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Download e-book for kindle: Buddhist hermeneutics by Donald S. Lopez

By Donald S. Lopez

ISBN-10: 8120808401

ISBN-13: 9788120808409

Essays from a convention on Buddhist hermeneutics held on the Kuroda Institute for the learn of Buddhism and Human Values in l. a., 1984

Given its big literature and its perform of training what's applicable for a specific disciple, the Buddhist culture has lengthy needed to combat with the query of which of his many scriptures represented the Buddha's maximum view. in keeping with that challenge, Buddhist commentators built subtle structures of interpretation, Buddhist hermeneutics. the current quantity of essays via best western Buddhologists surveys the wealthy number of recommendations hired via Buddhist thinkers of India, Tibet, China, and Japan to interpret their sacred texts.

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Indian Histori­ cal Quarterly 6 (1930) 389-396, P Pelliot, in Toung Pao (1932) 147, P C Bagchi, “ Some Aspects of Buddhist Mysticism m the Garyapadas/ ' Calcutta Oriental Series 1 ,no 5 (1934),J R Ware, Journal of the American Oriental Society 57 123, F Edgerton, Journal of the American Oriental Society 57 185- 188, L de la Valiee Poussin, ^Buddhica/9HarvardJournal ofAsian Studies 3 137-139 Textual Interpretation in Buddhism 27 41 Dtpavamsa V 30-35 42 BodhtsattvabhUmi,108 artham prcdisaran bodhisattvo na vyanjanam buddhdndm bhagavatdm sarvasamdhdyavacanany anupramsati 43 Bodkisattvabhumi, 257 bodhisattvas taihagaie mvistasraddho mvistaprasada ekdntiko vacasy abhzprasannas iathdgatanitdriham suiram pratisarati na neyartham nitartham sutram pratisarann asamhdryo bhavaty asmdd dharmamnayat tathd hi neydrthasya sutrasya ndndmukhaprakrtdrthavtbhago 3mscttah samdehakaro bhavati sacet punar bodhuattvah mtdrthe 3pt sutre 3natkdntikah sydd evam asau samharyah syad asmdd dharmavinaydt 44 On the contrast between desandnaya and siddhantanaya^ see Lankdvatara, 148s 172, etc 45 C f Mahavyutpatti, nos 1666-1675, Suirdlamkara, 82-84, La Somme du Grand Vehtcule^ 2 129-132 46 Bodhisattvabhumx> 257 Punar bodhzsattvoh adhigamajndne sdradarsT bhavati na srutacintadharmdHhavijndnamdtrake sa yad bhdvandmayena jndnena jndtavyam na tac chakyam srutacintdjndrmmdtrakena vijndtum tit vtditvd paramagambhirdn apt tathagatabhdsitdn dharrndn srutvd napratiksipati ndpavadati 47 L de la Vallee Poussin, La Morale bouddhique (Pans, 1927),302 48 J C Jennings, The Vedantic Buddhism of the Buddha (Oxford, 1947) The Gradual Path as a Hermeneutical Approach to the Dhamma G eorge D B ond Theravada Buddhism, from an early period, placed the Tipitaka at the center of the tradition, regarding it as “ the word of the Buddha” (buddha-vacanam) and even as the dharmakaya 1 W ith the Tipitaka occupying the central place, hermeneutical questions concerning the interpreta­ tion of the canon took on great importance for Theravada, and as a result,many of the distinctive doctrines and ideas o f Theravada devel­ oped m the commentaries and subcommentaries to the Tipitaka A s I have noted elsewhere, 2 the commentanal writings represented Therav£da’s second and final solution to the problem of how to interpret and understand the Tipitaka Theravada^s first solution to the problem of interpretation is found, however, m two postcanomcal texts, the Netti Pakarana and the Petakopadesa These two works set forth an approach to the interpretation of the Tipitaka,a hermeneutical method and view­ point that shaped Theravada’s thinking on these matters and pro­ foundly influenced the commentanal tradition Traditionally attributed to Mahakaccana, both the Netti and the Petakopadesa represent complex, highly technical manuals of interpretation Although these two works are not identical, they present the same views and the same method of interpretation 3 Both the Netti and the Petakopadesa develop the notion of the gradual path to nibbdna and employ it as a hermeneutical strategy for explaining the dhamma Although the notion o f a gradual path became common m later Buddhism, both m Theravada and Mahayana, and came to repre­ sent the hallmark of the Theravada tradition through works such as the Visuddhimagga, the idea does not seem to have been explicitly worked out m Theravada texts prior to the Netti and Petakopadesa H ow then did these texts come to state it so forcefully and in such detail?

W e shall begin by considering this second question for it will enable us to see both the significance and the mean* mg o f the hermeneutical strategy of these texts In his recent book , Selfless Persons, Steven Collins has endorsed the notion that Theravada texts should be understood against the backdrop of their context H e writes, “ TTherav吞 da thinking has arisen from the historical and cultural context, ” and it embodies certain “ constructions and hypotheses which are addressed to quite specific (and socially derived) concerns ’ ’ 4 The texts can be understood, he argues, in Durkheim’s sense as “ social facts’ ’ 5 Collins’ views regarding the rela­ tion between Theravada texts and their contexts bear out the opinions of other scholars on the question of the relation between a text and its context Without digressing too far into this broader subject, we can summanze this research by saying that context seems to function on at least two levels to shape the process of text production and interpretation in a cumulative religious tradition First, contexts generate texts This truth has been long accepted in Biblical studies where it represents the basis for form criticism and other approaches to understanding the text Other scholars such as M ary Douglas have also shown that the beliefs and values that constitute a person or group’s cosmology both are shaped by and reciprocally reshape the context 6 A social context establishes a cost structure and a pattern of rewards and punishments, it permits or requires certain value systems and interpretations of the meaning of existence and, at the same time, it renders implausible other values and interpretations By its constraining influence upon belief, each context generates a particular cultural or cosmological bias, “ a col­ lective moral consciousness about man and his place m the universe ” 7 Since texts represent “ frozen cosmologies, ’ ’ we can see that texts also arise subject to the constraints of a context and represent that context The second point to note is that just as the context permits certain cosmologies as plausible and prevents others as implausible, so the con­ text also permits certain interpretations of texts and prevents others As W Cantwell Smith has shown, religious texts, as part of the cumulative tradition that comes down from the past, confront the individual of faith, but the individual has to interpret the text in a way that gives it meaning and plausibility in his context 8 The context strongly influ­ ences the decisions people make about how to understand a text—- which ideas should a people take up and emphasize, and which ideas should they leave aside?

41 The third refuge prescribes taking as one’s guide the meaning and not the letter, nitdrtha and not neydrtha sutras “ The bodhisattva who resorts to the meaning and not to the letter penetrates all the enigmatic words oi the Bhagavat Buddhas’ ’ 42 “ The bodhisattva who has put his faith and confidence m the 丁athagata, trusting his word exclusively, resorts to the sutra the meaning of which is precise, he cannot deviate from the Buddhist doctrine and discipline Indeed, m the sutra the meaning of which has to be determined, the interpretation of the mean­ ing which is diffused in several directions is uncertain and causes hesita­ tion and, if the bodhisattva does not adhere exclusively to the sutra which is precise in meaning, he might deviate from the Buddhist doc­ trine and discipline ” 43 However, when the interpreter is certain o f having grasped the mean­ ing thanks to the nitdrtha sutras, it will profit him greatly to ponder over Textual Interpretation in Buddhism 21 the enigmatic words o f the Buddha which are also an integral part o f the saddharma and constitute a method o f teaching (desandnaya) controlled by skillful means, but the end and aim (svasiddhdnta) o f which consist of a personal comprehension (adhigama) of the undefiled element (andsravadhdtu) which is superior to phrases and syllables 44 In order to make use o f this method o f teaching and to understand the enigmatic words, it is important to discover the point of view which inspired the Buddha T h e Treatise by Nagarjuna (I 2 6 -4 6 ) lists four points o f view (siddhantd), only the last o f which is absolute (paramdrthikaX the other three pertain to relative or conventional ( samvrti) truth The Buddha did not restrict him self to exactness o f wording when expressing himself ( 1 ) From the worldly point o f view (laukikasiddhdnta)} he often adopted the current idiom and did not hesitate to speak in terms o f bemgs (sattva) who die and go to be reborn m the five destinies (e g Dtgha I 8 2 ),he extolled the role o f the single person (ekapudgala) who is born into the world for the joy, happiness and benefit o f the many {Anguttara I 22) (2) From the personal point o f view (pratipaurusikasiddhdnta), the Buddha often tried to adapt his teaching to the intellectual and moral disposi­ tions (asaya) o f his listeners To those who did not believe in the afterlife but believed everything disappears at death, he discoursed on im mor­ tality and predicted a fruition m different universes (Anguttara I 134), to Phalguna, who believed m the eternity o f the self, he taught the nonex­ istence o f a person as a thinking and fruition-mcurnng being {Samyutta II 13) This might be said to be a contradiction, it is, however, not the least so but merely skillful means ( upaya) (3) From the remedial point of view (pratipaksikasiddhdnia), the Buddha who is the healer o f universal suffering varied the remedies according to the diseases to be cured, to the sensuous ( ragacariia), he taught the contemplation of a decomposing corpse {asubhabhdvand)y to vindictive and hate-filled men ( dvesacartta)3 he recommended thoughts of goodwill (maitricitta) regarding those close to one, to the deluded ( mohacanta)} he advised study on the subject o f dependent origination (pratityasamutpada) W e should never forget that the omniscient Buddha is less a teacher o f philosophy and more a healer o f universal suffering he imparts to every person the teaching which suits them best Scholars have attempted to classify the intentions and motivations which guided the Buddha m his teaching 45 They c o u n te ii_B S 丨 tions (abhipraya, T ib dgongs pa, Ch i ch3u) and four samdhi, T ib Idem por dgongs pa, C h pi mi) However.

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Buddhist hermeneutics by Donald S. Lopez


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