About the Book:
The Commentary on Just the Maitreya Chapter from the Samdhinirmocana-sutra, attributed to the Indian Buddhist master Jnanagarbha, is an important work of early Indian Buddhist philosophy. As the title indicates, it focuses on the eighth chapter of the sutra, "The Question of Maitreya," one of the seminal scriptural sources for Indian Buddhist meditation theory. It provides learned commentaries on the doctrines of "calming" (Samatha) and "higher insight" (vipasyana), as well as a comprehensive overview of the path to awakening as understood by the Yogacara tradition. In addition, it comments on the sutra's statement that all of the phenomena of experience are "cognition only" (vijnapti-matra), interpreting this as a statement of universal idealism. This commentary contains one of the most detailed philosophical analyses of this important chapter, and it has some of the most thought-provoking exegesis of a text that is one of the most influential of Indian Buddhist scriptures.
About the Author:
John Powers received his Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from the University of Virginia and is currently a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Asian Studies, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia. A specialist in Indian and Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, Powers has published numerous books and articles on topics related to Buddhist thought, including a translation of the Samdhinirmocana-sutra (Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1995), Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism (Ithaca: Snow Lion, 1995), and Hermeneutics and Tradition in the Samdhinirmocana-sutra (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1993).
This book began as a part of a project to translate the Samdhinirmocana-sutra, one of the most influential texts of Indian Mahayana Buddhism and the primary scriptural source of the Yogacara school. The-initial work was done in India under the auspices of a grant from the American Institute of Indian Studies at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarnath. While in residence there, I had the good fortune to come in contact with Professor Yeshe Thabkhe, who agreed to work with me on the translation of the commentary attributed to Jnanagarbha, which discusses the eighth chapter of the Samdhinirmocana. As an expert on Indian Buddhist commentarial literature, his help was invaluable.
Although this work was initially intended as an ancillary part of the translation project, it soon became apparent that this commentary had merits of its own and was helpful in drawing out the thought of difficult passages in the sutra and in making decisions concerning the translation of technical terms. Thus, after completing the translation of the sutra, I decided that a separate book containing a translation and Tibetan text of this important commentary and a discussion of its doctrines and authorship would be valuable for people interested in Buddhist philosophy in general, and Yogacara in particular. My hope in publishing this volume is that it will prove useful for people interested in the sutra and how it has been interpreted by those who inherited it and were faced with the often difficult task of making sense of its often enigmatic teachings.
I would like to particularly thank Professor Thabkhe for his help arid for the enormous amount of time he spent going over difficult passages, commenting on the philosophical ramifications of the text, and discussing the ranges of meanings of technical terms. Thanks are also due to Yen. Samdhong Rinpoche, principal of the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, for making available the resources of his school. One of the greatest resources was Ven. Ngawang Sherap, Librarian of the Institute, who was very helpful in finding rare reference materials, dictionaries, and manuscripts of the texts.
Another scholar who was of great help in this project was Geshe Palden Dragpa, Librarian of Tibet House in Delhi, who donated his time and vast knowledge of Indian commentarial literature. I would also like to offer my special thanks to my wife Cindy, whose help and support during our stay in India and in the process of finishing this book have been invaluable. I would also like to acknowledge my gratitude to Tsering Dolma, with whom I began reading the Samdhinirmocana-sutra while a graduate student at McMaster University and who was my first Tibetan teacher.
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