Thor bu - Curiosia Indo-Tibetica

Textual and visual odds and ends from India, Tibet, and around.

My Photo
Location: Kolozsvár/Cluj, Budapest, Oxford, ibi ubi

Monday, October 05, 2009

Vajrayāna off-limits in two apologetic works

After a long silence and too many bzhad gad entries let us look at two fascinating little works hiding deep in the bowels of the Tengyur.

The section between Tōh. 3707 and 3729 houses what I informally think of as the 'essayistic' part of the Canon. Some works here are better known than others, with famous items such as the Tattvasiddhi (a new and complete edition by Toru Tomabechi, forthcoming), the Gurupañcāśikā (of which we now have a new manuscript, see Szántó, forthcoming), and Jñānaśrī's *Vajrayānāntadvayanirākaraṇa (recently studied by Taiken Kyuma and Ryugen Tanemura in Genesis and Development of Tantrism). But there are other works here which merit the same attention, such as the oft-quoted Nayatrayapradīpa, the *Triyānavyavasthāna of Ratnākaraśānti [?], and the *Yoganiruttaratantrārthāvatārasaṃgraha of Śraddhākaravarman.

And there are yet others which are read only on rainy days such as these two: the *Tattvasārasaṃgraha (TSS) of *Dharmendra (Tōh. 3711), and the *Mantranayāloka (MNA) of Mtho-btsun btso-yags (Tōh. 3710). Note the inversion in cataloguing, which suggests that the Tibetan compilers haven't read them with due attention either. The two obviously constitute a pair, since the author of the MNA clearly states that he wrote in defense of a claim made by his master in the TSS. So to get the timeline right: we had *Dharmendra write his TSS, which became controversial, and his disciple wrote the MNA to straighten out things. Both works were translated by Rin chen bzang po (the TSS with Janārdana, the MNA with Padmākaravarman). Hence Mtho-btsun btso-yags is either earlier or contemporary with Rin bzang, and *Dharmendra preceded both. However, I cannot help suspect that master and disciple wrote much earlier, perhaps a century or so, for reasons I will give below.

What was *Dharmendra's controversial claim then? You have to read through the work to find it. The TSS flows neatly in a Q/A format discussing several intriguing questions about the Mahāyāna. The conscientious objector asks at the end (98a1-99a2): surely, if the Buddha said that the Vajrayāna is the most efficient way for enlightenment, why is it that you do not speak about it here?

*Dharmendra does not deny that the way of Mantras exists as a valid revelation. Instead, he states that there are simply no suitable people in our day and age to practice it. The Buddha knew this very well and he actually prohibited *lokottara (understand, antinomian) practices. To this effect he quotes an obscure work, the Gsang sngags kyi theg pa tshul:

| shes rab de ni mi shes {99a7} shing |
| ngar 'dzin dri mas spags pa rnams |
| de yi 'jig rten 'das spyod pa |
| dmyal bar 'gro ba kho nar zad |

These people do not know wisdom and
mix [their practices] with the defilement of egoism–
their practices 'transcending this world'
result in nothing else but going to hell.

And again, from the same work:

| thabs bzang rnam par spangs nas ni |
| 'gal ba'i dam tshig la sogs pa |
| gang zhig gzhan du byed pa dag |
| de ni {99b1} ngu 'bod dag tu 'tshed |

Those people who behave perversely,
who turned away from good practices,
and adopted contradictory vows and the such
will roast away in the Howling Hell (raurava).

| dper na 'di na rab 'bar mer |
| rtsva dang shing la sogs pa'i tshogs |
| bcug pa thal ba nyid 'gyur gyis |
| slar ni rab tu skye mi 'gyur |

Take as an example a roaring fire:
heaps of grass, wood, and the such
are reduced to ashes when thrown in,
and will never resume their form.

| de bzhin de nyid rnam bral bar |
| shin tu rmad byung las byed pa |
| ji srid nam mkha' gnas par du |
| shi nas {99b2} dmyal bar 'gro bar 'gyur |

In the same way, those who are bereft of Truth
and [adopt] these strange practices,
will die and and go to hell
for as long as the sky abides.

There are two more quotes more or less to the same effect. *Dharmendra closes his work saying that since the Buddha prohibited such practices, he will follow suit and not speak a word about Vajrayāna.

Well, it's easy to see how this succinct treatment of such a sensitive topic could have elicited outrage. And elicit outrage it did. Enter Mtho-btsun btso-yags (sometimes spelt mtso-yags, tso-yag):

| dus kyi bdag nyid ngan pa dang |
| 'gro ba 'ang skal ba med pa dag |
| gzigs nas bdag gi bla ma yis | {76a6}
| gsang sngags tshul bshad bkag pa yin |

My master saw that times are bad
and people are unqualified,
hence he prohibited explaining
the way of Mantras.

| 'di ltar de nyid kyis mdzad pa'i |
| De nyid snying po bsdus par ni |
| de[r] ma bshad pa'i rigs pa dang |
| dgongs pa yang ni bstan pa yin |

And he did so in his work,
the Tattvasārasaṃgraha.
I shall now teach the unstated but intended
meaning and the reasoning behind [this claim].

| gang yang blo dman kha cig ni |
| der des ma rtogs pa nyid dam |
| phrag dog yin par {76a7} dogs byed cing |
| rmongs pa yis kyang de brnyas byed |

Some people of low intelligence
either did not understand what he said there,
or they were just jealous and thus objected,
and deluded ones even spoke ill of him.

| de spang sdig pa'i me nang du |
| phye ma leb ltar ji srid ni |
| ltung bar ma gyur de srid du |
| de skyob pa la bdag 'bad do |

Our endeavour then is to refute this
and save them from the fire of sin,
lest they should fall in it like a moth.

The work goes on to criticize in detail these practices he and his master found unacceptable. The verses drip with sarcasm which in itself makes it a pretty enjoyable read, but what is most interesting for our immediate purposes is the prima facie view he quotes as reported by his adversaries:

«'on te de nyid rnal 'byor pa |
| bdag cag la ni kha zas {76b5} dang |
| spyod lam sogs kun ci dga' bar |
| Rnal 'byor rgyud las skyob pas gnang |

But for us, yogins of the Truth / true yogins,
the Lord allowed in the Yogatantras
to take food, adopt conducts,
and so on as we please.

«de yang 'di ni gsal nyid du |
| Zla gsang thig le la sogs las |
| rnal 'byor ba yis mi bya ba |
| ci yang med ces gsungs pa yin |

This is clearly stated in texts
such as Guhyendutilaka, to wit:
there is nothing that a yogin
is not allowed to do.

Well now, this is intriguing. Yogatantras and the Guhyendutilaka to justify antinomian practices? Why not yoginītantras? It doesn't get any more antinomian than that! And where have we seen this combination before? Yes, the prize goes to anyone who said Tattvasiddhi first. Could we be looking at the same environment?

The continuation of the rebuttal is just as exciting, but this is pretty much all I wanted to say to whet your appetite for reading these two texts. A couple of more interesting points to be noted: one of the punishments the author of the MNA has in view is that of temporal rulers–

| phyin ci log gi las byed na |
| re zhig 'jig rten smod byed la |
| de bzhin rgyal po la sogs kyi |
| chad pas rmongs pa 'jig par 'gyur |

If you perform perverted deeds
you will not only elicit scorn from the public,
but your delusion is sure to be cured
by the punishment of the king and others.

And just to give you an idea about the author's arguments:

| bkres skom tsha grang rmugs pa dang |
| gnyid sogs kyis rab gdungs gyur pa |
| snang na de ru khyod kyi ni |
| dngos po med pa gang du song |

[Everything is immaterial you say,]
but when hunger, thirst, hot, cold,
depression and torpor hit you
where is your 'immateriality'?

To wrap up, it should also be noticed that the MNA is not quite so dismissive as his master's work. He simply calls yogins to examine their attitude and their practices better.

PS: all translations were made ad hoc and without much thought. Suggestions are welcome.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Anonymous HI said...

Thank you for the nice post. I have long been interested in what you call the 'essayistic' part of the bstan 'gyur, though I have been too busy with other matters to study these texts as intensively as I would like. Right now just a few observations.

> Jñānaśrī's Vajranayāntadvayanirākaraṇa

The Sanskrit title warrants an asterisk; this is just one possibility. And it is in fact different from that used by Kyuma and Tanemura, whose studies you refer to, since they give

> the *Triyānavyavasthāna of
> Ratnākaraśānti

As you probably know, the attribution is disputed (and in my view rightly so, that is I don't think that this can be by the author of the Muktāvalī, Guṇavatī etc.).

> he quotes an obscure work, the
> Gsang sngags kyi theg pa tshul:

Perhaps; but perhaps not so obscure, though the title may seem unfamiliar. I suspect that what he is quoting is the work usually known as the Guhyasiddhi. At least the three verses beginning thabs bzang rnam par spangs nas ni, which you quote, correspond to Guhyasiddhi 1.33-35 (the Tibetan translation here differs from the canonical Guhyasiddhi translation).
The first verse, shes rab de ni mi shes shing etc., is problematic, as far as the identification goes (if I'm right that this is the Guhyasiddhi); for the moment I can only make the perhaps rather weak sounding suggestion that there are rather big problems with the transmission of the first chapter of the Guhyasiddhi, from which I would guess this verse too might come, and that *Dharmendra may have had a somewhat different text from that attested in the Sanskrit manuscripts used so far, or in the Tibetan translation. Anyway, that verse too 'sounds' very Guhyasiddhi-like to me.

> temporary rulers

You perhaps meant to write 'temporal rulers'; though what you gave us is a nice reminder that temporal rulers are, of course, always temporary (thank goodness).

Much more to discuss in your post and in the material you cite, but alam ativistareṇa. Thanks again, H.

12:34 am  
Blogger PDSz said...

Thank you for the comments and corrections! As I said, this was a rather one-off effort just to arouse interest. I am very glad that you identified the verse as stemming from the Guhyasiddhi.

At the same time I am sorry you cut it short there. I would be interested - off the official record - in your opinion about the tentative dating. I still think that these two might be earlier than the tenth century. But of course, this is only a gut feeling.

12:46 am  
Blogger PDSz said...

Speaking of Ratnākaraśānti, I found today that Śraddhākaravarman seems to quote him. Thought you'd be interested.

1:27 am  
Anonymous HI said...

> At the same time I am sorry you cut
> it short there. I would be interested > - off the official record - in your
> opinion about the tentative dating.
> I still think that these two might
> be earlier than the tenth century.
> But of course, this is only a gut
> feeling.

Well, it seems plausible enough. For instance, there are no clear/explicit Hevajra-quotations, I think... (II.ii.10ab is in any case older than the HT, so the quotation of that hemistich in Tōh 3711, not being attributed explicitly, may be from another source). The similarity to the Tattvasiddhi which you point out might of course be due to influence thereof (it was an influential text, I think) rather than to being from 'the same environment'. You must have noticed the reference to *J~naanakiirti in Tōh. 3710; this is referring to the very interesting text Tōh 3709, so that helps again a bit with relative chronology. The range of texts quoted in Tōh 3709 is also quite consistent with an earlyish date, I think.

> Speaking of Ratnākaraśānti, I
> found today that Śraddhākaravarman
> seems to quote him. Thought you'd
> be interested.

Well, I have noticed one quotation, and it wouldn't surprise me if there might be others.

Greetings from Hamburg. Hope you keep up the Vajrayāna posts!

8:59 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home