Notes on the Laṅkāvatāra

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Notes on the Laṅkāvatāra
Citation: Tucci, Giuseppe. "Notes on the Laṅkāvatāra." Indian Historical Quarterly 4 (1928): 545–56.


No abstract given. Here are the first relevant paragraphs:

Prof. Hauer has started a series of studies, chiefly dedicated to the critical investigation of Indian religion.[1] We cannot help being very greateful to him for this, because we must acknowledge that the various aspects of Indian religion are not yet studied as they deserve.
      I do not need to insist on proving the great importance of this research, which is likely to throw much light on many a problem; chiefly on that of the extent of the influences exercised by the aboriginal element on the evolution of Indian religious thought and Indian civilization in general. The Vedas have a great importance, no doubt, but it is also true that Indian gods, mythology, practices, theories about sacrifice, etc., are, on the whole, very different from the religious ideas expounded in that famous book. The study of the last phases of Mahāyāna Buddhism, and of its relation with the Hindu systems proper, will prove of the greatest importance for this kind of research; because it is just in the literature of that period that we find the most important documents of these new conceptions and meet the names of a host of gods, demons and goblins of whom we did not hear before that time.
      For this reason I think that Prof. Hauer is quite justified in having started his Series with the study of such an important Mahāyāna text as the Laṅkāvatāra, which contains some very interesting allu- sions to the relation between the Buddha and the gods of Hinduism (cf. e.g., p. 192).
      The first of the papers dedicated to our text is chiefly concerned with the refutation of the Sāṅkhya system contained in the Laṅk., X, 546 ff. This section has been translated by the author, as he thinks that it represents the reply of the Mahāyāna to the new claim of the Sāṅkhya to be the doctrine of salvation (p. 5.). This Sāṅkhya is, according to the A., the new exposition of the system as contained in the Sāṅkhyakārikā of Iśvarakṛṣṇna. The chronology of either text seems to support this view. In fact, this refutation is contained in the tenth Chapter of the Laṅk., which is wanting in the first Chinese translation by Guṇabhadra (443 A.D.), while it is found in the second translation, made by Bodhiruci in the year 513 A.D. On the other hand, we may suppose that the kārikā was composed about 450 A.D. That is true, but I do not think we are allowed to infer from this, that there is any interdependence of this kind between the kārikā and the Xth Chapter of the Laṅk. First of all, the history of the various redactions of this text, represents a very difficult and complex problem. I have compared the three Chinese translations with the Sanskrit original and I already had the opportunity to point out that the text of the Laṅkāvatāra underwent many changes,[1] so that we may safely assume that different redactions of the Laṅk, circulated not only at different times, but also in different places. It is true that the allusion to the Huns, which is found in X, 785, must go back to the first decade of the 7th century A.D., but the fact remains that the Sanskrit text of the Xth Chapter, as it has been handed down to us in the Nepalese manuscripts, looks like a compilation from various sources. Thus it has been enlarged by the insertion of various ślokas already quoted in the preceding chapters in prose.[2] As a rule, all these double verses cannot be found in the translation of Śikṣānanda. This I say in order to show that the problem of the various strata composing the vulgata of the Laṅk, as well as the other concerning the age to which they must be attributed is a very complex one. They can only be solved by the comparative study of the Tibetan and Chinese translations. Therefore it is evident that the chronology based upon any passage of the present text cannot be relied upon as definitive, until the history of the text has been reconstructed. On the other hand, the refutation of the Sāṅkhya system, as contained in X, 558 ff, is neither one of the earliest, nor one of the best. The refutation of the satkāryavāda (Sāṅkhya) as well as of the asatkāryavāda (Vaiśeṣika) forms one of the chief contents of the dogmatical works of Mahāyāna Buddhism. It can be found in the Mahāprajñāpāramitā-Śāstra of Nāgārjuna, in the Śataśāstra of Āryadeva, in the Buddhagotraśāstra attributed to Vasubandhu etc.[1] Nor shall we forget that Vasubandhu and Diṅnāga refuted at length the Sāṅkhya theories in their Paramārthasaptati and Pramāṇasamuccaya respectively. Moreover, as Diṅnāga himself tells us in his commentary upon the Nyāyamukha, he wrote a book exclusively devoted to refuting the Sāṅkhya system. Shen T'ai, a disciple of Yuan Chwang, who commented upon the Nyāyamukha, tells us that this work was a very large one, as it contained six thousand ślokas.
      Therefore I do not think that this criticism of the Sāṅkhya as contained in the Laṅkāvatāra can really throw much light on the history of the controversy between the two systems. In fact, we must acknowledge that the value of the Laṅkāvatāra, as a philosophical hook, is rather limited, although it is of the highest importance for the history of the evolution of the Mahāyāna Buddhologie and "Erlosungslehre."
      But I can hardly believe that the passage in question is expressly directed against the Sāṅkhya system. It is only meant to assert the idealistic view which is expounded throughout the book. Kapila, it is true, is referred to by name in the verse X, 558 and in three other places; but Kaṇāda also is quoted in X, 548. . . .
      But to which school did the Laṅkāvatāra originally belong? It is in general believed that it represents Yogācāra ideas. But, of course, we cannot learn very much from this mere name, because Yogācāra has certainly a very wide meaning. It is also considered as a synonym of Vijñānavāda, and therefore even the vijñaptimātratā theory of Vasubandhu is put under that same item.
      In fact, according to the Chinese tradition the book is considered as one of the six sūtras of the Lakṣaṇa school. But if we read these volumes it will be easy to recognize that, though there are some fundamental notions that can be found all throughout, each text or group of texts presents its own peculiarities.

Read more here . . .


1. J. W. Hauer, Das Laṅkāvatāra-Sūtra und das Sāṅkhya (eine vorläufige Skizzeo, Stuttgart, 1927.
   Id, Die Dhāraṇī im nördlichen Buddhismus und ihre parallelen in der sogennannten Mithrasliturgie. Ibid.
    Beitrage zur Indischen Sprachwissenschaft und Religionsgeschichte.
1. See. my Studio comparative fra le tre versioni cinesi ed il testo sanskrito del i capitolo del Laṅkāvatāra, Memorie della R. Accademia dei Lincei, serie v, vol xviii, fasc, 5; and Una nuova edizione del Laṅkāvatāra in Studi Mahāyanici, Rivista di studi Orientali, vol. X.
2. In Studi Mahāyanici, pp. 574 ff., I have given a list of the verses inserted in the text, which have been repeated in the tenth chapter. This fact makes me rather doubtful whether many of the other verses collected there are not taken from some Mahāyāna text belonging to the same current of thought. Prof. Hauer thinks that the first Chapter belongs to the most ancient redaction of the book. I can hardly believe that; in fact, it cannot be found in the translation of Gunabhadra, and it has but very little relation with the rest of the book. On the other hand, I think that the gāthās represent the most ancient nucleus of the book, as it is shown by the numerous Prakritisms that have survived and that the redactors of the present vulgata could not avoid: e.g., desemi, pp. 76, 176, 181; vibhāvento, p. 95 ; vikalpenti, pp. 185 186; nāśenti, p. 190 ; deśyante for deśyamāne, p. 201.
1. For other references see Ui’s, Vaiśeṣika philosophy.
2. See my English translation of the Nyāyamukha in "Materiailen zur Kunde des Buddhismus" edited by Prof. Walleser, Heidelberg, to be published shortly.