Chapter 7: Mahāyānasūtras
Aṣṭasahāsrikā Prajñāpāramitā, Saddharmapuṇḍarīka, Lalitavistara, Laṅkāvatāra, Suvarṇaprabhāsa, Gaṇḍavyūha, Tathāgataguhyaka Samādhirāja, Daśabhūmiśvara. All these scriptures are also designated Vaipulyasūtras.
Worship of Books in Nepal
The term dharma in the “nine dharmas”’ is no doubt an abbreviation for Dharmaparyāya or religious texts. A formal divine service is accorded to these nine books in Nepal, a bibliolatry which is characteristic of the Buddhism prevalent there and which is manifested in the body of the text themselves.
Hodgson’s Essays p. 13; Burnouf’s Introduction p. 29 ff.,; Kern’s Der Buddhismus II 508 ff.
The most important and as a literary production of high value among the Mahāyānasūtrasi is the Saddharmapuṇḍarīka, the “Lotus of the Good Law.” It was translated into French as early as 1852 by Burnouf and in 1884 an English translation by Kern appeared in the Sacred Books
Parable of house on fire
In an old dilapidated house there lived a father with his children. Suddenly the house took fire. The father was in agony about his children. He was a strong man and could take up the younger ones in his arms and fly from the house, but the house had only one door. The children, who suspected nothing, were running about in play and took no heed of his warning. He was threatened with perishing along with his children in the surrounding fire. Now a sound idea occurred to him. Children always love toys, and he called out to them and said that he had all sorts of expensive toys, bullock-carts, toy carts, antelope carts, collected for them out of the house. No sooner did the children hear these words than they rushed out of doors and were saved. Now they asked of their father for the promised three kind of toy carts and the father, being a wealthy man, gave them splendid and beautifully upholstered bullock-carts. The children were delighted and happy. Now who would accuse the father of falsehood in that he promised the children three kinds of ordinary play carts and gave them in reality carts of a most splendid description? Similarly the Buddha treats the children that are men, inducing them to come out by promise of the three “vehicles” from the burning and dilapidated house of this world, saves them and bestows upon them a unique vehicle, the costliest of all, the “Vehicle of the Buddha.”
The Buddha is also represented in the Buddhists parable of the lost son as the good affluent father kindly disposed towards his sons, the human children:
Reclaimed son: a parable.
A rich man had an only son. He roamed about in foreign countries for fifty years while the father was growing continually more wealthy and had become a great man. But the son lived in foreign lands impoverished and in straitened circumstances. At last he comes home as a beggar where his father was all this while longingly expecting him. The beggar son comes to the house of his father but he does not recognise his parent in the great man who, surrounded by a large retinue like a king, sits in the front of his mansion. As he sees the pomp and circumstance, he flies from the house in fear lest the beggar in tattered rags be maltreated. The father, however, immediately recognises him and sends out his servants to fetch the mendicant. Trembling and shaking with terror he is dragged along and falls down powerless. The father then gives orders to release him. The beggar stands up joyful and repairs towards the poor quarters of the city. Now the wealthy man bethinks himself of a plan to win the confidence of his son. He gets him oppressed with the meanest piece of work by the workmen in his house but takes opportunity frequently to associate with him and gradually worms himself into his confidence. Twenty years in this way pass by without the father being recognised by the son. When on the point of death he summons all his relations and announces that the beggar, who had become his confidential servant was his own son, and appoints him heir to all his estate. This wealthy man was the Buddha, the son that was lost and recovered are the human children who only very gradually draw themselves to the Buddha, the wise father, and finally acquire his fortunate legacy.
The Master is as frequently compared to a physician as to a loving father. The simile is especially expanded in which the children of the world are likened to those that are born blind and whose eyes are opened by the great physician Buddha (p. 129 ff.). That the Buddha knows no partiality but is to all equally a good father and physician is brought home by means of two charming metaphors. Just as a powerful rain cloud goes down caves and refreshes all grass, verdure and trees by its moisture and just as the latter sucked by the dryness of the earth blow into it new life, so also appears the Buddha in the world and renovates all creatures by bringing them the gift of peace. As the sun and the moon send down their rays equally on all, on the good and the wicked, on the high and the low, so the precepts of the Buddha are for the whole world. (pp. 199 ff. 122 ff, 128 ff.)
Exaggeration of phrase and figure
All these similes would be more beautiful if they were not carried out too extensively and extravagantly far so that the point of comparison suffers. But this hyperbole in the figurative language is quite characteristic of the book. It is an actual intoxication of words with which the reader is deadened, the thought being drowned in the inundation of verbiage. Still more immense and magnified than words are figures. There lives, for instance, “a Buddha forty hundred thousand myriads of ten million æons, as many as there are grains of sand in the River Ganges”; and after he had attained to complete Nirvāṇa, his true religion endured for a hundred thousand myriads of ten million ages equal to the number of ears of corns in all India and a degenerated form of the true faith continued further for a thousand myriads of ten million
In praise of the Sūtra
The sermon of the Lotus is like fire for those who are benumbed, like clothing to the naked, like a leader to the caravan, a mother to children, a boat to those who would cross the river, a taper for the dispelling of darkness. He who writes down this book or causes it to be
Persistence of Purāṇic influence
All this immoderation of language and especially the laudation of the text in the text itself are as peculiar to the Mahāyāna sūtras as to the Purāṇas. The Amitayurdhyāna Sūtra lays down: “When a person has committed much evil, but has not spoken ill of the great Vaipulya Sūtras, and if he be a very stupid man, who neither feels reproach for his wicked deeds nor repents of them, but if he at the moment of his death encounters a good and wise preceptor who recites to him the superscription and titles of the twelve sections of the Mahāyāna texts, and if he has thus heard of all the Sūtras, he will be absolved from the great sins which would otherwise hurl him into birth and death for thousands of ages.” It is the spirit of the Purāṇas which is perceived in every line of the Saddharmapuṇḍarīka. The few points of contract between the text of the Saddharmapuṇḍarīka and that of the Śatapathabrāhmaṇa which Kern indicates by no means suffice to bring the work in line with the Vedic literature (Sacred Books of the East 21, p. xvi f.), and it is precisely on this account that the book cannot belong to the earliest period of Buddhism. If we did not know that it had already been translated into Chinese between 255 and 316 A.D., we should not consider it as so ancient, for the latter date must at least be its age.
Elements of diverse epochs
At all events, however, the book contains elements of diverse periods. It is impossible that the Sanskrit prose and the gāthās in “mixed Sanskrit” should have arisen contemporaneously, even if they did not incorporate often glaring inconsistency of contents. Frequently in the prose passages as also in the gāthās the
Age of the Sūtra
Although, however, the Saddharmapuṇḍarīka represents later and earlier ingredients it displays a much greater unity of character than either the Mahāvastu or the Lalitavistara. It is not possible that the older and the younger components should be separated by any extensive lapse of time. If the book had assumed its present compass between 265 and 316 A.D., when the first Chinese translation was prepared or even earlier, in its primary formation it must have well arisen about 200 A.D. Even Kern, who strives to establish that the Saddharmapuṇḍarīka and the Lalitavistara have preserved materials going back to the most ancient period of Buddhism, has been able to cite instances only from the Lalitavistara. There is no ground for asserting that the older text saw the light “a few centuries earlier,” as Kern assumes (p. xxii). Bendall ascribes to the fourth or fifth century a manuscript of the Saddharmapuṇḍarīka discovered by him (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 1901, p. 124). Fragments of the Saddharmapuṇḍarīka have been discovered also in Central Asia during the explorations by Stein and others (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 1911, p. 1067 ff). One fact is incontestable. The entire Saddharmapuṇḍarīka, prose and gāthā, presupposes a high development of the Mahāyāna Buddhism, especially in the direction of Buddha-bhakti, the adoration of relics, the worshipping of images and, above all, a highly flourishing epoch of Buddhist art. For, when there is such prominent mention of thousands of myriads of ten millions of stūpas, which were erected for the relics of a Buddha or of the ten millions of vihāras which are delineated as magnificent buildings, most luxuriously, furnished there must have
See especially chapter ii, Gāthās 77 ff., Sacred Books of the East. In Japan the Saddharmapuṇḍarīka is the sacred book of the Nichiren sect, Buniyu Nanjio, Short History of the Twelve Buddhist Sects, Tokyo, 1886, p. 132 ff.
Kāraṇḍavyūha: its Theistic tendency
To the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara who has been eulogised in Chapter XXIV of the Saddharmapuṇḍarīka is also dedicated an entire Mahāyānasūtra of great compass, the full title of which is Avalokiteśvara-guṇakāraṇḍavyūha, – “The exhaustive description of the basket of the merits of the Avalokiteśvara.” The title is usually mentioned in its abbreviated shape of Kāraṇḍavyūha. We have two versions of this book, the more ancient one being in prose and the younger in ślokas. The prose text was edited by Satyavrata Shamashrami in 1873. The catalogue of the India Office library registers an edition which seems to have appeared in 1872 at Serampore.
Burnouf, Introduction pp. 196-206, Raj. Mitra, Nepalese Buddhist Literature, p, 95 ff. Bendall, Catalogue p. 9ff; La Vallée-Poussin, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics II, p.259 f.
The metrical recension occupies theistic ground. For it is related how at the beginning of things appeared the Ādibuddha or the primitive Buddha, also called Svayambhū, or Self-Being and Ādinātha or the First Lord, and created the world by his meditation. Avalokiteśvara is derived from this spirit and he co-operated in the creation of the world fashioning from his eyes the moon and the sun, Maheśvara from his forehead, Brahman from his shoulders, Narāyana from his heart, and from his teeth the goddess of speech Sarasvatī. Precisely as this introduction is of the
L. A. Waddell, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1894, p. 57; A. Foucher, Etude sur l’iconographic Boudhique de l’Inde, Paris 1900 p. 97 ff., and La Vallée-Poussin, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics II, p. 250 ff; Buniyo Nanjio, Catalogue No. 168 where the title is given a Ratnakāraṇḍaka-vyūhasūtra. A second translation was made between 420 and 479.
Potency of Avalokiteśvara
The basic idea is the same in both the versions of the Kāraṇḍavyūha – the exaltation of the marvellous redeemer Avalokiteśvara, “the Lord looking down,” that is, he who surveys with infinite compassion all the creatures. This interpretation is found in the text itself (Burnouf, Introduction, p. 201 f.), but it is possible to explain the name in other ways (La Vallée-Poussin, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, II, p. 201 f.), Avalokiteśvara here appears as a typical Bodhisattva but declines to enter into Buddhahood so long as all
E. B. Cowell, Journal of Philology, vi, 1876, p. 222 ff., reprinted also in Indian Antiquities, viii, 249 ff. L Scherman, The Vision Literature, p. 62 ff. Cowell compares the apocryphal gospel of Nicodemus and derives the Indian from the Christian legend.
From this hell Avalokiteśvara passes on to the abode of the Pretas and treats with food and drink these ghosts writhing with everlasting hunger and thirst. One of his wanderings takes him to Ceylon where he converts the cannibal female giant Rākṣasī, from thence to Benares where he preaches the doctrine to the creatures who have been born as insects and worms, and thence to Magadha where he saves the inhabitants in a miraculous way from a terrible famine. In Ceylon he appears as the winged horse Balaha in order to carry away and save from perishing the shipwrecked persons enticed by the giant sorceress.
Jātaka No., 196, where the winged charger is identified with the Buddha in a previous birth. In the Kāraṇḍavyūha the merchant Siṁhala carried off to Ceylon is the Buddha Śākyamuni in an earlier existence.
Little as is the claim of books like the Kāraṇḍavyūha upon our attention, on the whole we are bound to concede that hardly anywhere else human helplessness and longing for emancipation have found a more vigorous expression than in these tracts and the idea of redemption a finer instrumentality than in the personation of Avalokiteśvara.
Sukhāvatīvyūha : the Land of Bliss
The Buddhist’s longing for spiritual liberation finds a more logical outlet in the Sukhāvatīvyūha a detained description of the Land of Bliss. As the Saddharmapuṇḍarīka serves to glorify the Buddha Śākyamuni, as the Kāraṇḍavyūha is dedicated to the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, so the Sukhāvatīvyūha is sacred to the panegyric of the Buddha Amitābha. Among the innumerable Buddhas there is one who, by means of prayers or praṇidhāna in a former life faithfully practising the virtues of a Bodhisattva for untold ages, was born again in the world of Sukhāvatī in the Occident. There he produces boundless light, whence his name Amitābha; and immeasurable is the duration of his life, whence his other name, Amitāyus. In this “Buddha country,” the Paradise of Sukhāvatī, there is no hell, there is no existence as beasts, Pretas, or Asuras. This blessed land is filled with infinite fragrance. There grow trees of precious stones in many hundred thousand colours and equally marvellous lotus flowers. There are no mountains there but the land is a plain like the palm of the hand. Charming rivulets supply lovely sweet water and their splashing makes the most lovely music. The creatures that are born in Sukhāvatī are provided with the most fascinating qualities of body and mind and enjoy all the delights which they have only to
Of this book we have two diverse recensions. The longer one which might well be the original and the shorter one which appears to be an abbreviated edition of the former with an emended introduction. Both versions have been edited by Max Müller, Bunyiu Nanjio in the Anecdota Oxoniensia Aryan Series, Vol. I, part II, Oxford, 1883, and translated by Max Müller Sacred Books of the East vol. 49, part 2. A third book called the Amitāyurdhyānasūtra is less occupied with the picture of the country of Sukhāvatī than with the exhortations to meditation or dhyāna of Amitāyus by means of which a man attains to the Blessed Land. It is translated from Chinese by J. Takakusu in Sacred Books of the East Vol. 49, part 2, p. 159 ff.
This Sūtra is unfortunately not preserved to us in the original Sanskrit, but only in a Chinese translation and is interesting in that it contains the history of Ajātaśātru and Bimbisāra known also in the Pāḷi accounts. (Kern, Der Buddhismus I, 243 ff, Spence Hardy, Manual of Buddhism, London, 1860 p. 317 f.) A Sukhāvatīvyūha is reported to have been translated into Chinese between 148 and 170 and there are no less than twelve versions of it dating from different centuries. In 402, Kumārajīva translated the shorter version. A translation of the Sukhāvatīvyūha-Sūtra is also credited to Hiuen-Tsiang in 1650 A.D. (Nanjio, Catalogue Nos. 23, 25, 27, 199, 200, 863). This testifies to the favour in which the text was held in China. In Japan, however, the three texts relating to Amitāyus and Sukhāvatī form the fundaments of the doctrine of the two Buddhistic sects of Jodoshu and Shinshu. The latter has the largest number of adherents of any Buddhist sect in Japan. It is to be noted that the literary value of these texts by no means corresponds to their importance in religious history.
B. Nanjio, Twelve Japanese Buddhist Sects pp. 104 ff., 122 ff., and Anecdota Oxoniensia, Vol. I, p. xviii ff. H. Hass, Amida Buddha, our Refuge, Texts for the understanding of Sukhāvatī-Buddhism, Leipzig 1910.
In the cult and in the art of the Buddhist the Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī occupies a distinguished position along with Avalokiteśvara. In the Gaṇḍavyūha, Mañjuśrī is glorified as the only one who can help the aspirant to perfect enlightenment. This work is only available in manuscript. It was translated into Chinese between 317 and 420 under the title of Avataṁsakasūtra or Buddhāvataṁsakasūtra and is the cardinal text-book of the Japanese Buddhist sect Ke-gon.
Raj. Mitra Nepalese Buddhist Literature, p. 90 ff; Bendall Catalogue, p. 28 According to Hodgson’s Essays, p. 16 (also see p. 49) Āryasaṅga was the author of this book; compare also Burnouf, Introduction p. 111.
It is Professor Takakusu who informs us that the Gaṇḍavyūha is identical with the Chinese Avataṁsaka for he has made a comparison of the Sanskrit with the Chinese original.
See Wassiljew, Der Buddhismus, p. 171 ff, and B. Nanjio, Twelve Japanese Buddhist Sects, p. 57 ff. The Gaṇḍavyūhasūtra No 971 in B. Nanjio Catalogue (see No. 782) translated between 746-771 is altogether a different work.
The Sūtra, which has many points of contact with the Sukhāvatīvyūha but which has also many legends of the class of Avadānas, is the Kāruṇāpuṇḍarīka, the Lotus of Compassion. It relates to the marvellous country of Padma where the Buddha Padmottara worked and whose life was thirty world-periods. The Sūtra was translated into Chinese in the sixth century.
Raj. Mitra, p. 285 ff; Bendall Catalogue, p. 73 Sylvain Lévi has discovered and published a legend from the Kāruṇāpuṇḍarīka in the Tokharia language (Memorial) volume to Vilhelm Thomsen, Leipzic, p. 155 ff.
While these Mahāyānasūtras are devoted mainly to the cult of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas whose wonderful qualities and mighty deeds are eulogised or legends in connection with whom are recounted, there is a series of sūtras in Buddhist Sanskrit which partake more of a philosophical or dogmatic character. Of this nature is the Laṅkāvatāra, or as it is also called Saddharmalaṅkāvatāra. The book gives a report of the miraculous visit of the Buddha Śākyamuni to Ravana, the King of Ceylon. Ravana pays his reverence to the Buddha and presses him for a reply to a number of his enquiries touching the religion. The answers given by the Buddha which represent the doctrine of the Yogācāra
“A hundred years after my Nirvāṇa will live Vyāśa, the composer of the Mahābhārata. Then will arise the Paṇḍavas, Kauravas, Nandas and Mauryas. The Nandas, Mauryas, Guptas and Mlecchas, the most degraded of princes, will be the rulers. The domination of the barbarians will be succeeded by an upheaval which in its turn will herald the Kāliyuga.”
The teaching of the Yogācāra school is the same as the doctrine of Asaṅga and the same precepts are found in the Mahāyānaśraddhotpada.
The mention of the barbarians can only refer to the reign of the Hun princes, Toramana and Mihirakula, and consequently the book must have been composed in the beginning of the sixth century. But as again a Chinese translation of the Laṅkāvatāra had already been made in 433, the excerpt must belong to a subsequent recension or can only be an interpolation.
Burnouf, Introduction, p. 458 ff. Bendall Catalogue, p. 20 ff.; S. Ch. Vidyabhusana; An Analysis of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal 1905, ff: Raj Mitra Nepalese Buddhist Literature p. 113 f, where, however, the statement about a Chinese translation made in 168-190 is incorrect. See Bunyiu Nanjio Catalogue Nos. 175-177. Of the same species of literature is also Daśabhūmiśwara Mahāyānasūtra in which the Buddha holds an exhortation to the gods in Indra’s heaven on the ten states, the “daśabhūmi” through which an entity arrives at Buddhahood. This Sūtra was translated into Chinese in 400 Raj Mitra Nepalese Buddhist Literature, p. 81 ff., Bendall Catalogue p. 4 f.
Of a dogmatic nature is also the Samādhirāja, the King of Meditations. It is a dialogue between Candraprabha and the Buddha. It is shown here how the Bodhisattva by means of the diverse meditations, especially the supreme one the sovereign meditation can achieve transcendent knowledge of the conditions which are necessary for the preparation of the mind for the loftiest stage of thought. The conditions are veneration of the Buddhas; absolute renunciation of the world, gentleness and benevolence to all creatures, complete indifference with reference to one’s own life and health; in the case of necessity, sacrifice for others; and finally the conviction of non-reality of the world or firm faith in the universal Void or Śūnyatā. When meditating on the form of the Buddha the candidate must not think of any corporeal shape because the Buddha is composed of pure religion, he is not procreated, he is effect without cause, he is the cause of all things and without beginning, of boundless greatness and illimitable beneficence. The same ideas recur repeatedly in between, there being legends of holy men who propounded the great Samādhi.
Raj. Mitra Nepalese Buddhist Literature, 29-7-221. Bendall Catalogue, p.22f.
Based from the standpoint of negativism or Śūnyatāvāda is likewise Suvarṇaprabhāsa or Golden Effulgence, the contents of which are partly philosophical partly legendary and partly digress into the region of Tantra-Buddhism. The Buddha is here an eternal divine Being. A Brahman asks for a relic of the Buddha, be it no bigger than a mustard seed (chapter II). But he is instructed that it is easier to have hair grown on the back of a tortoise than to find such a relic. For the Buddha is not really born but his
According to Suzuki’s Aśvaghoṣa’s Discourse on the Awakening of the Faith, p. 62 n. Dharmakāya denotes the Absolute.
Nor did the Buddha enter Nirvāṇa, his body being eternal. A large portion of the Sūtra is occupied with the glorification of the Sūtra itself. In chapter VIII appears the goddess Sarasvatī, in chapter IX Mahādevī, the consort of Śiva, to belaud the Sūtra. Among the legends which we find related in the Suvarṇaprabhāsa we encounter that of the prince who kills himself to serve as food to a starving tigress and the father of the prince preserves his bones in a golden casket over which to erect a stūpa. There is, however, also a recital of magical terms or Dhāraṇīs and Tantra-ritual in the book. On the whole we see a diction the most sluggish among sectarian Purāṇas and one would wonder how the Golden Effulgence had acquired such immense reputation among the Buddhists of Nepal, Tibet and Mongolia, if the people concerned were not of a comparatively a low state of culture. The Sūtra was translated into Chinese in the sixth century.
Burnouf, Introduction p. 471 ff., Raj. Mitra Nepalese Buddhist Literature p. 241 ff. Bendall Catalogue, p. 12 f.; M. Anesaki, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics IV, p. 839. According to La Vallée-Poussin Bouddhisme, Etudes and Materiaux, p. 127, the Suvarṇaprabhāsa is nothing but a Mahātmya of Dhāraṇīs. A fragment of the Suvarṇaprabhāsa, which is also quoted in the Sikṣasamuccaya, Bendall p. 160, ff., has been published by H Stonner from a zylograph discovered at Idykutsari (SBA 1904 p. 1810 ff.)
Partly dogmatic and partly legendary in nature is the Rāṣṭrapālasūtra, also entitled Rāṣṭrapālaparipccha, which was translated into Chinese between 589-618. The Sūtra consists of two portions, the first of which is more of a dogmatic nature and contains the responses of the
Prevision of degeneracy
“Without self-reproach and without virtue, proud, puffed up, irritable will be my monks; intoxicated with spirituous liquor. While they grasp the banner of the Buddha they will only serve men of the world, and they will have to themselves, like householders, wives, sons and daughters. They will not eschew lust so that they may not be born as beasts, spirits and denizens of hell. They will address homilies to fathers of families but will remain themselves unbridled.”
Rāṣṭrapālaparipccha, the Sūtra of the Mahāyāna, published by L. Finot Bib. Budd, II, St. Petersburg 1901; La Vallée-Poussin “Le Museon” IV, 1903, p. 306 ff. With the Pāḷi Ratthapālasutta our Sūtra has nothing in common except the name Rāṣṭrapāla in Pāḷi Ratthapala.
There must have been an entire class of such Paripcchas or questions among the Mahāyānasūtras like the Pūraṇaparipccha and so forth; Nanjio, Catalogue, p. xiii ff. Finot, p. ix ff, 28 ff.
This vaticination of corrupt monasticism reminds us of a similar one in the Pāḷi Theragāthā. And the Chinese translation of the Rāṣṭrapālaparipccha made between 589
The most important and the most reputed of all the “philosophic” Mahāyānasūtras are the Prajñāpāramitās, sūtras of perfection of wisdom. They treat of six perfections (pāramitās) of a Bodhisattva, but particularly of the Prajñā or wisdom, the supreme excellence. This wisdom, however, consists in the recognition of the Śūṇyavāda or negativism which declares everything as “void,” denies Being as well as non-Being and has for a reply to every question a “No”. It is believed to have been at first a sūtra of one hundred and twenty-five thousand ślokas in which this wisdom was inculcated in the shape of dialogues in which the Buddha was the principal speaker. Subsequently this sūtra was abbreviated into a hundred thousand, twenty five thousand, ten thousand, and lastly eight thousand ślokas. According to another tradition the sūtra with eight thousand ślokas was the original, it being subsequently gradually expanded. As a matter of fact, we are acquainted with Prajñāpāramitās of a hundred thousand, of twenty five thousand, of eight thousand, of two thousand five hundred and of seven hundred ślokas. In the Mahāyāna often as in the Hīnayāna there is mention of ten but more frequently of six pāramitās, viz., generosity, performance of duty, gentleness, intrepidity, meditation and wisdom. (Dharmasaṁgraha 17.)
(The Prajñāpāramitās are prose works but in India it is customary to measure even texts in prose by ślokas each unit consisting of thirty-two syllables.)
The Tibetan Sher-phyin is a literal translation of the Śatasahasrika which has been quoted as Bhagavati in the Sikṣasamuccaya. It was translated into Chinese between 402 and 405 according to Anesaki (Le Museon VII, 1903). This translation contains quotations from Pāḷi texts (Bendall C. pp. 143-148 and Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 1898 p. 370.
The senseless customs of embodying constant repetitions which we find so annoying in the Pāḷi suttas becomes in the voluminous Prajñāpāramitās so limitless and excessive that it would be quite possible to strike out more than half of these colossal works like the Śatasahasrika for the same sentences and phrases recur times without number. Thus, for instance, it is not only said in the introduction that out of the whole body of the Buddha rays of light break forth and an immeasurable effulgence is spread over the entire world; but it is repeated of his teeth, bones, of each member and particle of his body that rays of light issue from them to the east, the west and so on, and in the case of each cardinal point the entire description is repeated. It is not enough for these writers to say that “everything is only name,” but this everything is detailed to exhaustion in interminable series of sentences. It is conceivable that men should entertain the philosophical view that the world is not a reality and that all is negation and that man is unable to express any verdict on any question except in the shape of a negative, but that people should from this standpoint offer universal denial and write book after book and thousands of pages might appear impossible. But this impossibility is materialised in the Prajñāpāramitās. This extravagance for the sake of extravagance is explained by the supposition that the monks scribbled so much because it was with them a religious merit to transcribe as much as possible of these sacred books and to write out of them to the same extent. The same principal reiteration manifests itself in Buddhistic
The Vajracchedikā has been edited by Max Müller and translated by him in the Sacred Books of the East. For Stein Fragments in Khotan see Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 1903. It was translated into French by Harlez (Journal Asiatique 1891). The same scholar printed and translated the Manchu version (Wiener Zeitschrift fur die Kunde des Morgenlandes 1897). It was translated into Chinese about 401. In Japan the Vajracchedikā and the Prajñāpāramitāhdaya are the chief texts of the Shingon sects. In the Prajñāpāramitāhdaya metaphysics degenerate into magical formulæ. Fragments of the Vajracchedikā in a north Aryan translation and a Adhyardhaśatika Prajñāpāramitā in a Sanskrit recension with sections in the north Aryan have been made known to us from Central Asia by Leumann.
There are no doubt as many non-Buddhist readers who see in utterances like those of Ch. 13 profound sense as those who see nothing but nonsense in it. As a matter of fact it need not be either one or the other, but just that “middle doctrine” which proceeds in paradoxes in that it on one