Paramārtha's Doctrine of a Ninth Consciousness, as Transmitted in Tibetan Texts: Tsong kha pa's Kun gzhi dka' gter and Its Context

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Paramārtha's Doctrine of a Ninth Consciousness, as Transmitted in Tibetan Texts: Tsong kha pa's Kun gzhi dka' gter and Its Context
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Citation: Kano, Kazuo. "Paramārtha's Doctrine of a Ninth Consciousness, as Transmitted in Tibetan Texts: Tsong kha pa's Kun gzhi dka' gter and Its Context." In Studies of the Works and Influence of Paramārtha, edited by Funayama Tōru, 345–99. (In Japanese.) Kyoto: Kyoto Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University, 2012.

Abstract

This study aims to elucidate a portion of the reception and evaluation of Paramārtha's doctrines in Tibet, taking as its entry point controversy about Paramārtha's theory of a ninth consciousness as seen in Tsong kha pa's (Tsong kha pa Blo bzang grags pa, 1357-1419) Kun gzhi dka' gter, while simultaneously investigating the background to that text. The development of our argument will incorporate new insights gained through investigation of the texts upon which Tsong kha pa based himself: Wǒnch'ŭk's commentary on the Saṃdhinirmocana-sūtra, and commentaries on the Abhidharmasamuccaya by gZad ring (gZad ring Dar ma tshul khrims, latter half of the 12th century), bCom ldan rig ral (1227-1305), Bu ston (Bu ston Rin chen grub, 1290-1364) and Blo gros brtan pa (dPang Blo gros brtan pa, 1276-1342).
      Wǒnch'ŭk, bCom ldan rig ral and Bu ston understood that ninth consciousness is ultimately the seeds of the eighth consciousness, or else the pure part thereof. In terms of the content of the controversy, gZad ring, bCom ldan rig ral and Bu ston largely follow a common archetype. They introduce the ninth consciousness without mentioning Paramārtha; they refer to tathāgatagarbha doctrine, relying upon a passage from the Samādhirāja-sūtra as their proof-text; and in rejecting the doctrine of ninth consciousness, they propose that ninth consciousness must exist either actually or potentially, and then reject both alternatives. Since these two points cannot be identified in Wǒnch'ŭk's commentary, we can postulate that the controversy between these scholars was an innovative creation and development from within Tibetan Buddhism. Furthermore, it also seems that in the transmission of ninth consciousness doctrine in Tibet, there arose certain distortions (or deviations from Wǒnch'ŭk's theories), such as when gZad ring ascribes the doctrine of ninth consciousness not to Paramārtha, but to Bhavya.
      We also must not neglect the fact that the doctrine of ninth consciousness affirmed in these commentaries to the Abhidharmasamuccaya is not completely identical to that described by Tsong kha pa. Comparison with these texts, which constitute the immediate context for his discussion, highlights the fact that in discussing Paramārtha's doctrine of ninth consciousness as it appears in Wonchuk, Tsong kha pa cites Wonchuk's work directly, rather than second-hand (i.e. rather than relying upon predecessors who utilize Wonchuk's exposition); and in refuting the doctrine of ninth consciousness, he attempts to construct proofs on the basis of his own original viewpoint, rather than recycling the arguments of his predecessors. We are surely justified in judging that it was Tsong kha pa's achievement to absorb Wonchuk's commentary for himself, and to attempt to correct the distortions incidental to the transmission of ninth consciousness doctrine in Tibet. (Source Accessed June 16, 2020)