Monday, January 24, 2022

Buddhist Gurulogy

The theory or conception of guru in various strands of Buddhism may be called “Buddhist gurulogy.” The primary meaning of the Sanskrit word guru is “heavy” as opposed to laghu “light.” By extension, a spiritual mentor would be called a guru. From a Buddhist perspective, a guru, like a buddha, would be a “field” (kṣetra: zhing). That is, one may “sow” beneficent or maleficent “seeds” in the field and accordingly “reap” rich yields either in the form of puṇya (bsod bsams) or pāpa (sdig pa). Thus, a guru may be seen as a “person of heavy/grave consequences.” [Add many points here.]

Th Bodhisattvabhūmi (Dutt, p. 75): dharmaguravo hi buddhabodhisattvāḥ | dharme hi tatkriyamāṇe pareṣām adhimātraṃ dharmagauravam utpadyate|; Tib. (Gangs can rig brgya’i sgo ’byed lde mig 24, p. 123): chos ni sangs rgyas dang byang chub sems dpa’ rnams kyi bla ma yin pa’i phyir te | chos la bkur sti byas na gzhan dag kyang shas cher chos la gus pa bskyed par ’gyur la |. Paraphrase: The dharma is the guru of buddhas and bodhisattvas, and hence by according respect to dharma, one would also generate respect for buddhas and bodhisattvas. In other words, if one respects dharmaratna, one would also come to respect buddharatna and saṃgharatna.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Buddhist Semiology

Some Notes on Buddhist Semiology 

§1. Semiology is said to be another term for “semiotics,” which in turn, is said to be “the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation.” §2. Is it justified to talk of a “Buddhist semiology”? Obviously. Let us keep it very basic. The signs, significations, the signified. Think of: abhidhāna and abhidheya; lakṣaṇa and lakṣya, saṃketa, sāṃketika and pāramārthika. Add Tibetan words for these. There are many more terms and concepts that relevant for semiology. §3. Physical, verbal, and conceptual signs have some referents as the signified. Sounds and symbols are signs only if there is something signified. §4. Those factors which bind signs with the signified are conceptual constructions. Without conceptual constructions, semiology would not possible. §5. Take terms such as vinaya, abhidharma, prajñāparamitā, tantra. Always two: abhidhāna and abhidheya; pada and artha. §6. Rong zom pa speaks of brdar gyur pa, sgrar grags pa, sgrar snang ba. All of these are signs. §7. All signs are conceptually signed. Verbal and sign languages operate according to a similar principle: sgra don ’dres ’dzin. As such, related with language and logic. §9. The terms nimitta and saṃjñā. No saṃjñā without nimitta. Ontology and soteriology. Note: nimitta as a cause: material cause and logical cause. Former in a narrow sense is gender specific signs: such as male and female physical attributes and organs. §9. Gender specific nimittas (real or imagined) activate or instigate feelings and sensations. Tackle nimitta and saṃjñā. §10. aśubhabhāvanā presuppose nimitta and saṃjñā. §11. rgyu mtshan ma med pa, chos thams cad mtshan ma med pa = chos thams cad stong pa. Ontological tabula rasa. Leave no room for mtshan ma. No mtshan ma, no saṃjñā. §12. Tantric: mtshan bcas mtshan med rdzogs rim. Using mtshan ma in a soteriologically beneficial way. §13. visual mudrās, verbal mantras, visualization also signs. dhamas as signs and dharmatā as signified. §14. Using all possible phenomena such as the 5 skandhas, all letters and syllables as signs. saṃsāric phenomena as signs and nirvāṇic reality as the signified. §15. All colors, all shapes, all times, as signs and substrates of the purity and reality. §16. All maṇḍalas, all temples, all stūpas, objects such vajra and bell are ascribed with significance of all teachings of the Buddha.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

A Grammatical Term: yin byed kyi mtha’ can

If we do a search in the BuddhaNexus, we would find a couple of occurrences of the grammatical expression yin byed kyi mtha’ can, that occurs in some śabdaśāstras and pramāṇaśāstras. It is also used by Rong-zom-pa. This must refer to a kind of Sanskrit suffix. It occurs in the context of taddhitapratyaya (de la phan pa’i rkyen) “secondary suffix” and kṛtpratyaya (byed pa’i rkyen) “primary suffix.” Some sources mention yin byed kyi rkyen. We may, for now, take rkyen and mtha’ to be synonymous. This can be deduced from the use of the expressions kṛtpratyaya and kṛdanta. For the want of a better suggestion, I am considering if yin byed kyi mtha’/rkyen is a Tibetan rendering of bhāvapratyaya, which has been translated elsewhere as dngos po’i rkyen. In Rong-zom-pa’s case, the term yin byed kyi mtha’ can should not be understood as the suffix itself but as referring to a word with this suffix. If this holds, the term yin byed kyi mtha’ can may be translated as “a [word] that possesses being-making/causing suffix.” This bhāvapratyaya is said to be an “abstraction/nominalizing suffix” (i.e. tva or ).

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Buddhist Yuktiology

I need this word: Yuktiology. It should refer to the study, theory, or, conception of yukti. What is a yukti? There we begin with the problem. As a point of departure, we may begin with the four kinds of yukti. There are several Indian Buddhist sources for this. We have many more Tibetan sources. But my concern here is Rong zom pa’s Yuktiology, which may be described as an “extraordinary or exceptional Yuktiology,” from the point of view of the Sarvadharmāpratiṣṭhānavāda system of the  “extraordinary or exceptional  Mahāyāna.” For now, we shall contend that the causal efficacy of things, effects’ dependency on their causes, the reality or essentiality of things, and the logicality or rationality of reasons and reasoning may all be called yukti

(1)  reasoning of intrinsic reality,
(2)  reasoning of causal efficacy/affectivity (knowing effect through cause),
(3) reasoning of result’s dependency (knowing cause through effect), and
(4) reasoning that demonstrates the rationality/logicality of reason.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Buddhist Axiology

§1. Is there anything in Buddhist philosophy that can be said to have an intrinsic value, that is, any entity or reality that has a value-in-itself or is an end-in-itself? One might debate about whether the Summum bonum according to each Buddhist system can be attributed with an intrinsic value but otherwise nothing can be said to have an intrinsic value inasmuch as the physical-psychical complexes (skandha: phung po) that constitute the entire conditioned existence is fleeting, hollow, and essence-less. But because nothing has an intrinsic value everything can be attributed with an extrinsic/instrumental/contributory value. Some Mahāyāna thinkers might argue that even the Buddhahood itself has only an instrumental value insofar as it is meant to serve as a mere means of benefiting other sentient beings. Can benevolence and beneficence then be attributed with an intrinsic value, at least according to some Buddhist philosophers? If so, can we assume that some Buddhists attributed intrinsic value to ethical values? §2. How about aesthetic values (or sensori-emotional values)? Is there a Buddhist philosophical standpoint on aesthetic values? How did Buddhist philosophers view the nature and status of art, beauty, and taste? What did they think of the creation and appreciation of beauty? Here, too, perhaps, they could have not denied the instrumental value of aesthetic values but certainly they would not have attributed any intrinsic value to sensori-emotional values. Importantly, the Buddhist concept of beauty and the appreciation of beauty seem to determined by the Buddhist concept of purity and the appreciation of purity, on both mundane and supra-mundane, physical and spiritual levels. That is, I find something or someone beautiful because I assume that something or someone is pure. (Thinking of what Āryadeva said with regard to the association between the notion of purity and desirability.) The spiritual and supra-mundane purity would override the physical and mundane purity. A pure mind/heart is a beautiful mind/heart. §3. How about epistemic values? I suppose that only instrumental value can be attributed to epistemic values. §4. Perhaps an objection: Some things, such as venom or ambrosia (“elixir of life”), must have an intrinsic value because of their intrinsic (i.e. ontologically existent) efficacy and efficiency to kill or cure. Response: The efficacy and efficiency of these substances are due to their instrumental value not because they have an intrinsic value. There is nothing that has an inherent existence. If substances such as elixir and poison have the intrinsic potential to kill or cure, they should be able to kill or cure anybody and at all times, but this obviously not the case. Even venom can sometimes cure somebody, whereas even elixir can kill somebody. This idea is stated clearly in the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra (T, fol. 190a3–4): kha chig bdud rtsi ’thungs pas ’chi mi ’gyur || kha chig gis ni ’thungs nas ’chi bar ’gyur || kha cig dug ’thung pas kyang ’chi mi ’gyur || kha cig gis ni ’thungs nas ’chi bar ’gyur || Some do not die after drinking elixir. Some do die after drinking [it]. Some do not die even after drinking poison. Some do die after drinking [it]. 

§5. I contend that Buddhist ethical-spiritual values have been crystallized or embodied in the so-called six perfections (pāramitā: pha rol tu phyin pa). 

§6. Mahāyānic ethical-spiritual could be subsumed under compassion (karuṇā: snying rje) and insight (prajñā/jñāna: shes rab / ye shes) and these are further crystallized as bodhicitta

§7. Mātṛceṭa, Varṇārhavarṇastotra 6. 28 (Hartmann 1987: 207). The pāda b is missing. The basic idea is that duḥkha or sukha, if not meaningful or purposeful, should be abandoned. If so adopted. Implication: duḥkha or sukha may be meaningful or meaningless. See Jens-Uwe Hartmann (ed. & tr.), Das Varṅārhavarṇastotra des Mātṛceṭa. Sanskrittexte aus den Turfanfunden XII. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1987.

Friday, March 6, 2020


The world is reeling under fears and risks of Coronavirus. Many scheduled events had to be put on hold. Perhaps it is the nature’s way to tell humans: “Slow down! Don’t run around like crazy!” We can notice that the turbulence of our 84,000 cognitional-emotional defilements (kleśa: nyon mongs pa) is at its peak. We are drowning in our own five kinds of dregs or scums (kṣaya: snyigs ma) that Buddhist sources speak of. All of us who identify ourselves as politically and ideologically left, right, or centrist are seething with self-righteousness and hatred for all others who think, believe, and act differently. For those of us who believe that we have received and abide by bodhisattva precepts, there is a real risk that it is a mere bubble of illusion that we have created for ourselves. If one hates a single individual and thus mentally abandons him or her, one would incur the “transgression of abandoning sentient beings” (sems can yal bar ’dor ba’i ltung ba). A solution? Disagree with our prajñā, but with our karuṇā, we should embrace everyone without exception! The attitude that I love most of my leftist comrades but hate Trump and his supporters is simply incompatible with one’s bodhisattva precepts. Well, each of us is responsible for our own ethical-ascetical integrity. The beauty of Buddhism is that one has the freedom to go to hell, that is, if one chooses. I personally would like to believe that our external 84,000 illnesses or diseases are mere symptoms of our inner 84,000 cognitional-emotional defilements (kleśa: nyon mongs pa). We can temporarily try to fight the external 84,000 illnesses or diseases, but as long as we nurture and intensify our 84,000 cognitional-emotional defilements, these will find a way to emerge as pandemic diseases. We just have to recall that kleśas are pan-saṃsāric! This is a small personal thought associated with the coronology.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Buddhist Anomalogy

In a world of political correctness, where epistemic and ethical correctness no longer or hardly plays a role, to speak of anomaly may carry a hint of criminality. What is standard, normal, or expected? We would be reprimanded by the self-righteous and self-declared vice squad. Nonetheless, I wish to speak here of “Buddhist anomalogy,” that is, theories or doctrines in Buddhism, that seem to deviate from what is  regarded as standard, normal, or expected. The tradition, for example, the Tibetan tradition, itself seems to characterize such elements as “uncommon” (thun mong ma yin pa) as juxtaposed or opposed to those that are mainstream/standard and thus “common.” Importantly, those who endorse anomalous doctrines would, however, never reject those that are standard and common. Many aspects of Buddhist anomalogy can be found in the domains of Buddhist ontology, Buddhist soteriology, Buddhist epistemology, Buddhist gnoseology, Buddhology, Saddharmology, Buddhist axiology, Buddhist cosmology, Buddhist phenomenology, Buddhist psychology, Buddhist sentientology, Buddhist eschatology, and so on. These are mere venues of explorations. I wish to return to these points in the near future. 

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Buddhist Phobiology or Buddhist Fearology

When one is doing or supposed to do an assignment “x” but ends up doing or wants to do “y,” then one is under the spell of māra. This is the idea of mārakarman (bdud kyi las). It is one of the many kinds of mārakarman. Such a karman is not necessarily evil or intrinsically unwholesome. It just hinders one from getting things done. I am right now under such a spell. My article on secrecy is not getting done in time. It is dragging on. There are so many obstacles. There are so many details that need to be traced and verified. One such detail is the element of fear or phobia. The more I think of it, the more I think it is desirable to talk about “Buddhist phobiology” or “Buddhist fearology,” that is, a kind of Buddhist philosophy or psychology of fear.
            Here are some points to consider. (1) The semantic distinction between “fear” and “danger/risks” is warranted. Both Sanskrit bhaya and Tibetan ’jigs pa have these two semantic facets. (2) Psychologists would tell us that there is difference between rational fear for real dangers and irrational fear for imaginary dangers. (3) Perhaps from a Buddhist perspective, although I am not sure, perhaps one may state that strictly speaking all “fears” are irrational. That is, fear is a psychological state of mind associated with conceptual construction, which is not a valid cognition. Some, on the one hand, even without knowing any real danger, may be gripped with fear. Some, on the other hand, may remain fearless even while knowing the dangers and risks. (4) The Buddha is said to be characterized by four kinds of fearlessness. The question is what makes a buddha or beings like himself fearless and what makes one fearful? (5) Perhaps the most fundamental cause that makes fear possible is the notion of self. The fear of losing one’s existence and continuance. Let us call it “existential fear.” And then comes the fear of losing what one believes is one’s own. The fear of not getting what one wants, the fear of getting what one does not want. The fear of becoming what one does not want to be, and the fear of not becoming what one wants to become. The list can go on. (6) Normally a regular being would be fearful of, let us, hellish existence, and be hopeful of celestial existence. Wise beings, according to Buddhism (e.g. CŚ 7.14), are, however, said to be as terrified of celestial existence as of hellish celestial existence! Why? The axiological orientation is different. Similarly, normally it is said that one should be afraid of saṃsāra, and seek nirvāṇa. But for bodhisattvas, who wish to remain active in saṃsāra for the benefit of sentient beings, premature or undesired slip into nirvāṇa is seen as a kind of danger. This, as I pointed out elsewhere presupposes an early notion of nirvāṇa. No such danger would be posed by, for example, non-fixed nirvāṇa. (7) From a Buddhist point of view, saddharma is like a powerful medicine. The more profound a saddharma is, the greater is the benefit but also greater are the risks involved. Vajrāyānic saddharma is said to be even more profound and thus even riskier. These risks are not imaginary. There are real risks involved. The risks involved are as real as the risks of playing with a king cobra! (8) The idea of fear seems to be closely related with the idea of kṣānti. There are many kinds of kṣānti. It seems to be a kind of intellectual-psychological capacity to bear or encounter any entity or reality, no matter how unpleasant, how painful, how disgusting, or how profound!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Buddhist Paradoxology

I wish to characterize the Buddhist usage of seeming contradictory propositions and ideas as “Buddhist Paradoxology.” I do this for sheer fun. First, the eight kinds of profundities (zab mo brgyad) or eight kinds of profound teachings (zab mo’i chos rnam pa brgyad) should be explored. Such a paradoxology is very typical of the Prajñāparamitā doctrines and all those that are based on or inspired by these. A staring point would be the following:  Mi-pham, mKhas ’jug (§): ’o na bden pa gnyis su phye ba don med cing bden pa gcig tu ’gyur ro snyam na | bden pa gnyis su phye ba ni bden pa gcig pu don dam bden pa mthar thug pa chos dbyings mnyam pa nyid ’di la ’jug pa’i thabs yin pas don yod la | mthar thug pa den pa gcig pu chos thams cad gdod nas zhi zhing ma skyes la mya ngan las ’das pa mnyam pa nyid yin par rgyal ba nyid kyis gsungs zhing shing rta chen po rnams kyis bstan bcos dag las kyang de ltar bsgrubs zin to || de ltar zab mo’i mthar thug pa’i don ’di la bzod pa nam thob na de’i tshe de bzhin gshegs pa’i gsungs rabs mtha’ dag gi bstan don zab cing rgya che ba thams cad la nges pa’i shes pa the tshom gyi smag dang bral ba skye ba yin no || ’on kyang theg pa chen po la blo ma sbyangs shing tshogs bsags pa dman pa bden gnyis ’gal bar ’dzin pa’i blo can rnams skrag pa’i gnas su ’gyur mod kyi | zab mo brgyad ldan rtogs pa’i shes rab kyi spyan dang ldan pa rnams gnas ’di la shin tu yid ches par ’gyur te | zab mo brgyad gang zhe na | skye ba dang skye med lta bu bden pa gnyis po de dag byis pa’i blo la ’gal ba ltar snang yang | zab mo’i chos nyid gzigs pa rnams kyi ngor | don dam par skye ba brtag na dben bzhin rten ’brel bslu med kyi dbang gis tha snyad du skye ba yod pa ’gal ba med par ma zad don gcig tu ’char ba skye ba la zab pa | de bzhin du don dam par ’gag pa med kyang tha snyad du ’gag pa yod pa ’gal med don gcig tu rtogs pa ’gag pa la zab pa | slob lam du shes rab kyis de bzhin nyid shes kyang thabs mkhas pas dus min par mngon du mi byed par gsungs pa la | blo chung ba dag gis de bzhin nyid shes shing goms par bya ba yin na mngon du byed mi rung ba ci zhig yod | yod na shes shing goms par bya ba don med do snyam du khong du chud dka’ la | blo ldan rnams de bzhin nyid shes shing goms pa’i stobs kyis de ’ba’ zhig dus min par mngon du mi byed par yongs su dag pa mthar thug pa’i ngo bos mngon du byed pa ’gal med don gcig tu shes pa de bzhin nyid rtogs pa la zab pa | don dam spros bral la sbyin sogs sgrub tu med par shes bzhin tha snyad du sbyin sogs tshad med par sgrub pa yang | phal pa’i blo la sgrub tu med na sbyin sogs sgrub par yang mi ’thad la | sgrub par byed na sgrub pa med pa yang ma yin no snyam du ’gal ba’i tshul gyis de’i don mi shes kyang | zab mo’i blo dang ldan pa dag gis don dam par sgrub tu med pa’i dbang gis tha snyad du sgrub pa dang de’i ’bras bu ’grub pa bslu med du yod kyi | don dam par yod na de lta bu mi rigs pa’i tshul shes nas de gnyis don gcig tu rtogs pa shes bya la zab pa | don dam par chos gang yang dmigs su med pas mthong ba ci yang med la | ci yang ma mthong ba de nyid mthong ba’i dam pa’o zhes gsungs pa la | blo dman pa dag gis | ci yang ma mthong ba la mthong ba’i dam pa ci zhig yod | mthong ba dam pa yod na de nyid mthong ba yin gyi ci yang ma mthong ba ma yin no snyam du ’gal bar ’dzin la | zab mo’i blo ldan rnams kyis dngos dngos med kyi chos su gtogs pa’i mthong ba’am dmigs par bya ba yod na de nyid de’i mtshan mar ’dzin pa dang lta bar gyur pa yin pas mi rtog pa’i ye shes yod mi srid la | dmigs pas mthong bar bya ba ci yang med pa’i don so so rang gis rig pa la the tshom med cing chos kun gyi gnas lugs bsam gyis mi khyab pa ’di kho na yin par nyams su myong ba yod pa’i tshul khong du chud pa shes pa la zab pa | de bzhin du don dam par chos gang yang spyod du med pa la spyod pa ni spyod pa’i mchog ste gnas lugs kyi don la spyod par gsungs pa la’ang gong du bshad pa’i tshul gyis ’gal med don gcig tu rtogs pa spyod pa la zab pa | yang dag pa’i don du bsgrub bya sgrub byed gnyis med kyang tha snyad du lam sgrub pa yang gong du bshad pa’i tshul gyi ’gal med don gcig tu rtogs pa gnyis med la zab pa | kun rdzob tu tshogs gnyis rdzogs par byed la don dam par de’i ’bras bu sangs rgyas thob du med par bstan pa dang | thob med nyid thob pa’i mchog tu bstan pa la’ang | byis pa rnams kyis ’gal ’dur bzung nas | sgra ji bzhin du rtogs mi nus par rnam bzhag gzhan dang gzhan du ’chad par sems kyang | zab mo’i blo dang ldan pa rnams kyis don dam par thob tu yod pa dmigs pa can zhig yod na bsam gyis mi khyab pa’i ye shes kyi sku can sangs rgyas nyid ma yin te chos nyi tshe bas bsdus pa’i ’bras bu nyi tshe ba’o || chos nyid bsam gyis mi khyab pa’i gnas lugs ni bsgrub thob med par shes kyang | de ’dra’i chos nyid mngon du ’gyur ba la blo bur gyi dri ma dag byed tshogs gnyis tshogs dgos pa yin zhing | de yang don dam par bsgrub med dang thob med yin pa’i gnad kyis tha snyad du bsgrub cing thob pa bslu med yin pa’i tshul ’gal med don gcig tu rtogs pa ni ’bras bu mngon du byed pa’i thabs mkhas la zab pa ste | mdor na stong rten ’byung ’gal med zung ’jug don gcig tu rtogs pa’i zab mo brgyad ldan ’di ni mngon du gyur pa sa brgyad pa pa’i rtogs rigs su gsungs pa yin la | zab mo’i don dang rjes su mthun pa’i bzod pa thob pa rnams la’ang cha ’dra ba ’byung zhing | theg chen gyi dgongs don la ’jug par ’dod pa’i blo ldan rnams kyis kyang de’i rjes su mthun pa’i blo bskyed par bya dgos pa yin no ||.

Second, there are many related ideas. Some examples: ma mthong ba ni mthong ba dam pabgrod du med pa ni lam gyi mchogrtsa ba med ni chos rnams kun gyi rtsa baci yang med pa la cir yang ’char du rung bama gzigs pa’i tshul gyis gzigs, and so forth.

Third, the idea of profundity and inconceivability in Mahāyāna Buddhism seems to be somehow related (genetically or generically) to the idea of secrecy and mystery in Mahāyāna. What makes an entity, reality, event, or mechanism amazing, wondrous, marvellous, and thus also mysterious. The Bodhicittavivaraṇa (verse no. 88; Lindtner 1997: 62) ascribed to one Nāgārjuna, in my view, expresses the marvel and mystery of the Mahāyāna paradoxology: chos rnams stong pa ’di shes nas || las dang ’bras bu bsten pa gang || de ni mtsho mtshar bas ngo mtshar || rmad du ’byung bas rmad du ’byung ||. This idea is one of the eight kinds of profundity-based Mahāyāna paradoxology.  Mi-pham in his Nges shes sgron me briefly alludes to the idea but mKhan-po Kun-dpal seems completely oblivious to it. Khro-chu ’Jam-rdor did realize it but he quotes a verse from the Pañcakrama. John Pettit (e.g. Pettit 1999: 269) does not bother to identify or even to comment on the source. It needs to be checked of the source indication is correct. I think what Mi-pham had in mind is Bodhicittavivaraṇa 88. Such a profundity-based Mahāyāna paradoxology has been, in my view, transmitted in the *Guhyagarbhatantra via what is known among the exegetes as e ma’o mtshar lnga, which actually belongs to the initiatory setting of the Tantric scripture. Also the popular idea which seems to be rooted in the gTer-ma literature, namely, the resolution of the paradoxology of the profundity and height of realization and karmic meticulousness and scruple seems to be connected with the same idea: nga lta ba nam mkha’ bas kyang mtho, las rgyu ’bras bag phye bas kyang zhib.