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Speaking for Buddhas: Scriptural Commentary in Indian Buddhism
 0231152302, 9780231152303

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Speaking for Buddhas

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SPEAKING for BUDDHAS Scriptural Commentary in Indian Buddhism

RICHARD F. NANCE

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS

NEW YORK

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Columbia University Press Publishers Since 1893 New York Chichester, West Sussex Copyright © 2012 Columbia University Press All rights reserved Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Nance, Richard F. Speaking for Buddhas: scriptural commentary in Indian Buddhism / Richard F. Nance. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-231-15230-3 (cloth: alk. paper)— ISBN 978-0-231-52667-8 (e-book) 1. Buddhist literature—India—History and criticism. 2. Buddhism—India—History. I. Title. BQ1029.I42N36 2011 294.3ʹ85—dc22 2011015986 Casebound editions of Columbia University Press books are printed on permanent and durable acid-free paper. Printed in the United States of America c 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 References to Internet Web sites (URLs) were accurate at the time of writing. Neither the author nor Columbia University Press is responsible for Web sites that may have expired or changed since the book was prepared.

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Contents

Acknowledgments vii Introduction 1 1. Indian Buddhist Sūtra Commentaries 4 2. Normativity and Positivist Presuppositions in the Study of Indian Buddhism 3. The Structure of the Book 12 ONE

Models of Speaking: Buddhas and Monks

7

14

1. Speaking as a Buddha: In Praise of Perfection 16 2. Speaking as a Monk: Speech Protocols in the Prātimokṣasūtra 36 3. Concluding Remarks 44 TWO

Models of Instruction: Preachers Perfect and Imperfect

45

1. The “Bhāṇaka System” 46 2. The Preacher “in Theory”: Models of Teaching 49 3. The Preacher “in Practice”: The Teaching of Models 68 4. Concluding Remarks 78 THREE

Models of Argument: Epistemology and Interpretation 1. The Pramāṇas: A Brief Sketch 83 2. The Pramāṇas: Means of Correct Interpretation? 3. Concluding Remarks 95

81

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CONTENTS FOUR

Models of Explication: Commentarial Guides

98

1. On the Vyākhyāyukti 100 2. The Five Aspects 105 3. Concluding Remarks 120

Conclusion 123 APPENDIX A APPENDIX B

The Vyākhyāyukti, Book I

129

The Abhidharmasamuccayabhāṣya (Excerpt) 153

APPENDIX C

The *Vivaraṇasaṃgrahaṇī 167 Notes 213 Bibliography 259 Index of Texts 287 Index 291

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Acknowledgments

This book has been in preparation for many years. Over the course of writing it, I have received feedback and encouragement from many people. Thanks are due first to my parents, Richard E. Nance and Ann M. Nance, who have been unfailing in their support. At the University of Chicago, I had the good fortune to be taught by a remarkable group of scholars, each of whom contributed in different ways to the work represented here. The members of my dissertation committee—Matthew Kapstein, Paul J. Griffiths, and Sheldon Pollock—provided invaluable guidance on issues both philological and philosophical. While at Chicago, I also learned a great deal from other faculty members inside and outside Swift Hall, among them Yigal Bronner, Steven Collins, James Conant, Arnold Davidson, Wendy Doniger, Franklin Gamwell, Ngawang Jorden, Bruce Lincoln, Leonard Linsky, Shirō Matsumoto, Lawrence McCrea, H. V. N. Rao, and Michael Silverstein. For financial support during my years of graduate study, I am grateful to the University of Chicago Divinity School, the Henry Luce Foundation, and the University of Chicago Committee on Southern Asian Studies. Since 2007, the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University has provided me with a wonderfully supportive institutional home, and I am indebted to its faculty for a very stimulating—and ongoing—conversation about the ideas developed here. I also wish to thank the faculty of Indiana University’s Department of Central Eurasian Studies, most especially Christopher Atwood, Christopher Beckwith, and Elliot Sperling.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

For comments on earlier drafts of, or thoughts on, material that ended up working its way into this book, I wish to thank Dan Arnold, Jeremy Biles, Heather Blair, David Brakke, Candy Gunther Brown, José Cabezón, Kate Lawn Chouta, Lance Cousins, Collett Cox, Mario D’Amato, Ronald Davidson, John Dunne, Constance Furey, Geoffrey Goble, Jonathan Gold, David Haberman, Charles Hallisey, J. Albert Harrill, Richard Hayes, R. Kevin Jaques, Sylvester Johnson, Ethan Kroll, Nancy Levene, Dan Lusthaus, Shaul Magid, Rebecca Manring, Sara McClintock, Karin Meyers, Richard Miller, Parimal Patil, Lisa Sideris, Aaron Stalnaker, Blake Wentworth, two anonymous readers for Columbia University Press, and the participants in the 2002 Luce Seminar at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Thanks are also due to my editors at Columbia University Press, Wendy Lochner and Christine Mortlock, for their faith in this project and for their help in bringing it to fruition. My work in Ulan-Ude, Republic of Buryatia, Russian Federation, was aided by Andrey Bazarov and Nikolai Tsyrempilov. I wish to thank them both for their extraordinary hospitality and their generosity in allowing me to inspect a xylograph edition of the Vyākhyāyukti housed in the Institute of Mongolian, Buddhist, and Tibetan Studies of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Thanks also to Peter Skilling, Stephen Hodge, and the late E. Gene Smith for providing additional feedback, manuscripts, and publications that I would not otherwise have been able to obtain. Portions of chapter 2 have previously appeared in “Indian Buddhist Preachers Inside and Outside the Sūtras,” Blackwell Religion Compass 2, no. 2 (2008): 134–159, doi: 10.1111/j.1749–8171.2007.00057.x. Permission to reprint these passages is gratefully acknowledged. Finally, I wish to thank Kathryn Graber, who has made both this book and its author much better than they otherwise would have been. For her warmth, intelligence, humor, enthusiasm, and keen editorial eye—and for much else—I am profoundly grateful.

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Speaking for Buddhas

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Introduction

CLASSICAL INDIAN śāstras (treatises) regularly enjoin aspiring authors to announce at least two things at the outset of their works, so as to secure the interest of judicious readers. The first of these is what in Sanskrit is termed the abhidheya, or, roughly, the work’s topic: what it’s about. According to Sanskrit commentators, authors should state this explicitly so that their audiences do not presume their texts to be meaningless or incoherent. Additionally, authors are told to make explicit their work’s prayojana: its point. Unless a point is specified up front, a prospective audience is likely to ignore a text, presuming that the text has no point, or that the point it does have is so recondite (or trivial) as to be practically useless. This is good advice, even today. In tribute to the authors whose texts are addressed here, and in the hope of securing the interest of today’s judicious readers, this introduction aims to delineate the abhidheya and the prayojana of the book to follow: what the work is about, and why it matters to the study of Buddhism. In brief, the work to follow explores some of the ways in which successive generations of Buddhists—more specifically, Indian Buddhists—have transmitted Buddhist teachings through time. For more than a thousand years, over the course of the first millennium C.E., Buddhism flourished in India. The forms this flourishing assumed were, of course, varied; Robert Sharf is correct to note that from the perspective of a modern historian, “the term ‘Buddhism’ turns out to be a site of unremitting contestation, as [1]

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INTRODUCTION

a cacophony of voices—each averring privileged access to the essence of the tradition—lays claim to its authority.”1 Yet even in this cacophony, one finds a measure of consonance, for the cacophony itself testifies to a generalized need to appropriate authority via acts of speech. These attempts to speak authoritatively were complex discursive events through which Buddhists aimed to speak not only for themselves, but also for Buddhism more generally—and thus to speak for Buddhas. This book explores what Indian Buddhist scholastic authors held such speaking to involve. In speaking for Buddhas, Buddhist scholastics were recapitulating an activity of the very Buddhas whose authority they assumed. Indian Buddhist literature portrays Buddhas as speakers par excellence, ceaselessly and patiently consenting to instruct others in the means by which they might be liberated from saṃsāra. As speakers, Buddhas generate—or at least appear to generate—texts; in this respect, they are no different from Buddhist scholastic authors.2 The words and sentences of these texts may subsequently be memorized, repeated, chanted, inscribed, collected, categorized, elaborated, debated, and paraphrased. Insofar as they are understood to instantiate “the speech of a Buddha” (buddhavacana), they are also held to manifest the characteristics of what the tradition terms “right speech” (samyagvāc). In the Brahmajālasutta, the characteristics of right speech are explicitly and succinctly laid down by (and with reference to) the Buddha Gotama himself: Abandoning false speech, refraining from false speech, the ascetic Gotama dwells—a truth speaker, one to be relied on, trustworthy, dependable, not a deceiver of the world. Abandoning malicious speech, refraining from malicious speech, he does not repeat what he has heard here to the detriment of these, or repeat what he has heard there to the detriment of those. Thus, he is one who reconciles those at variance and one who encourages those in concord. Rejoicing in peace, loving it, delighting in it, he is one who speaks up for peace. Abandoning harsh speech, he refrains from it. He speaks whatever is blameless, pleasing to the ear, agreeable—that which reaches the heart, is urbane, pleasing, and attractive to the multitude. Abandoning idle chatter, he speaks at the right time, correctly, and to the point; he is a speaker of the teaching (dhamma), a speaker of the discipline (vinaya), a speaker whose words are to be treasured, [whose words are] relevant, reasoned, well-defined, and connected with the goal.3

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INTRODUCTION

Here as elsewhere, Buddhist āgama portrays a Buddha as one who, having attained perfect awakening, has abandoned four ways of speaking: a Buddha no longer engages in false speech (musāvāda), malicious speech (pisunavācā), harsh speech (pharusavācā), and idle chatter (samphappalāpa).4 His speech is thus seen to be pure; it is true, promotes concord, is pleasing, and is concerned with matters of import.5 If “right speech” is to be a component of the Buddhist path, it must describe more than the purified utterances of a Buddha; those who aspire to awakening must likewise be capable—at least in principle—of engaging in it. The āgamic literature recognizes this imperative. In the Sāmaññaphalasutta, for example, the previously quoted passage from the Brahmajālasutta is repeated, but the figure of Gotama has vanished. In his place stands an idealized Buddhist monk whose moral conduct has been perfected. Such a monk speaks as a Buddha does.6 From the intersection of these two passages, a normative conception of the Buddhist monk as speaker begins to take shape. A monk’s rhetoric is to be viewed as authoritative precisely insofar as it recapitulates (what is taken to be) the rhetoric of Buddhas. Like a Buddha, then, an ideal monk is a speaker of the teaching and of the discipline. He speaks in a manner that is timely, correct, and to the point; he knows when (and to whom) to speak, what to say, and how to say it. His discourse is, moreover, true, conciliatory, and pleasing. As Buddhist literature acknowledges, any speech that stands a chance of being counted as true, conciliatory, and pleasing must accord with particular conventions—whether social, institutional, or linguistic. These conventions are held to apply even to Buddhas, insofar as Buddhas are seen to communicate effectively: Buddhist texts repeatedly emphasize the unfailing ability of awakened beings to employ the language and idiom appropriate to the particular circumstances under which they are called upon to teach.7 According to a tale preserved in the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinayavastu, for example, the Buddha Gautama was once approached by four great kings—Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Virūḍaka, Virūpākṣa, and Vaiśravaṇa—each hailing from a different region. Two—Dhṛtarāṣṭra and Virūḍaka—are identified as āryan, while the other two are identified as dasyu. The two groups are unable to comprehend one another, which prompts the Buddha to reflect: “Were I to teach the dharma using āryan language, two would understand, two would not. Were I to teach the dharma using dasyu language, again, two would understand, two would

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INTRODUCTION

not. So I should teach the dharma to two using āryan language, and to two using dasyu language.”8 Opting to address the kings separately, the Buddha then teaches each using the particular language appropriate for him.9 Comparable assumptions regarding right speech and its proper deployment affected—and were at times explicitly acknowledged by—subsequent Buddhist scholastic authors. These authors consciously endeavored to compose their works in terms appropriate to the audience(s) they sought to address. Such terms were not confined to the broad matter of language choice, but extended also to matters of style: Indian Buddhist scholastics were concerned to address their audience(s) in ways that would be seen as timely, correct, and to the point—ways informed by a network of normative presuppositions concerning what one should rightly say, how one should rightly say it, and when and where such speech is appropriate. This book excavates some of the nodes in this network. It explores a set of normative protocols and the impact of those protocols on a number of authors who labored during the latter part of the first millennium and worked in or around the great monastic complexes (mahāvihāra) of north India.10 The book focuses principally on Buddhist texts and practices, though it should be kept in mind that such texts and practices did not appear in a vacuum: Indian Buddhism was not simply Buddhist; it was also Indian, and Buddhist authors of the late first millennium clearly drew on their understanding of non-Buddhist texts and practices when they composed their own works. A sustained exploration of these non-Buddhist sources and their impacts is a desideratum, but it is a project for another time. The ambition of the present work is more limited: I aim to sketch a preliminary map of the territory, in order to call attention to normative aspects of Indian Buddhist textual production that have, as yet, been largely ignored, and also to a huge and neglected corpus of Indian Buddhist literature: commentaries on Buddhist sūtra texts.11

1. Indian Buddhist Sūtra Commentaries Commentary has long been recognized as the preeminent vehicle for the dispensation of knowledge in India.12 Throughout the first millennium C.E., learned Indian Buddhists appear to have held the study of scriptural commentaries to be an important resource for understanding the speech of [4]

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INTRODUCTION

Buddhas, and the composition of sūtra commentaries to be a fitting means for the communication of their understanding.13 The extent to which scriptural commentaries were valued by Indian Buddhist intellectuals of the late first millennium is evidenced by the extant Tibetan imperial-period textual catalogues (dkar chag)—texts that afford us a window into Buddhist learning as it was transmitted to Tibet during the so-called early propagation period (i.e., the snga ’dar, usually dated from the seventh through the early ninth centuries).14 Two such catalogues are extant. The earliest and best known of these is the Catalogue of Lhankar (Lhan kar ma dkar chag; hereafter Catalogue).15 Compiled early in the ninth century following the reign of the Tibetan king Khri srong lde’u btsan, the Catalogue inventories a collection of texts housed at the palace of Ldan/Lhan (d)kar.16 It counts and categorizes more than seven hundred texts translated from Indian and Chinese sources. These translations were typically collaborative undertakings in which Tibetan translators were assisted by learned representatives of Indian and Central Asian Buddhist traditions. The texts inventoried in the Catalogue were clearly valorized by those who translated them, and it is not unreasonable to assume that this valorization was learned from non-Tibetan Buddhist scholastics. If this assumption is correct, then the Catalogue can be seen as casting light—albeit indirect light—on Indian and Central Asian Buddhist scholastic presuppositions current during the eighth century. With very few exceptions, the Catalogue inventories each of its texts as follows. The text is categorized under one of thirty textual categories; its title—and sometimes its author—is noted; and its length is then given (this length is measured in terms of ślokas—here referring to a textual unit of sixteen syllables of verse or prose—and Tibetan bam po; the latter is an unstable unit of measurement but typically approximates 300 ślokas). Some of the information contained in the Catalogue is summarized in table 0.1. The left-hand column lists the thirty categories in the order in which they are given in Herrmann-Pfandt’s edition of the Catalogue.17 The central column gives the number of discrete texts categorized under each heading, and the right-hand column provides an approximate total aggregated length (in bam po) for the texts attested in each category. The categories that structure the Catalogue’s inventory are somewhat Borgesian, and they sometimes make it difficult to judge the nature of the particular texts that they include and exclude. What seems clear, however, is that not all categories commanded equal attention. To judge from the [5]

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INTRODUCTION

TABLE 0.1

Text Categories of the Catalogue

Category

Number of Texts

Length in bam po

1. Mahāyāna sūtras: Prajñāpāramitā 2. Mahāyāna sūtras: Vaipulya (Avataṃsaka) 3. Mahāyāna sūtras: Mahāratnakūṭa 4. Mahāyāna sūtras from 11 to 26 bam po 5. [Mahāyāna sūtras from 1] to 10 bam po 6. [Mahāyāna sūtras from 105 verses] to 1 bam po 7. [Mahāyāna sūtras from 10 verses] to 100 verses 8. Mahāsūtra 9. Mahāyāna sūtras translated from Chinese 10. Hīnayāna sūtras 11. Treatises (śāstra) 12. Tantras of secret mantra 13. Pañcarakṣā 14. Various long and short dhāraṇī 15. One hundred and eight names 16. Various praise poems (stotra) 17. Various prayers (pranidhāna) 18. Benedictory discourses (maṅgalagāthā) 19. Vinayapiṭaka 20. Commentaries on Mahāyāna sūtras 21. Sūtra commentaries translated from Chinese 22. Treatises on Madhyamaka 23. Texts on meditation (dhyāna) 24. Treatises on consciousness[-only] (vijñāna) 25. Various Mahāyāna treatises 26. Hīnayāna treatises 27. [Texts on] speculative argument (tarka) 28. Works of Khri srong lde’u btsan 29. Texts not subjected to revision

16 8 48 12 90 28 37 9 22 38 7 13 5 103 108 18 12 7 31 51 8 33 8 41 31 9 28 7 1 (in two parts) 6

515 194 150 191 316 16 7 6 115 152 6 108 7 25 4 5 3