Soon after taking charge of the Asiatic Society as its General Secretary, the veteran anti quarian Prof. Dr. Kalidas Nag hunted up as usual with him the old neglected files of the Society and Found out among heaps of old papers a few valuable treasures one of which was a typescript of a fragmentary text of the Saddbarmapundarika prepared by the Russian scholar ND. Mironov (= M.) He realised its great Importance and asked me to take up the responsibility of seeing it through the press. The fragments were mostly obtained from Sir Aurel Stein’s collection of Central Asian mss. and were so few that their publication would not have served any useful purpose unless one had before him a copy of the Bibliotheca Buddhica edition of the text of Kern and Nanjio (1904), but as this publication 21d been long out of print, the Society decided to publish the whole text (without the variant readings of the B.B. edition) along with M.s readings as the fragments. In the present text, the readings have been given in the corresponding places as footnotes marked by M. without any emendation.
In 1934 a romanised and revised edition of this text was published by the two dictinguished Sanskritists of Japan, Wogihara and Tsuchida. This edition was a great improvement upon the original and hence the present text has been based mainly on these two editions of the t, the differences being indicated in the footnotes by B. for the Bibliotheca Buddica text and by J. for the Japanese.
When this book was half printed, a microfilm copy of the Ms. of this text, discovered at Gilgit. came into my hands but as the Society was not prepared to delay its publication any longer, its readings could not be incorporated in the present edition, It is hoped that a supplement giving the new readings will be published in the near future.
The Society was good enough to engage Pandit Ramdhone Bhattacharya Asst. Editor, Sahitya Parisat Patrika, to assist me in publishing this text and I must thank him for revising the proofs.
The Saddbarmapundarikasutra is one of the most popular early texts of the Mahayanists. It was adored as a deity in pursuance of the directions given frequently in the text itself (vide e.g. p. 279). It formed the main scripture of a few Chinese and Japanese Buddhist sects, particularly the Tendai and Nichiren sects of Japan, and it is recited in all temples of the Zen (Dhyana) sect. Its great popularity is also evinced by the fact that its mss. So far discovered in Nepal, Central Asia and the neighbouring regions are the oldest and the largest in number.
The main object of the work is to establish that there is only one yana and that is Buddhayana and not the three yana known as Sravakayana, Pratyekabuddhayana and Bodhisattvayana. In explaining the reason why the three yanas came into vogue, Buddha said that the three yanas were merely his expedients (upaya-kausalya) for imparting training to beings having different mental capacities and inclinations on account of their past accumulated karma. Like the clouds showering rains uniformly on all vegetation, big or small, or very small, with or without a healthy growth, he preached his dharma to all beings without any discrimination, and it was due to the beings in different stages of mental development that the dharma was comprehended by them in diverse ways. Hence the Yana of Buddha’s teaching was actually one but it appeared as three to the various disciples.
As a corollary to the above contention that there was one Yana. Buddha said that the Hinayana arhats like Sariputra, Mahakayapa and others had not really attained Nirva but they had put an end their mental and physical impurities (klesas) and had reached a haven of rest and peace and that they were to exert further to attain the knowledge which would make them a Buddha, a Tathagata In the Mahayana philosophical terms, they had realised non-existence of individuality (pudgala-sunyata) by destroying the veil of impurities (klesavarana) and not the non-existence of the phenomenal world (dbarma-sunyata) by removing the veil (jneyavarana) that covered the Truth, the Reality and without which they could not be regarded as having visualised the Truth. Hence Bhagavan Sikyamuni prophesied that most of the distinguished Arhats, male and female, would, after many more existences, perhaps not in this earth, become ultimately Tathagatas. As regards the Bodhisattvas, there was not much difficulty; they were also foretold that they would ultimately become Buddhas. Of particular interest is the importance attached text to Avalokitesvara, Bhaisajyaraja and Samantabhadra Bodhisattvas.
The next point which the text touches is the immense merit that person would derive by reading. writing and propagating this Sutra.
A preacher or a reciter of this Sütra, called a Dharmabhanaka, has been extolled in an extraordinary degree, and the responsibility of care and protection of the Sutra and its reciters has been taken up by the bodhisattvas, gods, yakas and even ‘raksasis’. A large portion of the text is devoted to this topic evidently in order to rouse devotion for Buddha and this Sutra in the minds of the monks and laymen and this is also one of the reasons why copies of the ms. of this text are almost ubiquitous in Central Asia, Eastern Turkestan, Kashmir and Nepal.
In this treatise, more stress has been laid on devotion and worship than on meditational and other practices. To attain perfection, i.e. Buddhahood, all that is needed is the worship of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, The Arhats, who wanted to attain Buddhahood, were only to worship countless Buddhas and stupas in their future existences. The devotees are also enjoined to worship this Sutra and its reciters, and to erect stupas on spots sanctified by the presence of a Buddha or a Dharmabhanaka reciting this Sutra• Adoration of Buddhas, Avalokiteshvara and Samantabhadra Bodhisattvas as also of this Satra and Stupas seems to be the keynote of this treatise.
The text, being mainly devotional, avoids the philosophical aspects of the Teaching. The fantastic account of innumerable Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Buddhaksetras indicates vividly the belief that the universe is infinite. Without using the word ananta or asima, it states that the Buddhaksetras composing the universe exceed the number of sands in the Ganges. Each Buddhaksetra is presided over by one Buddha, as there cannot be two Buddhas in one Budhakestra or lokadhatu. Every Buddha has as his disciples innumerable Bodhisattvas, Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas. The Buddha of our earth, called Saha lokadhatu, is Sakyamuni. He has been presiding over this lokadhatu from time immemorial and will continue to do so for several kalpas. He has been training for ages the disciples who became his Arhats and Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas when he appeared in his created form as Gautama Buddha and will train them up again till they all become Buddhas. Sakyamuni’s length of life is unlimited. His previous life when he was a Bodhisattva is given in a semi-mythical form.
The philosophical truths, as expounded in all Mahayana texts, have been taken for granted in this treatise. There are statements such as that the phenomenal world (dharma) is unreal (sunyam); that all dharmas are fixed, unshakeable, immutable, non-transforming similar to akasa, unconstituted and beyond description (vide p.182); that the realisation of the non-existence of worldly objects leads to omniscience—the insight and knowledge of a Tathagata. The sum mum bonum, is Buddhahood and not nirvana, and for its attainment, it recommends acquisition of the six virtue. perfections (paramitas), the sixth being prajnaparatnita, which is identical with omniscience (sarvajanata). Along with the acquisition of the parimitas the Bodhisattvas must lead a very discreet and well-controlled life, practising amity (maitri) and forbearance (ksanti). They must avoid contact with worldly men like kings, nobles, ministers, heretical teachers or philosophers. mantra-reciters, women as also Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas. They must keep themselves mentally aloof from all householders, even when imparting religious instructions to them (vide p. x 8o- i 8 i). The Bodhisattvas could be both householders and recluses, but very likely the Bodhisattvas preaching the dharma were monks, for it is said (vide p.6) that there were Bodhisattvas who shaved their head, donned yellow robes, lived in open sky or in lonely forests and remained engaged in studies, or practised meditations in mountain-caves.
Another important characteristic of the work is that it retains many of the traditions found in the Pali texts including the names of monks like Gayakayapa, Nadikaayapa. Kapphina Vakkula and Cunda (tide p.137) along with those of Rahula, Mahapajapati Gotami, Yaodhara etc. Sariputra and a few other noted arhats appear as prominent figures.
The whole episode relating to Gautama Buddha’s hesitation in teaching the religious truths after the attainment of bodhi and two his decision to give an exposition of the four aryasatyas and the chain of causation (pratityasamutpada) appears almost verbatim in connection with the life of Mahabhijnajnanabhimukha Tathagata (ride chapter VII).
Lastly, we should refer to the appearance of the Prabhutaratna Tathagata in a jeweled stupa erected specially for the purpose and Sakyamuni sharing his throne with him, the emergence of countless Bodhisattvas from below the earth, and the many magical spells (dharanis) formulated for the protection of the preachers of this Sutra. Thought these make the text unrealistic, it must have produced good effect on the devotional minds. This also marks the sage of transition from a rational teaching to that of a devotional one and that again of the extreme teaching to that of a devotional one and transition from a rational teaching to that of a devotional one and that again of the extreme type. It is rather striking that a text like this created devotional fervour not only in India but also among the foreigners in Central Asia, China and Japan.
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