From the Jacket:
The Conception of Buddhist Nirvana provides an English translation of Nagarjuna's chapters on Causality and Nirvana and Chandrakirti's comprehensive commentary on the Sanskrit Text and presents a rare exposition of the Madhyamaka Dialectic. The book is edited by Jaideva Singh with an exhaustive introduction, containing the historical background of the Madhyamaka philosophy, a lucid exposition of its merciless logic, an admirable presentation of its uncanny metaphysics and a systematic account of its soteriology and Buddhology. The editor has also provided an Analysis of Contents and has added those portions of the text and the Sanskrit commentary on the basis of which Stcherbatsky wrote out his book. This will enable the reader to make a comparative study of Stcherbatsky's version with Original Sanskrit.
Abut the Author:
Theodore Stcherbatsky (1866-1942) one of the pioneering scholars of Buddhist Studies who wrote, edited and translated several works like - Nyayabindu, Abhisamayalamkara Prajnaparamitopadesa Sastra, Buddhist Logic (2 Vols.), The Central Conception of Buddhism, Erkenntnistheorie and Logic, nqch der Lehre der Spateren Buddhisten and so on and so forth.
Mahayana and Hinayana
There are two aspects of Mahayana Philosophy, viz. the Madhyamaka Philosophy or Sunyavada and Yogacara or Vijnanavada. Here we are concerned only with Madhyamaka Philosophy or Sunyavada.
Generally there are three names current for Hinayana and Mahayana. The three names for the former are Southern Buddhism, Original Buddhism and Hinayana, and those for the latter Northern Buddhism, Developed Buddhism and Mahayana. The first two names are given by European scholars. Southern and Northern Buddhism are names used on Geographical basis. European scholars called Buddhism prevalent in countries to the north of India, viz., Nepal, Tibet, China, Japan etc., Northern Buddhism and that prevalent in countries to the South of India, viz., Ceylon, Burma, Siam etc. Southern Buddhism. This division is not quite correct, for, according to Dr. J. Takakusu, the Buddhism prevalent in Java and Sumatra which lie in a southern direction from India is similar to that prevalent in the North.
The division ‘original and developed Buddhism’ is based on the belief that Mahayana was only a gradual development of the original doctrine which was Hinayana, but this is not acceptable to Mahayanists. Japanese scholars maintain that the great Buddha imparted his teachings to his pupils according to their receptive capacities. To some he imparted his exoteric teachings (vyakta-upadesa) containing his ‘phenomenological perception;’ to more advanced pupils he imparted his subtle esoteric teachings (guhya-upadesa) containing his ‘ontological perception.’ The Buddha generally gave an outline of both the teachings, and both were developed by the great acaryas. It is, therefore, a misnomer to call one ‘original Buddhism’ and another ‘developed Buddhism.’ Both the teachings were delivered simultaneously. The exoteric teachings may be called well-known Buddhism and the esoteric less known, the latter being subtler than the former.
We have, however, to find out how the terms Hinayana and Mahayana came into vogue. According to R. Kimura, the Mahasanghikas had retained the esoteric teachings of the Buddha and were more liberal and advanced than the Vajjian monks were excommunicated by the Sthaviras for expressing opinions different from those of the orthodox school, and were denounced as ‘Papa Bhikkhus’ and ‘Adhammavadins.’ The Mahasanghikas, in order to show the superiority of their doctrines over those of the Sthaviras, coined the term Mahayana (the higher vehicle) for their own school, and Hinayana (the lower vehicle) for the school of their opponents. Thus the terms Mahayana and Hinayana came into vogue. It goes without saying that these terms were used only by the Mahayanists.
Three Phases in Buddhism
Three phases can be easily marked in Buddhist philosophy and religion.
1. The Abhidharmic phase from the Buddha’s death to 1st Century A.D.
This was the realistic and pluralistic phase of Buddhism. The method of this school was one of analysis. The philosophy of this period consisted mostly of analysis of psycho-physical phenomena into dharmas (elements) samskrta (compounded or conditioned) and asamskrta (uncompounded or unconditioned). The main interest in this period was psychological-soteriological. The dominant tone of this school was one of rationalism combined with meditation practices. The language used in this period was pali, and the school is known as Hinayana.
2. Development of Esoteric Teachings
The second phase consisted of the development of the esoteric teachings of the Buddha which were current among the Mahasanghikas, simultaneously with the abhidharmic phase. The main interest in this period was ontological-soteriological. The dominant tone of this school was one of supra-rationalism combined with yoga. The main attempt was to find out the Svabhava or true nature of Reality and to realize it in oneself by developing Prajna. The language used was Samskrta or mixed Samskrta. This school was known as Mahayana. The earlier phase was known as Madhyamaka philosophy or Sunyavada, the later as Yogacara or Vijnanavada. This phase lasted from 2nd century A.D. to 500 A.D.
3. Development of Tantra
The third phase was that of Tantra. This lasted from 500 A.D. to 1000 A.D. The main interest of the period was cosmical-soteriological. The dominant feature of this school was occultism. The main emphasis was on adjustment and harmony with the cosmos and on achieving enlightenment by mantric and occult methods. The language was mostly Samskrta and Apabhramsa. The main Tantric schools were Mantrayana, Vajrayana, Sahajayana, Kalacakrayana.
Here we are not concerned with the first and third phase. We are concerned only with the earlier phase of the second period. Stcherbatsky has provided a translation only of the first and twentyfifth chapters i.e. the chapter dealing with causality and that dealing with Nirvana of the Madhyamaka Sastra or the Madhyamaka-Karikas of Nagarjuna together with the commentary of Candrakirti. In the Introduction, an attempt is made to give a brief resume of the Madhyamaka system as a whole. Madhyamaka Sastra : Life of Nagarjuna and Aryadeva
The Madhyamaka philosophy is contained mainly in the Madhyamaka Sastra of Nagarjuna and the Catuh-Sataka of Aryadeva.
Books on Mahayana Buddhism were completely lost in India. Their translation existed in Chinese, Japanese and Tibetan. Mahayana literature was written mostly in Samskrta and mixed Samskrta. Scholars who had made a study of Buddhism hardly suspected that there were books on Buddhism in Samskrta also.
Mr. Brian Houghton Hodgson was appointed Resident at Kathamandu in Nepal in 1833, and served in this capacity up to the end of 1843.
During this period, he discovered there 381 bundles of manuscripts on Buddhism in Samskrta. These were distributed to various learned societies for editing and publication. It was then found out that the Buddhism in the Samskrta manuscripts was greatly different from that of the Pali Canon, and that the Buddhism in China, Japan, Tibet etc. was very much similar to that of the Samskrta works. Among the Samskrta manuscripts was also found the Madhyamakasastra of Nagarjuna together with the commentary known as Prasannapada by Candrakirti. This was edited by Louis de la Valleepoussin and published in the Biliotheca Buddhica, Vol. IV. St. Petersburg, Russia in 1912. An earlier edition of this book was published by the Buddhist Text Society, Calcutta, in 1897 and edited by Saraccandra Sastri. This was full of misprints. Poussin consulted this book, but he also used two other manuscripts, one from Cambridge and another from Paris. He also checked up the text of the Karikas and the commentary with the help of Tibetan translation. Dr. P. L. Vaidya utilised Poussin’s edition and brought out in 1960 Madhyamaka Sastra of Nagarjuna with Candrakirti’s commentary in Devanagari character. This has been published by Mithila Vidyapitha, Darbhanga. Stcherbatsky had utilized Poussin’s edition in writing out his Conception of Buddhist Nirvana.
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