Prof. Lalmani Joshi left this world unexpectedly in 984, shortly after joining this Institute as Research Professor. His sudden demise left so many dreams and hopes of the Institute unfulfilled and put his friends, including myself, in great anguish. It was an irretrievable loss particularly to the field of Buddhist studies.
The long-time and close association of Prof. Joshi with the Institute served as a source of great inspiration for us and proved conducive to the overall development of the Institute. The Institute therefore decided to commence an annual lecture programme under the name Prof. L.M, Joshi Commemorative Lecture Series, in but partial requital of the debt of gratitude to Prof. Joshi.
Prof. K. Satchidananda Murty kindly delivered the first lecture in the series, under the chairmanship of Prof G.C. Pande. His scholarly talk was subsequently published by the Institute in 1984, under the title “Naihsreyasa Dharma”.
Since the commencement of this Lecture Series in 1984, the Institute has arranged learned talks of eminent scholars, such as Prof. Krishna Deva, Tarkatirth Pt. Laxman Shastri Joshi and Prof. G.C. Pande. The monograph of Prof K. Deva, entitled as “Buddhist Art of India and Nepal”, was published by the Institute in 1987, being the 2nd number in this series.
In this lecture series, Prof G.C. Pande delivered a lecture on Mahayana in 1992. He was further requested to permit the Institute to publish his talk. Prof Pande kindly consented to it and, sparing much of his valuable time, elaborated his talk which is being published in the form of the present monograph under the title “Studies in Mahayana”. I am grateful to Prof. Pande for his kind and continuous co-operation during the process of publishing this book.
I am proud that the Institute could bring out this scholarly work. I believe that this publication will prove an indispensable tool for the students of Buddhist studies.
The erstwhile Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies (presently Central University of Tibetan Studies) had instituted “Professor Lalmani Joshi Commemoration Lectures” to acknowledge and honour the significant contributions made by Professor Lalmani Joshi to Buddhist Studies in India. Sadly enough, Professor Joshi passed away immediately after he associated himself with the Institute. The sad event left many of his own dreams and plans and those of the Institute unfulfilled.
Many distinguished and eminent scholars have delivered discourses under the banner of the Commemorative Lectures. Professor Samdhong Rinpoche (then Director of the Institute) had invited Professor G.C. Pande to deliver a lecture in the series. Eventually Professor Pande was requested to expand his ideas in the lecture, and later it came to be published as Studies in Mahayana in 1993.
The book was highly acclaimed and commended on account of its rich content and erudition. Indeed the book provides novel and wider perspectives in Mahayana studies, with special reference to uniqueness and originality, the development of philosophical concepts of Mahayana, and as much for its incorporation of varied elements and ideas in the tradition.
I am happy indeed in bringing out his reprint of Studies in Mahayana with the kind consent of Professor Pande. He did not wish to make any change in the body of the text.
I hope the reprint of the learned book will certainly benefit the wide circle of readers, including scholars, intellectuals and students of Buddhism.
Although my systematic interest in Mahayana goes back to 1948 when I studied some Chinese Buddhist texts with my friend Dr W. Pa-Chow, it was only in 19X5 that I conceived the project of a distinct monograph on Mahayana when the Indian Council of Historical Research honoured me with the award of a National Fellowship. It was, however, the long-pending invitation of my esteemed friend Ven. Dr. S. Rinpoche to me to deliver the Lalmani Joshi Memorial Lectures and the excellent library of his Institute that enabled me to finalize some ideas about Mahayana over which I had been meditating for some time. The present work represents the expanded form of the lectures which I delivered at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarnath, in February 1992.
Mahayana has been generally represented by modern historians as a late form of Buddhism which is held to have replaced the austere moral teachings of the founder by an exuberant devotional faith having a virtual pantheon of ‘gods’ and images, myths and ritual. At the same time, some philosophers have viewed Mahayana as a group of mutually inconsistent metaphysical systems which they have sought to interpret and discuss in the light of some modern ideas. The present work, however, seeks to argue that Mahayana should be understood as the Buddhist notion of universal religion. Far from being a late distortion, it is essentially a continuation of some aspects of original Buddhism which should not be confused with Hinayana, itself a later interpretation of original Buddhism. The extant Mahayana sutras, however, arc later than the original cononical texts of Vinaya and Dharma which arc now found only in a fragmentary condition. These Mahayana sutras consequently reflect the cultural image of a later age and produce a mixed historical impression. Nevertheless, their spiritual continuity with the original teachings of Buddha may be seen by a close study of the older canonical fragments.
A proper understanding of Mahayanic philosophical schools requires that they should be viewed not only in the universal perspective of abstract logic but also in the concrete context of spiritual practice and experience in which their basic terms and assumptions acquire distinctive meaning. Thus samsara and nirvana, Buddha and prajnaparamita are terms which belong primarily to the religious context of salvation. At the same time they stand behind the concepts of samvrti and paramartha, pramana and jnana. The attempt to reconcile empirical truth with religious ideals had led Hinayanic schools perilously near positivistic or phenomenalistic systems. Mahayana chose the more heroic and idealistic option of denying the ultimate reality of empirical objects.
At heart Mahayana is a religion of universal love which is to be systematically pursued by a Bodhisattva. The moral culture of Mahayana has received attention generally and its religious devotionalism has been particularly emphasized in some schools of Buddhism especially in Japan. It is necessary, however, to relate devotional religious attitudes to systematic practice and theory, both of which are centred in the notion of the Buddha.
In view of the extensive compass of the work, I have neither engaged in the detailed presentation of historical evidence nor in the detailed refutation of alternative philosophical opinions. Wether I have succeeded in presenting the essential evidence and arguments, is for the reader to judge.
But for the kind invitation and library support extended by Ven. Prof. S. Rinpoche, this work would have remained unfinalized, and but for his patient interest and of Sri Samten Chhosphel, it would never have come out in print. I am deeply thankful to them as well as to the Indian Council of Historical Research. Lastly, I must thank my friend Prof K.S. Murty for his support in more ways than one.
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