Friday, 31 January 2014

Buddhist Soteriological Exclusivism

Apologies for not providing any source for this entry because it is just for collecting my thoughts. I have been interested in the idea of “soteriological exclusivism” in Buddhism for quite sometime and have discussed in some detail elsewhere. So I may not repeat it here. A careful, comprehensive, and systematic treatment of the theme is still wanting. By “soteriological exclusivism” (in the Buddhist context), I mean a kind of theory or doctrine according which one cannot obtain release from saṃsāra   (and obtain Arhatship or Buddhahood) without realizing the true reality of some kind or without realizing it to a minimum required degree (Wangchuk 2007; RZ1: on thabs shes; gNubs-chen, bSam gtan mig sgron, p 259: thabs dang shes rab ma rogs pas || ma grol khams gsum ’khor ba yin || [citing the rGyad bcu pa]). This is actually a quite a significant, complex, and knotty issue. We will have to leave up to the scholars specializing in Theravāda or Sino-Japanese Buddhism to inform us regarding the issue of “soteriological exclusivism” in these traditions. My study concerns primarily ideas of “soteriological exclusivism” found in Indian sources and their interpretations by various schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

(a) To be sure, the issue is naturally pertinent to only those Buddhist doctrines or theories that deal with soteriology. Most Buddhist traditions would perhaps agree that Buddhism also teaches ways of obtaining a fortunate destiny in saṃsāra. In other words, Buddhism is not all, though primarily, about obtaining Arhatship and Buddhahood. I argue, however, that Buddhism, like perhaps all major world religions, is unique because of its unique soteriology. A form of Buddhism that has no soteriology would be no Buddhism at all.

(b) Here comes the first difficulty. Historically speaking, Buddhist tradition eventually split up into eighteen (or more) Nikāyic schools. Are all these schools authentic? Importantly, this question is tantamount to the question as to whether one can, by following any one of these eighteen or more Nikāyic schools, obtain at least Arhatship. How do various Tibetan Buddhist scholars answer this question? This is the first venue for exploration. While most Tibetan scholars world not even doubt the Buddhist status of most of these schools, the ability of the doctrine of Vātsīputrīya school to lead one to Arhatship becomes an issue. How do the various Tibetan scholars view this issue? This is fascinating.

(c) Fundamentally in the Madhyamaka context, as I already suggest elsewhere, Tibetan positions seem to fall into two distinct camps: (1) one that follows either- everything-or-nothing kind of interpretation, and (2) each-according-to-his/her-capacity kind of interpretation. The former is represented mainly by the anti-Yogācāric interpreters of Madhyamaka (e.g. dGe-lugs-pas) and the latter by the pro-Yogācāric interpreters of Madhyamaka (e.g. non-dGe-lugs-pas). Each group has its own arguments. The issue now comes to be differentiated. The issue is no longer whether a Buddhist system x is capable of leading one to the soteriological goal but rather whether that system is “independently” able to lead one to the soteriological goal. For the former camp, the only system that is “independently” able to lead one to the soteriological goal is the Prāsaṅgika-Madhyamaka school.

(d) The next significant issue is how (or in what respects) is Mantric Mahāyāna superior to Sūtric Mahāyāna and whether the latter form of Mahāyāna is capable of leading one to the Mahāyānic soteriological goal, namely, the Buddhahood. The rNying-pa-pas are divided on this. According to one strand (i.e. Zur-lugs), the answer is in the negative. According another strand (i.e. Rong-lugs), the answer is in the affirmative. But even the Rong-lugs (RZ1: 202) proposes a kind of soteriological exclusivism, that is, there is no way of becoming a buddha without realizing the great reality of equality or homogeneity (mnyam pa chen po’i don). Is this also taught by the Sūtric Mahāyāna? If so, how and why should Mantric Mahāyāna excel Sūtric Mahāyāna? If not, it would be impossible for one to attain Buddhahood by following the Sūtric Mahāyāna. These are yet some additional venues for exploration.

(e) For most Sa-skya-pas and dGe-lugs-pas, Mantric views does not excel Sūtric (Madhyamic) view. This is usually the position in a Sūtric context. But in a Mantric context, the issue becomes complicated. How about Sa-skya-pa’s ’khor ’das dbyer med kyi lta ba? Is this view identical with Sūtric (Madhyamic) view? For the dGe-lugs-pa, there is yet another issue. Is Sūtric Mahāyāna able to bring about saṃbhogakāya? If not, Sūtric Mahāyāna is after all not adequate in bringing about the full qualities of a buddha, and one must rely on the sexual yogic initiation offered by only the highest Yoga system.  

(f) Last but not the least, there is yet another venue for exploration. More or less every Tibetan Buddhist school associates itself with what it believes is its highest doctrine. Perhaps one might subsume all of these highest doctrines into the “Three Great Ones” (Chen-po-gsum), namely, dBu-ma-chen-po, Phyag-rgya-chen-po, and rDzogs-pa-chen-po. The most fascinating issue here is how the proponents of each of these Three Great Ones view the Great Ones of other competing schools. The elements of soteriological exclusivism among Tibetan Buddhist schools become very conspicuous in such contexts. For example, from a radical dGe-lugs-pa perspective, gZhan-stong-dbu-ma-chen-po falls outside the domain of the Buddha’s doctrine.


  1. Dear Dorji,
    Again fine, yet delicate notes with many thought provoking and really smart questions; I will try to offer only some small impulses, perhaps there is something useful for others (but I must split this message owing to limitation of space (the blog indicates maximum of 4096 signs for a possible comment).
    “Soteriological exclusivism” (if I understand rightly your indication) depends on the personal acquaintace with (philosophical) theories and practices grounded in a specifique mode of thinking, which again must be based on a coordinated domain of properly developed definitions. So, if one is not sufficiently habituated or doesn´t have “unlimited” access with/to a “certain circle of doctrines” he/she will have enormous problems to understand the proposed, perhaps abruptly smashing, ideas or theories and practices in the same visionary evidence as they were most probably originally meant and realized. Yet, on the other side, if one already or fortunately is endowed with “intuitive advanced reality-empathy” paired with a philosophical basic instinct, I think, it would not be impossible (provided that motivation and patience are in place) to discern the intentions and viewpoints of a perhaps, in the first instance, unfamiliar appearing “Weltanschauung” (world-outlook/view). Here we touch a fundamental problem of communication, transmission and understanding.

    Now, concerning your important pointer that “one cannot obtain release from saṃsāra (and obtain Arhatship or Buddhahood) without realizing the true reality of some kind or without realizing it to a minimum required degree”, indeed, that´s a central pedagogical problem inducing perplexity. The crucial point here is: What precisely should be meant by “realizing the true reality”. We have here three simple appearing words (“realizing”, “true”, “reality”), however with far-reaching consequences depending on what one “sees”, “interprets” and finally, most importantly “is doing” – and here begins the seemingly unending spectrum of philosophical opinions and implicit practices.

    1. Dear Mikael, thank you for taking the trouble to write this overwhelmingly long feedback raising all kinds of further thought-provoking issues. (a) In our attempts to discuss “real” or “pure” philosophical issues, we somewhat frustratingly or despairingly realize that we get impeded in a thicket of methodological issues, which also involve the issues of language, communication, and translation, although, these, too, no doubt, are of philosophical interests as well. One basic methodological presupposition (I hesitate to call it “principle”) is that as students of history of ideas (or if one will “ideals”) and not students of the history of “real” events, we do not attempt to find out, for example, if “Noah’s Ark” was “actually” or “really” built. We have no way to verify or falsify the building of Noah’s Ark as “real historical event.” Similarly, if a Buddhist text reports that one can let a one-meter long buffalo’s horn grow on one’s head if one visualizes such a horn on one’s head, we have no way to validate or invalidate such a claim. But does this mean that we cannot more or less trace the history of such “ideas”? I think it is possible and it is worth an attempt. (b) With regard to “true reality,” I mean a kind of Sein behind the facade of mere Schein (of phenomena). Our sources would use various kinds of terms such as tathatā, dharmatā, śūnyatā, and so on. I am also acutely aware that various sources, systems, schools, strands, or, scholars may not use these words in the same way or consistently and it is incumbent on us to try and precisely determine how these words are employed or understood in each case and in each context. What seems to be true is that many Buddhist thinkers believed that there is x, which we might call ontic Sein. But let us not bring in what we think of Sein, what we think how it should be. Let us, for the time being, also not judge whether the ideas in our sources are right or wrong. Our obligation at this stage would be to ask: What does, for example, the Tattvārthapaṭala of the Bodhisattvabhūmi, really mean when it talks about vastumātra or tathatā? Does it really mean a kind of “trans/ultra-phenomenal reality” or does it mean a kind of “cis-phenomenal reality”? How does it differ, if it does, from dharmanairātmya (that the text also uses)? These issues, I would think, are ontological issues. (c) The next undertaking would be to try and determine the epistemological positions proposed or presupposed by a certain source, for instance, again the Bodhisattvabhūmi. Does it consider the tathatā to be knowable, or rather penetrable through deep meditative insight (e.g. nirvikalpajñāna)? If so, how is tathatā supposed to be cognitively penetrated by nirvikalpajñāna? What kind of relation, if there is one, does our source presuppose/propose between tathatā and nirvikalpajñāna? What, according to our source, would be the affect/aftermath/consequence, again if at all, of the penetration of tathatā through nirvikalpajñāna? The most important question of all in our given context is: Can anybody from anywhere depending on any religion meditatively inculcate nirvikalpajñāna and cognitively penetrate tahathā and thus resulting in vimukti/vimokṣa (as defined by, for instance, the Bodhisattvabhūmi itself)? If yes, we could perhaps claim that the Bodhisattvabhūmi does NOT propose “soteriological exclusivism.” If it, however, claims that the only way to obtain vimukti/vimokṣa (as defined by itself) is to directly penetrate tahathā (as defined by itself) by nirvikalpajñāna (again as defined by itself), and that such a possibility is offered only by the Bodhisattvabhūmi (or its system), then we may contend that it does propose “soteriological exclusivism.”

    2. Hi Dorji,
      the message will be splitted...;
      (a) Ok, yes; again some further tentative supports on this very interesting subject; now, what appears puzzling to me (sorry, perhaps only to me in my foolishness) is that why such and such ideas evolved at all (if apparently “all” was already said before by other philosophers)? Should we not consider philosophically developed doctrines (in the sense of a history of ideas) as the natural process of reflexive reactions on other already proposed theories (which involves historical dependence)? Isn´t perhaps the “history of ideas” (here meant in buddhist context) a kind of soteriologically evolved antidote-doctrinal development owing to the challenging buddological topics itself within monastic/academic education? What I mean is why and indeed can we observe philosophically diverging positions at all? I suspect, that it´s not simply or only a quest or a question of theoretical improvement concerning the expressive philosophical attempt to render the “truth“ accessible to human mind but it seems also to be a pedagogical precaution felt by buddhist masters (also responsible for the higher buddhist education of their disciples) in observing the highly placed requirements on monks in the educative “quest of enlightenment“ and the corresponding “internal struggle“ about how to attain the “effective achievement or realizing” of Buddhahood [the endeavour to emulate Buddha through Dharma-training (“taking”) and Dharma-transmission (“giving”)].

      If we take a maybe still risky look at the historical evolution of Buddhist philosophical issues, do we not recognize a changing focus of thematical importance? Could those seemingly detected discrepancies under developed positions with their corresponding explanations not also be considered as mutual antidote-elaborations in rectifying potentially contained or even prematurely divulged “misconceptions or misrepresentations“?
      If pursued further, shouldn´t those varying doctrinal standpoints be inspected likewise as a skillful preventive measure against a possibly emerging philosophical menace leading to extremist speculations, distorted perceptions and warping tendencies? And if that were not enough, simultaneously must we not admit thereby the large, varying complexity and immense scale of pedagogical subtility itself? Is thus, probably controversially seen, the created “circle of pedagogy” in fact avoidable? In observing this “phenomenon of doctrinal Buddhist schools”, does the Buddhist global philosophical intention not also involve a protective instinct to preserve “The Middle Way” (through a philosophically established grid where on the one end we have the Vatsiputriya and on the other end we have the Prasangika) in preventing the well-known peril of falling (through misconceived notions regarding a particular school´s position, which the “school itself” never meant that way) either in sarcastic, nihilistic foolishness or in sentimental, eternalistic wishfulness?
      sincerely, mikael

    3. (a) continuation:
      If we further trust the scholarly dating of buddhist textual materials, why, for example, around the 2nd /3rd century a.C, where it appears that Abhidharma-doctrines already were scientifically elaborated, discussed and established (Mahavibhasa), we “suddenly” observe an increasing research-interest orientated towards “sunyata” (Prajnaparamita and related Sutras, Nagarjuna´s writings)? Should/Could this turning interest not be considered as a kind of, at least, soteriological warning or therapy not to take highly metaphysical orientated Abhidharma-research in a “too literal sense“, because otherwise we risk to fall in obsessive ontological imaginations? Why around the 4/5th century a.C. (again, if we take the dating of texts as scientifically verified) “suddenly” the research-focus changed towards “Vijnaptimatrata” developed doctrines (interpreted as warning against nihilistic interpretations of sunyata) and why after that “methodical trend”, around the 6/7th century, the notable subtle orientation towards “Pramana” became the most important issue of philosophical elaborations (in attempting to offer acceptable explanations concerning the authority of the Buddha and the cognitive interdependent functionality of imaginations and reality itself through establishing direct perception (pratyaksa) and inference (anumana) as the definite valid means of cognition)? Do we not observe here an evolution of an idea-historicity depending on multidimensional secondary factors?
      Such and other headaches we have to affront, I suppose, if we want to make inquiries about the theoretical possibility of soteriological exclusivism.

      However justified these conjectures may be, isn´t, in general, philosophical investigation with all the masterfully developed, yet always fragmentary expositions finally not a speculative, personally selected wandering/balancing (owing to the unescapable double-affection of mind itself within reality) between two basical cognitive standpoints:
      Idealism versus Realism
      [precisely by virtue of the “Realitätsaffiziertheit” (reality-affection) of consciousness and how to explain or solve it]?

      And further, still concerning the philosophically motivated ambition to stake-out the possible dimension of soteriological exclusivism, how could an independent philosophical exposition (viewpoint) as such in fact be “complete” (in leading to Arhatship or Buddhahood)?
      An exposition as such can only be fragmentary owing to the theoretical impossibility itself to present (explicitly) all the points in a full, comprehensible demonstration bound in one composed treatise or teaching (seen as a philosophically expressed totality), purely and simply because it will be an endless endeavor to take into account all the multiple degrees of philosophical receptivity of infinite sentient beings (paradoxically and perhaps crazily enough, isn´t it that what a bodhisattvic inclination tries to manage through countless eons…?).
      Finally, I feel, it´s more like contemplating a magnificent picture (for example a thangka), where the individual components (philosophical schools/views/symbols) vary in approach and context and solely in putting the indivudal pieces (the philosophical standpoints/ideographs) together we could solve the reality-puzzle [Mmmmm, but wait a minute, am I herewith sinking myself in (a kind of) soteriological exclusivism…?].
      sincerely, mikael

    4. (b) Indeed that´s really gripping how exactly Buddhist philosophical texts try to describe the ontological viewpoint. How do they explain the rupture and union of the sensual and extra-sensual sphere of existence within being (the relation of the absolute with the phenomenal and the role of mind in that respect)? So, the philosopher crunches his thinking on the question about how to explain transcendence and immanence of being´s being (“Seinheit des Seins”). The problem here seems to be that we are already oblidged to apply epistemological measures (pramana) for becoming able to ponder, as the given terminological example, about vastumatra/tathata at all. Yet, in addition and complicatedly enough, I think, with critical reason alone we will be helpless in discerning the absolute (however it may be designated). At such a level of tentative philosophical involvement, I imagine, we must find a practical elaborated reason supported by our own conscience as the ultimate acknowledgement; but “unfortunately” here we are leaving the objective territory of investigation and enter the “holy subjective place” of trust. Surely, this is the main problem with/of “mysticism”, where we increasingly loose our rationalistic insinct.
      sincerely, mikael

    5. (c) Ok, now I see more clearly your research objective (please correct me if I misunderstood). You try to let speak the texts by themselves in the tentative of an adequate translation and a careful filtering out of the most plausible meaning and sense of cardinal topics and terms.
      Prima, so we could try (even it´s very demanding, it´s also, I imagine, very exciting) to forge ahead! Nevertheless, in the last instance, I would say that it will always be a “personal understanding/interpretation” of what one “sees” in those texts. Again a delicat subjective standpoint seems to be unavoidable but with enthousiastic fairness towards a doxographical vision of reality the objective authority of being (Buddhahood) might not be undermined.

      Concerning “Can anybody from anywhere depending on any religion meditatively inculcate nirvikalpajñāna and cognitively penetrate tahathā and thus resulting in vimukti/vimokṣa (as defined by, for instance, the Bodhisattvabhūmi itself)?”, I mean that would be very difficult if not impossible to “prove” since we need “adequate translations” (unavoidably subjectively infiltrated by the translation itself…) of other philosophico-religious traditions for eventually comparing and pondering about it (or if not translated, we should master to a high degree a minimum of 20 languages, which, if at all, seems rarely feasible…).
      But I (intuitively) trust that it must be possible that other “serious-considered” traditions could also accomplish such an endeavor (nirvikalpajnana + prsthalabdajnana unified in cognitive harmony of blissful morality) in their own contextual definitional presentations and demonstrations. But again this would require years of intensive familiarization with their doctrinal contents and unfortunately our lifespan is too short for exploring all those options.
      By the way, perhaps in this regard, the seeing or postulating of soteriological exclusivism should be understood/researched in the sense of “being in agreement with the terminological meaning and sense of a certain doctrine for becoming able to see with the same eyes the proposed view(s)”?, but then, if workable, we would probably have several soteriological exlusivisms (see, for example, the problematic claim in different Indian “siddhanta”- treatises, where respectively one´s own view would be seen/evaluated as the “highest” and the other views only as pedagogical steps or “philosophically inferior”…) and hence the question about soteriological exclusivism would be evaporated by itself because there would be none.

      We contemplate here the mutual influence between a philosophically defendable “Weltanschauung” (world-view) and practical morality. The better it will be contextually “understood” (“taking”) the more dedicatedly it will be practiced (“giving”). The more dedicatedly it will be practiced (“taking”), the better it will be contextually “understood” (“giving”).

      So how, envisaged in the last instance, could we assure doctrinal veracity in cultural diversity?
      Not in the theoretical debate (even it´s palpably valuable and cognitively committing as a necessary, educative tools to train and maintain philosophical continuity) but in the evidence of practical attitude to life (that´s the ultimate proof).
      How, in turn, could this be verified and confirmed?
      I would think in the “collective social intelligence” of a society´s ethical standards and development (and here we come back to the importance of philosophy seen as an educational resource).

      But I confess my clumsiness, that´s a very complicated subject to ponder…;
      sincerely, mikael

  2. (a) Yes, I agree with you and also principally trust that each major world religion has it´s specific soteriology – “philosophically” they may have different approaches but “mystically” there might be union.

    (b) Now, concerning the exciting topic of Buddhist schools, as you have critically indicated, I suggest, that we should discern “historicity” from “soteriology”. In philosophy, historicity develops out of a systematical determination to coordinate philosophical doctrines with a maximum degree of objective classification and that´s very helpful for orientation, study, research and debate – yet, a certain kind of imputed “subjective note” will always remain. In soteriology, historical truthfulness is not of primordial importance, what is relevant however, is that an author or a group of authors wants or tries to support others in finding an essential goal – seen from the Buddhist perspective that would be Buddhahood! So, historical authenticity should not be confounded with soteriological intention. But the problem naturally remains, namely, we must accurately discern historical events that occured from soteriological measures. So, what schools could be considered as historically truthful transmitted classifications and what “presentation of schools” should be recognized as a soteriological tool, that´s certainly an important hermeneutical question. Furthermore, if Nikayic schools developed already relatively early after Buddha´s parinirvana, we must suppose not only disciplinary reasons but also doctrinally beginning differences owing to the sensitive complexity of receptive mind-stratifications under the Buddhist followers themselves and their objectives. And here the problem becomes even more complex since again the possibility of the interference of historicity and soteriology becomes perfectly feasible owing to mutally unvalidated imputations of doctrinal, perplexing issues. Or, in other words, one “school” has interpreted, criticized and finally refuted the other school´s “opinion” based on a “false set of beliefs”, misunderstandings and vice versa. Also, personally I highly doubt that all so-called schools were really historically founded schools – I rather suspect that it´s a “philosophically imputed classification” offering an orientation of “circulated ideas”. But again with our speculations historicity and soteriology become increasingly mingled…; sincerely, mikael

  3. (c) Here, in the beginning, I would like to orientate our attention with a little joke. Imagine we could jump back in time and fortunately meet the great Vasubandhu. Evidently “buddhistically” enthusiastic, philosophically inquisitive and practically eager, we respectfully ask this brilliant Buddhist philosopher: “Vasubandhu, are you a Vijnanavadin?”
    A roar with laughter, like the majestic, terrible-appearing Yamantaka, will be his response!
    How can we become so convinced to imagine (simply meant as pedagogical allusion…) that Nagarjuna was a “Madhyamika”, Asanga a “Chittamatrin/Vijnanavadin”, Dignaga a “Sautrantika”, Samghabhadra a “Vaibhasika” and so on and on?
    Here, historicity and soteriology cleary are already mingled by (even it´s intended as helpful orientation and certainly is very useful for study and communication) philosophical systematization. But can or must we come out of this projective systematization? No, I think it´s unnecessary and most probably unfathomable; rather we should see the pedagogical usefulness (upayakausalya) of classificitations (and implicitly the superb opportunity of conceptual training in sharpening the mind)!

    And this brings us to the question if an “independent” school could provide the gnoseologial goal of Buddhahood. Under “independent” we already adopt certain attributed doctrinal views of a paricticularly imputed school, then, by convention we simply follow the ascribed theories (but it´s another question if the author of the supposed theory really meant the doctrinal points in that manner as presented by others) and finally, when sufficiently trained in those theories, we will discus the truth or untruth of the pretended “opinions” or concepts. Hence, we become increasingly involved in a complicated net of arguments and counter-arguments deeply rooted in subjective interpretation of other subjective interpretations and so on and on. What was/is the origin of this unsurmountable, flagrant complexity? Purely and simply, intention! Intention (intention evidently not seen “egoistically aimed at own interest or own advantage” but in the generously, altruistically adjusted, instructive, didactical Buddhist context) to support others in their quest to arrive at Buddhahood pushes each highly evolved philosophical thinker (or considered as “holy person”) to develop and eventually to teach “his/her” interpretation of Buddha´s vision. While strictly observing this pedagogically obliging phenomenon of Dharma-transmission, we impartially state (here, we do not call in question the authenticity or inauthenticity of such a person´s “own-realization”), that each person (even the “highest”, “holy” venerated sentient being) creates or must foster his/her own philosophy through his/her own understanding about “how to arrive at Buddhahood” (hence, a path-structure with differing degrees of “doctrine-assimilation” will/must be mapped and proposed). sincerly, mikael.

  4. Continuation of (c)
    We cannot come out of this projective dynamism! If a person “x” would have exactly the same view and experience as the person “y”, then “x” would become identical with “y” and vice versa. But then we would have only one person and not two (or more), a distinction would be impossible. Therefore conceptual proliferations (prapanca) are necessarily distinctive nominators to refind one´s own identity and through such a projective process of imaginations and imputations we mutually influence each others (be it positive or negative…) [that, for example, would be or could be seen as the Vijnaptimatrata philosophical viewpoint].
    Concerning the debateable nature of the notions of “Madhyamaka”, etc. and “Yogacara” in relation to the “whether that system is independantly able to lead one to the soteriological goal”, again, you evince important doctrinal facts and how to handle it. The difficulty here (in my humble opinion) lies in the incertitude of the classifying definitions itself. I would propose that we should clearly distinguish philosophical analytical positions from vivid experiences. “Yogacara” [“practicing yoga”, understood not in the causative but in the suggested resultative meaning as “equilibrated (duality yoked by inner stillness), life-engagement”], as the word insinuates, focalizes on the experiencing awareness of cognition and it´s stratifications (vertically spiral visualization), whereas the terms “Madhyamaka”, “Vijnanavada/Chittamatra”, “Sautrantika”, and “Vaibhasika”, at least, in tibetan “grub mtha” worked out treatises, I would mildly suggest, are soteriologically “created” classifications aimed at philosophical skillful orientation in the complex spectrum of mind itself (horizontally wide-fanned out visualization). So, if one doesn´t “see” this purposed pedagogical intention and begins to confound or mingle philosophical views with established experiential authenticity and further starts to propagate projected theories about “schools” we become increasingly involved with a complex net of “more or less misplaced suppositions”, hence a meshwork of endless projective speculations. Furthermore, if one thinks or speculates, that only Prasangika-criticsm independly of the other positions “entails” Budhahood we would find ourselves in a really “meager” philosophical situation but evidently, the same would be applicable for the other positions as well, if seen as solely and individually valid. Strictly, “Yogacara” implies or should imply (again only a humble suggestion), a philosophical “all-pervading vision”, where “all soteriologically considered”, philosophical positions/systems must/should be “seen” in their contextual validity and usefulness.
    But this further implies that one should become experientially able/strenghtened to embrace all positons by a global vision of reality and that further signifies that one´s mind-contiuum (citta-samtana) “wittingly allows” the cognitive infiltration of “error” (bhranti-jnana  prthagjana) in consciousness (Yogacara, proposed as a cognitive atmospheric reality-empathy)! That´s the delicate bodhisattvic challenge, which each one of us has to undergo when (inasmuch as one feels an inclination), “seriously” but nevertheless in uncramped motivation, wants to explore Buddhahood – not for oneself alone but with the intention to validate universal compassion (mahakaruna). Therefore, we also can recognize the skillful differentiation of experiential ideals or “life-realizations- or actualizations” (Sravaka, Pratyeka, and Bodhisattva) which should not be confounded with philosophical positions! I´m unsure, how far this proposition appears to be comprehensible in such a short, tentative description, sorry. sincerely, mikael.

  5. (d) With “Mantric Mahayana”, I suppose, you mean Buddhist Tantrism generally viewed as “Vajrayana-life-attitude”. Here we must understand why such practices begin to develop. Could this be understood without Sutric Mahayana elaborative commission? What I mean is, that the discussion concerning “Mantrayana” considered as “superior or not” to Sutric Mahayana lies, as tentatively mentioned earlier, in a mutually deviating projective understanding about what the supposed doctrinal elements exactly signify. Personally (that´s only an unscientific intuition), I have not the slightest doubt that, for example, “Pali-Buddhism” perfectly demonstrates (and also can live it) Buddhahood without (or nearly without) Mantric elements, if we become able to follow “exactly” the sense and meanings involved by their explanations – but as always, this demands motivation, time, patience,etc. to familiarize with it. So, most probably, it seems to be rather a question of “personal affinities”!
    Now, especially, concerning Vajrayana (Mantric Sutrayana), I would suggest, that it´s a soteriological measure coming out of a decisive cognitive situation (I believe, that it would become meaningful when the bodhisattva arrives at the 8th bhumi) where a highly advanced philosophical intuition must be brought in conventional accordance with ordinary reality sensation (we say sensation and not vision!, the unified vision, a bodhisattva already “has accomplished” on the 6th bhumi). That´s a delicate subject and will require qualities of philosophically unlocked farsightedness, concentrative attitude and spectral visionary reality-engagement.

    (e) Here, again if I understand rightly, the problem lies in the appropriate evalutation of a particulary intriguing cognitive situation, namely, about how to accord the view (“seeing”) with action (“doing”). From the Sutric standpoint, here we are theoreticizing about the last three bhumis of the career of a bodhisattva – a fascinating topic [which implicitly/hiddenly suggests (in my humble observation), that the Sutric teaching can indeed very well describe the cognitive situation of Vajrayana sentiments! We should go back to the Indian sources and patiently explore them! Therefore, I must insist on the importance of “good” translations of still accessible Buddhist texts from Sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese in modern languages for getting at least the chance to undertake such a daring move…].
    Concerning “sambhogakaya”, the “bodhisattvic vision and sensation of reality-engagement”, [the union of the absolute with the conventional through luminous awareness (prabhasvara)], the painstaking theoretical point lies in the adequate interpretation of the “trikaya”-theory (or better, I would like to say “trikaya”-gnoseology). As soon as we read in this highly complex Buddhahood-elaboration (“what does it mean to become a Buddha” and “how to live within Buddhahood”) a too literal meaning (where a subtle symbolically or metaphorically inspiration must be simultaneously realized through an extraordinary, “fast” method) we could become easily lost in monstrous speculations and wrong interpretations. Tantric techniques originally where meant as marvelous, outstanding but very delicate methods and hence kept secret from “immature persons”, just on account of the fact that the “save practice” would require an “advanced cognitive seeing (sunyata-direct-perception)” and, without such a vivid basic-vision, “simply” or “naively” engaging in such exceptional practices will, sure enough, lead to catastrophic, disastrous consequences – hence, again a delicate but ingenious topic where a kind of “intimate pedagogic-frustration”, owing to the significance of the pedagogical involvement of “secrecy”, must be deeply pondered and finally overcome (suggested 9th bhumi from the sutric perspective)! sincerely, mikael.

  6. (f) Alright, again a fascinating research objective. Here, arrived at this fantastic, grandios level, finally, we have surmounted the question of historical truthfulness in relation to “secrecy” and now are ready to elaborate with a certain kind of light heartedness on the doctrinal possibilities to transmit, through soteriological conviction, the Dharma (10th bhumi). But again, without or precisely owing to deeply rooted philosophical elaborations, the soteriological output (which should be the gnoseological “non plus ultra”) will be considered in differing visions (and that´s unavoidable…) by individual “seekers”, “finders” and “founders”.

    But we should not become discouraged – in the contrary and thankfully, “at the end” we surely arrive at the famous philosophical “wonder/amazement” which, in fact, out of curiosity, was our starting point; but now, after the “foolish multilateral verifications effectuated through doxographical inquiries (grub mtha) and explorative validation of bodhicitta” [even probably considered as unnecessary fagging edeavours by more advanced practitioner but, owing to one´s own struggle of finding acceptance, experienced as necessary), once again we will refind the same fascinating sensation of infantine, naïve innocence – the amazement! The simple entrusting! The open secret! Sincerely, mikael.