Friday, September 19, 2014

Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra

The Lankavatara Sutra
Self Realisation of Noble Wisdom

Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra

Sūtra doctrine

The Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra draws upon the concepts and doctrines of Yogācāra and Tathāgatagarbha.[1]

The most important doctrine issuing from the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra is that of the primacy of consciousness (Skt. vijñāna
and the teaching of consciousness as the only reality. 

In the sūtra, the Buddha asserts that all the objects of the world, and the names and forms of experience, are merely manifestations of the mind:

On the contrary my teaching is based upon the recognition that the objective world,
like a vision, is a manifestation of the mind itself; 
it teaches the cessation of ignorance, desire, deed and causality; 
it teaches the cessation of suffering that arises from the discrimination of the triple world.[2]
Because the world is seen as being "mind-only" or "consciousness-only", all phenomena are void, empty of self (atman) and illusory:

There are four things by the fulfilling of which an earnest disciple may gain self-realisation of Noble Wisdom and become a Bodhisattva-Mahasattva: 

First, he must have a clear understanding that all things are only manifestations of the mind itself; second, he must discard the notion of birth, abiding and disappearance; 
third, he must clearly understand the egolessness of both things and persons...

As to the first; he must recognise and be fully convinced that this triple world is nothing but a complex manifestation of one's mental activities; that it is devoid of selfness and its belongings; that there are no strivings, no comings, no goings. 

He must recognise and accept the fact that this triple world is manifested and imagined as real only under the influence of habit-energy that has been accumulated since the beginningless past by reason of memory, false-imagination, false-reasoning, and attachments to the multiplicities of objects and reactions in close relationship and in conformity to ideas of body-property-and-abode.

As to the second; he must recognise and be convinced that all things are to be regarded as forms seen in a vision and a dream, empty of substance, un-born and without self-nature; that all things exist only by reason of a complicated network of causation...

As to the third; he must recognise and patiently accept the fact that his own mind and personality is also mind-constructed, that it is empty of substance, unborn and egoless.[3]:110–111

The Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra describes the various tiers of consciousness in the individual, culminating in the tathagatagarbha (womb of the Buddhas) or "storehouse consciousness" (Skt. Ālayavijñāna), which is the base of the individual's deepest awareness and his tie to the cosmic.

In the sutras the Bhagavan (aka Buddha) says that the tathagatha-garbha (womb of the Buddhas) is intrinsically pure, endowed with thirty-two attributes and present in the bodies of all beings, and that, like a precious jewel wrapped in soiled clothing, the ever-present unchanging tathagatha-garbha is likewise wrapped in the soiled clothing of the skandhas, dhatus and ayantas and stained with the stains of erroneous projections of greed, anger and delusion.[4]

However, the Buddha makes clear that the tathagatagarbha is not a self (atman) and is empty of self nature. He states that it is merely a useful means (upaya) of teaching the dharma to others:

The reason why the 'Tathagatas' who are Arhats and fully enlightened Ones teach the doctrine pointing to the tathagatagarbha which is a state of non-discrimination and image-less, is to make the ignorant cast aside their fear when they listen to teaching of egolessness. 

It is like a potter who manufactures various vessels out of a mass of clay of one sort by his own manual skill and labor ... that the 'Tathagatas' preach the egolessness of things which removes all the traces of discrimination by various skillful means issuing from their trancendental wisdom, that is, sometimes by the doctrine of the 'tathagatagarbha' , sometimes by that of egolessness ... 

Thus, 'Mahamati', the doctrine of the 'tathagatagarbha' is disclosed in order to awaken the philosophers from their clinging to the idea of the ego. 

Accordingly, 'Mahamati', the 'Tathagatas' disclose the doctrine of the 'tathagatagarbha' which is thus not to be known as identical with the philosopher's notion of an ego-substance. 
Therefore , 'Mahamati', in order to abandon the misconception cherished by the philosophers, you must depend on the 'anatman-tathagatagarbha'.[5]

The 'tathagatagarbha' doctrine has been interpreted as an expression of the doctrines of dependent origination and emptiness
While seemingly monistic in nature, describing the 'tathagatagarbha' as eternal (nitya) and immutable ('atman'), this doctrine is ultimately based on emptiness. 

According to Japanese scholar Yamaguchi Susumu, the most important point in the 'tathagatagarbha' literature is that "the 'pratitysamutpada' is the 'tathagatagarbha'."[6] 

Likewise, Ichijo Ogawa, argues that 'tathatagatagarbha' is basically equivalent to emptiness and the nature of the mind which allows it to understand emptiness. 

This interpretation is based on a passage from the Ratnagotravibhaga which states that "all sentient beings are possessed of the 'tathagatagarbha'".[7]

History and editions

According to one scholar, "it is generally believed that the sutra was compiled during 350-400 CE," although "many who have studied the sutra are of opinion that the introductory chapter and the last two chapters were added to the book at a later period."[8] 

A number of ancient translations of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra were made from Sanskrit into the Chinese language, as early as the 3rd century CE with a translation by the Indian monk Dharmarakṣa.[9] 
Of these, only three are now extant.

The first extant Chinese translation is Taisho Tripitaka 670 (楞伽阿跋多羅寶經). 
This is the earliest edition which was translated by Guṇabhadra in 443 CE, and divided into four fascicles.[10] 
This edition by Guṇabhadra is said to be the one handed down from the founder of Chinese Zen, Bodhidharma, to the Second Patriarch, Huike, saying:[11][12]

I have here the Laṅkāvatāra in four fascicles which I now pass to you. It contains the essential teaching concerning the mind-ground of the Tathagata, by means of which you lead all sentient beings to the truth of Buddhism.

The second extant Chinese translation is Taisho Tripitaka 671 (入楞伽經). 
This second edition was translated by Bodhiruci in 513 CE,[13] and divided into ten fascicles.[14] This edition is criticized in the imperial preface to the later translation, which says that it contains extra words and sentences mixed in that detract from the original meaning.[15]

The third extant Chinese translation is Taisho Tripitaka 672 (大乘入楞伽經). 
This third edition was translated by Śikṣānanda in 700-704 CE, and divided into seven fascicles.[16] This final translation was made at the behest of Empress Wu Zetian, after Śikṣānanda had completed his 80-fascicle translation of the Avataṃsaka Sūtra.[17] 

This translation is said to have employed five separate Sanskrit editions for accuracy.[18] 
Before the final edits to this version had been made, Śikṣānanda returned to India, and another Indian monk came to China who had studied the Buddhist sutras for 25 years in India, and who knew the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra. 
He was then given the task of revising the translation made by Śikṣānanda.[19]

In addition to these Chinese translations, an extant Sanskrit edition of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra is available, as well as a Tibetan edition.[20]

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