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MOST of the sacred Tibetan writers consider Nâgârjuna (in Tibetan Lugrub) as the founder of this system, which means "great vehicle." Nâgârjuna is reported in their books to have lived in the southern parts of India, four hundred years after the death of the Buddha Sâkyamuni or according to Westergaards calculation in the first century A.D.; the sacred books of the Southern Buddhists give the second century B.C.[1] The Tibetan historiograph Târânâtha, however, is of opinion, that the most important Mahâyâna books had already appeared

[1. See p. 7.--The Tibetans are decidedly wrong in considering Nâgârjuna as the author of the numerous Mahâyâna writings; for the treatises which they refer to him are ascribed in the Chinese translations to other authors. According to Wassiljew's opinion he is most probably a mythological personage, without any real existence; in which case we should have to regard Nâgârjuna as the generic name of the various authors who wrote upon the Mahâyâna doctrine before the time of Âryâsanga. See his "Buddhismus," pp. 140, 219.]

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the Time of Srî Saraha, or Râhulabhadra, who lived shortly before Nâgârjuna.

According to some Tibetan legends, Nâgârjuna received the book Paramârtha, according to others the book Avatamsaka, from the Nâgas, fabulous creatures of the nature of serpents, who occupy a place among the beings superior to man, and are regarded as protectors of the law of the Buddha.[1] To these spiritual beings Sâkyamuni is said to have taught a more philosophical religious system than to men, who were not sufficiently advanced to understand it at the time of his appearance. In a Chinese biography Nâgârjuna is described as an exceedingly clever man, who considered his theory to be entirely different from that of Buddhism in its contemporaneous form, until, after conversation with the Nâgas, he discovered an exactly similar doctrine to have been taught by the Buddha Sâkyamuni himself. Hence the biographer infers the system to contain the same principles as those of genuine Buddhism, though it is more sublime. This vindication of orthodoxy naturally leads to the conclusion, that Nâgârjuna's followers were well aware of their being in opposition to the Hînayâna schools, which they would have reproached with heresy, had the latter not adopted some of the principles established in the new system, and by doing so, admitted the correctness of the innovations thus introduced. The Hînayâna system existed still for many centuries; Hiuen Thsang, in his reports, frequently mentions that he has met during his travels adherents of the "little vehicle."

[1. Concerning the Nâgas see, Foe koue ki, English translation, p. 156.]

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In none of the sacred books treating on the Mahâyâna system do we find a record of the historical development of its theories prior to the appearance of Âryâsanga (in Tibetan Chagpa thogmed), a reformer who founded the Yogâchârya school (in Tibetan, Naljor chodpa).[1] It is impossible, therefore, to indicate, with any approximation to accuracy, either the origin, or the authors, of the divergent theories to be clearly traced in the Mahâyâna religious books, which were all of them written before Âryâsanga's time. In the works relating to this system two divisions essentially different are apparent: the first illustrating the principles of Nâgârjuna, which have been adopted by the Madhyamika schools (Tib. Bumapa); the second, which is the more developed one, being appropriated by the Yogâchârya school, or the contemplative Mahâyâna. I shall treat these divisions separately as also the peculiarities that developed in the Prasanga branch, the most important of the Madhyamika system.

The fundamental Mahâyâna principles.

The leading principles of this doctrine are to be found in the earliest works attributed to Nâgârjuna, among

[1. Âryâsanga is said to have been taught his doctrine by the future Buddha Maitreya, the president of the region Tushita, from whom he received back the five short treatises in verse known in Tibet as "the five books of Maitreya," or Champai chos nga. Csoma places him in the seventh century, but according to Wassiljew's researches (pp. 225, 230) he must have lived much sooner, as the biography of his younger brother, Vasubandhu, was translated by the celebrated Tshin thi into Chinese under the dynasty Tshin, who ruled between the years 557-588 A.D. Also the the {sic} remarks of Wilson in R. As. Soc., Vol. VI., p. 240, on the period when the principal works still extant in Sanskrit were written, may be quoted in prove of the period being an earlier one. He believes it now "established, that they have been written at the latest, from a century and a half before to as much after, the era of Christianity."]

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which may be specially mentioned: Samâdhirâja,, Buddhâvatamsaka, and Ratnakûta.

I. The fundamental dogma is that of the emptiness, or nothingness of things (in Tib. Tongpanyid, in Sanskrit Sûnyatâ); it is also called Prajnâ Pâramitâ (in Tib. Pharchin, also Sherchin), "the supreme intelligence which arrives at the other side of the river."[1] This dogma, it is evident, is simply an enlargement and development of the principal law of Buddhism:--All is perishable, or partakes of impermanence, misery, and unreality. The idea of emptiness is referred both to single objects absolute existence in general. When relating to single objects, the expression "void or ideal" signifies that which we consider in any object as original, existing by itself, and permanent; hence, even the Buddha is but the product of judicious reflection and meditation. When referred to absolute existence, emptiness is the abstract essence, existing in every thing without causal connexion, and comprising all though containing nothing.

Sâkyamuni is said to have connected this dogma with the consideration, "that no existing object has a nature, Ngovonyid, whence it follows, that there is neither beginning nor end--that from time immemorial all. has been perfect quietude, Zodmanas zhiba (viz. nothing has manifested itself in any form), and is entirely immersed in Nirvâna." The Mahâyâna schools demonstrate the doctrine of voidness by the dogma of the three characteristic

[1. There is an interesting treatise on nothingness, called the Vajramandâ Dhâranî, which contains a resumé of the ideas connected with this dogma. It is translated by Burnouf in his "Introduction," p. 548. Concerning the dogmas of the Mahâyâna system see Wassiljew, 1. c., pp. 128-43, 319-24, 330.]

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marks, and of the two truths; the three characteristic marks enumerating the properties of any existing object, and the two truths showing how by the perfect understanding of these properties clear comprehension shall be attained.

The three characteristic marks are the following: Parikalpita (Tib. Kun tag), Paratantra (Tib. Zhan vang), and Parinishpanna (Tib. Yong grub).

Parikalpita is the supposition, or the error. Of this kind is the belief in absolute existence to which those beings adhere who are incapable of understanding that every thing is empty; of this kind is also whatever exists in idea only, without specific quality; or, in other words, whatever is attributed by our reflections and meditations to any object. The error can be two-fold; some believing a thing existing Which does not, as e. g. the Non-ego; others assert the real existence of an object which only exists in the idea, as e. g. all outward things.

Paratantra is whatever exists by a dependent or causal connexion; it forms the basis of the error. Of this kind are: the soul, the sense, comprehension, and also imperfect philosophical meditation. Every object exists by concatenation, and has a specific nature; therefore, it is called dependent upon others, Paratantra.

Parinishpanna, "completely perfect," or simply "perfect," is the unchangeable and unassignable true existence, which is also the scope of the path, the summum bonum, the absolute. Of this kind can be only that which enters the mind clear and undarkened, as for instance,

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the emptiness, or the Non-ego. In order, therefore, that his mind may become free from all that would in any way attract his attention, it is necessary that man view every thing existing as ideal, because it is dependent upon something else; then only--as a natural consequence--he arrives at a right understanding of the Non-ego, and to a knowledge of how the voidness is alone self-existent and perfect.[1]

We now come to the two truths. They are: Samvritisatya (Tib. Kundzabehi denpa) and Paramârthasatya (Tib. Dondampai denpa), or the relative truth and the absolute one. Numerous are the definitions given of these technical terms in the sacred books, but the two principal stand as follows:--

1. Samvriti is that which is supposed as the efficiency of a name, or of a characteristic sign; Paramârtha is the opposite. A difference prevails between the Yogâchâryas and the Madhyamikas with reference to the interpretation of Paramârtha; the former say that Paramârtha is also what is dependent upon other things (Paratantra); the latter say that it is limited to Parinishpanna, or to that which has the character of absolute perfection. In consequence, for the Yogâchâryas Samvriti is Parikalpita and Paratantra, for the Madhyamikas Parikalpita only.

2. Samvriti is that which is the origin of illusion, but Paramârtha is the Self-consciousness[2] of the saint in

[1. These technical terms were introduced by the Yogâchârya, school.--For a comparison of Nirvâna with the wind, to illustrate the nature of Nirvâna, see Hardy's Eastern Monachism, p. 295.

2. Sanskrit Svasamvedana, "the reflection which analyses itself."]

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his self-meditation, which is able to dissipate illusions, i. e., which is above all (parama) and contains the true understanding (artha).

II. The world, or the Samsâra, must be renounced, not because it is a source of sorrow and pain, as Sâkyamuni himself and the Hînayâna followers say, but on account of its unreality, as it contains nothing which can satisfy the mind.

III. Besides the cleaving to existing objects, even thinking of any object or properties whatever, is sufficient to hinder final perfection, and the obtaining of the intelligence (Bôdhi) of a Buddha. Man must, therefore, not only curb his passions and abstain from the pleasures of life, but it is not even permissible for him to allow any notion to become the object of his meditation.

IV. Ordinary morality is not sufficient for deliverance from metempsychosis. Those who really strive after final emancipation, must assiduously practise the six transcendental, or cardinal virtues.

These cardinal virtues are:--[1]

1. Charity.

3. Patience.

5. Meditation.

2. Morality.

4. Industry, or earnest application.

6. Ingenuity.


V. The term "Bôdhisattva" has almost entirely lost its original meaning, and is now used in a double sense. In the one sense it is applied to all those who practise the six Pâramitâs; in the other to the perfect beings who pass between the different worlds. We find

[1. In numerous religious books four more virtues are added. 1. Method, or manner; 2. Wish, or prayer; 3. Fortitude; 4. Fore-knowledge, or knowledge. See Csoma, in As. Res., Vol. XX., p. 399; Burnouf, "Le Lotus de la Bonne Loi" p. 544.]

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them in the legends contemporaneous with the Buddhas, travelling with them, and listening to the words of the Buddhas, who occasionally send them to remote regions to deliver a message, or receive particular instructions. These Bôdhisattvas are subdivided into several classes, the most Sublime among them being nearly equal to the Buddhas, from whom also it is possible they may have emanated; to some of them indeed a rank seems to have been assigned (though apparently without success) which is superior even to that of the Buddhas. They have fulfilled all the conditions for the attainment of the Buddhaship, and might immediately become most perfect Buddhas, did they not prefer, from unlimited charity towards animated beings, to remain still subject to the law of metempsychosis, and to re-incorporate themselves in human shape for the benefit of man. When once arrived at the estate of a most perfect Buddha it would be beyond their power to contribute to man's salvation, the Buddhas caring no longer for the world when they have once left it.[1] In cases of need, therefore, prayers for assistance are addressed not to the Buddhas, but to the Bôdhisattvas, who have shown themselves so friendly and well-towards disposed man. The addressing of prayers to the Buddhas residing in other regions, we must consider as only a further development of Mahâyâna Buddhism.'

[1. Concerning this important dogma see Hardy "Eastern Monachism," p. 228.

2. The dogma of celestial Bôdhisattvas, the progeny of such Buddhas, has been developed only in mysticism, and not in the genuine Mahâyâna system.]

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VI. The Mahâyâna system does not exclude laymen from Nirvâna; it admits every one, layman as well as priest, to the condition of a supreme Buddha, and applies this name to all who have attained Nirvâna. With regard to the nature of the Buddhas, their definition is materially altered: they are no longer entirely deprived of every personality, and are believed to have a body with certain qualities, and to possess various faculties. By the Mahâyânas they have three different kinds of bodies ascribed to them, and, on leaving the world to return to the higher regions, are supposed to strip off only the last and least sublime of these earthly encumbrances, called the Nirmânakâya. These bodies are styled:--

1. Nirmânakâya (Tib. Prulpai ku), which is the Nirvâna with the remains, or body in which the Bôdhisattva appears upon earth in order to teach man, after entering by the six Pâramitâs, the path, or career of the Buddhas.

2. Sambhogakâya (Tib. Longchod dzogpai ku), or the body of bliss and the reward of fulfilling the three conditions of perfection.

3. Dharmakâya (Tib. Chos ku), or the Nirvâna without any remains. This ideal body (the most sublime one) is obtained by the Buddha who abandons the world for ever, and leaves behind everything that has any connexion with it.'

[1. Schott, "Buddhaismus," p. 9; Csoma, "Notices" in Journ. As. Soc. Beng., Vol. VII., p. 142; Schmidt, "Grundlehren," in Mémoires de l'Académie de St. Petersbourg, Vol. I., pp. 224 et seq. For the Tibetan terms, see A. Schiefner, "Buddhistische Triglotte," leaf 4.]

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The Contemplative Mahâyâna (Yogâchârya) system.

The contemplative system is described in those works which, in viewing the doctrine of the Pâramitâs, have started from the consideration that the three worlds exist only in imagination (Tib. Semtsamo). Such works are the Ghanavyûha (the Gandavyûha of Burnouf), the Mahâsamaya, and certain others. The saints Nanda, (Tib. Gavo), Utarasena (Tib. Dampai de), and Samyaksatya (Tib. Yangdag den), are probably among the number teaching in this sense previous to Âryâsanga; the latter, however, must be considered as the real founder of the System.'

Like the preceding, the present system also requires abstinence from every kind of reflection,, as interfering with clear comprehension; but the most important dogma established by this theory is decidedly the personification of the voidness, by supposing that a soul, Âlaya (Tib. Tsang, also Nyingpo), is the basis of every thing. This soul exists from time immemorial, and in every object; "it reflects itself in every thing, likes the moon in clear and tranquil water." It was the loss of its original purity that caused it to wander about in the various spheres of existence. The restoration of the soul to its purity can be attained by the same means as in the preceding system; but now the motive and the success become evident; ignorance is annihilated and the illusion that anything can be real is dissipated; man understands at

[1. Wassiljew, l. c., pp. 143 et seq.; 164, 174, 334-47.]

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length clearly, that the three worlds are but ideal; he gets rid of impurity, and returns to his original nature, and it is thus that he becomes emancipated from metempsychosis. Of course, as with everything belonging to the world, this nature also is only ideal; but the dogma once established that an absolute pure nature exists, Buddhism soon proceeded in the mystical school further to endow it with the character of an all-embracing deity.[1] A material modification of its original character was thus established.

This idea of the soul, Âlaya, is the chief dogma of the Yogâchârya system, which is so called because "he who is strong in the Yoga (meditation) is able to introduce his soul by means of the Yoga into the true nature of existence." There occur, however, amongst the Tibetans, several explanations of this term, as well as other titles given to this school; but this name is the most common, and the line of arguments already instanced is ascribed to Âryâsanga. To the importance which, from the very first, this school has attributed to meditation, may be traced the germs which subsequently led to its losing itself in mysticism.

Âryâsanga and his successors managed to endow their doctrines with such splendour, that the Nâgârjuna, school with the principles taught by it (which had been adopted by the Madhyamikas, Tib. Bumapa) had sunk almost entirely into oblivion for many centuries. It revived, however,

[1. Japanese Buddhism also speaks of a supreme Buddha, who sits throned in the diamond world and has created all the Buddhas. See Hoffmann, "Buddha Pantheon von Nippon," in v. Siebold's "Beschreibung von Japan)" Vol. II., p. 57.]

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in the seventh century under the name of the Prasanga branch; and this still remains to be treated before concluding our notices of the Mahâyâna systems.

The Prasanga-Madhyamika school.

This school,[1] in Tibetan probably called Thal gyurva, was founded by Buddhapâlita, and soon succeeded in superseding all other schools of the Mahâyâna system, notwithstanding the attacks made upon it by Bhavya, the originator of the Svatantra-Madhyamika school. The success attained by the Prasanga School is due, in a great measure, to the excellent commentaries and introductory works written in the eighth and ninth centuries by. Chandrakirti (Tib. Dava Dagpa) and other learned men. These events coinciding with a numerous immigration of Indian priests into Tibet, caused the Prasanga school to be at present considered by the Tibetan Lamas as that which alone taught and gave the true explanation of the faith revealed by the Buddha.

The Prasanga, school obtained its name from the peculiar mode which it adopted of deducing the absurdity and erroneousness of every esoteric opinion. "The Prasangas say that the two truths, Samvriti and Paramârtha, cannot be maintained as either identical or different; if they were identical, we should strip off the Paramârtha together with Samvriti, and if they were different, we should not be able to become delivered from Samvriti.

[1. Wassiljew, "Der Buddhismus,',' pp. 327; 357-67. Compare Csomas' Notices, in Journ. As. Soc. Beng., Vol. VII., p. 144.]

{p. 42} In understanding by the term Non-ego all objects which are compound, or exist in Samvriti, we attribute to it a character identical with being existent and uncompounded (Paramârtha); but if this is already the character of Samvriti, it denotes that the objects have already a perfect existence; hence they have already arrived at salvation (Tib. Dolzin). From such and similar hair-splitting considerations the Prasangas deduce that both truths have 'one and the same nature' (Tib. Ngovo chig), but two distinct meanings (Tib. Togpa nyi). These speculations are called Prasanga."

The Prasanga school maintains that the doctrines of the Buddha establish two paths-one leading to the highest regions of the universe, to the heaven, Sukhavatî,[1] where. man enjoys perfect happiness but connected with personal existence; the other conducting to entire emancipation from the world, viz. to Nirvâna. The former path is attained by the practice of virtues, the latter by the highest perfection of intelligence. They reckon eight (according to some writers even eleven) peculiarities by which their system distinguishes itself from all the others; out of these eleven peculiarities, as given by the Tibetan Jam. Yang shadpa, I select the following as the most characteristic, the others being but a repetition of general Mahâyâna principles, or deductions contained in their own.

1. The principal dogma is the negation of existence as well as of non-existence; they admit neither self-existence (absolute existence), Paramârtha, nor existence

[1. See for particulars Chapter IX.]

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by causal connexion, Samvriti: in order not to fall into extremes. For, not to say of what has never existed, to be; and of the truly existing, not to be; this is to take a middle way, Madhyama.[1] This dogma is formulated as follows:--"By denying the extreme of existence is also denied, in consequence of conditional appearance, the extreme of non-existence, which is not in Paramârtha." The arguments in proof of this thesis are most circumstantial; the following most curious syllogisms occur in Jam Yang shadpa's work:-

1. If the plant grew by its own specific nature, it would not be a composition, Tenbrel; it is demonstrated, however, that it is a composition.

2. If anything in nature were self-existent, we should certainly hear and see it; for the sensation of seeing and hearing would in this case be absolutely identical.

3. The quality of being general would not be peculiar to many things, because it would be an indivisible unity, as such a unity we should be obliged to take the ego, if there were an ego.

4. The plant would not be compelled to grew anew, because it would continue to exist.

5. If any Skandha,[2] as sensation, were self-existent,

[1. They are also called, on account of this theory, "those who deny existence (nature)," in Tibetan, Ngovonyid medpar mraba.

2. The Buddhists enumerate five essential properties of sentient existence, which are styled Skandhas, or Sîlaskandhas, in Tibetan, Tsulkhrim kyi phungpo, "the aggregates of morals." They are: 1. The organized body; 2. Sensation; 3. Perception; 4. Discrimination; 6. Consciousness. See Burnouf, Index, voce Skandha; Hardy's Manual of Buddhism, pp. 388, 399-424.--For the Tibetan designations of the five Skandhas see "Buddhistische Triglotte," by A. Schiefner, leaf 9.]

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another Skandha, as e. g. the organized body, would be also self-existent; but it is impossible to produce by the self-existence of sensation that of the organized body, because the plastic power and the object to be formed are identical.

2. The Âlaya has an absolute eternal existence; those treatises do not teach the right doctrine which attribute to it only a relative existence.

3. Not only the Arhats, but also simple men, if they have entered the path, can arrive at the rude comprehension of the sixteen kinds of the four truths by 'very evident (earnest) meditation" (Tib. Naljor ngonsum); but those systems are considered wrong which pretend, as the Hînayâna, that the knowledge (Vishnâna) derived from such meditation (which is nothing but a manifestation of the Âlaya) be not liable to errors (Sansk. Vikalpa, Tib. Namtog). Even the Arhat goes to hell in case he doubt anything. This reproach is meant to be made to the schools by which the Arhats are admitted to Nirvâna under any condition.[1]

4. The three periods: the present, the past, and the future, are compounds, correlative to each other. The Buddha has declared: "A harsh word, uttered in past times, if; not lost (literally destroyed), but returns again;" and, therefore, the past time is the present time, as is also the future, though as yet it has not come into existence.

5. The Buddha has two kinds of Nirvâna: Nirvâna with remains and Nirvâna without remains; the latter

[1. The means of avoiding the error have been more fully developed by mysticism in the exigencies of Vipasyana and Samatha. See p. 54.]

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kind only is entire extinction of personality, or the state where the notion of ego ceases, where the outward and inward man is destroyed. In this state, the Buddha has assumed the body Dharmakâya, in which there is neither beginning nor end; whilst in the Nirvâna with remains he has obtained only the Nirmânakâya body, in which, though rendered impervious to outward impressions, he has not yet thrown off habitual errors (the influence of passions), of which nothing remains in the other kind of Nirvâna.

The Prasangas admit as orthodox the greater part of the hymns in the Tanjur, and those of the Sûtras which are contained in the Kanjur; in these, they say, the true meaning of the word of the Buddha (viz. the Madhyamika doctrine) is explained. There exist a large number of such books, the most important of which are the seventeen books of the Prajnâpâramitâ, then the Akshayamatinirdesa, the Samâdhirâja, the Anavataptapariprichchhâ, Dharmasamgîti, the Sagarapariprichchha, the Manjusrîvikrîdita, the first chapter of the Ratnakûta, and the chapter of Kâsyapa, which is quoted by Nâgârjuna and his disciples in support of their dogmas.[1]

It is remarkable to see at what extravagances Buddhist speculation has arrived by its tendency to follow abstract ideas without the consideration of the limits presented by bodily experience and the laws of nature. But the case is rather not an isolated one; we meet instances of analogous dreams in ancient and modern times.

[1. Wassiljew in his examination of the most important Mahâyâna Sûtras, pp. 157-202, presents an analysis of the Manjusrîvikrîdita and the Ratnakûta.]

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Next: Chapter VI. The System of Mysticism