Mahayana literary themes
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Mahayana Literary Themes. Three Bodies of Buddha. Nirmanakaya – “transformation” or “(historical) manifestation” body Example: Siddhartha Gautama Shakyamuni Sambhogakaya – “enjoyment” body Example: Bodhisattvas, such as Manjusri Dharmakaya – “Reality” or “ultimate” body of Buddha

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Mahayana Literary Themes

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Mahayana literary themes

Mahayana Literary Themes

Three bodies of buddha

Three Bodies of Buddha

  • Nirmanakaya – “transformation” or “(historical) manifestation” body

    • Example: Siddhartha Gautama Shakyamuni

  • Sambhogakaya – “enjoyment” body

    • Example: Bodhisattvas, such as Manjusri

  • Dharmakaya – “Reality” or “ultimate” body of Buddha

    • Example: Amitabha Buddha

Madhyamaka literature prajnaparamita literature expands

Madhyamaka Literature: Prajnaparamita literature expands

  • The “8000” verse sutra initiates the literature

  • The 25,000 and 100,000 expand the text’s scope vastly

  • The Heart sutra summarizes it all

  • The 5,000 line version emphasizes bodhicitta – the “mind of awakening” all beings as the central motivation.

Madhyamaka literature vimalakirti nirdesa sutra

Madhyamaka Literature: Vimalakirti-nirdesa-sutra

  • This Mahayana theme addresses the role of the "pure" and "impure.“

  • In Vimalakirti’s famous silence, one sees a precursor of the Zennist's silence, in the line of teaching stemming from the Buddha's flower sermon. 

Madhyamaka literature vimalakirti nirdesa sutra cont

Madhyamaka Literature: Vimalakirti-nirdesa-sutra Cont.

  • Thereupon, the goddess employed her magical power to cause the elder Shariputra to appear in her form and to cause herself to appear in his form. Then the goddess, transformed into Shariputra, said to Shariputra, transformed into a goddess, "Reverend Shariputra, what prevents you from transforming yourself out of your female state?"

  • And Shariputra, transformed into the goddess, replied, "I no longer appear in the form of a male! My body has changed into the body of a woman! I do not know what to transform!

  • "Then the Licchavi Vimalakirti said to the venerable elder Shariputra, "Reverend Shariputra, this goddess has already served ninety-two million billion Buddhas. She plays with the super-knowledge’s. She has truly succeeded in all her vows. She has gained the tolerance of the birthlessness of things. She has actually attained irreversibility. She can live wherever she wishes on the strength of her vow to develop living beings."

Mahayana ethics and vimalakirti s sickness

Mahayana Ethics and Vimalakirti’s “sickness”

  • Vimalakirti replied, "Manjusri, my sickness comes from ignorance and the thirst for existence and it will last as long as do the sicknesses of all living beings. Were all living beings to be free from sickness, I also would not be sick

Madhyamaka expression

Madhyamaka Expression

  • Manjusri declared, "Householder, it is as you say. Who comes, finally comes not. Who goes, finally goes not.

  • Why? Who comes is not known to come. Who goes is not known to go. Who appears is finally not to be seen.

  • Manjusri: Can emptiness be conceptually constructed?

    • Vimalakirti: Even that concept is itself empty, and emptiness cannot construct emptiness.

Madhyamaka literature the lotus sutra

Madhyamaka Literature:The Lotus Sutra

  • Main theme is the focus on upaya – All Buddhist traditions present an ekayana or single universal vehicle to awakening.

  • All thus, are correct insofar as they are efficacious at moving a student along the path

  • The story of the Father and the Three carts”, goat (pratyekabuddha), deer (sravaka) and bullock (mahayana) carts

  • Contempt for arrogant arhats

Yogacara literature srimala devi simha nada sutra

Yogacara Literature: Srimala-devi-simha-nada-sutra

  • This sutra addresses the issue of the tathagatagarbha - the womb or matrix of the "thus gone/thus come" (=i.e. Buddha) 

  • “…at the beginning of an eon a great flooding contains the cause of the emergence of a billion-world universe, from which numberless sets of four masses of various shapes and colours congeal together with innumerable land masses. In the same way, embracing the complete Teachings of Reality are the matrix which contains the Vast Path from which issue the liberating activities of those opening to Openness, the various entries into the Luminosity of Reality

  • "Srimala, the greatest bull is greater in height, breadth, and lustre than other cattle. Just so, one who practises the Vast Path and embraces only slightly the complete Teachings of Reality is superior to those who only hear what they have heard or who self-fabricate their own version of enlightenment, with all of their virtues, because of its vast extent.

  • Even a woman can obtain awakening

Mahayana literary themes

Dasabhumika Sutra:Setting out the stages of the Bodhisattva Path1. Joyful2. Stainless3. Refulgent,4. Radiant5. Difficulty to Conquer6.Presence7. Far-going8. Immovable9. Good Thought10. Dharma Cloud

Yogacara literature dasabhumika sutra setting out the stages of the bodhisattva path

Yogacara Literature: Dasabhumika Sutra:Setting out the stages of the Bodhisattva Path

  • First Six stages Cover teachings bodhisattvas share with all Buddhists

  • 5. Difficulty to Conquer – Mastery of the Four Arya Truths

  • 6. Presence Stage – erasure of self and other, existence/non-existence dichotomy

  • 7. Far-going – All Buddhas are identical viz. dharmakaya

  • 8. Immovable – omniscience

  • 9. Good thought – emitting voices through every pore, one sound teaches many beings

  • 10. Dharma Cloud – emitting multi-emanations via Sambhogakaya mastery

Sukhavati vyuha or happiness sutra

Sukhavati-vyuha or “Happiness” sutra

  • Dharmakara - who is this cosmic Buddha?

  • The Buddha world to the West: towards “Death” and the setting sun.

  • Is it “salvation by faith” or awareness that this world is the “Happyland” when “dependence upon other” paratantra – is realized.

Yogacara literature samdhinirmocanasutra

Yogacara Literature: Samdhinirmocanasutra

  • Chapter seven of this work sets out a threefold scheme for understanding the evolution of Buddhist thought. 

  • First the Buddha taught dharmas - time/space atomic units of reality, and the "real" existence of the skandhas or aggregates of personhood - this refers to the "Hinayana" or "Inferior" traditions as the Mahayana views them. 

  • In the second cycle of doctrines, notably exemplified in our readings by the Heart Sutra, he taught that none of these exist.  Which is it O Buddha? 

Yogacara literature samdhinirmocanasutra cont

Yogacara Literature: Samdhinirmocanasutra Cont.

  • The Buddha responds that he taught the first cycle - introduce students to an awareness of no-self. 

  • The second was to lead them further to an awareness of the selflessness of phenomena. 

  • A third and final cycle would wrap the first two up in a nice package and demonstrate a a profound awareness of consciousness and its release from sorrow through meditation.

Positivism or reification versus nihilism or repudiation as a hermeneutical approach

“Positivism” or “Reification” versus“Nihilism” or “Repudiation” as a hermeneutical approach

  • The Samdhinirmocana sutra cleaves to a middle way – the “positivism” of the Sravaka schools and the “nihilism” of the Madhyamaka school.

  • One bed fits Goldilocks “just right” – the Yogacara School encompasses and subsumes them all into one big picture

Tathagatagarbha sutra

Tathagatagarbha sutra

  • All beings possess the “matrix” of Buddhism “within”, the potential

  • Controversial interpretation in Central versus East Asian Buddhisms and in our sutras: Srimaladevi – this is an impersonal potential; Mahaparinirvana – popular in East Asian Buddhism – it is our true self.

Yogacara literature lankavatarasutra

Yogacara Literature: Lankavatarasutra

  • The alaya is the is the tathagatagarbha

  • Tathagatagarbha is meant to alleviate the fears of the weak viz. sunyata

  • “Turning about of the basis” asrayaparavrtti – the alaya is the locus of awakening

  • Like a wave of water and the ocean, upon awakening, the alaya dissolves itself

  • A “psychological” understanding of awakening

Yogacara literature gandavyuha sutra

Yogacara Literature:Gandavyuha sutra

  • The image of Maitreya: from outside his pavilion is small, from inside, fills the universe

  • Each “atom” or “dharma” of the pavilion contains infinite pavilions: a Buddhist version of Horton Hears a Who

  • Dharmas exist but have no boundaries and are infinite

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