Buddhism: Mahayana: Main
Mahāyāna Buddhism: Main
This volume offers a solution to a problem that some have called the holy grail of Buddhist studies: the problem of the “origins” of Mahāyāna Buddhism. In a work that contributes both to a general theory of religion and power for religious studies as well as to the problem of the origin of a Buddhist movement, Walser argues that that it is the neglect of political and social power in the scholarly imagination of the history of Buddhism that has made the origins of Mahāyāna an intractable problem. Walser challenges commonly-held assumptions about Mahāyāna Buddhism, offering a fascinating new take on its genealogy that traces its doctrines of emptiness and mind-only from the present day back to the time before Mahāyāna was "Mahāyāna." In situating such concepts in their political and social contexts across diverse regimes of power in Tibet, China and India, the book shows that what was at stake in the Mahāyāna championing of the doctrine of emptiness was the articulation and dissemination of court authority across the rural landscapes of Asia. This text will be will be of interest to undergraduate and postgraduate students and scholars of Buddhism, religious studies, history and philosophy.
Bodhisattva of Compassion: The Mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin by John Blofeld. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2009.
She is the embodiment of selfless love, the supreme symbol of radical compassion, and, for more than a millennium throughout Asia, she has been revered as "The One Who Hearkens to the Cries of the World." Kuan Yin is both a Buddhist symbol and a beloved deity of Chinese folk religion. John Blofeld’s classic study traces the history of this most famous of all the bodhisattvas from her origins in India (as the male figure Avalokiteshvara) to Tibet, China, and beyond, along the way highlighting her close connection to other figures such as Tara and Amitabha. The account is full of charming stories of Blofeld’s encounters with Kuan Yin’s devotees during his journeys in China. The book also contains meditation and visualization techniques associated with the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and translations of poems and yogic texts devoted to her.
Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations by Paul Williams. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2008.
Originating in India, Mahayana Buddhism spread across Asia, becoming the prevalent form of Buddhism in Tibet and East Asia. Over the last twenty-five years Western interest in Mahayana has increased considerably, reflected both in the quantity of scholarly material produced and in the attraction of Westerners towards Tibetan Buddhism and Zen. Paul Williams’ Mahayana Buddhism is widely regarded as the standard introduction to the field, used internationally for teaching and research and has been translated into several European and Asian languages. This new edition has been fully revised throughout in the light of the wealth of new studies and focuses on the religion’s diversity and richness. It includes much more material on China and Japan, with appropriate reference to Nepal, and for students who wish to carry their study further there is a much-expanded bibliography and extensive footnotes and cross-referencing. Everyone studying this important tradition will find Williams’ book the ideal companion to their studies.
Text as Father: Paternal Seductions in Early Mahayana Buddhist Literature by Alan Cole. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005.
This beautifully written work sheds new light on the origins and nature of Mahayana Buddhism with close readings of four well-known texts―the Lotus Sutra, Diamond Sutra, Tathagatagarbha Sutra, and Vimalakirtinirdesa. Treating these sutras as literary works rather than as straightforward philosophic or doctrinal treatises, Alan Cole argues that these writings were carefully sculpted to undermine traditional monastic Buddhism and to gain legitimacy and authority for Mahayana Buddhism as it was veering away from Buddhism’s older oral and institutional forms. His sophisticated and sustained analysis of the narrative structures and seductive literary strategies used in these sutras suggests that they were specifically written to encourage devotion to the written word instead of other forms of authority, be they human, institutional, or iconic.
The great Buddhist scholars Santaraksita (725-788 CE) and his disciple Kamalasila were among the most influential thinkers in classical India. They debated ideas not only within the Buddhist tradition but also with exegetes of other Indian religions, and they both traveled to Tibet during Buddhism's infancy there. Their views, however, have been notoriously hard to classify. The present volume examines Santaraksita's Tattvasamgraha and Kamalasila's extensive commentary on it, works that cover all conceivable problems in Buddhist thought and portray Buddhism as a supremely rational faith. One hotly debated topic of their time was omniscience - whether it is possible and whether a rational person may justifiably claim it as a quality of the Buddha. Santaraksita and Kamalasila affirm both claims, but in their argumentation they employ divergent rhetorical strategies in different passages, advancing what appear to be contradictory positions.
The Ornament of the Middle Way: A Study of the Madhyamaka Thought of Santaraksita by James Blumenthal. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 2004.
Shantarakshita's The Ornament of the Middle Way is among the most important Mahayana Buddhist philosophical treatises to emerge on the Indian subcontinent. In many respects, it represents the culmination of more than 1300 years of philosophical dialogue and inquiry since the time of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. Shantarakshita set forth the foundation of a syncretic approach to contemporary ideas by synthesizing the three major trends in Indian Buddhist thought at the time into one consistent and coherent system. Shantarakshita's text is considered to be the quintessential exposition or root text of the school of Buddhist philosophical thought known in Tibet as Yogachara-Svatantrika-Madhyamaka. In addition to examining his ideas in their Indian context, this study examines the way Shantarakshita's ideas have been understood by and have been an influence on Tibetan Buddhist traditions. Specifically, Blumenthal examines the way scholars from the Geluk School of Tibetan Buddhism have interpreted, represented, and incorporated Santaraksita's ideas into their own philosophical project.
The Center of the Sunlit Sky: Madhyamaka in the Kagyü Tradition by Karl Brunnhölzl. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 2004.
Madhyamaka is a potent and universally accessible means of calming our suffering and awakening to our innate wisdom. The Center of the Sunlit Sky artfully rescues this brilliant teaching from its unwarranted reputation for intellectual opacity and reinstates it as a supremely practical tool kit for everyday living. The aim of this book is to take Madhyamaka out of the purely intellectual corner into which it unjustly gets boxed. It is an attempt to show how Madhayamaka actually addresses and works with all of our experiences in life. The book follows the original Indian sources as well as the standard commentaries on Madhyamaka in the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism. At the same time, these materials are adapted for a contemporary audience, combining the familiar sharpness of Madhyamaka reasonings (launching a massive assault on our cherished belief systems) with exploring the practical relevance of the Madhyamaka way of mind training.
The Emptiness of Emptiness: An Introduction to Early Indian Madhyamika by C.W. Huntington & Geshe N. Wangchen. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1989.
This work presents the first English translation of the complete text of the Madhyamakāvatāra (Entry into the Middle Way), a sixth century Sanskrit Buddhist composition that was widely studied in Tibet and, presumably, in its native India as well. In his lengthy introduction to the translation, Huntington offers a judiciously crafted, highly original discussion of the central philosophy of Mahāyāna Buddhism. He lays out the principal ideas of emptiness and dependent origination not as abstract philosophical concepts, but rather as powerful tools for restructuring the nature of human experience at the most fundamental level. Drawing on a variety of Indian and Western sources, both ancient and modern, Huntington gradually leads the reader toward an understanding of how it is that sophisticated philosophical thinking can serve as a means for breaking down attachment to any idea, opinion or belief. All of this on the Buddhist premise that habitual, unreflective identification with ideas, opinions, or beliefs compromises our appreciation of the ungraspable miracle that lies at the heart of everyday, conventional reality. The author shows how the spiritual path of the bodhisattva works to transform the individual personality from a knot of clinging into a vehicle for the expression of profound wisdom (prajñā) and unconditional love (karuṇā).
Buddhist philosophy is fundamentally ambivalent toward language. Language is paradoxically seen as both obstructive and necessary for liberation. In this book, Roy Tzohar delves into the ingenious response to this tension from the Yogacara school of Indian Buddhism: that all language-use is metaphorical. Exploring the profound implications of this claim, Tzohar makes the case for viewing the Yogacara account as a full-fledged theory of meaning, one that is not merely linguistic, but also applicable both in the world as well as in texts. Despite the overwhelming visibility of figurative language in Buddhist philosophical texts, this is the first sustained and systematic attempt to present an indigenous Buddhist theory of metaphor. By grounding the Yogacara pan-metaphorical claim in a broader intellectual context, of both Buddhist and non-Buddhist schools, the book uncovers an intense philosophical conversation about metaphor and language that reaches across sectarian lines. Tzohar's analysis radically reframes the Yogacara controversy with the Madhyamaka school of philosophy, sheds light on the Yogacara application of particular metaphors, and explicates the school's unique understanding of experience.
Transforming Consciousness: Yogacara Thought in Modern China, edited by John Makeham. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.
Yogacara is one of the most influential philosophical systems of Indian Buddhism. Competing traditions of Yogacara thought were first introduced into China during the sixth century. By the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368), however, key commentaries of this school had ceased being transmitted in China, and it was not until the end of the nineteenth century that a number of them were re-introduced from Japan where their transmission had been uninterrupted. Within a few short years Yogacara was being touted as a rival to the New Learning from the West, boasting not only organized, systematized thought and concepts, but also a superior means to establish verification. This book accomplishes three goals. The first is to explain why this Indian philosophical system proved to be so attractive to influential Chinese intellectuals at a particular moment in history. The second is to demonstrate how the revival of Yogacara thought informed Chinese responses to the challenges of modernity, in particular modern science and logic. The third goal is to highlight how Yogacara thought shaped a major current in modern Chinese philosophy: New Confucianism. Transforming Consciousness illustrates that an adequate understanding of New Confucian philosophy must include a proper grasp of Yogacara thought.
Living Yogacara: An Introduction to Consciousness-Only Buddhism by Tagawa Shun'ei, translated by Charles Muller. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2009.
Yogacara is an influential school of Buddhist philosophy and psychology that stems from the early Indian Mahayana Buddhist tradition. The Yogacara view is based on the fundamental truth that there is nothing in the realm of human experience that is not interpreted by and dependent upon the mind. Yogacara Buddhism was unable to sustain the same level of popularity as other Buddhist schools in India, Tibet, and East Asia, but its teachings on the nature of consciousness profoundly impacted the successive developments of Buddhism. Yogacara served as the basis for the development of the doctrines of karma and liberation in many other schools. In this refreshingly accessible study, Tagawa Shun'ei makes sense of Yogacara's subtleties and complexities with insight and clarity. He shows us that Yogacara masters comprehend and express everyday experiences that we all take for granted, yet struggle to explain. Eloquent and approachable, this book deepens the reader's understanding of the development of Buddhism's interpretation of the human psyche.
Contexts and Dialogue: Yogacara Buddhism and Modern Psychology on the Subliminal Mind by Tao Jiang. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2006.
Are there Buddhist conceptions of the unconscious? If so, are they more Freudian, Jungian, or something else? If not, can Buddhist conceptions be reconciled with the Freudian, Jungian, or other models? These are some of the questions that have motivated modern scholarship to approach ālayavijñāna, the storehouse consciousness, formulated in Yogācāra Buddhism as a subliminal reservoir of tendencies, habits, and future possibilities. Tao Jiang argues convincingly that such questions are inherently problematic because they frame their interpretations of the Buddhist notion largely in terms of responses to modern psychology. He proposes that, if we are to understand ālayavijñāna properly and compare it with the unconscious responsibly, we need to change the way the questions are posed so that ālayavijñāna and the unconscious can first be understood within their own contexts and then recontextualized within a dialogical setting. In so doing, certain paradigmatic assumptions embedded in the original frameworks of Buddhist and modern psychological theories are exposed. Jiang brings together Xuan Zang’s ālayavijñāna and Freud’s and Jung’s unconscious to focus on what the differences are in the thematic concerns of the three theories.