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Lokaprajnapti: A Critical Exposition of Buddhist Cosmology

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Lokaprajnapti: A Critical Exposition of Buddhist Cosmology

Lokaprajnapti: A Critical Exposition of Buddhist Cosmology

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Item Code: IDF374
Author: Dr. (Mrs.) Kalpakam Sankarnarayan, Prof. Kazunobu Matsuda & Dr. Motohiro Yoritomi
Publisher: Somaiya Publications Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2002
ISBN: 8170392500
Pages: 389 (Color Illus: 20)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 9.8" X 7.4"
weight of the is 1.8kg
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From the Jacket :

Buddhism believes that inward extinction of the self and the senses culminates in a state of illumination beyond suffering and existence which seem to be inseparable. While leading the common people to achieve the state of illumination, the Great Master also touched upon cosmology or the study of the Universe. For almost two thousand years, his words on cosmology, better known as Lokaprajnapti of Prajnapti Sastra, were available only in Chinese and Tibetan languages until it was discovered a few years ago that the palm leaf manuscripts preserved in a few Buddhist temples in Japan are Sanskrit Fragments which are identified as the Lokaprajnapti of Prajnapti Sastra of the Sarvastivada.

Lokaprajnapti: A Critical Exposition of Buddhist Cosmology covers salient features of Cosmology as reflected in the Sanskrit Fragments. It examines the concepts tracing their origin from the pre-Buddhist Indian thought. While discussing the central theme, the influence of various Buddhist schools of thought on Cosmology has also been assessed.

About the Author :

Dr. (Mrs.) Kalpakam Sankarnarayan is the Director, K.J. Somaiya Centre of Buddhist Studies, Mumbai, India. Recepient of Japan Foundation Fellowship for Researchers and Scholars, and later Visiting Professor at the International Research Centre for Japanese Studies, Kyoto, Japan, her research papers have been published in journals in India and abroad.

Prof. Kazunobu Matsuda who completed his graduate and post-graduate studies from Otani University, Japan, is now Professor at Bukkyo University. He has identified several rare Buddhist manuscripts found in Central Asia and published them. He is a Visiting Professor at Oslo University, Norway.

Dr. Motohiro Yoritomi is Professor of Buddhist Studies, International Research Centre for Japanese Studies, Kyoto, Japan. Author of many books and several research papers in Japanese which have been acclaimed in academic circles, he is also the President of the Buddhist Cultural Assets Studies Society and President, Shuchin University, Kyoto, Japan.


The authors of the present book have critically analysed the words of two thousand years ago, as preserved in palm leaves in the Buddhist temples in Japan. This work is based on 'Sanskrit Fragments' identified as Lokaprajnapti of Prajpapti Sastra, which till now was available either in Chinese or Tibetan version. Based on the contents of these Sanskrit fragments, a critical and analytical approach to the Buddhist cosmology, tracing the concept from the earliest Indian thought, the Vedas (Sruti), the authors have revived a seemingly defunct Buddhist cosmology by viewing ancient themes from modern perspective. It should be noted that the combined efforts of the authors have brought this work a significant cross-cultural and comparative persepective. Such publications are surprisingly rare.

The teachings of Buddhism aim to lead people from the realm of ignorance to the realm of enlightenment. To penetrate the realm of enlightenment, it is necessary to understand the realm of ignorance. Likewise, explanation of the realm of delusion requires reference to the realm of enlightenment, and Buddhist Cosmological ideas are revealed in the process. I congratulate the authors for their specific focus on concerete descriptions of cosmology rather than on abstract doctrines. They have opened the door to Buddhist Cosmology in attempt to reinstill faith in the idea that somewhere, something of higher value exists; an end to rebirth which can be achieved through meditation. Emphasis has been given to the importance of Buddhist Cosmology hopefully making it easily accessible and thus interesting to lay people.


We have put in our assimilated critical analysis on the available Sanskrit fragments in Sarada Script preserved in Buddhist Temples in Kansai District, Japan.

Prof. Matsuda Kazunobou has identified the folios as part of 'Lokprajnapti' and published the findings in the Bukkyo Gaku. Dr. Motohiro Y oritomi contributed to the theme from the view point of Japanese Buddhism. Dr. Mrs. K. Sankaranarayan contributed to the scheme by tracing the concept from the angle of Indian tradition. She has taken an overall approach and assimilated thoughts of the other two possible as a critical exposition on Buddhist Cosmology.

In Part I we have given the contents of the Sanskrit folios kept in different temples. The text is transliterated into Devanagari script from the Sarada script, followed by the comments on the manuscript and the translation in English. In the Sanskrit text we have retained the danda (/) in bracket. The end of each folio is marked as 'a' and number of lines in each folio is mentioned as 'a-4' etc.

In Part II of this book we have taken the critical exposition based on the content of these folios, from the earliest Indian Thought on cosmology to that of the later Mahayana School of thought as in the far East Asia, that is, Japan. It suggests that Buddhist Cosmology has been a worldwide concern. The evolution of thought shows how the Buddhist conception of the Universe underwent numerous changes over time. If we view these shifts as changing responses to the problem of human suffering, we can see a steady progress in one direction. Buddhism gradually ceased to regard life as mere suffering. Inevitably the Buddhist world view, originally based on the idea that suffering was inevitable increasingly changed; the shift being initially from pessimism to nihilism and later from nihilism to optimism.

In our critical study we have classed early Indian thought from the Vedas to the Upanisads as Pre-Buddhist; Theravada or Hinayana Buddhism as early Buddhist view; the view of Vasubandhu as of Pre- Mahayana Buddhism; the views of Madhyamika philosophy including Nagarjuna's voidness as provisional Mahayana Buddhism; and later school of thought, as in far East Asian countries as True Mahayana Buddhism. It shows that as knowledge is disseminated in ever greater amount, people sought out the rational and overturned old dogmas, with its practical philosophy and training of meditation.

Buddhist Cosmology showed the quickest way to understand the Buddhist view that human life as delusion is to recognise it in one's own inner life. Thus its vast cosmological system and its detailed explanations are unique. This book speaks of the past spiritual legacy of the Buddhist Cosmology as the present inspiring force, capable of stiring the imagination to achieve the inner peace here and now. The intricate philosophy of the earlier Indian tradition and the Japanese Buddhist tradition as supplementary to it have not distracted in any way from the profoundity of the theological foundations of Buddhism.



Publisher's Note vi
Foreword vii
Preface ix
Acknowledgements xi
Key to Transliteration xii
List of Abbreviations xiii
List of Figures and Photographs xv
Dedication xvi
1. The Lokprajnapti Folios 1
1. Cosmology and Cosmogony 25
2. Pre-Buddhist Cosmology 41
3. Lokprajnapti - Knowledge of the World 72
4. Cosmos and Saha-world Cosmology 102
5. Skandhas 135
6. Doctrine of Karman - Kusala and Akusala 206
7. Hell (Niraya) 255
8. Heaven - Sumeru (Akanistha) 277
9. Transmigration and Rebirth 299
10. Epilogue 354
Bibliography 357
Index 369
Figures and Photographs 377

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