Buddhist Thought in Tibet

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Un studiu istorico-religios despre sistemul teologico-filosofic al budismului tibetan

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  • Buddhist Thought in Tibet: an Historical Introduction

    Page 1 of 14

    PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015. All RightsReserved. Under the terms of the l icence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in OxfordHandbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 13 November 2015

    PrintPublicationDate: May2011

    Subject: Philosophy,Non-WesternPhilosophy

    OnlinePublicationDate: Sep2011

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195328998.003.0023

    BuddhistThoughtinTibet:anHistoricalIntroduction MatthewT.KapsteinTheOxfordHandbookofWorldPhilosophyEditedbyWilliamEdelglassandJayL.Garfield

    OxfordHandbooksOnline

    AbstractandKeywords

    TheintellectualhistoryofTibetanBuddhismisonlyimperfectlyunderstood.Althoughabundantnewtextualsourceshavebeendiscoveredinrecentdecades,itwilltakesometimebeforescholarshaveassimilatedthisgrowingdocumentation,which,consideringonlywhatispertinenttothehistoryofphilosophicalthought,amountstomanythousandsofindividualworkscomposedoveramillennium.ThisarticletouchesuponselectedtopicsthatarenowgenerallyagreedtobeofimportanceforthehistoryofTibetanBuddhistthoughtoverall.ItdiscussesthebeginningsofTibetanBuddhism,theformationofthemajorBuddhisttraditions,Tibetanscholasticism,Buddha-natureandtheluminosityofmind,andTsongkhapaandhiscritics.Keywords:TibetanBuddhistphilosophy,TibetanBuddhism,Tibetanscholasticism,Buddha-nature,Tsongkhapa

    THEintellectualhistoryofTibetanBuddhismisonlyimperfectlyunderstood.Althoughabundantnewtextualsourceshavebeendiscoveredinrecentdecades,itwilltakesometimebeforescholarshaveassimilatedthisgrowingdocumentation,which,consideringonlywhatispertinenttothehistoryofphilosophicalthought,amountstomanythousandsofindividualworkscomposedoveramillennium.Accordingly,wecandonomoreherethantofurnishaconciseintroduction,touchinguponselectedtopicsthatarenowgenerallyagreedtobeofimportanceforthehistoryofTibetanBuddhistthoughtoverall.

    TheBeginningsofTibetanBuddhism:ItsIndian,Chinese,andIndigenousSourcesTraditionconsidersBuddhismtohavebeenfirstadoptedinTibetbythemonarchSongtsenGampo(Srong-btsansgam-po,reignedca.617650),whounifiedhisnationandsetitonthepathofimperialexpansioninCentralAsia.HisChineseandNepalesebridesaresaidtohaveencouragedthekingandhiscourttoadheretotheBuddha'steaching.Nevertheless,thereislittleevidencethatthenewreligionhadmuchsuccessinTibetuntiltheearlyeighthcentury,whenanotherChineseprincess,(p.246) Jincheng(d.739),marriedSongtsen'sdescendantTriDetsuktsen(KhriLde-gtsug-btsan,reigned712755)andsponsoredamonasticcommunityfromKhotan,aBuddhiststatethenunderTibetanrule.Despitethisroyalsupport,ananti-BuddhistreactiononthepartofnobleswhofavorednativeTibetanreligioustraditions(laterreferredtoingeneralasBn)ledtotheexpulsionoftheKhotanesemonksfollowingtheprincess'sdeath.

    ItwasTriDetsuktsen'ssonandheir,TriSongdetsen(KhriSrong-lde-btsan,reigned755ca.797),whofirmlyadoptedBuddhismasthereligionofhisdynastyandcommittedconsiderablestateresourcestoitspromotion.Severaloftheedictspromulgatedbythisremarkablerulersurvive,andinthemwefindindicationsofhisunderstandingofandinterestinBuddhistdoctrine.Hewrites,forinstance,that

    Allthosewhoarebornandrevolveamongthefoursortsofbirth, frombeginninglessoriginstotheinfiniteend,becomeastheyareowingtotheirowndeeds(karman).Thatwhichisneithergoodnorevilisunspecified.

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  • Buddhist Thought in Tibet: an Historical Introduction

    Page 2 of 14

    PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015. All RightsReserved. Under the terms of the l icence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in OxfordHandbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 13 November 2015

    Theresultofwhatonedoestoanotherripensupononeself.Onemaybebornasagodamongtheheavenlystages,orasahumanonearth,orasananti-god,ahungryghost,ananimalorasubterraneancreatureofthehellsallborninthesesixhavedonesoowingtotheirowndeeds.

    TranscendingtheworldarethosewhobecomeBuddhas,andthosewhomakeprogressasbodhisattvas,self-awakenedones(pratyekabuddha),andpiousattendants(rvaka)allofthemhavedonesoowingtotheprovisionsofmeritandgnosisthattheythemselveshaveamassed.

    BesidestheadherencetoBuddhistnormativedoctrinethatisevidenthere,itisstrikingthatTriSongdetsenwasparticularlyinterestedinthemeanswherebywemayknowthetruthofreligiousclaims.Forhegoesontosay:

    IfoneinvestigateswhatisfoundintheDharma[theBuddha'steaching],somepointsareimmediatelyevidentintheirgoodorevilconsequences,whileothersthatarenotimmediatelyevidentmayneverthelessbeinferredonthebasisofthosewhichare,andsoarealsofittobeheldwithcertainty.

    Inotherwords,hewasfamiliarwith,andsoughttointroducehissubjectsto,theviewoftheIndianBuddhistepistemologiststhatknowledgemayhavetwovalidsources(prama):directperception(pratyaka)ofwhatisevidenttothesensesandintellectualintuition,andinference(anumna)ofwhatishidden,thatis,notdirectlyevident.

    TriSongdetsenestablishedTibet'sfirstfull-fledgedmonastery,calledSamy(Bsam-yas),inabout779,whichhousedanimportanttranslationacademy.Itsscholars,includingTibetansandforeignBuddhistmonks,renderedlargenumbers(p.247) ofIndianBuddhistscripturesandtreatisesfromSanskritintoTibetanandachievedanoutstandinglevelofaccuracy,animportantresultofwhichwastheformationofawell-standardizedphilosophicalvocabularyinTibetan.TheprojectofcreatinginthiswayacanonicalliteraturewascontinuedunderTriSongdetsen'ssuccessors,untilthecollapseofthedynastyduringthemid-ninthcentury,bywhichtimemanyhundredsofIndianreligiousandphilosophicaltextswereavailableinTibetanversions.Atthesametime,TibetantranslatorsalsobegintoauthormanualsintroducingthenewvocabularytogetherwithelementsofBuddhistthought.Someoftheseworksarenotablyphilosophical,suchasthetreatiseentitledDistinctionsofViews(Ltaba'ikhyadpar)bytherenownedninth-centurytranslatorYesh-d(Ye-shes-sde),inwhich,forexample,hesummarizesakeyargumentoftheMadh-yamakaschool:

    InaccordancewiththesystemformulatedbycryaNgrjuna,allouterandinnerentitiesareexplainedtobeinterdependentlyoriginated.Relatively,becausetheyhavearisenfromcauseandcondition,theyexistjustapparitionally,whereasultimately,entitiesarewithoutproduction,[asisdemonstrated]bythefourfoldproofthatstatesthattheyarenotbornfromself,other,both,orcauselessly.

    Notbornfromselfmeanspreciselynotbornfromitself.Forifentitieswerebornfromthemselves,theywouldhavetobesaidtobebornfromaselfwhoseowncoming-into-beingwascompleted,orelsefromonethathasnotcomeintobeing.Ontheonehand,wereitbornfromwhathadalreadycomeintobeing,itcouldneverbethecasethatitdoesnotcomeintobeing,andthisleadstoanendlessregression.Butontheotherhand,wereitbornfromwhathadnotcomeintobeing,thentherabbit'shornandthebarrenwoman'ssonmightalsocomeintobeing! Therefore,itisnotbornfromself.

    Itisalsonotbornfromother,forthatimpliesthefaultofeverything'scomingintobeingfromeverything.Norisitbornfrombothselfandother,forinthatcasebothoftheaforementionedfaultsarecombined.Neitherisitborncauselessly,forinthatcasetherearethesefaults:itwouldalwaysarisewithdependenceonanythingatall,everythingwouldemergefromeverything,andallpurposefulundertakingswouldbefruitless.

    Thus,becausethebirthoftheentityisnotestablished,thereforetherecanbenobirth.Birth-talkisnomorethanconventionalutterance.

    TibetanthinkersthusbegantobecomefamiliarwiththemajortraditionsofIndianBuddhistphilosophy:Vaibhika,Sautrntika,Yogcra,andMadhyamaka.Yesh-drecognizedtwomaindivisionsofthelatter:one,followingBhvaviveka,adheredtoSauntrntikaconventionsintheirtreatmentofrelativereality,whiletheother,followingntarakita,adoptedtheidealistapproachoftheYogcra.BothwouldbelaterclassifiedasdivisionsoftheSvtantrika-Mdhyamika,theschool(p.248) thatsoughttodemonstratethethesisofuniversalemptinessbymeansofdirect,orautonomous,proof.ThePrsagika-Mdhyamika,whichfavoredindirectproofandwouldlaterbecomethedominanttrendinTibetanMadhyamakathought,wasasyetunknown.

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  • Buddhist Thought in Tibet: an Historical Introduction

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    PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015. All RightsReserved. Under the terms of the l icence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in OxfordHandbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 13 November 2015

    Duringthesameperiod,ChineseBuddhismmadeinroadsinpartsoftheTibetanworld.TeachersaffiliatedwiththeteachingofChan(meditation,orZeninJapanese)introducedTibetanstotheideathatenlightenment,orawakening,wasimmediately,intuitivelypresent,withoutstrivingfornumberlesslifetimesasthemainstreamofIndianBuddhismaffirmed.ThisledtoaprotracteddisputeinTibetbetweenpartisansofsuddenversusgradualenlightenment,theformersometimesassociatedwithateachingofmysticalintuition,andthelatterwiththemethodicalapplicationofreasonedanalysis.Thecontroversyresurfacedrepeatedlyinlatertimesowingtoitsimplicationsforconceptsofourprospectsforspiritualprogressand,indeed,ourverynature:areweessentiallyflawedcreatures,forwhomself-perfectionisafardistantgoal,orarewe,andallcreatures,alreadyinfactBuddhas?Doesthelatterpositionentailakindofgnosticism,accordingtowhichignoranceandknowledgeareallthatreallymatter,andmoraleffortmerelyanillusion?

    TraditionalsourcesrecountthatthefirstactualdebateovertheseissuestookplaceatSamyduringthelateeighthcentury,andthatthedisputantsweretheChineseChanmasterMoheyanandtheIndianphilosopherKamalala.Theaccountsthathavecomedowntousaremostlylate,andtendtocaricaturetheChanperspective:

    WhenmasterKamalalaaskedforhisopponent'sposition,saying,WhatistheChinesereligioustraditionlike?theChineseresponded,Yourreligioustradition,beginningwithgoingforrefugeandthecultivationofanenlightenedattitude,isanascentfrombelow,likeamonkeyclimbingatree.BecauseonewillnotbeawakenedasaBuddhabysuchcontriveddoctrines,itisinthistraditionofours,havingmeditativelycultivatedthenonconceptual,thatonebecomesawakenedbyrealizingthenatureofminditself.Sothisisliketheeagle'salightingfromtheskyuponthetopofatree;itisapurepanaceabecauseitisadoctrinethatthusdescendsfromonhigh.

    Tothisthemastersaid,Yourexampleanditssignificancearebothinvalid.Fortheeaglealightsuponthetree,eitherspontaneouslygeneratedintheskywithitswingsfullygrown,orborninitseyrie,whereitswingshavegraduallymatured.Onlythendoesitalight.Thefirstisanimpossibilityandthesecondshouldbeagradualistexample,butisinappropriateasanexampleofsuddenenlightenment.

    Thoughthisexchangemaybeapiousfiction,itdoesreflecttheimportantrole,inheritedfromIndiansystemsofargument,ofexemplificationandcounterexampleintheacceptedproceduresofreasoning.Atthesametime,itunderscoresthegreatgulfthatseparatedrationalistfromintuitionistapproachestoBuddhistinsight.

    (p.249) ThecurrentsenteringTibetfromIndiaandChinaprovokeddynamicresponses,bothharmoniousandhostile,onthepartofindigenousTibetantraditionsaswell.ItwasthisprocessthatgavebirthtothenativereligionofBn(Bon),which,fromaboutthetenthcenturyon,establisheditsownmonasticcommunitiesandscripturalcanons,inmanyrespectsresemblingthoseofBuddhism.Nevertheless,theelaborationofBnliterarytraditionsalsoencouragedeffortstogivewrittenformtoautochthonoustechniquesandbeliefs.ThoughBonthinkersoftenusedtheBuddhistphilosophicalapparatus,theyalsodevelopedanalmostanthropologicalinterestindocumentingthepracticalmeanswherebyTibetanshavetraditionallyinteractedwiththenaturalworld,seenasanabodeofbenignandmalignantspirits.Here,atwelfth-centuryauthorsummarizesthepriestlywayoftherealmofappearance(snang-gshen):

    Thefourgatesofincantationarethegateofworshipofthedivinespirits,thegateofexpulsionandcleansing,thegateofliberationandransom,andthegateofcreation,fortuneandpower.[]Oneenters[thispriestlyway]unerringly,inaccordwiththechantsofthanksgivingandthemethodsofplayingthedrum.

    Asforpracticalaction:becauseallthatappearsandcomesintobeingispresentasgodsanddemons,inordertodealwithobstaclesandspirits[]oneamassesthestipulatedrequisitesandritualitems.Havingdistinguishedbetweenbeneficialdeitiesandharmfulspirits,onebeseechesthedeitiestofulfillone'sfinalpurposes,andoffersarefugeasbefitsthelordsandpatronsofthepriesthood.

    Intime,theancienttraditionsreflectedhere,whichsoughtnottranscendence,butinsteadamasteryoftheforcesinheringinthephenomenalworld,wouldbecomepartandparcelofTibetanBuddhistthoughtandpracticeaswell.Inclinationstowardholismandaviewoftheworldastheplayofdivineandquasi-divineenergieswouldberegularlyreassertedthroughoutthehistoryofTibetanreligiousthought.Thus,esoteric(ortantric)Buddhism,withitsemphasisonritualagencyanditsphilosophicalgroundingintheMahynaconceptionoftheultimateidentityofworldlyexistence(sasra)andtranscendentpeace(nirva),introducednotjustanIndianpantheon,butembracedalsothenativegodsanddemonsofTibet.

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  • Buddhist Thought in Tibet: an Historical Introduction

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    PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015. All RightsReserved. Under the terms of the l icence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in OxfordHandbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 13 November 2015

    TheFormationoftheMajorBuddhistTraditionsThecenturyorsofollowingthecollapseoftheTibetanempireistraditionallyrememberedasadarkage,whenBuddhismwassuppressedandlearningandletterswerenomore.Althoughrecentscholarshipshowsthistobemuchexaggerated,translationactivityandthescholarshipassociatedwithitwereseverely(p.250) reduceduntiltheendofthetenthcentury,whentheWestTibetankingdomofGugbegantopatronizeBuddhistartandlearningonalargescaleonceagain.Henceforth,conditionsfavoringdoctrinalandphilosophicalinvestigationsgraduallyreemerged.

    Centraltothisrevivalwasthelong,influentialsojournoftheBengalischolarandsaintDpakararjna,betterknownasAtia,firstinGug(10421045)andthenincentralTibetuntilhisdeathin1054.AtiasoughttoemphasizeabovealltheethicalgroundingofMahynaBuddhism,andhisteachingsbecamethebasisforsubsequentTibetaneducationwithrespecttotheMahynapath,includingthesubstantialliteratureontrainingthemind,orspiritualexercise(blo-sbyong).Theessentialframeworkforinstructioninthisareawasamoralanthropologythatrecognizedthreegradesofaspirant,asdefinedbyAtiainhiswidelyreadLamponthePathofEnlightenment(Bodhipathapradpa):

    WhoeverbywhatevermeansstrivesforhisownsakeOnlyforsasra'spleasuresthatoneisthelesserperson.Turninghisbacktoworldlypleasure,andshunningsinfuldeeds,Thesoulwhostrivesforhisownpeaceiscalledthemiddlingperson.Onewho,owingtothepainofhisownexistence,wholeheartedlyseekstoendAllthepainofothersthatisthesuperiorperson.

    Atia'soverridingconcerntoencouragethepracticeofsuchsuperiorpersonsisevident,too,inhisreservewithrespecttoaspectsofphilosophicalactivity.WhilehepromotedthestudyofMadhyamaka,andinparticulartheworkofCandrakrti,hewishedtoemphasizemeditationonemptinessasanecessarycomponentofthepathofpractice,andnotdialecticalreasoningperse.Thus,hefamouslywrote:

    [Investigationsof]perceptionandinferenceareunneces...