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Buddhist Insight Essays by Alex Wayman

Buddhist Insight Essays by Alex Wayman
Item Code: IDD392
Author: George R. Elder
Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2002
ISBN: 8120806751
Pages: 476
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 8.8" X 5.8"
weight of the book: 653 gms

About the Book:

The present volume selects twenty-four of Prof. Wayman's published research papers around the topic of Buddhist Insight, and includes only strong, well developed papers consistent with the topic. Students of Buddhism and general Indian religion will find here a rich offering of genuine research with the best of sources and Wayman's own thoughtful present-actions and original organizations of the information. The essays have been edited by a former student of Wayman's, Prof. George R. Elder of Hinter College, New York.

The papers are ranged under the headings, I. Buddhist Practice, II. Buddhist Doctrine, III. Interpretative Studies of Buddhism, IV. Texts of the Asanga School, V. Hindu and Buddhist Studies. The papers begin with "Buddha as Savior" among the latest (1980) and end with the earliest (1959) in this volume, "Twenty one Praises of Tara". Part IV is especially valuable for its three seminal texts by Asanga which Wayman himself edited in Sanskrit. It provides also translation and comments which cast light on Asanga's own Buddhist position. The Hindu and Buddhist Studies illustrate Wayman's comparative approach by showing both sides in their strong independence, and sensitively revealing their relation.

About the Author:

Alex Wayman became Professor of Sanskrit at Columbia University in 1967 and has the title professor Emeritus of Sanskrit, effective July 1991. Among his awards are the honorary D.Litt. at Nalanda University, India (April, 1978); and a work in his honor Researches in Indian and Buddhist Philisophy (Delhi, 1993). His main contribution to Sanskrit per se in his translation of the Visualocana lexicon (published in Japan, 1994). Otherwise, his publications have been in non-Tantric and Tantric Buddhism, using the Sanskrit and Tibetan languages, with a stream of books and articles now over a hundred and fifty, and which steadily increase. Now he is busy completing a two-volume treatise on Buddhist Logic, on which he had worked as time allowed for many years; and is continuing to write essays on important topics of Indian lore


The author of these essays, Alex Wayman, had the good luck of teachers and access to important language materials in the scope of Sanskrit and Tibetan language, and with this background applied his interest to Buddhist topics. Now he shares with readers this unique combination. It seems that various of these essays were conceived in an imaginary bout, as though contending, yet competing with oneself, Even so, such essays, when composed over a period of years, decree the author’s non-return to the vanished concatenation of the fortunate circumstances. So it was helpful to have the services of Dr, George Elder to edit the 24 essays. Buddhist treatises, with their non-self theory, insist that the author was not there. Anyway, elsewhere he was able to write more essays. Since the essays can be recommended to the reputed author himself, let them be recommended to other interested readers.

It is planned to issue a companion volume, also of 24 essays, in the next case stressing the untying of knots in Buddhism. Why twenty-four? Indian culture has some famous 24’s. The number apparently stands for a complete cycle of some kind. Besides, twenty-four minutes is the water-clock measure, called a ghataka, the basic unit for one pointedness of mind. Forty—eight minutes, the muhurta, if the concentration can last that long, is even better.



Alex Wayman—Professor of Sanskrit in the Department of Middle East Languages and Cultures and Professor in the Department of Religion at Columbia University—enjoys a world—wide reputation as a truly outstanding scholar in the field of Buddhist Studies. This reputation is founded upon two decades of teaching and writing, with his recent full-length publication entitled Calming the Mind and Discerning the Real, a translation from the Tibetan of a portion of Tson—kha—pa’s expansive Lam rim chen mo, published in 1978. While Wayman’s half a dozen other books have become a standard of quality in this held, it is still a surprise for colleagues to learn that this scholar has also published more than ninety essays to date. These essays have appeared in what are now generally accessible anthologies of other scholars and in the premier journals of the United States. Many have also been written at the request of editors in Europe, India, and Japan. Indexes being what they are, and libraries and one’s capacity to keep track being limited, a number of these line short treatments have not yet been sufficiently known.

Professor Wayman has already attempted to bridge the gap by publishing sixteen of his essays in the collection, The Buddhist Tantras. Light on Indo-Tibetan Esotericism, 1973. While that volume focuses upon contributions to tantric Buddhism, the present volume makes more readily available to scholars and the intelligent reader Wayman’s contributions to our understanding of non—tantric Buddhism. The twenty-four essays collected here focus almost entirely upon Early Buddhism (what the Maha— yanists refer to as Hinayana) and upon Mahayana Buddhism in India. Except one, each of these essays has already been published. Their appearance together here has been advised by Alex Wayman himself; and this has allowed the author of the essays the opportunity to make corrections and to provide additional materials. My own emendations have been in terms of regularizing punctuation and diacriticals as much as feasible and seeing to it that the work reads more or less as a coherent statement rather than as so many separate papers. But it is also true that the general consistency of Wayman’s translations and his reliance in one article upon positions established in another lend a natural coherence—and, I think, strength—to the book.

The method of scholarship found in this volume has been explained by the author in the preface to his The Buddhist Tantras. There, he states: "All those works, whether published or in press or preparation, have a common method which is the sub- ordination ot` personal opinion about the Tantra to authoritative explanations by the proficient’s of this cult." Accordingly, the reader will find here some of Wayman’s views on the nature of non-tantric Indian Buddhism. But mainly he or she will discover the Buddhists’ 0wn views on the nature of their religion—and this by way of translations of scripture (fairly literally rendered) illuminated by authoritative commentary.

The commentators in this instance are most often Asanga (375-430, A.D.), especially his Yogacarabhumi in Sanskrit, and Tson-kha-pa (1357- 1419, A.D.), especially his Lam rim chen mo in Tibetan. The felicity of this combination is attested by the fact that the Tibetan reformer often quotes from Asanga. While both of these ancient scholars are known to be Mahayanists by religious per- suasion, their works mentioned are encyelopedic in scope and provide a high standard of commentary on virtually all phases of Buddhism. It follows that the essays collected here are also of a high standard with a minimum of mere speculation and with a certain fidelity to the complexity of' the materials concerned. Since Buddhism is a rich religion and at times an obscure one, the reader will come upon passages, and perhaps articles, in this work that will seem opaque except to those trained in the issues; but the attentive reader will also find much to inform the intellect and delight the soul. In any case, in the essays assembled here an extraordinary wealth of information, some of it: entirely un- expected, is presented in a manner that should give it an enduring value. It might be mentioned also that there is actually a variety of styles in the collection. Most of the articles appeared in the seventies but one as early as 1959 and some as recent as 1980; furthermore, Professor Wayman was writing at different times for different publishers who have had their own purposes.

This brings us to the question of the sort of reader for whom this volume is intended. Wayman, the ‘°scholar’s scholar," wrote the essays originally for colleagues in the Held; and they, of course, remain the primary audience. Graduate students in Buddhist Studies or Indian religions in general will also find this work invaluable. But I would like to suggest strongly that these essays be considered as a secondary source—alongside scriptures-- within the undergraduate curriculum. From my own experience with college students, I know that the surveys of Buddhism now available are useful; but I also know that they provide information of a kind that the professor himself or herself can only too easily provide in lecture the undergraduate student is left without a bridge between introductory statements and the foreign complexities of Buddhist scripture. With this in mind, these essays have been arranged as a sort of survey of non-tantric Indian Buddhism— by way of in—depth discussion of its most important issues.

Part one. "Buddhist Practice," opens with a treatment of “‘Buddha as Savior." It is not immediately apparent that this essay has to do with the Path] but it provides an initial focus upon the Indian man who founded Buddhism at the end of the sixth century, B.C. While "Buddha"—"The Awakened One" can be said to be the chief epithet of Siddhartha Gautama we learn here of the many names given this figure in scripture and commentary; and Wayman shows how the various names point to a variety of views of Buddha’s activity within the religion. Was Gautama Buddha a "savior" simply because he revealed the truth about reality? Or did he “save" also in the sense of somehow providing others with the power to perceive this truth? In the first instance, disciples would need to ‘“work" out their salvation with diligence; and in the second, they could rely more upon the "grace" of the Lord. Thus, the problem of Buddhist practice is engaged. And Wayman discusses the disciple’s "con— version”” from an ordinary person to special person—one who has developed his native "insight" and become a "son" in the family to the Buddha. The article that follows, "Ancient Buddhist Monasticism," provides at some length a description of the monastic context in which the process of conversion took place: the kinds of ordination, the rules, the confessions—and stages of` progress. Scholars in particular will be pleased to find here a technical discussion of the translation of pratimoksa as "Liberation-Onset." But there are in Buddhism "Three Trainings" or instructions; and the "morality" emphasized in the essay on monastic life is only one of them. The practice of "n1editation is yet another—indeed, it is a mental training which follows upon the right establishment of moral behaviour. And so there follows the informative essay, "Aspects of Meditation in the Theravada and Mahisasaka." Since the Theravada and Mahisasaka are sects of Early Buddhism, the final essay in this secti0n—"The Bodhisattva Practice According to the Lam Rim Chen Mo"— turns our attention to the stage of discipleship called the bodhisattva within the Mahayana.

Part two can be looked upon as a presentation of the third training—training in “insight"—-since it takes up the “Doctrine” which must be "discerned" once the mind has been “Cttlll1CLl” by meditation. This is by far the longest section of the book, and it opens with a discussion of "The Sixteen Aspects of the Four Noble Truths and their Opposites? The Four Noble Truths are said to have been taught by Gautama Buddha at his first sermon; and it is interesting to see how the basic doctrine grows with the tradition to encompass eventually four times the "truth" complete with opposites or "coverings" which obscure these truths for ordinary persons. Buddhists are saying that ordinary reality, called samsara, is generally misperceived; and unless one sees samsara correctly, one will not perceive the extraordinary reality called nirvarna.

Having been introduced to the religious use of the symbol of the "wheel" with sixteen aspects or spokes, we encounter the symbol of the "mirror" in the essay, "The Mirror as a Pan—Buddhist Metaphor-Simile." The materials presented are particularly rich, capturing the imagination as religious symbols are intended to do; and the data move through the varied traditions of Buddhism, including the tantric forms. This is all by way of preparation, I think, for the short but important statement, "The Buddhist Theory of Vision." Professor Wayman begins to justify his translation of prajna as "insight" (rather than as "wisdom," a translation preferred by some) toward the close of the essay on "Meditation;" but it is really here that we sense the significance of a translation that preserves a nuance of "seeing." For it is "seeing"——and having the "eye" for it——which serves as the primary symbol of under- standing throughout the history of Buddhism. While the successful yogin must "see" the Four Noble Truths in their multiple aspects, he must also see Dependent Origination. There follows, then, the long and complex discussion, "Dependent Origination-—the Indo—Tibetan Tradition." Published only recently, this essay is a culmination of the author’s previously published research on the subject; and the extensive notes provide a sort of sub—text for the body of this essay. Avidya is the first member of this twelve—member formula for conditioned reality, and Professor Wayman focuses upon it in his article, "Nescience and Insight According to Asanga’s Yogacarabhumi.” Actually, we learn that "nescience" is a general translation of avidya since it might better be rendered "ignorance" as the first member of Dependent Origination so as to preserve an unexpected meaning as a kind of "waywardness" in association with "feelings," the seventh member of the formula. "Insight" opposes "neseience" in any form, and Asanga’s long list of metaphors for prajna-including the most telling ones that have to do with "light" —can be found here. But the problem of "neseience" for the ordinary person is a persistent one; and so we read next of" The Twenty Reifying Views". These must yield place in favour of the Buddhist view called "non-self" which is, in this instance, the view of the five skandhas, each denied in four ways as being "self." As the section comes to a close, we are treated once again to the Buddhist penchant for a four-fold analysis in the essay, ‘Who Understands the Four Alternatives of the Buddhist Texts‘?" This is the most philosophical, in some ways the most technical, essay in the volume; it goes directly to problems of logic-and Wayman takes on a number of his colleagues in debate.

The subject matter itself includes such ancient problems as this: Does the Tathagata exist after death? And so the section closes with the topic, "The Intermediate-State Dispute in Buddhism." Here, the debate is among Buddhists alone. And the question is whether a person who is not yet enlightened was directly to his or her next life upon death, or goes to an "intermediate state," some state in between. I think it is important to see in this essay and elsewhere within the volume that a dispute among Buddhists may exhibit the difference between the Hinayana and Mahayana forms but may just as readily cut across sectarian lines.

Part three is entitled "lnterpretative Studies of Buddhism" since the author brings to bear upon Buddhist materials in these essays points of view which are not in themselves necessarily Buddhist. The first, "No Time, Great Time, and Profane Time in Buddhism," allows categories more usually associated with the "history of religions" school to inform our understanding of the Buddhist religion; the second, "The Role of Art Among the Buddhist Religieux" blends art history with a fair amount of modern aesthetic theory while relying upon positions already established in the essay on "Dependent Origination." The third, "Secret of the Heart Sr2tra," is unique. Wayman calls it an "Asian—type commentary composed by a Westerner"—and he is the Westerner. Here, this scholar brings to bear upon a famous Mahayana scripture a more or less Yogacara point of view in opposition to the usual Buddhist commentary from the point of view of the Madhyamika School. It is a style of scholar- ship which Wayman also employs in his work, Yoga of the Guhyasamajatantra, published in I977.

Part four, "Texts of the Asanga School," provides a change of pace. It contains edited Sanskrit and translated excerpts from the Yogacarabhumi of Asanga whose commentary, as already noted, has informed many of the preceding essays. Readers will gain from this section a clear idea of the kinds of materials involved in Buddhist scholarship, and scholars in particular will gain edited materials for their own work along with a clear sense of Wayman’s style of translation. The best introduction to these excerpts is actually found in the opening paragraphs of the second essay, “Asanga’s Treatise on the Paramartha Gatha"——and, also, in the opening of the essay entitled, "Nescience and Insight According to Asanga’s Yogacarabhumi" introduced above. This is because of the preference shown to a presentation in the order of its appearance within the Yogacarabhumi itself. The short text, "The Sacittika and Acittika Bhf1mi" was previously published only as edited; and Wayman has taken the opportunity to provide the translation here as well. It contains Nos. 8 and 9 of the seventeen bhumis or "stages." The "Paramartha Gatha" text already mentioned is a set of verses with commentary by Asanga which form a portion of "stage" No. 1; this material, by the way, was previously published as part of Wayman’s full- length Analysis of the Sravakabhumi Manuscript, 1961. It appears again here with corrections. And, finally, the text "Asanga’s Treatise on the Three Instructions of Buddhism” takes up the set of verses and commentary that follow the "Paramartha Gatha" within "stage" No. 11. This material in the book has not been published in some form earlier.

Part five extends our appreciation for the range of Professor Wayman’s work. It is entitled," Hindu and Buddhist Studies;” and its comparative approach should give a certain feeling for the character of Buddhism in India which was always surrounded, we might say, by Hinduism. The essays can be looked upon as pairs. The first pair is made of 2 "Two Traditions of India- Truth and Silence" and ‘The Hindu—Buddhist Rite of Truth- an Interpretation? They move through the Vedas, Upanisads, and Buddhism; and they articulate the tradition of the muni or "silent sage" as distinct from the tradition of the sage who verbalizes his truth, especially by way of mantra. And the "rite of truth” is shown to be a particular instance of the power of truth spoken. The second pair of essays—"Significance of dreams in India and Tibet" along with "Significance of Mantras, 19`rom the Veda Down to Buddhist Tantric Practice"—are less united in theme. Both, however, focus upon important features of Indian religious life and provide valuable detailed classifications. Finally, it is appropriate that a volume entitled Buddhist Insight should end with its attention upon the Feminine since, in Buddhism, "Insight" is sometimes a "Woman." Wayman’s treatment, "The Goddess Sarasvati—From India to Tibet," traces the history of a deity from her form as a river to her many forms within Buddhist meditation; and the translation essay, "The Twenty—One Praises of Tara, a Syncretism of Saivism and Buddhism, ” brings the volume to a close with a beautiful hymn. Since the last two essays touch upon materials that are ambiguously related to both the non-tantric and tantric forms of Mahayana Buddhism, they may serve as an encouragement to continue this "survey" of Buddhism by consulting Alex Way- man’s other collection of essays, The Buddhist Tantras: Light on Indo-Tibetan Esotericism.



Foreword by Alex Wayman
Introduction, by George R. Elder

Part I. Buddhist Practice
1. Buddha as Savior
2. Ancient Buddhist Monasticism
3. Aspects of Meditation in the Theravada and Mahisasaka
4. the Bodhisattva Practice according to the Lam Rim Chen Mo

Part II. Buddhist Doctrine
5. The Sixteen Aspects of the Four Noble Truths and Their Opposites
6. The Mirror as a Pan-Buddhist Metaphor-Simile
7. The Buddhist Theory of Vision
8. Dependent Origination - the Indo-Tibetan Tradition
9. Nescience and Insight according to Asanga's Yogacarabhumi
10. The Twenty Reifying Views (Sakkayaditthi)
11. Who Understands the Four Alternatives of the Buddhsit texts?
12. The Intermediate-state Dispute in Buddhism

Part III. Interpretative Studies of Buddhism
13. No Time, Great Time, and Profane Time in Buddhism
14. The Role of Art among the Buddhist Religieux
15. Secret of the Heart Sutra

Part IV. Texts of the Asanga school
16. The Sacittika and Acittika Bhumi, Text and Translation
17. Asanga's Treatise, the Paramartha-gatha
18. Asanga's Treatise on the Three Instructions of Buddhism

Part V. Hindu and Buddhist Studies
19. Two Traditions of India- Truth and Silence
20. The Hindu-Buddhist Rite of Truth- and Interpretation.
21. The Significance Mantras, from the Veda down to Buddhist Tantri Practice
23. The Goddess Sarasvati- from India to Tibet
24. The Twenty - one Praises of Tara, a Syncretism of Saivism and Buddhism


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