RE: Paramartha NAGARJUNA
Oct 09, 2005 07:12 AM
by W.Dallas TenBroeck
10/9/2005 5:52 AM
Many thanks Gerry:
This is very helpful indeed.
But could you add anything about this question?
"What is the connection between Paramartha and Nagarjuna if any ? "
From: Gerald Schueler [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Saturday, October 08, 2005 7:26 PM
To: Theosophy Study List
Subject: RE: Paramartha
DTB Dear Gerry:
Could you look this over and tell me (apart from some journalese writing)
if it is historically and Buddhistically correct?
What is the connection between Paramartha and Nagarjuna if any ?
[Dallas, DTB quotes from information received:
DTB Chinese Buddhism. The monk from India was known as Master CHEN TI
which means "True Essence" in Chinese. PARAMARTHA, KUMARAJIVA, HSUAN TSANG,
and YI CHING are referred to as the four major translators of the Chinese
Buddhist sutras. However, PARAMARTHA endured the most hardships because
China was infested with civil wars when he arrived in the year 546 a.d.
GS This could be, I do not know.
DTB About 300 years after the Buddha passed away, the Buddhist
split into two groups. The older, more conservative monks were referred to
as the THERAVADA, which later became HINAYANA, and the younger monks were
called MAHASANGHIKA, which later became MAHAYANA. One reason for this
division stemmed from divided explanations of the monastic rules. The
Theravada monks felt that the rules were set down by the Buddha and should
not be changed at all, but the Mahasanghika monks felt that the rules
should be altered according to circumstances of time and place.
Later, the Hinayana Buddhists attacked the Mahayana Buddhists as evil and
non-Buddhist, while the Mahayana Buddhists criticized the Hinayana Buddhists
GS The term Hinayana means "small path" as opposed to Mahayana or
path." Needless to say, both of these names come from Mahayana Buddhism.
There are fundamental differences in the teachings of these two groups,
much more than just monastic rules.
DTB PARAMARTHA accordingly traveled to Dantapuri Temple.
Master BUDDHAPALITA was a follower of the Middle Observation
sect (??), a Mahayana sect that talks about the idea of "the interdependent
arising of conditions and the void of fixed nature." When he saw
he asked him why he had come.
Paramartha replied that he was there to learn more about the Mahayana sect
and see if it was in accord with the Buddha's doctrines.
NAGARJUNA (c. 150-250 CE).
GS The creation of MADHYAMAKA MAHAYANA, or Middle Way school of
Mahayana Buddhism, as a group distinct from the Hinayana was begun by
(c. 150-250 CE).
He is said to have lived with the Nagas, a name that means snake or serpent,
where he learned the Mahayana teachings. It is not clear if the Nagas were
physical or astral. He returned to the human world with a book, the 100,000
verses of the PRAJNAPARAMITA, said to contain the inner teachings of
BUDDHAPALITA (fourth century CE),
And he later wrote several texts outlining the teachings that he had learned
from the Nagas. One of his famous pupils was
BUDDHAPALITA (fourth century CE), who founded what is called the
Prasangika-Madhyamaka school of Mahayana Buddhism. This is the same school
that his student CANDRAKIRTI (seventh century CE) outlined in his writings,
and these two formed the basis for the teachings of Tzongkhapa many years
ASANGHA -- VASUBANDU
After NAGARJUNA, a Master named ASANGA, together with his brother
VASUBANDU, formed the Mind Only school largely because Asaaga considered
the writings of Nagarjuna to be too nihilistic. These two, the Mind Only
and the Middle Way, are the two chief divisions of the Mahayana. But each
of these is also internally divided.
PRAJNA -- BUDDHAHOOD
DTB Buddhapalita sighed. "The dissension between Hinayana and Mahayana
Buddhists has been going on for centuries! Hinayana Buddhists accuse us of
being evil and not in accordance with the Buddha's lectures. However, they
realize that Manjusri and Maitreya Bodhisattvas took the venerable Ananda
(??) to a place to compile the sutras, which were later discovered by
NAGARJUNA (??), who spent his life promoting the sutras and doctrines that
we are able to read today." In other words, Mahayana sutras were in
accordance with the Buddha's lectures because they were compiled by
MANJUSRI Bodhisattva (????), MAITREYA Bodhisattva (????), and ANANDA,
one of the Buddha's top disciples who recited the Buddha's lectures from
The old monk continued by saying that the Buddha had described in the
how he had attained enlightenment and how he had carried out the Path of
Bodhisattvas by taking action to help the needy.
In a word, he used PRAJNA (ultimate wisdom ??) to guide himself through
all difficulties to attain buddhahood. Therefore, anyone who vows to seek
prajna and who follows the Buddha's path will one day attain buddhahood as
GS Prajna and paramita together mean the wisdom of the paramitas, those
paramitas the HPB describes in the [Voice of the] Silence. These paramitas
described in terms of the Bodhisattva levels, by Candrakirit in his
DTB Buddhapalita concluded that using prajna in spiritual cultivation
right path. He also stressed the importance of walking on the Path of the
Bodhisattvas--spiritual cultivators should act like the bodhisattvas and
help redeem all people from their misery and suffering. This was the
essence of Mahayana Buddhism. "Those who are only concerned about their own
spiritual cultivation and mental emancipation are seen as following
Hinayana Buddhism," explained Buddhapalita. >>
DTB Everyone who follows the same path could also become buddhas!
suddenly became interested in Mahayana Buddhism and asked Buddhapalita, "Am
I allowed to read any of these Mahayana sutras?" >>
GS The path of the Bodhisattva has ten or more distinct levels, or what
called Grounds, and the last Ground is that of full Buddhahood.
DTB Buddhapalita replied kindly, "The Mahayana always tries to help all
living beings, so we are certainly more than happy to help a Hinayana
like you." Buddhapalita took out the Lotus Sutra and said to him, "You can
with this one to understand Mahayana better."
GS The Lotus is a nice sutra, and one that I read in my early twenties.
DTB After studying there for a few months, Paramartha went to study
ATHIVAMATI (??) in NALANDA Temple (????).
GS I am not familiar with Athivamati, but the NALANDA Temple is very
and was the home of many of the ancient Masters.
DTB Athivamati was a follower of another Mahayana sect called
Consciousness-Only (or VIJNAPTI-MATRATA ??).
GS This is the Mind Only school of Asanga and is usually given as
DTB NALANDA Temple had lectures every day that helped Paramartha become
knowledgeable in the doctrines of this school. According to the
Consciousness-Only sect, the consciousness in our minds changes in
accordance with thoughts of purity and defilement. When our consciousness
corresponds to ignorance (the inability to perceive the meaning of
void--impermanence, no fixed nature), it causes the defiled cycle of life
and death; when our consciousness corresponds to prajna (ultimate wisdom),
it then leads to the pure emancipation of nirvana. Scholars of the
Consciousness-Only sect believe that the causes of purity and defilement in
the mind are all based on consciousness. This is quite different from the
common Buddhist thought that defilement arises in the mind because of
consciousness while purity arises from the profound realization of the
meaning of void.
GS There is no real difference as implied in the last sentence. The
realization of emptiness of the Middle Way, and the purified skandhas of
the Mind Only are not all that different. In fact, it is our realization of
emptiness that purifies the skandhas.
DTB Scholars of this school of thought believe that there are eight
kinds of consciousness in the mind and that the eighth one--ALAYA
consciousness--is the most important since it contains all the seeds of
kindness and unkindness in the mind. They point out that the seeds of
defiled unkindness are created by the bad habits that keep germinating and
being produced in our alaya consciousness from eons ago. These defiled
seeds lead to wrongful behavior that also increases the number of "bad
the mind. Consequently, they trap a person in the cycle of reincarnation
through life after life.
GS Agreed. I have talked about this in my posts, and have outlined the
consciousnesses of the Mind Only school. Tsongkhapa considered the
alaya-consciousness or ALAYAVIJNANA to be an unnecessary reification, but
agreed with the other seven. The alayavijnana is the storehouse for karmic
seeds from one life to the next. HPB gives this function to buddhi.
DTB On the other hand, the good seeds of kindness existing in the alaya
consciousness spark a person's practice of the precepts, meditation, and
wisdom that may eventually lead to a person's enlightenment and the
attainment of buddhahood. However, some people would argue over the
possibility of the existence of perfect seeds that lead to buddhahood in
the imperfect alaya consciousness. In other words, how could something as
as the idea of attaining buddhahood originate from a person's deluded or
GS The idea of enlightenment and / or liberation as a karmic end of a
through the accumulation of merit, is an established Buddhist teaching,
accepted by all schools, and one that HPB also adopts.
DTB While there, PARAMARTHA was finally able to translate one of the
important commentaries, MAHAYANA-SRADDHOTPADA-SASTRA (??). This
commentary, written by ASVAGHOSA, mainly discusses how the mind alone
creates everything and how everything seen is just a reflection of the
mind. It is one of the most important introductions to the Mind-Only
GS I first read Asvaghosa in my early twenties, and I believe that I
have his book in my library.
Interesting history, which is likely true. China and Japan both finally did
adopt the Mind Only teachings called CHAN or ZEN.
GS I enjoyed reading the post. For my part, I kind of prefer the
Middle Way of NAGARJUNA, CANDRAKIRTI, and TSONGKHAPA,
but I still enjoy reading the Mind Only texts and I personally like the
sudden path as opposed to the gradual, but this is just a personal choice
of mine. HPB apparently borrowed from both schools.
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