālāma] and Udraka Rāmaputra [Uddaka Rāmaputta] to realise the Truth. The former adhered to the doctrine of self. The latter also dealt with the question of 'I' but laid more stress on the doctrine of karma and transmigration of soul. Siddhārtha reached a settlement of five pupils of Uddaka, headed by Kauṇḍiṇya [Koṇḍañño], in the jungle of Uruvelā near Gayā in Magadha. He saw that they could restrain their senses and control their passions through austere penance.

     Siddhārtha applied himself to mortification, and took himself to severe austerities for six long years until eventually his body was reduced to a skeleton. While describing his state of emaciation the Buddha says, "Like dried canes now became my arms and legs, withered through this extremely scanty diet; like a string of beads became my spinal column with the vertebrae protruding. Just as the roof beams of an old house sharply protrude, so protruded my ribs. Just as a gourd freshly cut becomes empty and withered in the hot sun, so my belly reached the back of my spine and when I wished to touch my spine, I again reached to the belly -- thus near had come my belly to my spinal column!"

     Ultimately the Buddha realised the utter futility of self-mortification. In the Majjhima Nikāya, the Buddha himself describes, "By all these bitter and difficult austerities, I shall not attain to excellence, worthy of supreme knowledge and insight, transcending those of human states. Might there be another path for Enlightenment!" At that time a woman called Sujātā had come to make an offering of rice and milk to a banyan tree. Having seen the holy man under the tree, she placed the golden bowl of rice and milk before him. He ate the meal, felt strong and sat under a tree in cross-legged posture to attain the state of trance. He made a resolve: "Though my skin, sinews and bones remain, and my blood and flesh dry up and wither away, yet will I





Introduction: The Life of Gautama Buddha

never stir from this seat until I have attained full enlightenment." He was now determined on his path which was independent, avoiding the two extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. Later on this path came to be known as the middle path -- madhyamā pratipadā [majjhimā paṭipadā].

     Siddhārtha was free from sensual desires and evil ideas; he attained and dwelt in the first trance of joy and rapture arising from detachment and associated with reasoning and investigation. In the next stage he went into a trance of joy and rapture arising from concentration with the eternal serenity and fixing of the mind on one point without reasoning and investigation. With equanimity towards joy and aversion, being mindful and conscious he dwelt in the third trance. Abandoning pain and pleasure he dwelt in the fourth trance endowed with purity of mindfulness and equanimity. On the full moon day of Vaiśākha in his deep meditation under the Fig tree which was later known as Bodhi tree, the consciousness of true insight awakened in him. He saw the cause of suffering in clinging to life. He saw the way of eradication of suffering in the Noble Eightfold Path.

     Thereafter he spoke these words of victory: "Being myself subject to birth, ageing, disease, death, sorrow and defilement; seeing danger in what is subject to these things, seeking the unborn, unageing, diseaseless, deathless, sorrowless, undefiled, supreme security from bondage -- Nibbāna, I attained it. Knowledge and vision arose in me; unshakeable is my deliverance of mind. This is the last birth, now there is no more becoming, no more rebirth."

     Now Gautama became the Buddha, the Enlightened one. Then he said, "I wandered in existence through countless births seeking but not finding the builder of this mortal house (that is, body), and again and again birth and life





Introduction: The Life of Gautama Buddha

and suffering have returned. O builder of this house of flesh (that is, craving), you are seen. You shall build no house again. All your rafters (passions) are broken. The beam (that is, ignorance) is shattered. The end of craving is achieved. Deliverance from repeated life is at last gained."

     The Buddha knew that the five ascetics, his earlier companions, Koṇḍañño, Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahānāma, and Assaji were staying in the Deer Park at Isipatana (Ṛṣipattana) also known as Sāranātha near Vārāṇasī. So he proceeded to the place. On his way he told Upaka, an ascetic, "I am the all subduer, the wise, the stainless, the highest teacher, the conqueror." The Buddha delivered to the five ascetics, the Dhammacakkappavattana-Sutta. He said, "O Bhikkhu-s, one who has gone forth from the worldly life should not indulge in these two extremes. What are the two? There is indulgence in desirable sense-objects, which is low, vulgar, practice of worldlings, ignoble, unworthy and unprofitable; there is devotion to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy and unprofitable."

     The Buddha went on to explain, "What is that Middle Path, O Bhikkhu-s, that the Tathāgata has realised? It gives vision, it gives knowledge, and it leads to calm, to insight, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna. It is simply the Noble Eightfold Path, namely: Right View, Right Resolution, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration. This is the Noble Path realised by the Tathāgata, which gives vision, which gives knowledge, and which leads to calm, to insight, to enlightenment and to Nibbāna." The ascetics attained Arhatship after receiving instruction from the Buddha.

     During his lifetime the Buddha got many followers from





Introduction: The Life of Gautama Buddha

all walks of life. Śuddhodana invited him to Kapilavastu and paid tribute to him. Rāhula, his son, became a novice. Upāli, the family barber became his follower. He unfolded to Ānanda the Law (dharma) [dhamma] and discipline (vinaya), and told his disciples that thereafter his word should be considered as their teacher.

     When the Buddha was at Pāvā, Cunda, a blacksmith of the town invited him for a meal. The Buddha became ill due to the food he had taken. However he went to Kuśinagara [Kusinārā] in the eastern part of modern Nepal and lay down between two Śāla trees. When his end was near, the Buddha said, "Ānanda, I have preached the truth without making any distinction between exoteric and esoteric doctrine, for in respect of the truth, Ānanda, the Tathāgata has no such thing as the closed fist of a teacher, who keeps some things back... Be ye lamps unto yourselves. Rely on yourselves, do not rely on external help. Hold fast to the truth as a lamp. Seek salvation alone in the truth." When he breathed his last, he uttered these words, "Now, O monks, I have nothing more to tell you but all that is composed is subject to decay, strive after salvation with diligence."

     The Buddha's death is known as Mahāparinirvāṇa [Mahāparinibbāna]. He entered Mahāparinirvāṇa on the full moon day of Vaiśākha. His remains were cremated with royal honours. Eight stūpa-s were erected over his relics in different parts of India.

AN. Dutiyacatumahārāja, Sukhumāla, Vassakāra. AVK. XXIV. 176-187. DN. Cakkavatti, Mahāparinibbāna, Sāmaññaphala. JK. II. 131-198; III. 198-247. LV. III. 20-22; XIV. 152-157. Mahāvagga. I. 1. Bodhikathā upto 13 (Bimbisārasamāgamakathā). MN. Ariyapariyesanā, Gopakamoggalāna, Mahāsaccaka, Pāsarāsi. SN. Anurādha, Dhammacakkappavattana, Moggallāna, Sattavassānubandha, Vakkali.



The Life of Gautama Buddha


The Buddha and Thinkers in India

Buddhist Philosophy

Buddhist Schools and Sects

Spread of Buddhism

Survey of Buddhist Literature





Introduction: Dharma

(2) Dharma

The Concept of Dharma

The term dharma [dhamma] means doctrine, nature of a thing or righteousness.

     The term dharma connotes the word of the Buddha. His original teachings such as the Four Noble Truths reveal the true nature of life. One should therefore, make a distinction between the original teachings of the Buddha and the edifice of religion built on them.

     In Primitive Buddhism the term dharma comprises the following concepts: five aggregates, twelve sense-fields and eighteen elements of existence. It also covered three seals of the Law, the formula of Dependent Origination, Four Noble Truths, threefold practice, thirty-seven practices conducive to enlightenment, eight stages of effort and attainment.

     In Mahāyāna the term dharma receives a new connotation. Here dharma denotes (1) the perfections [pārami-s], the stages of bodhisattva practice, desire to attain enlightenment. These three aspects deal with the practice of dharma. (2) the buddha-nature, and the tathāgata-embryo (tathāgata-garbha). These aspects of dharma are transcendental. (3) the eight types of consciousness, the three spheres of existence, (4) the non-self (anātman) and aggregates, (5) six great elements and essence of a thing. The last three aspects deal with the phenomena of existence.

     The Mahāyāna developed the concept of three bodies of the Buddha -- the Dharmakāya, the Law-body; the Saṃbhogakāya, the enjoyment-body; and the Nirmāṇakāya, the transformation-body. Śākyamuni gave importance to Dharmakāya which denoted his teachings. Since the teachings are embodied in the scriptures, the





Introduction: Dharma

scriptures too are known as dharma. The potential for awakening is an important aspect of dharmakāya. It is the source from which all things spring.

     Dharma has been defined in terms of the doctrine [pariyatti], righteousness [guṇa], the cause and effect relationship (pratītyasamutpāda), and the non-self (nijjīvatā). The Buddhist tradition maintains that dharma comprises practice, that is, moral conduct; meditative techniques and the direct realisation. It is a way to lead a holy life. Hence three aspects of dharma, namely, the textual tradition [pariyatti], practice [paṭipatti] and, realisation [paṭivedha] are elaborated. These aspects are interrelated and interdependent.

     The teaching, that is, moral instruction of dharma is known as deśanā. The teaching of the Buddha is good in the beginning (ādikalyāṇam), in the middle (majjhekalyāṇam) and in the end (pariyosānakalyāṇam) in its form and content. The Buddha says, "Go monks and travel for welfare and happiness of the people, out of compassion for the world, for the benefit, welfare, and happiness of gods and men... Teach the Law, monks, which is good in the beginning, in the middle and in the end in its form and content, pure and whole and proclaim the pure holy life. There are beings, who have little passions, who languish for lack of hearing the doctrine. They will understand it."

     The Buddha describes his dharma as profound, difficult to understand, peaceful, sublime, beyond mere reasoning, subtle and that which is experienced by the wise.

     Dharma is considered as one of the three gems in Buddhism (the other two being the Buddha himself and the Order). It is one of the ten things to be borne in mind [anussati].

     Primitive Buddhism interprets the phenomena of existence as nāmarūpa, that is, five aggregates: form (rūpa),





Introduction: Dharma

feeling (vedanā), perception (saṃjñā) [saññā], mental properties (saṃskāra) [saṅkhāra] and consciousness (vijñāna) [viññāṇa]. Form comprises the earth element, the water element, the fire-element, the wind element, and the corporeality depending on these elements.

     Feeling means experiencing the essential property, for example, taste. Feeling cannot exist apart from sensation. Every sensation has some feeling. Sensation is an actual feeling that arises as a result of the exercise of six senses upon sense objects. Perception is the cognition of sensation. The mental properties are effects of previous experiences. They are emotions, propensities, faculties and conditions of an individual. Consciousness is the substratum for feeling, perception and mental properties. It arises from the interaction of the above mentioned psychic constitutents.

     None of these aggregates is inseparable. With reference to their inseparable relation with one another in the Majjhima Nikāya, the Buddha says, "Whatever, O brother, there exists of feeling, of perception and of mental formations, these things are associated, not dissociated, and it is impossible to separate one from the other and show their difference. For whatever one feels, one perceives, and whatever one perceives, of this, one is conscious."

     (For the phenomena of existence in terms of aggregates, twelve sense fields (āyatana), and the eighteen elements of existence (dhātu), see under skandha in the glossary, and under Appendix A, āyatana and Appendix B, dhātavaḥ, and Appendix C, citta-s.)

     On the concept of dharma, the Mādhyamika-s hold a different view. They proclaim that the various conceptions such as ignorance (avidyā), bondage (bandha), saṃsāra, emancipation (nirvāṇa) etc. serve an aspirant as a raft to





Introduction: Dharma

cross the stream of ignorance. After crossing the stream they lose their importance. Hence they all have a relative value.

     The Mādhyamika view regarding dharma, that is, reality is expressed in the following extract from the Prajñā Pāramitā-Hṛdaya-Sūtra. "O Sāriputra, all things have the character of emptiness, they have no beginning, no end, they are faultless and not-faultless, they are neither imperfect nor perfect. Therefore O Sāriputra, here in this emptiness there is no form, perception, name, concept, knowledge; there is no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind, there is no form, sound, smell, taste and touch... There is no knowledge, ignorance and removal of ignorance. There is no decay and death, no extinction of life. There are no Four Noble Truths, no knowledge, no attainment, nor non attainment of Nirvāṇa."

     The contribution of the Abhidhamma philosophy to the concept of Dharma is unique. It maintains that there are two kinds of realities: the conventional [sammuti] and the ultimate [paramattha]. The conceptual thoughts [paññatti] are of two types, namely, name-concept [nāma paññatti] and thing-concept [attha paññatti]. The name-concept is a name given to a thing that makes it known. The thing-concept means the object identified by the name. In brief, conventional modes of expression [vohāra] are known as conventional realities. They comprise objects in the world such as living beings, animals, birds, machines, vehicles, etc. If one analyses the concepts behind these objects, one comes to know that they do not possess the ultimacy implied by the concepts. They are made of impermanent factors. The concrete essence, the intrinsic nature of these things is known as dharma.

     Dharma is a factor of existence. The phenomenal world is composed of dharma-s. All dharma-s except nirvāṇa are transient. They are subject to becoming [jāti], continuance





Introduction: Dharma

[sthiti], and decay [jarā]. They perish when their energy is exhausted. The dharma-s (states) originate from other dharma-s.

     The Abhidhamma Piṭaka enumerates four ultimate dharma-s, namely, consciousness [citta], mental concomitants [cetasika], material qualities [rūpa] and deliverance [Nibbāna].

     The Dhammasaṅgaṇī classifies the phenomena under three heads, namely, consciousness [citta], mental concomitants [cetasika] and form [rūpa]. Some other classifications are as follows

(1) Division of the phenomena into two, namely, mind and matter [Nāmarūpa].

(2) Division into the noumenal and the phenomenal, the asaṃskṛta and saṃskṛta dharma-s. The conditioned dharma-s are known as saṃskṛta dharma-s and the unconditioned dharma-s are known as asaṃskṛta dharma-s.

(3) Division into pure [anāsrava] and impure [sāsrava] dharma-s. The undefiled truth of the path and the three unconditioned things, namely, the space (ākāśa) and the two types of extinctions, extinction due to knowledge (pratisaṃkhyā-nirodha) and extinction not due to knowledge (apratisaṃkhyā-nirodha) are pure dharma-s. They are called pure because they are not related to defilements. The rest are impure.

     The number of dharma-s varies from school to school. The Vaibhāṣika-s enumerate seventy five dharma-s. The Sautrāntika-s reckon forty-three dharma-s and consider the rest as a result of mental construction. The Yogācārin-s catalogue one hundred dharma-s. The Theravādins list 82 dharma-s.

     (Figs. 1, 2 and 3 show details of dharma-s as envisaged by these schools.)





Introduction: Dharma


(72 types)
(3 types)
(11 types)
(1 type)
(46 types)
cittaviprayukta saṃskāra dharma-s
(14 types)
Total 75


Fig. 1: Classification of Dharma-s: the Vaibhāṣika-s





Introduction: Dharma


Saṃskṛta Asaṃskṛta*
rūpa vedanā saṃjñā vijñāna saṃskāra-s
upādāna (3 types) (6 types) (6 types) (20 types)
rūpa-s sukhada with regard 10 kuśala
(4 types) duḥkhada to six sense organs 10 akuśala
upādāna sukhaduḥkhanirapekṣa
(4 types)
8 3 6 6 20
Total 43

* This category is rejected by the Sautrāntika-s


Fig. 2: Classification of Dharma-s: the Sautrāntika-s





Introduction: Dharma


Saṃskṛta Asaṃskṛta
┏━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━┳━━━━━━━━━━━┳━━━━━━━━━━━━━━┓ (6 types)
citta dharma-s caitta dharma-s rūpa dharma-s citta ākāśa
(8 types) (51 types) (11 types) viprayukta- pratisaṃkhyā-
      saṃskāra- nirodha
      dharma-s apratisaṃkhā-
    (24 types) nirodha
Total 100


Fig.3: Classification of Dharma-s: the Vijñānavādin-s





Introduction: Dharma

Classes of Dharma

(1) Consciousness (citta-dharma-s)

The Theravādin-s classify the conditioned dharma-s under three heads, namely, consciousness [citta], mental concomitants [cetasika] and physical phenomena [rūpa]. They maintain that consciousness is a single class of dharma. It is pure and immeasurable. The Buddha describes consciousness as invisible, boundless and all penetrating. The Abhidhamma identifies 89 or one hundred twenty-one types of consciousness. (For details, see Appendix C, cittam.)

     In spite of the enumeration, consciousness is known as one single reality [dharma] because all types of consciousness have one and the same characteristic, namely, cognition of an object.

     Citta is the bare phenomenon of consciousness. Citta and Vijñāna are sometimes interchangeable terms. As mentioned earlier, fundamentally consciousness is one. With regard to senses it is enumerated as of six types, namely, consciousness of sight, of sound, of smell. of taste, of touch, and of mind. In the Yogācāra system, the kliṣṭa manas, that is, the defiled neutral mind, and the ālaya are enumerated as the seventh and the eighth sub-conscious vijñāna-s.

(2) The mental concomitants [cetasika-s or caitta-s]

Cetasika-s are properties born of mind. The Yogācārin-s enumerate 51 cetasika-s, the Sarvāstivādin-s cut down the number and count 46 cetasika-s and the Theravādin-s count 52 cetasika-s.

     The cetasika-s are divided into six classes: (1) common properties or universal properties, (2) particular properties, (3) unwholesome properties or defilements, (4) minor





Introduction: Dharma

defilements, (5) wholesome properties, (6) indeterminate cetasika-s.

     The cetasika-s are conditioned by consciousness. A broad classification is fourfold, namely, the common properties, the particular properties, the wholesome factors, and the unwholesome factors.

     Each one of the cetasika-s is treated as a separate dharma due to its different characteristic. The cetasika-s are the outcome of the complexity of consciousness.

     (For a complete list, see Appendix D, cetasikā.)

(3) Matter (rūpa)

The rūpa is the visible form of invisible forces. The four primary elements (mahābhūta-s), namely, the earth, water, fire and air are the fundamental constituents of matter. These four elements (upādāna rūpa), and the derived mental phenomena (upādāya rūpa) of twenty four types are known as rūpa.

     According to the Buddhist tradition there are three planes of existence: kāmaloka, rūpaloka and arūpaloka. Material phenomena are found on all three planes.

     Rūpa-s are eleven in number. They include the five senses, the five sense-objects and the avijñaptirūpa or dharmadhātu according to the Yogācāra. The avijñapti-rūpa denotes the character of an individual. Dharmadhātu denotes matter not known through senses such as atoms.

     (For the material phenomena of twenty-eight kinds, see Appendix E, rūpam.)

(4) Composite energies apart from the matter and mind [Citta-viprayukta saṃskāra dharma-s]

These types of dharma-s belong to a miscellaneous class which includes such forces or functions that can belong to





Introduction: Dharma

either material or mental phenomena. (A list of these dharma-s is given in Appendix F, citta viprayukta saṃskāra dharmāḥ.)

Unconditioned dharma-s (asaṃskṛta dharma-s)

(1) Artificial annihilation (pratisaṃkhyā nirodha)

Pratisaṃkhyā nirodha is the annihilation of a thing brought about deliberately. For example, destruction of a pot by breaking it with a stick will be called as pratisaṃkhyā nirodha. This type of destruction is also called as gross destruction of a thing.

     The Nirvāṇa is the supramundane reality. It is known as pratisaṃkhyā nirodha because it is a deliberate departure from craving and deliverance from the cycle of birth and death. It is realised through the knowledge of the path. It is one. However with reference to basis it is referred to as being twofold, namely, nirvāṇa with the residue and nirvāṇa without residue. Nirvāṇa is also mentioned as threefold due to its three aspects -- the void, the signless, and the desireless.

(2) Natural annihilation (apratisaṃkhyā nirodha)

Apratisaṃkhyā nirodha is natural annihilation of a thing. For example, a pot undergoes destruction every moment. Common people cannot notice and understand this type of destruction. Hence it is called subtle annihilation.

(3) Space (ākāśa)

Ākāśa is defined as absence of any obstruction. When any bird flies in space, there is, a presence of obstruction and absence of space.

AN. Paṭhamapāpadhamma, Paṭhamavera. AS. Nidāna. 44; I. 156; III 503. CMA I. 24. DN. Dasuttara, Janavasabha, Lohicca, Mahāsīhanāda Pāsādika. MN. Anāthapiṇḍakovāda, Bhayabherava, Cūḷasīhanāda,





Introduction: The Buddha and Thinkers in India

Mahāparinibhāna. MST. XI. 55-75. MP. III. 96; IV. 160-164, 183-185. SN. Saddhammapatirūpaka. VM. IV. 106-107.



The Life of Gautama Buddha


The Buddha and Thinkers in India

Buddhist Philosophy

Buddhist Schools and Sects

Spread of Buddhism

Survey of Buddhist Literature



(3) The Buddha and Thinkers in India

The Indian soil has been fertile not only in terms of culture but also religion. Diverse religions and philosophies sprouted on it, flourished and lived together in harmony. As Rhys Davids observes, "In no other age and country do we find, so universally diffused, among all classes of the people so impartial and deep a respect for all who posed as teachers, however, contradictory their doctrines might be."

     When the Buddha rose on the horizon of Indian spirituality six prominent thinkers (tīrthyaḥ) [titthiyā] had expounded their teachings and left their permanent impression on succeeding philosophers. The Buddha refuted their views. The second dialogue of the Dīgha Nikāya, Sāmaññaphala-sutta, is a valuable source of information on these philosophers and their philosophy.

A brief account of the thinkers and their views is presented here.

Pūraṇa Kassapa

An independent work representing the thoughts and views of Pūraṇa Kassapa is not available to us. Hence his teachings are to be traced from Buddhist and Jain sources.

     Pūraṇa Kassapa was a champion of Akriyāvāda, that is, the doctrine of non-action. The doctrine implies the view that neither a good action incurs merit nor does an evil action sin. Actions such as killing or committing theft also do not bear evil fruits. The view also maintains that things happen at a particular time or place for no reason. This





Introduction: The Buddha and Thinkers in India

doctrine is known as ahetuvāda -- the doctrine of non-causation. He also established the doctrine of accidental origin of things. The theory of passivity of soul is a unique contribution of Pūraṇa Kassapa.

     A dialogue between King Ajātaśatru and the Buddha throws light on the views of Pūraṇa Kassapa. "The King said to the Buddha, I remember having once gone to Furan-kashio [Pūraṇa Kassapa] who answered me... Mahārāja, if anyone cuts all beings into pieces, and makes a heap which will fill the world, it is not an evil deed, nor is there any requital for this crime... nor is there reward for the righteous doer, who makes a great assembly for distributing alms and who gives to all equally."

     The Buddha propounded the Formula of the Dependent Origination which is the cardinal doctrine of Buddhist philosophy. His criticism against implications of the doctrines of Pūraṇa Kassapa appealed to the classes and masses of those times.

Makkhali Gosāla

The doctrine of Makkhali Gosāla is known as Saṃsāra Viśuddhi -- the doctrine of purity for getting rid of the cycle of birth and death. Makkhali Gosāla maintained that all living beings attain perfection only after having gradually passed in an ascending order through different types of existence which are fixed. They have to undergo pleasure and pain peculiar to each form of existence. The perfect man, that is, Jina is the highest existence.

     Makkhali Gosāla did not believe in the efficacy of the human effort. For him, destiny played an important role in the lives of human beings. No living being could either hasten his liberation nor could prolong it. The number of existences is fixed. Destiny (niyati) and species (sañjāti) are important and decisive factors along with nature





Introduction: The Buddha and Thinkers in India

(bhāva) in the life of human beings. The theory of gradual evolution is his unique contribution to Indian thought.

     The Buddha refuted the doctrine of Makkhali Gosāla for the reason that fatalism would make the mankind inactive and idle, and would hamper his spiritual progress. Man has to discern right and wrong, and the right path assures emancipation.

Ajita Keśakambalī

This ascetic got his name because he wore a garment made of hair. He propounded the doctrine known as Ucchedavāda -- the theory of annihilation. "When a man dies, earth returns to the earth, heat to the fire, air to the air and the sense faculties pass into the space. It is a doctrine of ignorant, the talk of existence after death, for all alike, ignorant and wise, on the dissolution of the body, are cut off and annihilated ceasing to be after death."

     The body of a sentient being is made of four elements, namely, earth, water, air, and fire. There is no soul apart from the body. Arising of consciousness in the body is a result of the combination of the elements. It is analogous to the intoxicative power of liquor, which is due to mixture of the ingredients. Ajita Keśakambalī maintained that matter and form coexist so every entity should be considered as an organic whole.

     He did not believe in heaven or hell. Rejection of the next world ultimately led him to the rejection of efficacy of charity and sacrifice. He did not believe in the supernatural being.

     Ajita Keśakambalī refuted the existence after death. Hence reward or retribution for good or evil actions were meaningless terms for him. The Buddha calls Ajita Keśakambalī and his followers annihilists.





Introduction: The Buddha and Thinkers in India

Kakuda Kātyāyana

Kakuda Kātyāyana, Kakudha Kaccāyana or Pakudha Kaccāyana is perhaps the same whose mention is made in the Praśnopaniṣad. His doctrine is known as Śāśvatavāda, that is, eternalism because he proclaims that the eternal substances remain unaffected in any composition. This is also known as Akriyāvāda, that is, doctrine of non-action because he maintains that any action, good or evil does not bear fruit. The Buddha and Mahāvīra mention it as eternalism. The term pluralism (Anekavāda) used by Mahāvīra refers to the doctrine of Kakuda Kātyāyana. The entire phenomenon, according to Kakuda Kātyāyana can be explained in terms of eternal substances, namely, earth, water, fire, air, pleasure, pain, and soul. At the time of death the body made of the elements is dissolved into the elements which are eternal. Pleasure and pain are the uniting and separating principles.

     The Buddha criticised the doctrine in the following words. "When a man with the help of a sharp sword cleaves the head in twain, he does not deprive any one of life; a sword has only penetrated into the interval between seven elementary substances."

Sañjaya Bolāttiputta

Sañjaya Bolāttiputta or Sañjaya Belatthiputta is associated with the doctrine of Vikṣepavāda, that is, the doctrine of scepticism. Vikṣepavāda means that which diverts the mind from metaphysical theories. Sañjaya denied giving answers to questions such as, "Is the world eternal or non-eternal? Is it finite or infinite? Whether a perfect man continues to exist after death? Is there any reward or retribution for one's own right or wrong deeds?" Questions such as these divert human beings from peace and happiness as there is no end to discussion and reflection.





Introduction: The Buddha and Thinkers in India

Hence Sañjaya Bolāttiputta called these questions as Amarā Vikkhepikā-s.

     When similar questions were put to the Buddha he too remained silent on them.

Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta

Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta is identified with Mahāvīra, the last Tīrthaṅkara, that is, the last of the prophets in the Jain tradition . He preached the doctrine of Anekāntavāda and ethical doctrines similar to those of Pārśva, who had lived some 250 years before him.

     Mahāvīra held human beings responsible for pain and pleasure. In the Sūtra Kṛtāṅga, Mahāvīra's view is described as follows: "When I suffer, grieve, grow feeble, am afflicted with or experience pain, I have caused it. ...Pleasures and amusements are not able to help or save me. They are one thing and I am another; they are alien to my real being. Even the friends and relations who are more intimately connected with me cannot experience, still less take upon themselves, the pains I actually undergo. That is to say, as an individual a man is born, as an individual he dies, as an individual again he deceases from one state of existence to be re-born into another. The passions, consciousness, intellect, perceptions, and impressions of a man belong to him exclusively."

     However, one does not possess knowledge of previous births and of good or bad actions one has committed in previous existence. Thus the Buddha says, "Do you positively know that you, as present individual, had actually existed in the past or that you had done such and such action, good and bad?"

     Having raised this objection on the views of Mahāvīra, the Buddha establishes his view that all pain is not solely due to one's actions. "There are some sufferings,





Introduction: Buddhist Philosophy

originating from phlegm, from wind, from the union of bodily humours, from the changes of the seasons, from stress of untoward happenings, from attacks from without, and also from our actions."

Though the Buddha had repudiated the views of these thinkers, they are mentioned with due respect. In the Dīgha Nikāya, Subhaddo described each one of them as "The head of an order, with a great following, and the founder of the school, enjoying a great reputation as a dialectician, respected by the people, a man of experience, a recluse, old and well advanced in years."

AS. III. 488. DN. Brahmajāla, Pāsādika, Sāmaññaphala, Udumbarika, MN. Mahāsaccaka. MP. I. 4-5. SN. Nigaṇthanāṭaputta, Saṅghadhama.



The Life of Gautama Buddha


The Buddha and Thinkers in India

Buddhist Philosophy

Buddhist Schools and Sects

Spread of Buddhism

Survey of Buddhist Literature



(4) Buddhist Philosophy

There are four main schools of Buddhist philosophy, namely, the Sautrāntika, the Vaibhāṣika, the Mādhyamika and the Yogācāra. Of these the Sautrāntika and the Vaibhāṣika belong to the Hīnayāna. The Mādhyamika and the Yogācāra belong to the Mahāyāna. The fourfold classification is based on metaphysical and epistemological aspects. In other words, the classification is based on the nature of reality and the means of knowledge of reality.

     The question whether there is any reality is answered in different ways. The Mādhyamika philosophy is a negative critical system; it formulates the metaphysical background of the Mahāyāna Sūtra-s. The Mādhyamika-s contend that there is no reality, mental or non-mental; all is void. Hence they are known as Śūnyavādin-s. The rival schools charge them of nihilism. But the Mādhyamika-s refute the same on the ground that the phenomenal world





Introduction: Buddhist Philosophy

has only a qualified reality. The Yogācāra-s hold that material world is void, the mental is real. Thus they are known as Vijñānavādin-s and their school as the Vijñānavāda.

     Sarvāstivāda is the original form of realism. The Sarvāstivādin-s state that both mental and non-mental phenomena are real. The Vaibhāṣika-s and Sautrāntika-s are the offshoots of Sarvāstivāda which is the original form of Theravāda. They both agree on the point that the elements of existence, which give rise to the various phenomena, are real though transient. However, their epistemological points of view are different.

     According to the Vaibhāṣika-s the things of the world are known as they are, through direct perception. The Sautrāntika-s hold that the existence of external objects is inferred on the basis of the ideas. They maintain that the external objects are known by inference.

     The Vijñānavāda School of pure idealism holds that the universe exists only in the mind of the perceiver. The thought is the ultimate principle, self-creative and all producing.

The Sautrāntika School

The name Sautrāntika means that which is based on the Sūtra-Piṭaka [Sutta-Piṭaka]. It is the theory of inferability of external objects (Bāhyānumeyavāda). The Sautrāntika-s accept the reality of the mind and also of external objects. They argue that if there were no external objects, it would be meaningless to say that 'consciousness appears like an external object.' Objects are felt directly as being outside the self. If there were no external objects, the distinction between the consciousness of a pot and that of a mat could not be explained, because as consciousness they both are identical. Objects can be inferred from ideas. Their





Introduction: Buddhist Philosophy

perception depends on four factors, namely, object, mind, sense organs, and favourable auxiliary conditions, such as light, etc. The idea of the object is produced in mind as an effect of these factors. This idea leads to inference regarding the object.

The Vaibhāṣika School

The Vaibhāṣika School belongs to the Hīnayāna. Vaibhāṣika-s are associated with the Vibhāṣā commentary on the Abhidhamma; hence they are known as the Vaibhāṣika-s. They are also known as Sarvāstivādin-s. Since they hold the theory of direct realisation, the Vaibhāṣika-s are known as Bāhyapratyakṣavādin-s. For them the Abhidhamma is the only authority. The Vaibhāṣika-s admit the reality both of mind and external objects. However, they contend that the external objects are directly known in perception, and are not inferred. Experience, that is, knowledge produced by the direct contact with the object is a witness to the nature of things.

The Mādhyamika School

Nāgārjuna (AD 2nd century), the founder of the Mādhyamika school that propounds Śūnyavāda, was a dialectician. According to the Mādhyamika-s, no object of the phenomenal world has any substantiality. External objects are nothing from the point of view of reality. Their nature is niḥsvabhāva. Therefore they are unreal. Śūnyatā or emptiness is the reality. Śūnyatā is the absolute. This School is known as the middle (madhyama) as it avoids the two extreme views -- of the absolute reality and the absolute unreality of things. It rejects the phenomenal world. The term śūnya denotes the indescribable nature of phenomena. A thing cannot be called as real or unreal, or both real or unreal, or neither real nor unreal. The





Introduction: Buddhist Philosophy

Dependent Origination is called Śūnyatā. It can be described as a kind of relativity.

     The Mādhyamika doctrine holds that there is a reality behind phenomena, which is unconditional and free from change. Nāgārjuna speaks of two truths: empirical or phenomenal (saṃvṛti satya) and transcendental or noumenal (paramārtha satya). The higher truth is realised in Nirvāṇa. It can be described only by negation. The silence of the Buddha on metaphysical questions accounts for the Mādhyamika contention regarding the transcendental.

The Yogācāra School

The Yogācāra School is commonly considered to be subjective idealism. Asaṅga and Vasubandhu expounded the Yogācāra, the idealistic philosophy of Vijñānavāda around AD 4th century. The School is called Yogācāra because through practice of yoga the sole reality of mind as ālayavijñāna is realized. The Yogācāra holds that reality is pure consciousness. It accepts the unreality of external objects. However, it admits the reality of mind. The mind alone is real. It consists of a stream of different ideas. The objects perceived are all ideas in mind. There is no external reality. Things that appear to be outside the mind, for example, our body or other objects are merely ideas of mind. The object cannot be shown different from the consciousness of the object; hence the existence of an external object cannot be accepted.

     The Yogācāra view is known as Vijñānavāda because it admits vijñāna or consciousness as the only reality. It is subjective idealism. The ideas of objects are latent in mind. The conditions of a particular moment make a particular idea conscious and vivid. Hence the perception of a particular object at a particular time takes place.





Introduction: Buddhist Schools and Sects

Ālayavijñāna means the mind which is considered to be the home of all latent ideas. Through control, the potential mind can stop the arising of undesirable mental states in order to attain the state of Nirvāṇa.



The Life of Gautama Buddha


The Buddha and Thinkers in India

Buddhist Philosophy

Buddhist Schools and Sects

Spread of Buddhism

Survey of Buddhist Literature



(5) Buddhist Schools and Sects

The teachings of the Buddha were interpreted differently by the followers of the Buddhist faith. Hence arose a number of schools and sects which developed Buddhist thought throughout India.

     The separate identity of a sect was due to specialisation in a specific branch, different interpretation of the teachings of the Buddha, regional customs, and interaction with other faiths.

     The schools or sects derived their names after their founder, the doctrine they propagated, the region of their origin or their assembly. Most of the schools flourished before the beginning of the Christian era.

     A brief survey of the doctrines of the schools and sects follows. The Vinaya Piṭaka, the Kathāvatthu, commentaries of Buddhaghoṣa, Vasumitra's Abhidharmakoṣabhāṣya and Samayabhedoparacanacakra, Bhavya's Vikaya-bhedavibhaṅga, and the archaeological evidences are valuable sources for the information of the sects.

Sthaviravādin-s [Theravādin-s]

Sthavira-s are monks belonging to the original group of the Order. The Mahāsāṃghika-s separated from this group in the third century BC. The entire teachings of their Master served as guidelines to the Sthaviravādin-s. According to this School the Buddha-s possess the rūpakāya. A being





Introduction: Buddhist Schools and Sects

becomes Buddha due to bodhi, that is, enlightenment. Bodhisattva-s are subject to defilements. Arhat-s are perfect. Pudgala, that is, individual soul does not exist in the ultimate sense. Nothing transmigrates from one existence to another. Morality (śīla), wisdom (prajñā) and concentration (samādhi) comprise the teachings of Sthaviravāda. The worldly phenomenon is impermanent (anitya), full of suffering (duḥkha), and without self (anātma). All compound things are made of mind and matter. The Noble Eightfold Path leads to cessation of suffering. Theravāda exists in Sri Lanka and South-East Asia.


Two opinions exist about the Mahīśāsaka-s. According to the Pāli sources, this sect separated itself from the Sthaviravādin-s and gave rise to the Sarvāstivādin-s. In contrast to the above opinion, Vasumitra holds the view that the school of Mahīśāsaka-s is derived from the Sarvāstivādin-s.

     The Mahīśāsaka-s believed that the Four Noble Truths could be comprehended simultaneously. The past and the future do not exist. The present, and the nine unconditioned (asaṃskṛta) dharma-s exist. They are

(1) cessation through knowledge,

(2) cessation without knowledge, that is, through cessation of the causes,

(3) space,

(4) immovability,

(5) suchness of the dharma-s that are wholesome,

(6) suchness of the dharma-s that are unwholesome,

(7) suchness of neither the one, nor the other,

(8) suchness of the factors of the path, and





Introduction: Buddhist Schools and Sects

(9) suchness of the Law of the Dependent Origination.

     According to the Mahīśāsaka-s nothing transmigrates from one existence to the next existence. They also maintain that there is no intermediate state of existence between the present life and the next life. The Arhat-s are not subject to retrogression.


The Sarvāstivādin-s held the view 'sarvam asti', that is, all things exist. Hence, they came to be known as Sarvāstivādin-s. Sarvāstivāda is a school belonging to the Hīnayāna. It had its own Tripiṭaka. The school adopted Sanskrit for its literature.

     Saṃghabhadra supported the doctrine of the school. The Sarvāstivādin-s are realists among the Buddhists and their views are known from the Mahāvibhāṣā. They advocate the permanent reality of all things. However, they did not accept any permanent substance in living beings. They believe in the doctrine of non-self (nairātmya). They also believed in an intermediate state of existence between the present and the next life. They maintain that a being is composed of the five dharma-s, namely, mind, mental states, matter, states independent of mind, and the unconditioned. The Sarvāstivādin-s contend that an Arhat is subject to retrogression, he is subject to the effect of past actions and he cannot be termed as aśaikṣa, that is, one who does not need training. The Bodhisattva-s were ordinary people. Sarvāstivādin-s did not attribute transcendental powers to Buddha-s. The sect prevailed in Mathura, Gandhara, Kashmir, China and Central Asia.


The School is named after its original location in the Himalayan region. Bhavya and Vinītadeva consider the





Introduction: Buddhist Schools and Sects

Haimavata-s as a branch of the Mahāsāṃghika-s while Vasumitra identifies the sect with the Sthaviravādin-s.

     The Haimavata-s believe in the following doctrines

(1) The Bodhisattva-s are average beings.

(2) When Bodhisattva-s enter mother's womb they are devoid of attachment (rāga) and desire (kāma).

(3) Gods could not have holy life, that is, brahmacariyavāsa.

(4) The Arhat-s are subject to temptation. They attain spiritual perception with the help of others.

(5) The heretics could not have miraculous powers.


The name of the sect is derived from its founder, Vātsīputra. The Vātsīputra-s separated from the Sthaviravādin-s. The Vāsīputrīya-s comprise Dhammuttarīya-s, Sammitīya-s, Bhadrayānīya-s and Sannagarika-s.

     The sect holds the theory that an individual self (Pudgala) exists. It maintains that rebirth is not possible without the existence of an individual self. The Pudgala is neither identical with the aggregates nor different from them. In his Abhidharmakośa Vasubandhu has taken up this view for repudiation.

     Vātsīputrīya-s contend that there is an interim existence (antarā-bhava) between the present and the succeeding birth. They believe that between the first and the second trance [jhāna] there exists a stage, where the applied thought (vitarka) disappears but sustained thought (vicāra) remains. According to the Vātsīputrīya-s an Arhat is subject to retrogression.





Introduction: Buddhist Schools and Sects


The Dharmaguptaka-s were a sect of the Vibhajyavādin-s. The Dharmaguptaka-s had a difference of opinion with the Mahīśāsaka-s regarding gifts to the Buddha and Saṅgha. The Dharmaguptaka-s had their own canon of which the Vinaya section was divided into four parts: Bhikṣu Prātimokṣa, Bhikṣuṇī Prātimokṣa, Khandhaka and Ekottara. The monasteries in China followed the rules (Prātimokṣa) of this sect, which were distinct from those of others.

     The Dharmaguptaka-s had a great faith in the stūpa-s and they offered gifts to the Saṅgha as a meritorious act. They considered an Arhat free from passion. They contended that the emancipation of a śrāvaka and a Buddha was the same. The sect existed in the North India about the first century BC. It also existed in the Central Asia and China.


The Kāśyapīya-s are known as Sthāvirīya-s because they were close to the Sthaviravādin-s with regard to their doctrines. They are also known as Saddharmavarṣaka or Suvarṣaka. The Kāśyapīya-s believed that the present exists; the past which has borne fruit exists no more; that which has yet to ripe continues to exist till it bears fruit. The formations (saṃskāra-s) are transient; they vanish every moment. The Arhat-s are free from passions.The Kāśyapīya-s adhered to the Tripiṭaka of their own.


The sect is known as Sautrāntika because it accepts the scriptural authority of the Sūtra Piṭaka. According to this sect, the five aggregates (skandha-s) pass from one existence to another without leaving any gap of time





Introduction: Buddhist Schools and Sects

between two existences. The Sautrāntika-s deny the existence of a Pudgala.

     Vasumitra marks the characteristics of the Sautrāntika-s as follows: The Sautrāntika-s admit the transference of skandhamātra-s, that is, of aggregates only from one existence to another in contrast with the Sammitīya-s who accept the transference of only a Pudgala. The Sautrāntika-s contend that only subtle form (mūlāntika) of the skandha-s transfer from one existence to another. The skandha-s do not pass on in their gross form. They are of one nature (ekarasa). Only the subtle form of skandha-s pass from one to the other existence. They cease in the Nirvāṇa.

     Since the Sautrāntika-s believe that the skandha-s transfer, they are known as Saṃkrāntivādin-s or Saṃkrāntika-s (sam + kram -- to transfer). They also believe that there is no other way to emancipation than the Noble Eightfold Path. The Arhat-s are pure. More than one Buddha can exist at a time.


The Mahāsāṃghika-s had separated themselves from the earliest group of the followers of the Buddha. The sect was formed after Mahādeva. The Mahāsāṃghika-s rejected certain portions of the canon. The Paṭisambhidā magga, the Niddesa and a part of the Jātaka-s were not accepted by the Mahāsāṃghika-s in the Piṭaka collection. They introduced ten new Vinaya rules. They held Mahākāśyapa as their founder and adopted Prakrit as the language of their Piṭaka.

     The Mahāsāṃghika-s believed that one can attain nirvāṇa through knowledge (prajñā). The original nature of mind is pure. There is no existence between death and rebirth. Nothing is indeterminate. An Arhat is not subject





Introduction: Buddhist Schools and Sects

to retrogression. The Mahāvastu or the Mahāvastu-avadāna is the only extant original text of the Mahāsāṃghika-s. The sect developed in Magadha and spread in Mathura and Kabul.


The Bahuśrutīya-s aimed at establishing a middle position between the Hīnayāna and the Mahāyāna schools. Thus, they are often mentioned as a bridge between the two. The literal meaning of 'Bahuśruta' is one who has heard excessively. The sect is named after their teacher who learnt the Buddhist doctrine in depth. It is based on the Satyasiddhiśāstra by Harivarman.

     The Bahuśrutīya-s hold that the present alone is real. They maintain that the Buddha's teachings with regard to impermanency (anityatā), suffering (duḥkha), non-existence of objects (śūnya), non-existence of soul (anātman), and emancipation (nirvāṇa) were transcendental (lokottara) because they led aspirants to emancipation. His other teachings were treated as mundane (laukika).

Caitīya-s, Caityaka-s or Caitasika-s

The origin of this sect is traced to Mahādeva who is different from the one who established the Mahāsāṃghika sect. The Caitīya-s were divided into three sects, namely, Caityaśaila, Uttaraśaila and Aparaśaila.

     According to the Caitīya-s one who worships a caitya, one who creates it or one who decorates it accrues merit. One can attain merit by making gifts. The merit can be transferred to others. Due to their ten powers the Buddha-s are superior to the Arhat-s. They are free from the fundamental defilements, namely, attachments, ill-will and delusion. Nirvāṇa is a positive state.





Introduction: Buddhist Schools and Sects

The Avataṃsaka School

The Avataṃsaka school which arose between AD 557 and 589 is one of the most important sects in China. It embodies true philosophy of the Chinese Buddhism.

     Avataṃsaka means an ornament. In the Chinese Tripiṭaka and the Tibetan Kanjur, a large body of works is known as the Avataṃsaka. It is the source of the teachings of the Avataṃsaka school.

     This sect founded by Fa-shun is named as Fa-sing-tsung which means the school of the true nature of the Buddhist canon. Fa-tsan, the third patriarch of the Avataṃsaka School, developed the sect. He is the author of seven works. This School is the foundation of Chinese Buddhist Philosophy.

The Tendai Sect

The Tendai Sect explains different forms of Buddhism as skilful steps of the Buddha's educative method suited to his disciples. Saicho introduced the sect in Japan in AD 804. He went to China for his studies, came back to Japan and spread the new doctrine in the temple called Enryakuji on Mount Hiei. The practical method kwanjin, 'intuition of mind', is Saicho's contribution to the sect. The sect is based on the Mahāyāna text, namely, the Saddharma-Puṇḍarīka Sūtra. According to T'ien t'ai Chih-i (AD 538-97) the founder of the T'ien t'ai School in China which is the prototype of the Tendai Sect, the Lotus Sūtra is round, that is, perfected and complete sūtra. It was the final revelation by the Buddha.

     According to the Tendai Sect reality is neither an abstract vacuity nor a phenomenal actuality. It is a synthesis of both. It is to be understood in meditation followed by moral and religious life.





Introduction: Buddhist Schools and Sects

The Shingon Sect

The Shingon is a sect in Japan. The name Shingon comes from the Sanskrit word mantra which means a sacred formula.

     The founder of the Shingon Sect was Kukai (AD 774-835) also known as Kōbō Daishi. He was an ascetic and profound scholar. He went to China in AD 804 and received instructions in the Shingon doctrine from the Chinese Priest, Houei-Kouost. He returned to Japan and established a monastery of the Shingon Sect on the mountain of Koya-san. Kukai promulgated ten stages of spiritual development in an ascending form. The Buddha's wisdom and mercy illumine the path.

     The Shingon sect pertains to the tantric aspect of Buddhism in its pure form. It considers the universe as the body of the Buddha, Great Illuminator, that is, Mahāvairocana, who is the soul. The Buddha's thought culminates in the Shingon mysticism due to its integral approach. The Mahāvairocana-Sūtra and the other tantric Sūtra-s are the authoritative texts for the sect. The followers of the sect believe that the chanting of mantra or dhāraṇī leads to enlightenment.

Pure Land School

Pure Land School is the general name for those sects which proclaim that rebirth in Sukhāvatī, the Pure Land of Amitābha, the Buddha of infinite 'light and life' leads to the attainment of Buddhahood. In India Aśvaghoṣa, Nāgārjuna and Vasubandhu advocated the doctrine. The school is based on the two Sukhāvatī Vyūha Sūtra-s.

     The Pure Land School lays stress on meditation of Amitābha and chanting of his name that results in rebirth in Sukhāvatī, the paradise of Amitābha. Amitābha Buddha,





Introduction: Buddhist Schools and Sects

and the two Bodhisattva-s namely, Avalokiteśvara and Mahāsthāmaprāpta, receive those who are reborn in Sukhāvatī. Kśitigarbha replaces Mahāsthāmaprāpta in a few instances.

     The practice in this school, primarily, consists of chanting of the name of Amitābha (Nembutsu), visualising him and his paradise. The Sanskrit formula nama amitabuddhāya is rendered in the Japanese as 'namu-amida-butsu'. It means Adoration of the Buddha of Infinite Light or Salutations to Amita-Buddha.

     Nembutsu represents a state of consciousness wherein by the infinite and all embracing grace of Amitābha all distinctions cease. The distinctions such as own effort (jiriki) and relying on other (tariki) vanish. The duality between devotees and Amida vanishes, and oneness between the two is experienced. The aspirant resolves to undertake a particular number of repetitions. The repetition of the name can be aloud or silent, concentrating on Amitābha, either on his image or without it.

     Another practice prevalent in this School is meditation and contemplation of Amitābha as identical with one's own being. It requires one-pointed and unperturbed mind. All these practices are essentially characterised by the unfailing faith and devotion to Amitābha.

     The aspirant should firmly and devoutly believe in the existence of the Land of the Ultimate Bliss, and he should believe that Amitābha Buddha protects the sentient beings who earnestly seek his help.

     The Pure Land School comprises Jodo, Jodo-Shin, Yuzu Nembutsu, and Ji sects.

     The Jodo sect was established by Genku in AD 1175, a saint who is known as Honen in Japan. He based his teachings on the doctrine of Shan-tao (AD 613-681) the famous expounder of the Amitābha School in China. Two





Introduction: Buddhist Schools and Sects

Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra-s and Amitāyur-dhyāna-Sūtra were the source of the preachings of the Jodo sect. The chanting of name, Nembutsu, is an important practice in the sect. The practice assures rebirth in the paradise of Amitābha through his grace.

     The Jodo-Shin sect was founded by Shinran (AD 1173-1262). He propounded that Amitābha Buddha had taken a vow to save all sentient beings. Thus the practices are meant for showing gratefulness to him. Shinran was of the opinion that all are equal before the Buddha, all are friends and brothers. There is no distinction between the master and disciple, a clergy and a layman. To him, all the followers belong to one and the same category. He considered himself as a follower of the way of Amitābha and not a master.

The Yuzu Nembutsu Sect founded by Ryonin (AD 1072-1132) and the Ji Sect by Ippen (AD 1239-1289) are akin to the Kegon Philosophy and Zen Buddhism, respectively.

Zen School

The word Zen comes from the Sanskrit word dhyāna (meditation) which is translated as ch'an in the Chinese, and ch'an is transcribed as Zen in Japanese. In China the School of Mahāyāna was established by Bodhidharma in the sixth century. It was known as Ch'an Buddhism. His philosophy is based on that of Nāgārjuna. Bodhidharma is said to have emphasised the teachings of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra. The notions of Tathāgatagarbha and emptiness are prominent in his philosophy. The School lays stress on intuitive wisdom. The tradition of Zen was continued on the following lines: Bodhidharma-Hui kô, Seng-tśan, Tao-hsin, Hung-jen, Hui-neng.

     Later the Zen was divided into the Northern School and the Southern School. These were led by Shenhsiu and Hui-





Introduction: Buddhist Schools and Sects

neng respectively. Eisai went to China and brought the teachings of Lin-chi School to Japan. Dogen also went to China and brought the teachings of Ts'ao-tung School. During the Kamakura (AD1185-1333) and the Muromachi periods (AD 1336-1573) the Zen school became popular. Igen came from China to Japan and founded the Obaku Sect which is a synthesis of Zen and Pure Land practices.

     The Southern School prevailed and was subdivided into several schools among which the Rinzai (Lin-chi) and Soto (Ts'ao-tung) are famous. Zen Buddhism has three branches in Japan, namely, the Rinzai, the Soto, and the Obaku. Eisai (AD 1141-1215), Dogen (AD 1200-1253) and Igen (AD 1592-1673) have established the above mentioned branches respectively.

     The Zen school believes that enlightenment can be attained through the direct perception of one's own mind. One can perceive one's mind through meditation. Zen is described as 'a special transmission outside the sūtra-s, independent of word and writ, pointing directly to the mind of man, seeing one's true nature and attaining Buddhahood.' According to Zen the transmission of supreme enlightenment is possible from mind to mind without word. Śākyamuni transmitted the enlightenment to Mahākāśyapa, then it was passed on to Ānanda and it proceeded further.

     The Zen school gives the message to look inwards as the human-mind is itself the Buddha mind. Intuition is the distinct feature of Zen philosophy.

     Zen Buddhism has its own technique to attain spiritual realisation. In a Zen monastery, each moment of the waking day is dedicated to each task in hand with great concentration. The technique comprises concentration, exercises and contemplation on various exercises (Koans). In Japan the military class, persons who hold important





Introduction: Buddhist Schools and Sects

offices take up Zen training to develop their capacity.

     "Look into the mind and you will find Buddhahood," is the core of the Zen teachings. In his work Shōbōgenzō Dogen says, " This Dharma is amply present in every person, but unless one practices, it is not manifested, unless there is realisation, it is not attained." The means applied to attain enlightenment are meditation and contemplation. Zen gives an experience of unification with nature and universe, keeps one away from tensions and conflicts and brings serenity and happiness through control over mind.

     According to Dogen, sitting in meditation is the Buddha's act. All human beings are Buddha-s by nature. He says, "Then (in practice) the land, the trees and grass, fences and walls, tiles and pebbles, all the various things in the ten directions, perform the work of Buddha-s. Because of this, all persons who share in the wind and water ... receive the unperceived help of the Buddha-s, wonderful and incomprehensible teaching and guidance, and all manifest their inherent enlightenment."

Prof. Yasuaki Nara, 'Dogen Zenji's Notion of Impermanence as Buddha-Nature' Pro Dialogo, 1999/1.

The Nichiren Sect

Nichiren was a saint in Japan (AD 1222-82). He proclaimed the Saddharma-Puṇḍarīka Sūtra (the Lotus of the Good Law) as the highest teaching of the Buddha, the final revelation of truth. The practice of the Nichiren Sect lays stress on chanting of the daimoku, that is, homage to the sacred title of the Lotus Sūtra (namu-myō-hō-ren-ge-kyō). A chanting of the Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra or even of its title is the way to attain enlightenment. The syllables of the chant actualise, Śākyamuni, the eternal Buddha.

     Nichiren, in one of his five great works, Repaying Debts of Gratitude, treats the Lotus Sūtra as the supreme one. Nichiren says, "In a scripture called the Nirvāṇa Sūtra,





Introduction: Buddhist Schools and Sects

the Buddha says, 'Rely on the Law and not upon persons.' Relying on the Law here means relying on the various sūtra-s. Not relying upon persons means not relying upon persons other than the Buddha.

     In the same sūtra, the Buddha also says, "Rely on the sūtra-s that are complete and final, and not on those which are not complete and final.

     When the Buddha speaks of the sūtra-s that are complete and final, he is referring to the Lotus Sūtra. If we are to believe these final words of the Buddha, we must conclude that the Lotus Sūtra is the only bright mirror we should have, and that through it we can understand the heart of all the sūtra-s.

     The text of the Lotus Sūtra itself states that "This Lotus Sūtra is the secret storehouse of Buddha-s. Among the sūtra-s, it holds the highest place. If we accept these words of the Sūtra, then, like Taishaku dwelling on the peak of mount Sumeru, like the wish granting jewel that crowns the wheelturning Kings, like the moon that dwells above the forest of trees, like the fleshy protuberance that tops the head of a Buddha, so the Lotus Sūtra stands like a wish-granting jewel..."

     "If we set aside the pronouncements of the scholars and teachers and rely upon the text of the sūtra, then we can see that the Lotus Sūtra is superior to ... all other sūtra-s as plainly and as easily as a sighted person can distinguish heaven from earth when the sun is shining in a clear blue sky."

     Nichiren developed the way of understanding sūtra-s within the context of his historical situation. This is referred to as the 'Five categories for propagation' (or of meaning or understanding), developed by Nichiren. They are norms of interpretation, namely, the teaching, the hearers, the age, the country, and the sequence of propagation. The teaching





Introduction: Spread of Buddhism

(kyo) refers to the teaching of the Sūtra. Capacity (ki) denotes the capacity of hearers who are to be taught. Time (ji) means the right and ripened time for teaching. Country (koku) means the land, and sequence of propagation (jo) or master (shi), is the fifth category.

Dr. Michio T. Shinozaki, 'The Lotus Sūtra as the Final Revelation of the Buddha and Its Attitude towards other Scriptures' Pro Dialogo 1999/1.



The Life of Gautama Buddha


The Buddha and Thinkers in India

Buddhist Philosophy

Buddhist Schools and Sects

Spread of Buddhism

Survey of Buddhist Literature



(6) Spread of Buddhism

The Buddha inspired his disciples to preach the noble doctrine for the good of many. "Go ye forth, O Bhikkhu-s, for the gain of the many, for the welfare of the many, in compassion for the world. Proclaim the glorious doctrine, preach ye a life of holiness, perfect and pure." [caratha bhikkhave cārikaṃ, bahujanahitāya bahujanasukhāya]. The disciples followed what their Master said and thus Buddhism became a missionary religion. The efforts of two kings -- Aśoka and Kaniṣka -- resulted in the spread of Buddhism in India and abroad.

DN. Mahāpadānasutta.

Sri Lanka

King Aśoka (273-236 BC) sent his son Mahendra [Mahinda] to Sri Lanka along with four companions. He brought Buddhist texts to Sri Lanka. Mahindra and his companions preached the doctrine of the Buddha to king Devānāmpiyatissa (247-207 BC) and his attendants. Princess Anūlā too expressed her desire to embrace Buddhism. Hence Saṅghamitrā [Sanghamittā], the daughter of King Aśoka was invited to Sri Lanka to give ordination to the princess and other women of reputed families.

     A few important events in the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka are worth mentioning. Anurādhapura became the seat of Buddhist learning. Three monasteries flourished in course of time. The Mahāvihāra monastery was





Introduction: Spread of Buddhism

established in the third century BC, the Abhayagirivihāra in the first century BC, and the Jetavana in AD third century. Along with Saṅghamitrā, King Aśoka sent a sapling of the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha was enlightened. It was planted with great jubilation near the Mahāvihāra monastery. This tree, known as Jayaśrī Mahā Bodhi survives at Anurādhapura. A stūpa known as Thūpārāma dagoba was raised over a collar bone of the Buddha. The Ruwanwaeli Saya Dagoba and Loha Mahāpāsāda were built in the reign of king Duṭṭhagāmaṇi Abhaya (101-77 BC). The erection of Mahāthūpa by the king is described in the Mahāvaṃsa.

     King Vaṭṭagāmaṇi Abhaya (around 83 BC) inspired five hundred Buddhist monks to produce the Tipiṭaka-s in a written form, which was till that time preserved in the form of recitation. As a result, the Fourth Council headed by Arhat Rakkhita was convened in 80 BC. The biography of Buddhaghoṣa, the great commentator, says that the books written on the olā leaves when piled up would exceed the height of six elephants.

     In AD third century a tooth of the Buddha was brought in Sri Lanka. It was enshrined in a temple at Kandy.

     Buddhaghoṣa arrived in Sri Lanka in AD fifth century. He stayed at Mahāvihāra and wrote commentaries on the major portion of the canon. He brought the essence of the canon in one single independent work known as Visuddhimagga. Dīpavaṃsa and Mahāvaṃsa give an account of spread of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

Other Countries

Later on Buddhism spread to Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia. These countries follow the Theravāda Buddhism based on the Tipiṭaka.





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In India the Mahāyāna School developed around second century BC in the reign of Kaniṣka. In AD first century, in the reign of emperor Ming Ti of Han dynasty, China came into contact with Mahāyāna Buddhism. It is believed that a golden image of the Buddha appeared in the dream of Ming Ti. Hence in AD 65 he sent messengers to India to bring Buddhist scholars to China.

     Thus Kāśyapa Mātaṅga and Dharmarakṣa arrived in China. The monastery where they stayed is named after their arrival on two white horses, 'Loyang', the White Horse Monastery. This monastery became the main centre for further development of Buddhist philosophy. Here many Sanskrit works were translated into Chinese. The Sūtra of forty-two sections which was translated into Chinese by Kāśyapa Mātaṅga laid foundations of Buddhism in China. During AD fourth century China came under the rule of the Chin dynasty. During its reign Buddhism began to flourish. Between AD 618 and 907 Buddhism enjoyed a privileged status.

     The original works and translations by Kumārajīva in AD fourth and fifth centuries resulted into growing interest of the people in Buddhism. Hence the Chinese branch of the order of mendicants was founded.

     Out of many schools of Buddhism which arose in China, two schools, namely, Chan (Zen) and Pure Land School flourished. A synthesis of the teachings of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism in China resulted into an integrated form of Buddhism.


In AD seventh century Srong-bsan-sgam-po, the King of Tibet, married two princesses who followed Buddhism. One of them was from China and the other from Nepal.





Introduction: Spread of Buddhism

The queens carried with them the images of Akṣobhya, Maitreya and Śākyamuni to Tibet. This event led to the establishment of close cultural contacts between India, the original seat of Buddhism, and Tibet. Scholars from India went to Tibet and translated Buddhist works into the Tibetan. Srong-bsan-sgam-po is known as the founder of Tibetan Buddhism.

     A great Buddhist genius Śāntarakṣita was invited by King Khri-Srong-Idle-brtsan. Śāntarakṣita's arrival in Tibet was followed by the arrival of the mystic Padmasambhava.

     Padmasambhava came to Tibet in the eighth century and acquainted the inhabitants with the Vinaya rules, a few Yogācāra doctrines and the Tantra-s. By the ninth and tenth centuries the whole of Tibet embraced Buddhism.

     In course of time Tantric practices penetrated into the Tibetan form of Buddhism, that is, Vajrayāna. It is also called as Lamaism. Lamaism belongs to esoteric Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism is a form of Mahāyāna Buddhism. It has adopted the monastic rules of Sarvāstivāda and practices from the Vajrayāna. Om Maṇi Padme Hum, ('Hail to the jewel in the Lotus'), is the sacred formula for Tibetan form of Buddhism. In the sixteenth century the Tibetan form of Buddhism reached Mongolia.

     In AD 372 Buddhism reached Korea from China. From Korea it reached Japan in AD 552. From Japan the Buddhist missionaries frequently visited China and Korea, Formosa and Manchuria and much later America, and Canada carrying the message of the Buddha.


Buddhism reached Japan through the efforts of the kings and missionaries of Korea.




Introduction: Survey of Buddhist Literature

     In AD 552, Mimmai, the emperor of Japan gave his patronage to the Buddhist missionaries to enable them to propagate of the Dhamma.

     Shiba-Tassu from Korea was the first Buddhist monk who arrived in Japan. More fruitful were the efforts of the nuns of Korea, who through their close contact with women of Japanese families, could convert them to Buddhism. Bhikkhu Hodo from India went to Japan.

     In the seventh century, So-toku Taishi (AD 593-622), the emperor of Japan, who was a follower of Buddhism spread the Dhamma in his country with great enthusiasm, zeal and earnestness. He built the city of Nara and a monastic settlement in Horyuji. He wrote commentaries on the Saddharma Puṇḍarīka, the Vimalakīrti Sūtra and the Srīmālā Sūtra. Saints from Japan frequently went to China to receive training in Buddhism. In the eighth century, Nara, the royal capital city of Japan became the centre of Buddhist activities and the Nara-Daya-Butsu, the brass image of the Buddha, was installed in the city. The Chinese sects introduced in Japan came to be known as Nara Schools. They include the Kusha, Jojitsu, Vinaya (Ritsu), Hosso, Sanron and Kegon (Avataṃsaka) sects.



The Life of Gautama Buddha


The Buddha and Thinkers in India

Buddhist Philosophy

Buddhist Schools and Sects

Spread of Buddhism

Survey of Buddhist Literature



(7) Survey of Buddhist Literature

The Buddhist literature is very vast. It has religious, philosophical, ethical and scholastic dimensions. The height of thoughts, and the insight into problems of life providing solutions by suggesting the way to come out of the problems and move towards emancipation, are the main features of the Buddhist literature. The teachings of the Buddha are enshrined in the literature which deals more with human problems than with cosmological and ontological ones. The early literature is replete with moral teachings than intellectual arguments. Cultivation of loving





Introduction: Survey of Buddhist Literature

kindness, compassion, sacrifice, purity of thought and action, truthfulness and self-restraint are over and again emphasised in the literature of the Buddhist faith.

     The oldest Buddhist scriptures are known as the Pāli canon. The Pāli canon represents the original teachings of Gautama Buddha and belongs to the Hīnayāna School. It is divided into three baskets (Piṭaka-s), namely, the Vinaya Piṭaka, the Sutta Piṭaka and the Abhidhamma Piṭaka. They cover the rules of discipline for the order of monks, religion and philosophy.

     The Mahāyāna literature did not come on the scene suddenly and abruptly. One can notice gradual transition in the nature of literary works which could be considered to be on the border line of the Hīnayāna and the Mahāyāna. Their content and form reveal the traits of both schools. They introduce new ideas in the content of the Hīnayāna literature. The Mahāvastu, the Lalita Vistara and the Avadāna literature bear the characteristics of both schools. In their form they are close to the Hindu Purāṇa-s. The Lalita Vistara calls itself a Purāṇa. The Mahāvastu is close to the sectarian Purāṇa-s. The early works in the Mahāyāna laid more stress on mythology and miracles than on dharma. The superhuman powers were attributed to the Buddha and the Bodhisattva-s. The emphasis shifts to the Buddha-s and Bodhisattva-s from the original teachings of meditation. The idealistic doctrines in philosophy including the concept of spiritual absolute attracted the elite minds to the Mahāyāna literature.

     The following features of the Mahāyāna literature makes it distinct from the Hīnayāna literature:

(1) The Buddha is considered as a supermundane (lokottara) personality.

(2) The Buddha is considered as the essence of phenomena.





Introduction: Survey of Buddhist Literature

(3) The Buddha was considered as a spiritual principle.

(4) Devotion and Buddha-worship play an important role in these works.

(5) These works contend that emancipation can be attained through grace of a Buddha, a Bodhisattva or through practices such as repetition of their names.

(6) The ideal of a Bodhisattva is glorified.

(7) Stress is laid on the Pāramitā-discipline for spiritual progress.

(8) The Mahāyāna works interpret the doctrine of Pratītyasamutpāda in philosophical terms.

(9) They advocate the doctrine of emptiness and deny the reality of phenomena.

(10) Contemplating on rebirth becomes a salient feature of the works.

(11) Paradise was sought and eulogised.

(12) Most of the works gave birth to particular cults. Cult of Amitābha is one of them.

(13) The later Mahāyāna works reached the heights of philosophical thought. The genius of Nāgārjuna and other scholars fitted the doctrine in a scholastic and perfect frame.

(14) The cult of stūpa-s becomes prominent.

(15) Most of the texts are in Sanskrit.

     Aśvaghoṣa was a leader of the Mahāyāna School. His works prepared a ground for the Mahāyāna literature.

     The nine texts known as the navadharma-s are the important works on the Mahāyāna. They are:

(1) Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñā Pāramitā,

(2) Saddharma Puṇḍarīka,

(3) Lalita Vistara,

(4) Laṇkāvatāra or Saddharma-Lañkāvatāra,

(5) Suvarṇa Prabhāsa,

(6) Gaṇḍavyūha,

(7) Tathāgataguhya or Tathāgataguṇajñāna,





Introduction: Survey of Buddhist Literature

(8) Samādhirāja, also called as Candra Pradīpa Sūtra, and

(9) Daśabhūmīśvara.

     Apart from these works the Avalokiteśvara Guṇakāraṇḍa Vyūha, Sukhāvatī Vyūha, Amitāyurdhyāna Sūtra, Prajñā Pāramitā Sūtra-s, and Ratnakūṭa, belong to the Mahāyāna. They consist of a particular philosophical theory or are based on a particular Bodhisattva or a Buddha.

     These are followed by systematic works pertaining to specific schools of philosophy by a galaxy of scholars such as Nāgārjuna, Āryadeva, Upatissa, Diñnāga, Candrakīrti, Candragomin, Śāntideva, Śāntarakṣita, Asañga, Vasubandhu and many others who interpreted Buddha's teachings in the context of their own schools.

A brief account of some of the works in the Buddhist literature is as follows.


Buddhist Literature in Pāli

Tripiṭaka [Tipiṭaka] The Pāli Canon

The word piṭaka means basket and Tripiṭaka is three baskets. The word basket does not stand only for that which stores but it indicates the function of a basket, that is, a receptacle through which things are handed over to other persons.

     Tripiṭaka, the Pāli Canon of the Buddhists is a collection of the teachings of the Buddha recorded in the memory of his disciples. Speeches delivered by the Buddha, his dialogues with his disciples, sayings, the rules for the Order, and the vital notions in the Dhamma are preserved in the form of the Tripiṭaka. The discourses delivered by the Buddha for forty-five years, from his Enlightenment to his Parinibbāna, cover a wide range of subjects in the form of exhortations, expositions and injunctions.

     The monks have to discharge the duty of preaching and





Introduction: Survey of Buddhist Literature

hence they have to learn, understand and memorise the Pāli Canon which is preserved in the Tripiṭaka-s.

     The compilation of the Tripiṭaka is spread over a long period. The first Council held after the death of the Buddha at Rājagṛha (present Rajgir) was a starting point in the direction of compilation of the texts. Deliberations in the first and the second Councils were based on some or other form of classification of the Buddha's teachings, though the classification had yet to take a formal and distinct shape. The teachings of the Buddha were handed over to his disciples in the form of verbal transmission. Thus, it is surmised that a crude form of classification did exist to facilitate memorisation. The canon of the sacred texts was most probably compiled and classified systematically in the third Council held in the reign of King Aśoka, the ardent patron and a sincere follower of Buddhism.

     Tissa Moggaliputta convened this assembly of a thousand monks to compile the canon of the texts of the true religion or the Theravāda. The assembly met at Pāṭaliputra (modern Patna) 236 years after the Buddha's Mahāparinibbāna.

     The Tripiṭaka comprises the Vinaya Piṭaka, the Sutta Piṭaka and the Abhidhamma Piṭaka.

     The Vinaya Piṭaka consists of injunctions and admonitions of the Buddha for discipline of the monks and nuns, the restrictions on their physical and verbal actions.

     The Sutta Piṭaka is a compilation of discourses and sermons by the Buddha and in a few instances by his disciples.

     The Abhidhamma Piṭaka deals with philosophical teachings of the Buddha -- the subtle, abstract and profound analysis of Dhamma, the ultimate truth, mind and matter and their relationship.





Introduction: Survey of Buddhist Literature

(1) The Vinaya Piṭaka

This work deals with the rules and regulations for the saṅgha that is the order of monks and nuns. It consists of disciplinary as well as procedural rules, which are meant for regulating the conduct of bhikkhu-s and bhikkhunī-s admitted into the Order. These rules restrain their physical as well as verbal actions. Transgression of rules and admonitions are also dealt with in minute details.

     The Vinaya Piṭaka gives an account of the reasons for promulgation of rules and the Vinaya ceremonies of the saṅgha. They both are collectively known as sikkhāpada-s -- rules of discipline. The offences are categorised. The irremediable grave offence committed by a monk leads to falling off of the offender from the Bhikkhuhood. For a remediable grave offence the offender has to undergo a probationary period of penance. After going through the prescribed practices he is rehabilitated by the saṅgha. For a minor offence, a bhikkhu has to confess the transgression to another bhikkhu and undergo certain penalty that is laid down for him. The life and ministry of the Buddha and the three Councils are also described briefly.

     The work consists of the following five books

(A) Pārājika Pāḷi,
(B) Pācittiya Pāḷi,
(C) Mahāvagga Pāḷi,
(D) Cūḷavagga Pāḷi, and
(E) Parivāra Pāḷi


(2) The Sutta Piṭaka or Suttanta Piṭaka

This work consists of sermons delivered by the Buddha to the monks and the laymen on various occasions. A few discourses are delivered by venerable Sāriputta





Introduction: Survey of Buddhist Literature

Moggallāna and Ānanda, the disciples of the Buddha. The sermons focus on the purity of life as well as exposition of the doctrine.

     The work describes the fundamentals of Dharma and deals with its application in a fashion that suits the temperaments of different people. The practical aspect of Dharma comprises the Noble Eightfold Path in its three aspects, namely, śīla -- moral purity through high conduct; samādhi -- purity of mind through concentration; and prajñā -- purity of insight through vipaśyanā-meditation. It consists of the precepts on the ethical doctrines, which constituted the Buddhist law.

     Śīla [Sīla] has been a fundamental aspect of Buddhism. It includes Right speech. Right action and Right livelihood. A Buddhist lay disciple is advised to observe the five precepts (Pañcaśīla). The number of precepts increases according to the capacity of disciple. Hence eight and ten precepts are prescribed. The Sutta Piṭaka deals with methods of meditation leading to the one-pointedness of mind. The subjects and methods of meditation therein are meant for the attainment of samādhi as well as for development of insight knowledge, vipaśyanā jñāna, culminating into Nirvāṇa.

     The style of the work appeals to common man and the intellectuals as the doctrine and morality are expressed through conversation between Gautama or one of his chief disciples, and some inquirer.

     The Sutta Piṭaka comprises the five collections known as the Nikāya-s. They are

(A) Dīgha Nikāya -- collection of long discourses,
(B) Majjhima Nikāya -- collection of medium-length discourses,
(C) Saṃyutta Nikāya -- collection of preachings divided into groups,





Introduction: Survey of Buddhist Literature

(D) Aṅguttara Nikāya -- collection of miscellaneous sutta-s in divisions the themes of which go on increasing by one; and
(E) Khuddaka Nikāya -- minor collection.

     The Khuddaka Nikāya is subdivided into fifteen books:

1. Khuddakapāṭha (the recitation of shorter texts),
2. Dhammapada (words of religion),
3. Udāna (collections of enthusiastic pronouncements),
4. Itivuttaka (Thus said the Buddha discourses),
5. Sutta Nipāta (collected discourses),
6. Vimānavatthu (stories of celestial mansions),
7. Petavatthu (stories of ghosts),
8. Theragāthā (psalms of the Brothers),
9. Therīgāthā (psalms of the Sisters),
10. Jātaka (birth stories of the Bodhisattva),
11. Niddesa (exposition),
12. Paṭisaṃbhidāmagga (book on analytical knowledge),
13. Apadāna (lives of Arhats),
14. Buddhavaṃsa (history of the Buddha), and
15. Cariyā Piṭaka (modes of conduct).


(3) The Abhidhamma Piṭaka

Abhidhamma means 'that which is about dharma'. It connotes the higher teaching. Abhidhamma is a commentary on the sermons, which deal with philosophical and psychological aspects of the doctrine. It is the basket of higher exposition as it deals with subtle, profound teachings of the Buddha. However, other aspects of dharma, namely, ethics and discipline are not altogether absent here.





Introduction: Survey of Buddhist Literature

     This work is considered as of later origin and supplementary to the Sutta Piṭaka. Tradition attributes the core of the Abhidhamma to the Buddha. In the first Council held in 483 BC. Mahā-kāśyapa, the president of the Council is believed to have recited it. The authorship of Kathāvatthu is attributed to Moggaliputta Tissa.

     Abhidhamma deals with metaphysics and philosophy, it presents the teaching of the Buddha in an analytical way. It is a great collection of the essence of the teachings of the Buddha in a well arranged, tabulated and classified form. Abhidhamma elaborates on the concepts of mind, thoughts, thought-processes, and relation between mind and matter. It does not accept soul. It contains the ultimate teaching (paramārtha deśanā) whereas the Sutta Piṭaka contains the conventional teaching (vyavahāra deśanā).

     Every phenomenon is analysed in its ultimate constituents. Everything is viewed in terms of five aggregates of existence, sensory organs, elements, faculties, truth, etc. Every phenomenon is characterised by impermanence, suffering and is without a self.

     The Abhidhamma Piṭaka consists of seven books in prose. They are

(A) Dhammasaṅgaṇī (Classification of Dharma-s). It is a compendium of Dhamma-s, which defines and classifies the dhamma-s -- the psychical conditions and phenomena. It enumerates all categories of name and form.

(B) Vibhaṅga (Divisions). It is a supplement to Dhammasaṅgaṇī. It goes deep into the content.

(C) Dhātukathā (Discourse on elements). It is a short text written in the form of catechism. It deals with psychical phenomena and their interrelations. It explains the phenomena of existence with reference to aggregates, bases and elements.





Introduction: Survey of Buddhist Literature

(D) Puggalapaññatti (The book on individuals). It is identical with the Sutta Pitaka in its contents. In ten chapters it classifies different types of individuals.

(E) Kathāvatthu (The subjects for discourse, points of controversy). It is ascribed to Moggaliputta Tissa. The Kathāvatthu does not directly deal with the abstract nature of dharma. It deals with the refutation of false doctrines such as 'person exists', 'self exists', etc. presented by other sects and schools.

(F) Yamaka (The book of pairs). It presupposes the content of the previous books and is in a question-answer form. It defines and analyses the interrelationship of dharma-s and pudgala-s, and removes doubts arising out of their content.

(G) Paṭṭhāna (The book of causal relations). It deals with 24 kinds of relationships between corporeal and psychical phenomena in order to understand Dharma.



     The Dhammapada is a mine of gems of religious and literary excellence and universal truths. It is a summary of the Buddhist doctrine, ethics and wisdom. The work is well known and holds veneration not only among the followers of Buddhism but also among most of the followers of spiritual path irrespective of their creed. The work is a part of the Khuddaka Nikāya.

     The Dhammapada is divided into twenty-six chapters and consists of four hundred and twenty-three verses. The work describes ignorance as the highest impurity. The suffering can be eliminated through elimination of craving. Greed, ill will and ignorance are compared to fire. All conditioned things are characterised by transitoriness and impermanence. One should avoid the two extremes --





Introduction: Survey of Buddhist Literature

indulgence in sensuous pleasures and self -- mortification -- and should follow the middle path. The Noble Eightfold Path is the means to attain emancipation. One can overcome hatred and enmity by kindness and love. [na hi verena verāni sammantīdha kudācanam. averena ca sammanti, esa dhammo sanantano.]

     The essence of the teachings of the Buddha is elucidated in one single verse. "Abstain from all evil, develop what is good, purify your mind -- this is the teaching of the Buddha." [sabbapāpassa akaraṇam kusalassa upasaṃpadā sacittapariyodapanaṃ etaṃ buddhānam sasānaṃ.]

     The Dhammapada and the Milindapañha have been considered as the essence of the Buddhist thought.



The Visuddhimagga by Buddhaghoṣa does not form a part of the Pāli canon, still it enjoys reverence amongst the followers of Buddhism. Visuddhimagga is a path to complete purification. It is a systematic explanation of the doctrine of the Buddha on the lines of Mahāvihāra tradition of Anurādhapura and is used as a manual for meditation.



Jātaka-s are the stories of the previous existences of Gautama Buddha when he was a Bodhisattva. These birth stories of the Buddha appear in the Khuddaka Nikāya. The Jātaka is an extensive work. It contains 547 stories. There is a difference of opinion regarding the exact number of the stories. In Myanmar the number of stories rises to 550. The Jātakaṭṭhavaṇṇanā, that is, the prose portion of the Jātaka-s is attributed to Buddhaghoṣa. The Jātaka-s may be placed in the third century BC. However, the gāthā-s (verses) in the Jātaka-s belong to the fifth century BC. The





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prose and verse go together though they belong to different periods.

     Every Jātaka consists of five parts:

(1) An introductory story. This story belongs to the present describing the occasion when the Buddha narrates the story.
(2) A story of the past. This part narrates a story of one of the previous births of the Buddha.
(3) Gāthā-s. These are the stanzas, which occur in the story of the past. This is the most important feature of the Jātaka-s.
(4) A commentary. This part explains the meaning of each and every word in the gāthā.
(5) The identification. This part identifies the characters in the past with the characters of the stories of the present, and link the previous and the present births of the characters in the stories.

     The Jātaka stories contain moral principles and practices, which the Bodhisattva had observed to attain perfection and Buddhahood. The Bodhisattva is the main character in some stories, whereas he plays a secondary role in a few stories. There are stories about animals and birds. The Jātaka stories are narrated in various forms such as dialogues, prose narrative, a long poem. They anticipate the concept of rebirth. The Jātaka stories are held in high esteem both by the Hīnayāna and the Mahāyāna.


Milindapañha Pāḷi

     Milindapañha, Questions of King Milinda is a very popular work that contains a discussion between the Buddhist monk Nāgasena, and King Milinda who is identified to be the Indo-Greek King Menandros who ruled around 155BC-130BC in the Punjab. The work is placed in the beginning of





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the Christian era. Milindapañha Pāḷi s the last book that constitutes the Khuddaka Nikāya.

     King Milinda needed clarification regarding specific points pertaining to dharma, which were answered by Nāgasena. The nature of man, his survival after death, and other aspects of dharma are dealt with in the work. Nāgasena elucidates morality, merit and demerit, mindfulness and concentration, ignorance, defilements, feelings, name and form and other philosophical terms. The work sums up the fundamental teachings of Buddhism with apt parables and illustrations. For example, the continuity of phenomena is explained by giving a simple illustration.

     Nāgasena says, "If, O great King, a man would light a lamp, would it burn for the whole night?"
     "Certainly, Sir, it would."
     "Then, O great King, is the flame in the first quarter of the night the same as the flame in the second quarter?"
     "No Sir."
     "And is the flame in the second quarter of the night the same as the flame in the last quarter?"
     "No Sir."
     "How, then, O great king, was the flame of a lamp in the first, the second and the third quarter of night different and not the same?"
     "No Sir, the lamp burnt through the whole night by means of one and the same (fuel)."
     "Exactly in the same way, O great king, the continuity of phenomena is brought about. It is a different one who is born, a different one who dies, still there is something that unites both, and hence in the last union with consciousness (that links the present and subsequent birth of a man) he is neither the same nor a different man."





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     Nāgasena uses the analogy of the lamp further to narrate how rebirth takes place without any soul, substratum of personality or any other entity which passes from one body to the other.

     "Revered Nāgasena, is it true that nothing transmigrates and still rebirth takes place?"
     "Yes Sir."
     "How can this be? ... Give me an illustration."
     "Suppose, Sir, a man lights one lamp from another, does one lamp transmigrate to the other?"
     "No Sir."
     "Even so there is rebirth without anything transmigrating."

     When Milinda asked Nāgasena his name, Nāgasena responded that his name was a mere designation and it did not indicate any personality. He illustrated the point by analysing a chariot. The thing is called a chariot only due to coexistence of various components.

     Nāgasena addressed the King, "Sir, how did you come here -- on foot or in a vehicle?"
     "In a chariot."
     "Then tell me, what is the chariot? Is the pole the chariot?"
     "No, your reverence".
     "Or the axle, wheels, frame, reins, yoke, spokes, or goad?"
     "Not a single thing of these is the chariot."
     "Then whether all these separate parts taken together, are a chariot?"
     "No, your reverence."
     "Then, whether the chariot is something else from the separate parts?"
     "No, your reverence."





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     "Then Sir, with all my enquiry, I can find no chariot. The chariot is a mere name. ... There is no chariot."


The Nidānakathā

The Nidānakathā is a biography of the Buddha. The work is in Pāli. It belongs to the period between the first century BC and AD first century. The word nidāna in the Buddhist context means a cause. In the title of this work it means a beginning. The work comprises three sections, namely, the story of the beginnings in the distant past [dūrenidāna], the story of the beginnings in the past that is not too distant [avidūrenidāna], and the story of the beginnings of the very proximate past [santikenidāna]. These three sections cover the account of the first birth of Gautama Buddha as Sumedha who was born in a brahmin family, his birth as a Bodhisattva in the heaven of the Tuṣita-gods [dūrenidāna]; the birth as Siddhartha Gautama and his enlightenment [avidūrenidāna]; and the further events in the life of the Śākyamuni up to the account of Anāthapiṇḍaka who donated to the Buddha the Jetavana-vihāra [saṅtike nidāna]. The important events in the Nidānakathā are given below.

     Gautama Buddha was, in the remote past, born in a Brahmin family. His name was Sumedha. He lost his parents when he was very young, so he was sad. He decided to renounce the worldly life. He distributed his wealth to the poor and went to the Himalayas. He meditated and realised that there is suffering in the world, there is happiness as well; there is heat, there is cold as well; there is existence (bhava), so there has to be liberation (vibhava). Sumedha decided to find out a way to freedom from sorrow. He performed penance. Once, he could meet Dīpaṅkara Buddha who declared that Sumedha would be born as the Buddha. Ten perfections appeared before





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Sumedha and he resolved to practise them, to become a Buddha and to relieve people from suffering. Then he was born as a Bodhisattva in the Tuṣita heaven.

     The Gods requested the Bodhisattva to take birth on the earth as a Buddha. The Bodhisattva himself chose his parents, family, place and time for his descent on the earth. He also fixed his life span. Then the Bodhisattva was born on the earth, he attained Bodhi and became the Buddha. Here ends the second section of the work.

     The third section describes the Buddha's contemplations after enlightenment. The Dhammacakkappavattana, that is, turning the wheel of Law and other episodes in the life of the Buddha are elaborated.

     The Nidānakathā is based on the Buddhavaṃśa, Cariyāpiṭaka, Mahāvagga, the Jātaka-s, the Suttanipāta, the Dīgha-Nikāya, and the Dhammapada.


Buddhist Literature in Pure and Mixed Sanskrit

The Mahāvastu or Mahāvastu Avadāna: The Mahāvastu was composed over a long period ranging from AD second century to fourth centuries. This important work pertaining to the Hīnayāna is the legendary life of the Buddha. The Jātaka-s, Avadāna-s and Sūtra-s form an integral part of the work. The Mahāvastu includes a huge collection of Jātaka-s, that is, stories highlighting two qualities of Bodhisattva, namely, self-sacrifice and generosity. A few traits of the Mahāyāna such as the description of the Bodhisattvabhūmi-s are found in the Mahāvastu. The conception, birth, enlightenment of the Buddha are clothed in miracles. The eulogy of the Buddha is articulated through a stotra, that is, a hymn. The work also presents the view that the worship of stūpa-s is rewarded with attainment of merit, and praise of the Buddha proves to be a fruitful means for Nirvāṇa. This is different from the Buddha's





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advice in the Pāli canon to his disciples to work out their own Nirvāṇa. The Mahāvastu is written in prose and verse in 'mixed Sanskrit.'

Lalita-Vistara: The Lalita-Vistara, one of the biographies of the Buddha, belongs to both, the Hīnayāna and the Mahāyāna. It is one of the nine Mahāyāna Sūtra-s known as Vaipulya-Sūtra-s. The exhaustive narrative of the Buddha is marked with faith and devotion. The distinctive feature of the work is that it portrays the life of Buddha as a sport, that is, lalita of a superhuman being. The Buddha is depicted as a deity and important events and episodes in his life are presented as miracles. The Bodhisattva enters his mother's womb in the form of an elephant. The young prince comes across an old man, a diseased person and a corpse. He leaves the palace to conquer old age and death. Māra tries to tempt him. Ultimately Siddhārtha attains enlightenment and proclaims the doctrine to the world.

     The last chapter contains an eulogy of Lalita-Vistara itself. It also provides a base for Mādhyamika philosophy. For example, it says, "The seed is not the same as sprout, nor different; a thing produced by dependence on others is nothing in itself." The work is in prose and verse in mixed Sanskrit. The existing Tibetan translation of the Sanskrit work belongs to AD ninth century.


Works of Aśvaghoṣa

Aśvaghoṣa belonged to AD second century. He is the author of a number of books such as Buddhacarita, Saundarananda, Vajrasūcī, Sūtrālaṃkāra, etc. The main features of these works are highlighted below.

Buddhacarita: Buddhacarita, the epic in Sanskrit is a unique contribution of Aśvaghoṣa to the Buddhist literature





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and religion. I-tsing, the Chinese traveller, in praise of this work says, "This extensive work... relates the Tathāgata's chief doctrines and works during his life, from the period when he was still in the royal palace till his last hour under the avenue of Sāla-trees." Though the original work consisted of 28 cantos, the extant Sanskrit text consists of only seventeen cantos. The beauty of the epic lies in its religious and spiritual nature. The Buddhist philosophy is couched in devotion.

     Aśvaghoṣa has interwoven philosophy through the life-story of the Buddha. He makes it clear that Siddhārtha had entered the forest not out of yearning for paradise but to find out remedy for sorrows. Siddhārtha says, "For what sentient being would stand or sit or lie at ease or laugh when he is aware of old age, disease and death?"

     The Buddha's doctrine of impermanence is revealed through the following words. "It is not that I despise the objects of senses, I know that the world is after them, but my mind does not rejoice in them because I hold the world to be transitory." He feels pity for those who indulge in worldly pleasures deluded into doing actions, which really can bring no good to them.

     Aśvaghoṣa also explains precisely the law of karma in simple words. "Those living-beings whose acts are sinful pass to the sphere of misery, those others whose deeds are good will find a place in the heaven."

     While depicting different characters Aśvaghoṣa highlights the Buddhist views in simple terms. For example, Siddhārtha did not believe in the efficacy of rites. He preferred renunciation (of the world) to actions. He says to the ascetics following other cults, "Your dharma aims at paradise. I desire for liberation." Hence Kāśyapa, the disciple of the Buddha reiterates, "I have given up worship of fires because the reward of offering oblations





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in them is continuance of the cycle of birth and death."

     According to the Buddha, passion or desire is the cause of suffering. Aśvaghoṣa compares passions to ferocious snakes, skeletons of dry bones, exposed baits and dangerous haunts. They are further compared to the fruit hanging on the topmost branch of a tree (which is outside one's reach), the enjoyments of a dream, trenches full of red-hot cinders, knives, and fuel-wood. Fulfilment of passions is to be regarded as a misfortune because man becomes intoxicated by fulfilment of desires and then he does what he should not. Thus wounded he attains rebirth in a lower sphere. The Buddha says that passions are ephemeral and act as robbers of treasury. They are empty like illusion.

     Regarding the transitory nature of passions, the Buddha says, "For he who is burning with a bilious fever should decide that cold treatment was enjoyment, even he who is engaged in a remedial process, would have the idea that the passions were enjoyment. And since there is nothing absolute in pleasure, I do not consider them as enjoyments; for the very states, which show pleasure, bring in their turn suffering. For warm clothes and aloe wood are pleasant in cold and unpleasant in the heat; the rays of the moon and sandalwood are pleasant in heat and unpleasant in the cold. Since pairs, such as gain and loss are attached to everything in the world, there is no man on earth who is absolutely happy or absolutely unhappy."

     The concept of Nāmarūpa as it occurs in the Buddhacarita is very close to that occurring in the Upaniṣads. Lord Buddha says, "Just as a garland of gold is a special form (viśeṣa), so the evolutes of nature are special forms, while the cause is not one, therefore nature has no productive efficiency."

     Aśvaghoṣa describes the Buddhist doctrine of cause and effect in a nutshell. He says, "Further, he (Siddhārtha) made





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up his mind to understand the origin of the six organs of sense. Thereon, the knower of cause knew the cause to be name and form. Just as the leaf and the stalk are said to exist only when there is a shoot in existence, even so the six organs of sense arise only when name and form are in existence."

     Then Siddhārtha pondered over the cause of name and form, and saw it to lie in consciousness. Name and form are produced from consciousness. Consciousness is produced by supporting itself on name and form. The mutual causality is interdependent just as red-hot iron causes grass to blaze and as blazing grass makes the iron red hot. From name and form originate senses, which result into contact of objects. Then follows sensation, which gives birth to thirst (tṛṣṇā). Thirst gives birth to appropriation and from appropriation arises existence.

Saundarananda: The Saundarananda another ornate epic by Aśvaghoṣa narrates the account of Nanda who was instructed by the Buddha, was induced by temptations of worldly life and who finally became an Arhat. The epic focuses on attainment of peace and emancipation.

Vajrasūcī: There is a difference of opinion regarding the authorship of the Vajrasūcī (Diamond Needle) though it is sometimes attributed to Aśvaghoṣa. The work refutes the caste system and advocates equality.

     The poet has also produced Gaṇḍīstotra-Gāthā, a lyrical poem. Śāriputra-Prakaraṇa is a drama in the form of conversation between Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana based on a story from the Mahāvagga of the Vinaya Piṭaka, The extant work is incomplete.

Sūtrālaṃkāra: The Sūtrālaṃkāra is a collection of legends in prose and verse ascribed to Aśvaghoṣa though the





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authorship is sometimes assigned to Kumāralāta. It bears the element of the worship of the Buddha. The Sūtrālaṃkāra was translated into Chinese by Kumārajīva in AD 405.



The Jātakamālā, a garland of Jātaka-s, was composed by Śūra who was also known as Āryaśūra in AD fourth century. It consists of legends narrated in prose and verse form. Śūra has embellished the old jātaka-s in his work in order to bring out the essence of perfections (pāramitā-s).


Avadāna Literature

The term avadāna means a great act. In the Buddhist context it is confined to a religious or moral act and is conveyed through a story. The acts cover a wide range from making gifts to sacrificing one's own life. The Avadāna texts bear characteristics of the Hīnayāna as well as the Mahāyāna. Tradition says that the Buddha himself narrated the Avadāna-s. The Avadāna literature written in simple Sanskrit prose, is interspersed with Gāthā-s. For example, 'The elephants trumpet, the horses neigh; the oxen bellow.' (hastinaḥ krośanti, aśvā hreṣante ṛṣabhā garjanti.)

     The Avadāna literature glorifies the Bodhisattva ideal. It lays emphasis on religious and ethical aspect of Buddhism.

     The maxim that every action bears its fruits is narrated in simple and meaningful words. The poet says, "The actions of all living-beings do not perish even after hundreds of crores of kalpa-s. They become fruitful for the living beings at proper time in proper situation." (na praṇaśyanti karmāṇi kalpakoṭiśatairapi sāmagrīm prāpya kālaṃ ca phalanti khalu dehinām). It can be clearly stated





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that the Avadāna stories lay emphasis on law of karma, "As you sow so you reap."

     Avadāna śataka (AD second century): The Avadāna Śataka is divided into ten books. It glorifies the actions that lead to the attainment of Arhatship or Buddhahood. The stories have uniformity in their form; the beginning and concluding sentences of the stories are similar.

     The moral of the stories consists of these words, "O monks, the reward of quite black (vile) actions is quite black; that of quite white (good) actions quite white (good), that of mixed deeds is mixed. Therefore, O monks, give up the black and the mixed actions and rejoice only in quite white actions." The work was translated into Chinese in the first half of AD third century.

Divyāvadāna: The Divyāvadāna belongs to the Hīnayāna even though sporadic instances of the Mahāyāna tradition are seen in the work. The celebrated formula om maṇipadme hum occurs in the Divyāvadāna. The legends are narrated in Sanskrit prose interspersed with Gāthā. The work is assigned to AD fourth century.

     The Kalpadrumāvadānamālā, the Ratnāvadānamālā and the Aśokāvadānamālā are in a verse form and have drawn inspiration from the Avadānaśataka. However they belong to the Mahāyāna. Other works belonging to the Avadāna literature are the Dvāviṃśatyavadāna, the Bhadra-Kalpāvadāna and the Vicitrakarṇikāvadāna.

Avadānakalpalatā: The Avadānakalpalatā (AD 11th century) composed by Kṣemendra, the Kashmirian poet of unequalled merit is not only popular but also enjoys high reputation in Tibet. The work consists of 107 legends written by Kṣemendra and one more written by his son. The stories emphasise the virtues such as self-sacrifice, charity and law of Karma.





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Mahāyāna Sūtra-s

The Mahāyāna Sūtra-s is a series of books consisting of nine works also known as the Vaipulya Sūtra-s. It has a unique position in the Mahāyāna tradition. In Nepal the works are accorded a formal divine service. These nine works are -- Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñā-Pāramitā, Saddharma-Puṇḍarīka, Lalita-Vistara, Laṅkāvatāra or Saddharma-Laṅkāvatāra, Suvarṇa Prabhāsa, Gaṇḍavyūha, Tathāgataguhyaka or Tathāgataguṇajñāna, Samādhirāja, and Daśabhūmīśvara. The authors of most of these works are unknown.

A brief account of some important sūtra-s and a few other works which are considered as the repositories of the Mahāyāna tradition follows.

Saddharma Puṇḍarīka: The Saddharma Puṇḍarīka, the crest jewel of the Mahāyāna Sūtra-s was composed c. AD 100. It is recited and revered throughout Asia. The prose in the text is in pure Sanskrit whereas the Gāthā-s are in mixed Sanskrit. The work proclaims that even though there exists the trinity of vehicles, in reality there is only one vehicle. It consists of the descriptions of miraculous powers of Śākyamuni and efficacy of Dhāraṇī-s, and the adoration to the Bodhisattva-s. Innumerable Bodhisattva-s are mentioned in this work. Importance is given to Avalokiteśvara, and Sarvasattvapriyadarśana (Bhaiṣajyaguru). The doctrine is revealed through simple words.

     For example, "When the living beings in this world rejoice in low and contemptible pleasures, then the chief of the world, who always speaks nothing but truth, indicates sorrow as the (First) Noble Truth. Strong desire is the origin of sorrow. Always try, being detached, to suppress desire. This is my third truth of suppression, an unfailing means





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of deliverance; because by practising this method one shall be emancipated."

     The work is characterised by mysticism. For example, after narrating a parable, the Buddha himself explains the hidden meaning of his words. "Such Kāśyapa is the parable I have invented to make you understand the meaning. Here this meaning should be understood. The word 'blind-born', Kāśyapa, is the designation of the beings staying in the whirl of the world with its six states; the beings who do not know the true law and are piling up the dense darkness of evil passions. Those are blind due to ignorance; and in consequence of it they form conceptions; in consequence of the conceptions name and form, and so forth, up to the genesis of this entire huge mass of sufferings."

     The Saddharma Puṇḍarīka sings praises of charity. For example, it is said, "One may charitably give food, soft and solid, clothing, drink, a place for sleeping and sitting, with clean covers, one may build monasteries of sandalwood... and donate them.... One may be assiduous in giving medicines of various kinds to the sick."

     The Saddharma Puṇḍarīka also contains eulogies. For example it is stated that the discourse known as the "Lotus of the Good Religion" is like a lake for the thirsty, like a fire for those who suffer from cold, like a garment for the unclothed, like a caravan leader for the merchants, like a mother for her children, like a boat for those who ferry over ... like a physician for the sick, like a lamp for those enveloped in dark."

     The work articulates the utmost expression of pure and the highest devotion. A current of devotion runs throughout the work and suffuses the mind of the reader with reverence towards the Buddha. No wonder, idol worship is one of the features of the work. The Buddha says, "I am the father of the world, born out of my own self, the physician and





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the protector of all sentient beings, and only because I know them perverted, infatuated that I teach final rest (nirvāṇa), myself not being at rest." One entire chapter is dedicated to Avalokiteśvara.

     The Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra says that all those who worship relics, erect stūpa-s or worship them, who think of the Buddha can attain enlightenment. Those who lead a moral life, make gifts here, can become a Buddha. The Buddha desires to shower down the mighty rain of religion, to sound the great drum of faith, to raise the lofty banner of faith, to blow the powerful trumpet of religion.

     The Hokkeshū or the Saddharma-Puṇḍarīka Sect founded by Nichiren in the 13th century is based on the teachings of the Saddharma-Puṇḍarīka. The T'ient'ai school in China as well as the Tendai sect in Japan draw their inspiration from this work. The following words of Nichiren express his reverence towards the work. He says, "If we are to believe these final words of the Buddha, we must conclude that the Lotus Sūtra is the only bright mirror we should have, and that through it we can understand the heart of all the Sūtra-s."

Avalokiteśvara-Guṇa Kāraṇda Vyūha: The work is popularly known as Kāraṇda-Vyūha. It is found in two versions: one in prose, while the other in verse. Both the versions extol Lord Avalokiteśvara, the Bodhisattva. The prose version bears an impact of Tantric element. The version in śloka form depicts the Ādi-Buddha as Svayambhū or as Ādinātha, the cause of the world. He created it through meditation. Avalokiteśvara reclaimed the wicked, offered food to the famine-stricken and cured the diseased. He resolved to bring salvation to all sentient beings. The work was composed not later than AD fourth century.

Sukhāvatī Vyūha Sūtra: Two Sukhāvatī Vyūha Sūtra-s -- one long and the other short -- are known as Sukhāvatī





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Vyūha. Sukhāvatī, the Land of the Buddha Amitābha, forms the content of both the works. However, the two sūtra-s differ not only in length but also in approach. The longer work lays emphasis on good actions for the attainment of birth in the Sukhāvatī. In the other work the emphasis is on hearing or remembering the name of Amitābha. In the long version an account is given how Dharmākara makes several vows of Bodhisattvahood and resolves not to attain enlightenment until all living-beings are liberated. He is reborn as Amitābha who presides over the Land Sukhāvatī. The work also comprises praise of the Buddha and vision of Sukhāvatī provided to Ānanda by the Buddha. The short version describes the world of Sukhāvatī where Amida or Amitāyus, that is, he who possesses immeasurable life or a long span of life lives. The names of the Buddha-s dwelling in the land and wonders in the Sukhāvatī form the content of this work.

     The long sūtra has twelve versions of Chinese translation. The small one was translated into Chinese by three different scholars: Kumārajīva (AD 402), Guṇabhadra (AD 420-479) and Hsuan Tsang (AD seventh century).

Amitāyur-dhyāna Sūtra: It is preserved in the form of a Chinese translation. It prescribes meditation (dhyāna) as the means to attain the Sukhāvatī.

     The Sukhāvatī Vyūha Sūtra-s and the Amitāyur Dhyāna Sūtra-s are revered in the two Japanese sects, Jodo-shu and Shin-shu.

Prajñā Pāramitā Sūtra-s, Wisdom Perfection Sūtra-s: The Prajñā Pāramitā Sūtra-s are more or less eulogies of the Buddha or Bodhisattva-s. The title Wisdom Perfection itself suggests that the texts place wisdom perfection as the leader of pāramitā-s. The dialogue between the Buddha and his disciple Subhūti is a prominent feature of the Prajñā Pāramitā Sūtra-s. Prajñā Pāramitā-s containing varying





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numbers of śloka-s are available in Sanskrit and most of the titles of the works indicate the number of śloka-s they contain. They range from 100,000 śloka-s (śata-sāhasrikā) to one syllable (ekākṣarī) in length. Though the works are in prose, thirty-two syllables are conceived to form a unit of one śloka and thus the śloka-s are counted. The Prajñā Pāramitā Sūtra-s are the source for the Mādhyamika attitude, that is, the madhyamā pratipad that rejects affirmation and negation and advocates śūnyatā.

     The texts contain a number of passages giving us the said purport. For example, "Maitreyo bodhisattvo mahāsattvo na rūpaṃ nityaṃ nānityaṃ na rūpaṃ baddhaṃ na muktam atyanta -- viśuddham ityabhisambhotsyate." The English rendering is: "The great Bodhisattva, Maitreya will proclaim the matter neither eternal nor ephemeral, neither bound nor liberated. He will declare it as excessively pure."

     Again, "Āryāvalokiteśvaro bodhisattvo gaṃbhīrāyāṃ prajñā pāramitāyāṃ caryāṃ caramāṇo vyavalokayati sma; pañcaskandhānstāṅśca svabhāvaśūnyān paśyati sma iha, śāriputra rūpaṃ śūnyatā, śūnyataiva rūpaṃ." In English, it reads, "The noble Avalokiteśvara, the Bodhisattva moving in the profound wisdom-perfection used to reflect on the five aggregates and could see emptiness as their intrinsic nature. O Śāriputra, the matter is verily empty, emptiness is verily matter." According to Diṅnāga, Prajñā Pāramitā is the non-dual knowledge, the Tathāgata himself. Prajñā-Pāramitājñānam advyaṃ sā tathāgataḥ. The Wisdom Sūtra-s interpret the fourteen inexplicables (avyākṛta-s) of the Buddha.

The Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñā Pāramitā: The earliest version of this work probably belongs to some time between 100 BC and AD 50. It consists of 32 chapters. The work proclaims that all factors are devoid of essential nature (asvabhāva).





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None is bound, and none is free. All factors are empty, so such contrasts do not prevail. One who realises this attains perfection in wisdom, that is, Prajñā Pāramitā. Prajñā Pāramitā is considered as the mother of the Buddha. The Dharmakāya is considered to be the essence of the Buddha, and is called as Svābhāvikakāya.

     The Sūtra repeatedly proclaims that one should observe the nature of things without submitting oneself to a particular standpoint. For example, bodhisattvena mahā sattvena prajñā-pāramitāyāṃ caratā prajñā-pāramitāyāṃ bhāvayatā na rūpe sthātavyaṃ na vedanāyāṃ. The English rendering is: "The noble being, the Bodhisattva, while moving in the wisdom perfection, reflecting on it, should not dwell in matter, nor in feeling." Non-apprehension of things (dharma-s) is wisdom perfection.

     The work deals with the way to attain the wisdom-perfection, the perfect Enlightenment, Tathāgata, thusness (tathatā), emancipation (nirvāṇa), emptiness (śūnyatā) and the other key concepts of the Mahāyāna. Nāgārjuna, Vasubandhu and Asaṅga have written commentaries on the Prajñā Pāramitā Sūtra-s.

Gaṇḍavyūha: This work speaks about the Bodhisattva's quest for the enlightenment. Purification of the city of mind (cittanagara) is described at length. The sūtra has a philosophical bent. According to this work everything is as though reflected in everything else. The phenomenal can be identified with the transcendental without any contradiction. The difference in the phenomenal and transcendental universe is not a real one. It exists only on the surface. The work glorifies Mañjuśrī, the Bodhisattva, who leads the aspirant to perfect enlightenment. In his Śikṣāsamuccaya, Śāntideva profusely quotes from the Gaṇḍavyūha. The Gaṇḍavyūha is translated into Chinese and Tibetan languages.





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Tathāgataguhyaka: It belongs to the seventh century. It speaks about the will of enlightenment, which can be had by him who has pity in his mind, who does not desert anybody, who renounces one's own welfare for others' sake. The work has a shade of Tantra.

Ratnakūṭa (Heap of jewels): The Ratnakūṭa is found in the Chinese Tripiṭaka and the Tibetan Kanjur. The Ratnakūṭa is a collection of 49 sūtra-s among which are found Long Sukhāvatī Vyūha, Akṣobhya Vyūha, and the Mañjuśrī Buddha Kṣetra Guṇa Vyūha. Most of the Sūtra-s in Ratnakūṭa deal with specific problems. They are called as Paripṛcchā. The other texts such as Pitāputrasamāgama provide ground for the Mādhyamika philosophy.

Daśabhūmaka, Daśabhūmika Sūtra or Daśabhūmīśvara narrates the ten stages (daśabhūmi-s), which a Bodhisattva has to undergo to attain Buddhahood. The doctrine of ten stages, which can be traced to the Mahāvastu, became a prominent feature of the Mahāyāna. The work is in prose; however the first chapter is interspersed with Gāthā-s. In this work four new aspects, namely, skilful means (upāya), vows (praṇidhāna), strength (bala), and knowledge (jñāna) are added to wisdom-perfection (prajñā pāramitā) and thus the number of perfections is raised to ten. Dharmarakṣa translated the text into Chinese in AD third century.

Saddharma Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra: The Saddharma Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra popularly mentioned as Laṅkāvatāra is philosophical in its contents. It expounds Vijñānavāda, the doctrine of consciousness. The work speaks of the Buddha's visit to Rāvaṇa, the king of Sri Lanka who poses a number of questions to the Buddha.

     The Bodhisattva Mahāmati asks the Buddha questions on the important notions in philosophy. The Buddha





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explains the doctrine of Yogācāra school. Important concepts in the Buddhist religion and philosophy such as the Four Noble Truths, ālaya, manovijñāna, tathatā, śūnyatā, dharmadhātu, and nirvāṇa, etc. are explained in the text. The magical formula Dhāraṇī is described in the ninth chapter. The tenets of important orthodox systems of Indian Philosophy find a place in the work. The text was translated into Chinese by Guṇabhadra in AD 443, by Bodhiruci in AD 513, and by Śikṣānanda from AD 700 to 704.

Samādhirāja: The Samādhirāja is also known as Candrapradīpa Sūtra. The work befitting its name describes meditations as the means to attain the highest knowledge. It covers the virtues of the Buddha, meditation, true meaning of samādhi, that is, the experience of emptiness, different aspects of samādhi, prerequisites for samādhi, patience (kṣānti), and non-existence of the things of the world. Samādhi is defined as the fixation of mind, on one point, unclouded by ignorance. The restraint of body, speech and mind and merits of samādhi are described. The rūpakāya and dharmakāya -- the two bodies of the Buddha -- are described in the 22nd chapter. The work is extant in Tibetan and three Chinese translations.

Suvarṇaprabhāsa: The Suvarṇaprabhāsa deals with two important aspects of Buddhism, namely, ethics and philosophy. It gives importance to the dharmakāya of the Buddha. The work also consists of Dhāraṇī-s and rituals pertaining to Tantra. In one of the chapters -- Vyāghrīparivarta -- we find a story that highlights compassion. A noble prince having seen the tigress who had recently given birth to cubs, and who desired to eat them out of hunger, was engrossed with great compassion. He fell before the hungry tigress and she within no time reduced him to bones. The Suvarṇaprabhāsa is very popular





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in the Mahāyāna. The text was translated in the 5th, 6th and 8th centuries into the Chinese.


Works of Nāgārjuna

Nāgārjuna (AD 150) is the founder of the Mādhyamika system. Hsuan Tsang calls Aśvaghoṣa, Deva, Nāgārjuna and Kumāralabdha, the four suns that illuminate the world. Nāgārjuna's masterpiece Mādhyamika-Kārikā-s or Mādhyamika Sūtra-s presents the theory of Śūnyavāda. It is the basic text of the Mādhyamika School and a milestone in Indian philosophy. The work is divided into 27 chapters and consists of 400 verses (kārikā-s).

     It is said that Nāgārjuna also wrote his commentary on the Mādhyamika-Kārikā-Akutobhayā, which is preserved in its Tibetan translation. Besides Akutobhayā, Buddhapālita's commentary Mādhyamikavṛtti and Bhavya's commentary known as the Prajñāpradīpa are extant in Tibetan. Prasannapadā, the commentary by Candrakīrti is available in Sanskrit.

     The first stanza of the Mādhyamika-Kārikā describes eight negations propounded by Nāgārjuna, namely, anirodham anutpādam anucchedam aśāśvatam anekārtham anānārtham anāgamam anirgamam. "There is neither destruction nor creation, neither nihilism nor eternalism, neither unity nor plurality, neither coming nor going out."

     Nāgārjuna critically investigates the concepts of motion, sense-bases, aggregates, six elements, attachment, aversion and ignorance, and the concept of origination, agent and action. He speaks of reality, being and non-being. The analogy of fire and fuel defines the relationship between person and the aggregates. The relation between fire and fuel is that of interdependence, still the relationship cannot be established because one cannot tell what sets the fuel





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on fire. In the same way the interdependence of the person and aggregates cannot be proved. They are neither real nor unreal.

     Both extremes -- to agree with the existence of anything permanent and to believe in impermanence -- should be avoided. Saṃsāra and nirvāṇa are not two independent opposites. Karma is empty, body is empty. Neither the agent exists nor does the action. Self is neither identical with the aggregates nor different from them. The cause and effect are neither identical nor different. Nirvāṇa is neither entity (bhāva) nor non-entity (abhāva), nor both or neither; it is the abandonment of such thinking of the real (bhāvābhāvaparāmarṣakṣayo nirvāṇam). It can be obtained only through śūnyatā by giving up all views.

     The objection raised is, "If everything is void, there is no beginning, then there could possibly be no 'Four Noble Truths', no doctrine (dharma), no Order (saṅgha) and no Buddha himself." Nāgārjuna replies, "The doctrine of the Buddha is based on two verities -- conventional truth, and truth in the highest sense. One who does not comprehend the difference between these two verities cannot understand the deep contents of the Buddha's teaching. Only as based on the truth of ordinary life the highest truth can be inculcated and with the help of latter alone, Nirvāṇa can be attained." One who realises the Dependent Origination realises the Four Noble Truths.

     "What is already produced cannot be produced and what is not yet produced cannot be produced. Because of these facts nothing can be produced." Nāgārjuna interprets the Dependent Origination as emptiness. If Dependent Origination does not exist, sorrow does not exist, origination of sorrow does not exist; hence no cessation of sorrow and no way leading to the cessation of sorrow. The Four Noble Truths have to be understood in the light of





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emptiness. According to Nāgārjuna even the Four Noble Truths have an empirical validity. For him the true import of the scriptures is Śūnyatā. Nāgārjuna practised the negative dialectics of the Prajñā school.

Vigrahavyāvartanī: The work Vigrahavyāvartanī and a commentary thereon are ascribed to Nāgārjuna. It is a metrical composition of seventy verses (kārikā-s), while the commentary (vṛtti) is in prose. The text is preserved in Sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese. The first twenty verses put forth the opponent's views and the remaining verses establish the validity of the Mādhyamika thought. The essence of the work is that, "All things are empty (śūnya) because they are devoid of an essential nature."

Yuktiṣaṣṭikā: This work (sixty arguments) and Śūnyatā-saptati, that is, seventy verses on unreality by Nāgārjuna propound the doctrines, which he expounded in the Mādhyamika-Kārikā. Befitting its title, the Śūnyatāsaptati, is an exposition of emptiness. It refutes the independent reality of factors. In Yuktiṣaṣṭikā, Nāgārjuna says that pleasure gives birth to attachment; by giving it up one is free from attachment. By seeing it empty one is liberated.

Suhṛllekha (letter to a friend): The Suhṛllekha is a didactic poem. Nāgārjuna addresses it to his friend. King Sātavāhana of Āndhra. It is an exposition of the teachings of the Buddha. It says that one should keep in his mind six things, namely, the Buddha, the dharma, the saṅgha, charity, morality and gods. Morality is the source of all virtues. Eulogy of six perfections, reverence to parents, eight precepts and ten precepts are described in the work. The work is available through three Chinese translations.

     The commentaries Prajñā Pāramitā Sūtra -- Śāstra and Daśa -- Bhūmi Vibhāṣā Śāstra are ascribed to Nāgārjuna. The Eka-Śloka Śāstra, a short work which is extant in





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Chinese is authored by Nāgārjuna. The purport of the work is that true existence is non-existence.


Works of Āryadeva

Āryadeva (AD 2nd and 3rd century) was a great master of Mahāyāna. He is also known as Deva or Kāṇadeva.

Cittaviśuddhi-prakaraṇa: The Cittaviśuddhi-prakaraṇa a didactic poem is available in fragments. The work is in Sanskrit. Āryadeva argues that if salvation could be attained because of the waters of the Gaṅgā, fishermen and fish should have attained salvation. There is a controversy whether the author of the Citta-viśuddhi-prakaraṇa is the same as that of Catuḥśataka and Śatakaśāstra.

     In the Catuḥśataka Āryadeva states, sad asat sadasacceti yasya pakṣo na vidyate; upālambhaścireṇāpi tasya vaktuṃ na śakyate. "One who does not maintain theory of existence or of non-existence is not criticised."

     Āryadeva gives the number and order of the alternatives. He maintains that "existence, non-existence, nor these two -- which is the order should be followed by the learned." ("sad asad sadasacceti nobhayaṃ ceti ca kramaḥ eṣa prayojyo vidvadbhir...").

     The Catuḥśataka is extant in the Tibetan version and only fragments of the Sanskrit text and commentary are available. Āryadeva upholds the Mādhyamika standpoint. His style is that of a debater. The work consists of 400 kārikā-s. It is the cardinal work that belongs to the Mādhyamika school. The work has been restored in Sanskrit.

     In this work, Āryadeva refutes the belief in permanence, in pleasure and in external purity. He critically analyses concepts such as existence of self, attachment to sensual





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pleasures, permanency, time, speculative views and likewise. While explaining the concept of impermanence, he says that there is no living being who is born and still does not inevitably proceed to death. One should avoid evil in the present birth. The wise remain away from sensual pleasures; meditation on the impurities help them recoil from them. Elimination of ignorance removes attachment and hatred. There is no self. All things arise being dependent on their causes and all things are effects. Even liberation is not a permanent state. Impermanent seeds put forth impermanent sprouts. Thus things continue. Hence there is no permanent annihilation. Things cease and hence there is no permanence. One who perceives the emptiness of things destroys the bondage caused by conceptual constructions. The Buddha-s and Bodhisattva-s work to benefit others.

Śata (ka) Śāstra: The Śata Śāstra is extant in Kumārajīva' s Chinese translation. In this work Āryadeva refutes satkāryavāda and asatkāryavāda. He deals with renunciation of merit and demerit, selflessness, sense objects, permanence etc. Emptiness is defended and wrong views regarding emptiness are refuted.


Other Authors and their Works


The Vimuttimagga by Upatissa describes the path to liberation. It speaks about freedom, virtue, concentration, a good friend, behaviour, meditation, the supernatural powers including yogic powers, wisdom, that is, to see things as they are, methods of attaining wisdom, and truth. Upatissa says that one who desires to attain Nibbāna should have the knowledge of the Vinaya, Sutta and Abhidhamma.





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Maitreya or Maitreyanātha was the teacher of Asaṅga and the founder of Yogācāra school. He wrote the Abhisamayālaṃkāra-Kārikā-s, also called the Prajñā-Pāramitopadeśa-Śāstra. The Yogācāra-Bhūmi-Śāstra or Saptadaśa-Bhūmi-Śāstra is said to have been revealed to Asaṅga by Maitreya. The Bodhisattva Bhūmi is the only part of Yogācāra Bhūmi Śāstra, which has survived in prose Sanskrit. The Yogācāra Bhūmi Śāstra is attributed to Asaṅga.


Asaṅga (AD fourth century) is the author of Mahāyāna Sūtrālaṃkāra, Dharma Dharmatā Vibhaṅga and Madhyāntavibhāga. They present the Yogācāra theory. Asaṅga states that one cannot realise Mahāyāna by tarka, that is, relational intellect. "Knowledge increases sorrow. Only unwise persons cling to it. It cannot lead us to the Reality." Accordingly Pure Consciousness is self-luminous; all impurities are adventitious. Pure consciousness is the only Reality.

     The Mahāyānasaṃgraha is a philosophical treatise attributed to Asaṅga. His Abhidharmasamuccaya consists of technical terms in the Yogācāra context. In Abhisamayālaṃkāra Asaṅga explains the spiritual path. His Uttaratantra presents absolutism of the Mādhyamika type.


There is a difference of opinion regarding the date of Vasubandhu. Some scholars place him between AD 280 and 360, whereas some others between AD 420 and 500. He is the author of Abhidharmakośa, which is not available in Sanskrit but its Chinese, and Tibetan versions are available. The work consists of 600 verses and the author's





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commentary on it. Though the work belongs to the Vaibhāṣika branch of Sarvāstivāda school of the Hīnayāna, it covers all aspects of Buddhism.

     In this work Abhidharma is defined as the Pure knowledge and its means. The phenomenon is compared to 'water in ajar' and the absolute to the 'vast ocean.' In the last meditation the meditator becomes 'one with the Real'. Vasubandhu discusses avyākṛta in the context of soul. He refutes the stand of the Vātsīputrīya-s, Sāṃkhya-s and the Vaiśeṣika-s regarding soul and denies the doctrine of soul.


A treatise known as the Mahāyāna Śraddhotpāda which means the origin of the Mahāyāna faith is assigned to Aśvaghoṣa who is most probably different from the author of the Buddhacarita. The work is extant in two Chinese versions. It synthesises the teachings of the Mādhyamika and the Vijñānavāda schools.

Buddhapālita and Bhāvaviveka

Buddhapālita, the founder of the Prāsaṅgika school and Bhāvaviveka also known as Bhavya, the founder of the Svatantra school lived in AD fifth century and wrote commentaries on the works of Nāgārjuna and Āryadeva which are available to us through Tibetan translations.

Dignāga or Diṅnāga

The great thinker and the founder of the Buddhist logic (AD fifth century) has made invaluable contribution to the Buddhist philosophy. Except the Nyāyapraveśa in Sanskrit, his other works are known to us through their Tibetan translations. According to Dignāga the essence of the Prajñā Pāramitā is the non-dual knowledge, that is,





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Tathāgata. His follower Dharmakīrti has written the Nyāyabindu in Sanskrit.


Candrakīrti, a commentator and author, belongs to AD sixth century. Some scholars place him in the seventh century. He is considered as an important figure in the Mādhyamika Philosophy. He belonged to the Prāsaṅgika School, and also wrote on the works of Nāgārjuna and Āryadeva. Candrakīrti's independent work is Madhyamakāvatāra, the introduction to the middle doctrine, which is known to us through the Tibetan Tanjur. The original work is lost, only a part of the work is restored in Sanskrit. Candrakīrti himself has written a commentary on the work. His commentary on Āryadeva's Catuḥśataka reflects his dialectical skill. Prasannapadā, the commentary on the Mūla Madhyamaka Kārikā-s, is lucid. It is of great value due to the quotations, the original sources being not available to us.


Candragomin is known to us as a grammarian, a philosopher, and a poet. His letter to his disciple is a religious poem called Śiṣyalekha-Dharma-Kāvya. The work represents Buddhist doctrines in the garb of poetic words.


Śāntideva, the son of King Kalyāṇavarman of Saurāṣṭra was to succeed his father as a king. Mañjuśrī appeared in his dream and on his advice he renounced the kingship. He is an important teacher of the Mahāyāna Buddhism of the seventh century. He followed the Prāsaṅgika school. His works Śikṣāsamuccaya, Sūtrasamuccaya and Bodhicaryāvatāra are important and





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popular. They have a flavour of spiritual serenity and detachment.

     Śikṣāsamuccaya means 'the sum total of the Doctrine'. It is a compendium of the doctrines of the Mahāyāna with an emphasis on the Mādhyamika. This manual is like a garland of extracts from various works, which are lost in original. Since they are restored here, the unique importance of Śikṣāsamuccaya counts.

     The work consists of 27 kārikā-s and a commentary by the author himself. Twenty-seven verses are given as the chapter headings, which are supplemented by the citations from the various sūtra-s. Śāntideva's Śikṣāsamuccaya highlights the Mādhyamika way of spiritual realisation.

     Bodhicittam, that is, cultivation of mind directed towards enlightenment forms the main theme of the work. Mind should be accompanied by the spirit of self-denial. Self-sacrifice paves the way to spiritual realisation.

     The Bodhicaryāvatāra is a philosophical work, which describes the duties appropriate to those who aspire for bodhi, that is, enlightenment. The work consists of ten chapters. It opens with a dissertation on the Bodhicitta, that is, mind intent on the attainment of bodhi. The two aspects of the bodhicitta are the preliminary resolution known as praṇidhi and its realisation known as prasthāna. The means to overcome sensuous desires are described thoroughly. The factors, which perturb the mind and propriety of suppressing them, are dealt with. Cultivation of kṣānti, vīrya, dhyāna and prajñā pāramitā-s and dedication of merit lead the aspirant on the right path. The ninth chapter known as Prajñāpāramitā is an important source for the metaphysics of the Mādhyamika philosophy.





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Śāntarakṣita belongs to AD eighth century. He wrote the Tattvasaṃgraha, a philosophical work from the standpoint of the Svātantrika Yogācāra school. Śāntarakṣita states that nairātmyavāda, teaching of the doctrine of the nonself, is the distinct feature of the teachings of the Buddha which makes him superior to others. etacca sugatasyeṣṭam ādau nairātmyakīrtanāt, sarvatīrthakṛtām tasmāt sthito mūrdhni tathāgataḥ.

     Besides Tattvasaṃgraha, Śāntarakṣita wrote Mādhyamikālaṅkāra-Kārikā and its vṛtti, that is, a commentary. With regard to the empirical reality Śāntarakṣita and his disciple Kamalaśīla both accept the standpoint of Sautrāntika-Yogācāra School. With regard to the Ultimate Reality they take the Mādhyamika position. They introduced and propagated Buddhism in Tibet.




The Life of Gautama Buddha


The Buddha and Thinkers in India

Buddhist Philosophy

Buddhist Schools and Sects

Spread of Buddhism

Survey of Buddhist Literature


Table of Contents

Introduction Glossary Appendices