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Mind Only: A Philosophical and Doctrinal Analysis of the Vijnanavada.

In his introduction the author summarizes the contents of his book: "The texts of the Vijnanavada which I discuss in some detail are the first chapter of the Madhyanta-vibhaga |MV~, the Trimsika |Trims.~, the Tri-svabhava-nirdesa |TSN~, the Vimsatika |Vims.~, the Cheng wei shilun |CWSL~, the Samtanantara-siddhi |SS~, the Samtanantara-dusana |SD~ and the Tattva-samgraha-(panjika) |TS(P)~. My own translations of the MV, TSN, Trimsika and Vimsatika appear in chapters 1, 2, 3 and 5, respectively. Comprehensive synopses of the Samtanantara-siddhi and of the Samtanantara-dusana are given in the Appendixes."

The author has formal training in philosophy and has also studied Sanskrit, which seems to be an ideal combination for treating Indian philosophy. As the reviewer understands the author's approach, when Sanskrit is available he puts it side-to-side with available English translations and then makes up his own version of translation. In the case where the text was only available in Tibetan (the SS, above), as the author himself admits, "In giving the gist of sutras 17-20, I have followed Stcherbatsky's translation a little more closely than Kitagawa's." Somehow the author has put together an excellent bibliography and he seems to know the relevant literature of Sanskrit texts and English-language sources. He seems to have admirable industry and sober judgment. And yet he appears brave to come to many conclusions about a literature which is extensive in Asian languages, difficult to translate properly, and has numerous apparent contradictions.

On pp. 28-29 he throws down a severe challenge to the Mahayanists. He rightly points out that the Buddha announced his doctrine of dependent origination (pratitya-samutpada) as a mean between two extremes of 'everything exists' and 'nothing exists'. And that the Mahayanists (n.b., as the author Wood understands them) in one way or another deny this mean by stressing one of the extremes. Since his book is mainly on the Vijnanavada he attempts to show this by this wing of the Mahayana. Thus, on p. 16, about the MV, he says: "It holds that everything is mind only, and that the appearance of external objects is just an illusory appearance of the mind." And the author claims that the MV by so teaching in fact departs from the teaching of Gautama Buddha. Nevertheless, his bibliography lists two works, namely, those by S. Anacker and by Thomas Kochumuttom, both independently translating works by the celebrated writer of Vijnanavada, Vasubandhu, several of whose works are also translated by Wood; and both these authors conclude that Vasubandhu does not deny the reality or existence of external objects. Yet nowhere in his text or notes does Wood mention these two books. Worse, his bibliography lists an article by Ueda(1) which claims that the commentator Dharmapala, whose views are in the work treated by Wood |as CWSL~, and which was put into Chinese by Hsuan tsang in the T'ang dynasty, has misrepresented Vasubandhu; while the earlier tradition in China due to Paramartha is consistent with Sthiramati's commentary on Vasubandhu's Trimsika, and that both Paramartha and Sthiramati are consistent with Vasubandhu. To be kind to Wood, I adopt the alternative conclusion that he did not read these three works, which makes us wonder how many of the works of his bibliography he actually did study and use in his book.

Wood makes a number of remarks with which the reviewer, and I suppose others as well, could take issue. I shall content myself with just one such. This is his appendix III, "A Note on the Tattva-samgraha-(panjika) as a Vijnanavada Text." Here, it is not a matter of the thesis that this text by Santaraksita and Kamalasila is "a purely Vijnanavadin work" (so Wood)--rather, how he goes about proving it. He was fooled by Ganganatha Jha's translation that Kamalasila on k. 31 was replying to a Samkhya follower and that preceding k. 32 was a challenge by this opponent; but in fact, the citation there is from the Lankavatara sutra (text p. 166).(2) It was cited to support TS, k. 32, which Wood presents this way:

The origination of a thing is merely its becoming (bhava), and this cannot be related (sambadhyate) either with something that exists or with something that does not exist. It is related merely to a conception which is non-existent.

utpado vastu-bhavas-tu so 'sata na sata tatha/ sambadhyate kalpikaya kevalam tv-asata dhiya//

The reviewer checked with the Sanskrit text and found that it was cited correctly; then checked with Jha's translation and found that Wood had adopted it, simply changing a few words to make it look different. Therefore, Wood did not notice that Jha had grossly mistranslated the verse. Let us translate it as follows and then draw our conclusions:

An 'arising' (utpada) is the presence (bhava) of a given thing (vastu). And it (the 'arising') is related by constructive thought (kalpika) to a |prior~ nonexistence (asat) but not to a |prior~ existence (sat). So also (it is related) only (kevalam) by a cognition (dhi) (and only) to a |subsequent~ nonexistence.

Granted that this involves an old argument in Indian philosophy. The Chandogya Upanisad, 6.2.2, states: tasmad asatah saj jayata, "Therefore, existence arose from nonexistence." Santaraksita presents the Buddhist position which is somewhat different. Now, an arising (= sat) is independent of our mind. Determination of its past is by a distorting faculty called kalpika; prediction of its future is by a better faculty called dhi--both faculties involving our mind. The point of citing the Lankavatara sutra is that this scripture opposes the remark: "All natures (dharma) are unborn (anutpanna)." This is because they do arise, according to Buddhism by the process called 'dependent origination'.

In any case, the verse, when properly translated, is not relevant to the Vijnanavada interpretation which Wood was trying to impose upon it.

1 Yoshifumi Ueda, "Two Main Streams of Thought in Yogacara Philosophy," Philosophy East and West XVII (1967): 155-65.

2 The Lankavatara Sutra, ed. Bunyiu Nanjio (Kyoto: Otani University Press, 1956). For the English, cf. Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, The Lankavatara Sutra: A Mahayana Text (London: George Routledge, 1932), 144.
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Author:Wayman, Alex
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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