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Abhidharma in Early Mahayna

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re is a growing tendency among scholars to discard quest e) origin of Mahayana as inappropriate. Schopen e first to suggest a multiple origin, offering, assumption that since each Mahayana text placed itself at the center of its own cult, early Mahayana (from a sociological point of view), rather than being an identifiable single group, was in the beginning a loose federation of a number of distinct though related cults, all of the same pattern, but each associated with its specific text. (Schopen 1975: 181 [52])

He was soon followed by Harrison (1978: 35), who observed that Mahayana ‘was from the outset undeniably multi-faceted'. Some thirty years after his first assumption, Schopen stated again (2004a: 492): ‘it has become increasingly clear that Mahayana Buddhism was never one thing, but rather, it seems, a loosely bound bundle of many, and... could contain.contradictions, or at least antipodal elements'. Silk reminds us that,

various early Mahayana sutras express somewhat, and sometimes radically, different points of view, and often seem to have been written in response to diverse stimuli. For example, the tenor of such (appar¬ently) early sutras as the Kasyapaparivarta and the Rastrapalapanprccha on the one hand seems to have little in common with the logic and rhetoric behind the likewise putatively early Pratyutpannasam mukhavasthita [sic; should be Pratyutpannabuddhasammukhavasthitas amadh Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita or Saddharmapundarika on the other. (Silk 2002: 371)

Shimoda (2009: 7) suggests that ‘the Mahayana initially existed in the form of diverse phenomena to which the same name eventually began to be applied.' Boucher (2008: xii) sums up recent work, saying: ‘Much of the recent scholarship on the early Mahayana points to a tradition that arose not as a single, well-defined, unitary movement, but from multiple trajectories emanating from, and alongside, Mainstream Buddhism.' Sasaki considers it, reasonable to assume that a multiplicity of originally discrete groups created a new style of Buddhism from their respective positions and roduced their own scriptures and that with the passage of time these ed and intertwined to form as a whole the large current known as the Mahayana. (Sasaki 2009: 27)

He continues: ‘The Mahayana was a new Buddhist movement that should be regarded as a sort of social phenomenon that arose simul¬taneously in different places from several sources.' Ruegg (2004: 33) emphasises the geographic dimension: ‘The geographical spread of early Mahayana would appear to have been characterized by polycentric diffusion'.1 A decade before him, Harrison (1995: 56) called Mahayana ‘a pan-Buddhist movement - or, better, a loose set of movements'.

This paper does not intend to find fault with these new insights into early Mahayana. However, it wishes to draw attention to a factor that

is habitually overlooked in this discussion, namely, the dependence of most early Mahayana texts on the scholastic developments that had taken place during the last few centuries preceding the Common Er in northwestern India.2 This, as we will see, may have chronol and geographical consequences.

3 Consider the following statement by Paul Williams

It is sometimes thought that one of the characteristics of early Mahayana was a teaching of the emptiness of dharmas (dhar ing that these constituents, too, lack inherent existence, are realities, in the same way as our everyd reality for the Abhidharma....As a ch this is false. (Williams 1989: 16) ata) - a teach- t ultimate is not an ultimate teristic of early Mahayana Williams then draws attention to s Lokanuvartana Sutra and the Satyasiddhi Sastra of Harivarman - that teach the emptiness of dharmas. In other words, Williams does not deny that the teaching of emptiness of dharmas is a characteristic of many early Mahayana works; he merely points out that the same teaching is also found in certain non-Mahayana works. David Seyfo Ruegg makes a similar observation:

non-Mahayana texts - The doctrine of the non-substantiality of phenomena (dharma

/ dharmanihsvabhavata, i.e. svabhava-sunyataemptiness of self-exis ence') has very often been regarded as criterial, indeed diagnostic, fo identifying a teaching or work as Mahayanist. For this ther course be a justification. But it has nevertheless to be recalled that by the authorities of the Madhyamaka school of Mahayanist philosophy, it is regularly argued that not only the Mahayanist but even the Sravakayanist Arhat must of necessity have an understanding (if only a somewhat limited one) of dharmanairatmya. (Ruegg 2004: 39)

Once again, Ruegg does not deny that the emptiness of dharmas is a teaching that is almost omnipresent in early Mahayana texts. Like Williams, he merely points out that it is not limited to these texts.

Neither Williams nor Ruegg mention what I consider most impotant: that the very question of the emptiness or otherwise of dharmas is based on the ontological schemes elaborated in Greater Gandhara,4

perhaps by the Sarvastivadins (but this is not certain). Numerous Buddhist texts, whether Mahayana or not, testify to the influence this ontology has come to exert on Buddhist thought all over India. However, this ontology had originally been limited to a geographical region, and may have taken a while before leaving this region.5 The fact that Mahayana texts taught the emptiness of dharmas may not therefore signify that this is a typically or exclusively Mahayana position, but it does emphasise the dependence of much of Mahayana literature on developments that had begun in a small corner of north¬western India.6 The question is, did the Mahayana texts concerned undergo this influence in Greater Gandhara itself, or did they do so elsewhere, when the

originally Gandharan ontology had spread to other parts of the subcontinent? The answer to this question cannot but lie in chronology: when did this Abhidharmic ontology leave Greater Gandhara, and when were the earliest Mahayana texts composed that betray its influence? If these Mahayana texts were composed before Abhidharmic ontology left Greater Gandhara, then these texts must have been composed in Greater Gandhara.7

With this in mind, let us look at an article by Allon & Salomon (2010). These two authors argue that the earliest evidence of Mahayana that has reached us comes from Gandhara: ‘three...manuscripts have.been discovered which testify to the existence of Mahayana literature in Gandhari...reaching back, apparently, into the formative period of the Mahayana itself' (9). They conclude ‘that the Mahayana was already a significant, if perhaps still a minority presence in the earlier period of the Buddhist manuscripts in Gandhara' (12). Allon and Salomon raise the question whether ‘Gandhara played a formative role in the emergence of Mahayana', and whether texts like the ones that have survived ‘were originally composed in this region' (17). They caution that these types of texts may have been available at other major Buddhist centres throughout the subcontinent during this period: ‘It is merely the

subcontinental climate, which is so deleterious to the preservation of organic materials, that has denied us the evidence' (17). Allon and Salomon's caution is justified and appreciated. However, as observed above, the region of Greater Gandhara did not only distinguish itself from other Buddhist regions through its climate, or through its exceptional aptitude for preserving manuscripts that could not survive elsewhere. The Buddhism of Greater Gandhara

distinguishes itself equally through the intellectual revolution that had taken place there during the centuries immediately preceding the Common Era. It is here that the modification and elaboration Abhidharma took place that became the basis of virtually all of subcontinental Buddhism. Clearly Greater Gandhara wa one other Buddhist centre. It may be justified to conside important Buddhist centre of the Indian subcontin beginning of the Common Era.8 The fact that it has a cli favourable to the preservation of organic materials may be looked upon as a fortunate extra.9 Consider now the following. Allon and Salomon draw attention to various early fragments of early Mahayana texts that have recently become available. The following passage in their article is of particular interest:

The so-called ‘split' collection of Gandhari manuscripts, which has not yet been published but which is being studied by Harry Falk, contains a manuscript with texts corresponding to the first (on the recto side) and fifth (verso) chapters of the Astasahasrika Prajndpdramita. This scroll has been radiocarbon dated to a range of 23-43 ce (probability 14.3 percent) or 47-127 (probability 81.1 percent), and a date in the later first or ear second century ce is

consistent with its paleographic and linguist characteristics. Therefore in this Gandhari Prajnaparamita m we have the earliest firm dating for a Mahayana sutra manuscript i any language, as well as the earliest specific attestation of Mahayan literature in early Gandhara. (Allon & Salomon 2010: 10) Falk's subsequent article (published in 2011) studies, among other things, the manuscript referred to in this passage. We learn that,

[a] comparison with the Chinese translation of Lokaksema, dated 179/180, and the classical version as translated by Kumarajiva clearly shows a development from a simple to a more developed text. The Gandhari text looks archaic and is less verbose than what Lokaksema translated. It can be shown that his version was already slightly inflated by the insertion of stock phrases, appositions and synonyms. The Sanskrit version, finally, expanded still further. (Falk 2011: 20)

At the same time, certain copying blunders indicate that the Gandhara manuscript was itself copied from another one which was written in Kharosthi as well (Falk & Karashima 2012: 22). Indeed, Harry Falk suggests that ‘there is no straight line from Gandhari to Lokaksema or to the Sanskrit Astasahasrika. Instead, a fork model looks more promising, starting from an Urtext, leading in three directions, first to our Gandhari manuscript which is minimally

enlarged compared to older versions. Then a text from another tradition, still held in Gandhari, was used by Lokaksema. The parts unique to this text and the [[[Sanskrit]] version of the Astasdhasrika arashima 2013: 100).

The special point to be emphasised is that the ‘Perfection of Wisdom', which is the subject matter of the Astasdhasrikd Prajndpdramita} 10 in its surviving Sanskrit version, only makes sense against the background of the overhaul of Buddhist scholasticism that had taken place in Greater Gandhara during the last centuries preceding the Common Era. It was in Greater Gandhara, during this period, that Buddhist scholasticism developed an ontology centred on the

lists of dharmas that had been preserved. Lists of dharmas had been drawn up before the scholastic revolution in Greater Gandhara, and went on being drawn up elsewhere with the goal of preserving the teaching of the Buddha. But the Buddhists of Greater Gandhara were the first to use these lists of dharmas to construe an ontology, unheard of until then. They looked upon the dharmas as the only really existing things, rejecting the existence of entities that were made up of them. Indeed, these scholiasts may have been the first to call themselves sunyavddins.11 No effort was spared in systematising the ontological

scheme developed in this manner, and the influence exerted by it on more recent forms of Buddhism in the subcontinent and beyond was to be immense. But initially this was a geographically limited phe¬nomenon (see Bronkhorst 1999; 2009: 81-114). It may even be possible to approximately date the beginning of this intellectual revolution. I have argued in a number of publications that various literary and philosophical features of the grammarian Patanjali's (Vydkarana-) Mahdbhdsya must be explained in the light of his acquaintance with the fundamentals of the newly developed Abhidharma (Bronkhorst 

1987: 43-71; 1994; 2002; 2004, esp. §§ 8-9; 2016). This would imply that the intellectual revolution in northwestern Buddhism had begun before the middle of the second century bce. If it is furthermore corre to think, as I have argued elsewhere, that this intellectual revolution was inspired by the interaction between Buddhists and Indo-Gree it may be justified to situate the beginning of the new Abhid at a time following the renewed conquest of Gandhara by tl Greeks; this was in or around 185 bce.12 The foundations for Abhidharma may therefore have been laid towards the middle of the second century bce.13

It is not known for how long this form of Abhidharma remained confined to Greater Gandhara. There is, as a matter of fact, reason to think that Kasmira was implicated in this development virtually from its beginning.14 It may be that the three extant Vibhasa compendia were composed here. The most recent of these three, the Mahavibhasa, refers to the ‘former king, Kaniska, of Gandhara' (Dessein 2009: 44; Willemen et al. 1998: 232). {{Kaniska's]] reign appears to

have begun in 127 ce (Falk 2001; see also Golzio 2008). The Mahavibhasa is presumably younger than this, but not much. The other two Vibhasas are slightly older, and may therefore belong to the first century ce. However, indirect evidence pushes the date further back. Already the Vibhasa reports the bad treatment Buddhists suffered under Pusyamitra, presumably in Kasmira (Lamotte 1958: 424 ff.). Pusyamitra was a ruler with whom the grammarian Patanjali's was

associated. There are reasons to think that Patanjali's himself lived in Kasmira in the middle of the second century bce. Patanjali's betrays familiarity with a number of fundamental concepts of Sarvastivada scholasticism (Bronkhorst 1987, 43-71; 1994; 2002; 2004, esp. §§8-9; 2016).15 This form of Abhidharma subsequently spread beyond Greater Gandhara including Kasmira.16 Perhaps Nagarjuna is the first author from a different region and

familiar with the new Abhidharma whose writings have been preserved.17 Nagarjuna's date appears to be the end of the second or the beginning of the third century ce (Walser 2002; 2005: 86). Inscriptional evidence confirms that there were Sarvastivadins in northern India outside Gandhara from the first century ce onward.18 In other words, the scholastic form of Abhidharma developed in Greater Gandhara including Kasmira spread beyond this region at least from the first century ce on.19

The {{Astasáhasriká Prajñápáramitá]] is largely built on the scholastic achievements of Greater Gandhara, as are other texts of the same genre;20 it draws conclusions from these. One of its recurring themes is its emphasis that everything that is not a dharma does not exist. This is the inevitable corollary of the conviction that only dharmas really exist, but one that is rarely emphasised in the Abhidharma texts. The {{Astasáhasriká Prajñápáramitá]] goes further

and claims that the dharmas themselves do not exist either, that they are empty (sünya). Once again, all this only makes sense against the historical background of the Abhidharma elaborated in Greater Gandhara. Another recurring theme concerns the beginning and end of dharmas. This is clearly the elaboration of a question with which the scholiasts of Greater Gandhara were confronted: did they have to postulate the existence of a dharma called ‘beginning' (játi, utpatti) in order to account for the fact that dharmas, being momentary, have a beginning in time? The scholiasts explored this

possibility, and ended up with improbable dharmas such as ‘the beginning of beginning' (játijáti). The position taken in numerous Mahayana texts is that dharmas have no begin¬ning (and no end). This makes perfect sense among thinkers who are steeped in Gandharan scholasticism, but nowhere else. Let us look at one passage from the {{Astasáhasriká Prajñápáramitá]. Without the prior conviction that only dharmas exist, it is pointless to claim that something does not exist because it is not a dharma. Yet this is the point frequently made in the {{Astasáhasriká Prajñápáramitá]]. Consider the following passage, in the abbreviated translation of Edward Conze:

Thereupon the venerable Subhuti, by the Buddha's might, said to the Lord: The Lord has said, ‘make it clear now, Subhuti, to the bodhisattvas, the great beings, starting from perfect wisdom, how the bodhisattvas, the great beings go forth into perfect wisdom!' When one speaks of a ‘bodhisattva', what dharma does that wordbodhisattva' denote? I do not, O Lord, see that dharmabodhisattva', nor a dharma called ‘perfection of wisdom'. Since I neither find, nor

apprehend, nor see a dharmabodhisattva', nor a ‘perfection of wisdom', what bodhisattva shall I instruct and admonish in what perfection of wisdom? And yet, O Lord, if, when this is pointed out, a bodhisattva's heart does not become cowed, nor stolid, does not despair nor despond, if he does not turn away  or become dejected, does not tremble, is not frightened or terrified, it is just this bodhisattva, this great being who should be instructed perfect wisdom. (Conze 1958: 1-2)

Ontological issues like this, relating to the question wheth that item is a dharma, or indeed whether dharmas th fill the first chapter of the Astasdhasrikd Prajndpdramitd chapters of which parts have been preserved on the m Gandhara. Is this already true of the early manuscript f ara? The edition of the first chapter (parivarta) of the manuscript from Gandhara in a recent article by Falk and Karashima (2012: 32-35) shows that it already

contains this passage in essence. There is one major difference: the Gandhara manuscript emphasises that ‘bodhisattva' is not a dharma, but does not say the same about the ‘perfection of wisdom', as does the surviving Sanskrit text. The Chinese translation of Lokaksema, too, is without this information

about the ‘perfection of wisdom'. This allowed Schmithausen (1977: 44-45) some forty years ago to argue that our text originally only spoke of the non-existence of the bodhisattva, not of the non-existence of the perfection of wisdom ({{prajndpdramita]]).21 This is now confirmed by the Gandha manuscript. This example should suffice to show that the manuscript from Gandhara dealt with at least some of the philosophical is that had been raised and developed in Greater Gandhara.

Let us get to the main point. The Gandhari manuscript the text it contains, may conceivably have been compos kind of Abhidharma thought was still the exclusiv Gandhara. If so, this text was itself composed in Gr or indeed in Gandhara proper,22 and it becomes t that the kind of Mahayana to which it gives ex art of the subcontinent.

This tentative conclusion is in need of specification. What is being discussed is the kind of Mahayana that leans heavily on the scholastic developments initiated in Greater Gandhara. This may signify that the kind of Mahayana that draws inspiration from the scholastic innovations of Greater Gandhara might possibly have originated there. The same is not necessarily true of Mahayana in all of its forms. The bodhisattva ideal, after which Mahayana is also known as Bodhisattvayana,23 may well exist without the scholastic ideas

elaborated in Greater Gandhara, and may indeed have existed without them.24 This is the conclusion that one is tempted to draw from various passages in both Mahayana and Mainstream (Sarvastivada) texts col¬lected by Fujita (2009). There were apparently Buddhists who pursued the goal of becoming buddhas, that is to say they were bodhisattvas, and yet they did not follow many of the distinctive teachings that we find in most Mahayana texts.25

This is even true of a text that is usually considered a Mahayana text, presumably one of the oldest that has survived, the Ugra-pariprcchâ-sütra.26 Nattier (2003: 179) draws attention to what she calls ‘the absence of the rhetoric of absence itself'. She explains, ‘the Ugra lacks anything that could be construed as a “philosophy of emptiness”'. She concludes:

It is tempting, therefore - and it may well be correct - to view the Ugra as representing a preliminary stage in the emergence of the bodhisattva vehicle, a phase centred on the project of “constructing” ideas about the practices of the bodhisattva that preceded a later “deconstructionist” - or better, dereifying - move. (Nattier 2003: 182)

It is clear from Nattier's remark that she is tempted to order the Ugrapariprcchasutra chronologically. This tendency presents her with some difficulties, in that the Ugra-pariprccha-sutra is not the only Mahayana Sutra that ignores the ‘philosophy of emptiness': it shares this feature with the Aksobhya-vyuha

and the Sukhavati-vyuha, both f which seem ‘unconcerned about any possible hazards of reification' (180). This is why she concludes: is clear that the move from affirmation to antireification did not proceed in one-way fashion. On the contrary, what we see in later lit¬erature is more like a series of zigzag developments, with each new idea about the bodhisattva path first asserted in positive (or ‘constructionist') fashion, and then negated in subsequent texts. (Nattier 2003: 182)

If one thinks only in chronologically linear terms, it may indeed be necessary to think of ‘zigzag developments', but there is of course no obligation to do so.27 It is possible, perhaps even likely, that certain schools of Mahayana (if ‘school' is the term to use here) remained  unaffected by the new Abhidharma, unlike most other Mahayana schools, yet survived beside them.

Schopen (2004a: 495) speaks about ‘the notion that [[[Mahayana]]] w a reaction to a narrow scholasticism on the part of monastic, Hinayan Buddhism'; he thinks that this notion should have seemed silly from t start. Such a view, he continues, was only even possible by com ignoring most of Buddhist literature and putting undue emphasi Abhidharma. Schopen's point is well taken, but overlooks the fa that most of the Mahayana texts have been profoundly influenced by Gandharan Abhidharma, whether directly or indirectly. A few examples must suffice to illustrate the point. Harrison says the follow¬ing about the Pratyutpanna-buddha-sammukhdvasthita-samddhi-sutra:

what it is at pains to get across to its readers and hearers is the same attitude to phenomena that we find emphasised in the Prajnaparamita literature - namely, that all phenomena, or rather all dharmas...are empty (sunya), that is, devoid of essence, independent existence or ‘own-being' (svabhdva). Since this is so, there is nothing which can provide a basis for ‘apprehension' or ‘objectification' (upalambha), by which term is intended that process of the mind which seizes on the objects of experience as entities or existing things (bhdva), and regards them as possessing an independent and objective reality. (Harris 1990: xviii)28

the Suramgama-samadhi-sutra, Lamotte observ

The essential aim of the Surаmgаmа-sаmаdhi-sutrа is to inculcate

] its listeners or readers the Pudgala-and Dharmanairatmya. Not only do beings not exist, but things are empty of self-nature, unarisen, undestroyed, originally calm and naturally abiding in Nirvana, free of marks and in consequence inexpressible and unthinkable, the same and devoid of duality. (Lamotte 1998: 40-41)

Once again we are here confronted with the kind of thought that could only arise on the basis of Gandharan Abhidharma. About the Ratnakuta texts, Pagel observes: Like practically all other Mahayana sutras, the Ratnakuta's bodhisattva texts operate within the gnoseologic parameter of Mahayana ontology. This is most ostensibly borne out by the frequency with which they draw connections with its axioms of emptiness (sünyata), sameness (samata) and non-objectifiability (anupalambha) that most accept as the philosophic substratum for their exposition. (Pagel 1995: 100)

The following passage from the Kasyapa-parivarta shows the preoc¬cupation of this text, too, with the ontological status of dharmas: This also, Kasyapa, is the middle way, the regarding of dharmas in accordance with truth: that one does not make the dharmas empty through emptiness but, rather, the dharmas themselves are empty; that one does not make the dharmas signless through the signless but, rather, the dharmas themselves are signless;...that one does not make the dharmas unarisen through non-arising, but, rather the dharmas themselves are unarisen; that one does not make the dharmas unborn

through not being born, but, rather, the dharmas themselves are unborn; and that one does not make the dharmas essenceless through essencelessness (asvabhavata), but, rather, the dharmas themselves are essenceless. (Vorobyova-Desyatovskaya 2002: 25-26, §63; Frauwall 1969/2010: 178-179 (replacing factors with dharmas); cf. Weller 122-123 [1201-1202])

Even sutras that lay less emphasis on ‘philosophy' often betray they, too, accept ideas that are based on Gandharan scholasticism. addharma-pundarika-sutra, for example, lays relatively little asis on these ontological concerns,29 but it is not, in its present without them. Consider the following passage, in which the Buddha criticises the follower of the Sravakayana:

^'lerefore the follower of the Sravakayana [who has cut his various ties] thinks like this and speaks like this: ‘There are no other dharmas to be realized. I have reached Nirvana’.

Then the Tathagata teaches him the doctrine: he who has not attained all dharmas, how can Nirvana belong to him? The Lord establishes him in enlightenment: he in whom the thought of enlightenment has arisen is not in Samsara nor has he reached Nirvana. Having understood, he  sees the universe in all ten directions as being empty (sunya), similar to something fabricated, similar to magic, similar to a dream, a mirage, an echo. He sees all dharmas as not having arisen, as not having come to an end, not bound and not loose, not dark and not bright. (Vaidya 1960: 93.11-15; Wogihara & Tsuchida: 1271.2-11)30

Here the preoccupation with the ontological status of dharmas is evident, but it is not impossible that this portion is a late addition to the text.31 The Rastrapala-pariprccha-sutra, too, concentrates on other issues than ontology, but reveals its ontological position in several passages, such as the following:

Like a lion, [the Blessed One] announces that all dharmas are without substratum and are empty. Just as a lion, roaring in a mountain cave, frightens prey here in the world, so too does the Lord of Men, resounding that [all dharmas] are empty and without substratum, frighten those adhering to heretical schools...

Focused on emptiness and signlessness, he considers all condition things to be like illusions. (Boucher 2008: 114-115; Finot 1901: 21 31.15-16)32 According to Osto (2008: 19), ‘the Gandavyuha, while n ng a Madhyamaka or Yogacara position, contains pa port aspects of both schools'. What this means is that ‘all phenomena (dharmas) lack inherent existence or independent essence (svabhava) nd therefore are characterized by their emptiness (sunyata)' (18).

It follows from our reflections that Gandharan influence may conceivably have modified an already existing preoccupation with the path to buddhahood. This earlier preoccupation with buddha- hood might in that case not have originated in Greater Gandhara. But even if this were to be the case, it could still be maintained that the elements in Mahayana that depend on the scholastic innovations of Greater Gandhara - the ontological tendency, the interrogations about the existence of this or that dharma or about dharmas in general, the concern with emptiness, the wish to abolish

conceptual constructs (vikalpa) - were introduced in that part of the subcontinent. It follows from the above that early Mahayana may have drawn inspiration from the intellectual revolution that had taken place in Greater Gandhara. It is even possible that it underwent this influence, at least initially, in that very region.

Clearly this proposal does not necessarily tell us much about the origin or origins of Mahayana. It does tell us something about the geographical region in which it may have originated, or through which it passed in an early phase. It can therefore be combined with theories that do try to explain the origin of Mahayana. Consider, for example, Drewes's (2010b: 70; 2011) suggestion ‘that early Indian Mahayana was, at root, a textual movement that developed in Buddhist preaching circles and centred on the production and use of Mahayana sutras'. Drewes specifies:

At some point, drawing on a range of ideas and theoretical perspectives that had been developing for some time, and also developing many new ideas of their own, certain preachers began to compose a new type of text - sutras containing profound teachings intended f bodhisattvas - which came to be commonly depicted as belonging to a new revelation that the Buddha arranged to take place five hundred years after his death. (Drewes 2010b: 70) e accept this theory, which I do not insist we must, we would know which were those ‘ideas and theoretical perspectives that een developing for some time'. The intellectual revolution that ad taken place in Greater Gandhara will then immediately come to mind as providing at least a part, an important part, of those ideas and theoretical perspectives.33


1 Ruegg (2004: 33-34) explains: ‘From the start, an important part in the spread of Mahayana was no doubt played both by the Northwest of the Indian subcontinent and by the Ändhra country in south-central India, but presumably neither was the sole place of its origin. Bihar, Bengal and Nepal too were important centres of Mahayana. Sri Lanka also was involved in the history of the Mahayana...' 

2 An important exception is Harrison 1978: 39-40: ‘[The philosophy of the Prajñaparamita] attacked the qualified realism of the prevalent Sarvastivadins and held that all dharmas...are essentially empty (sünya) and devoid of objective reality or “own-being” (svabháva)'. Walser 2005 appears to overlook the direct or indire dependence of many Mahayana works on northwestern scholasticism.

3 Skilling (2010: 6) rightly reminds us ‘that the monastics who practised Mahaya took Sravaka vows, and shared the same monasteries with their fellow ordinanc Above all, we should not forget that those who practised Mahayana accepted the Sravaka Pitakas. They followed one or the other vinaya, they studied and recited sütras, and they studied the abhidharma'. The point to be made in this article is that, in order to study Sarvastivada Abhidharma, Sarvastivada Abhidharma must exist, and one must have access to it.

4 i.e., Gandhara and surroundings. Some authors include Bactria and Kasmira (hence the abbreviation KGB). north that early Mahayanistic ideas were fitted into the framework of Sarvâstivâda abhidharmic developments'. Cf. Skilling 2010: 17 n. 49: ‘In the Bodhicaryavatara (ch. 9, v. 41), a rhetorical opponent of the Mahâyâna questions the usefulness of the teaching of emptiness: it is the realisation of the Four Truths of the Noble that leads to liberation - what use is emptiness?'

7 Perhaps Kasmira, too, should be taken into consideration; see below.

8 See also Salomon 1999: 178-180 (‘Gandhâra as a Center of Buddhist Intellect Activity') . 9 Note that in subsequent centuries ‘palm leaf writing material came fro South', but ‘no southern scripts or (Buddhist) texts were found in the Tur tions studied by Sander [1968: 25]'. Houben & Rath (2012: 3 n.6), ther ‘Can we conclude that southern Buddhist schools, if they had any independen istence, were not authoritative in the North?' Not yet aware of the Mahâyâna t found in Gandhâra, Houben & Rath (2012: 38 n. 62) suggest the southern parts Indian subcontinent as a possible or even likely area of origin ofMahâyâna

10 The Gândhâri text calls itself, in a colophon, just Prajnaparamita.

11 In their Vijnanakaya; see Bronkhorst 2009: 120, with a reference to La Vallée oussin 1925: 358-359. See also Salomon 1999: 178. 2 See Salomon 2005, which is based on an interpretation of the yavana era. For a different interpretation of this era, with references to the relevant literature, see Falk 2012: 135-136; also Salomon 2012; Golzio 2012: 142.

13 Unless Bactria played an important role in this development; Bactria underwent Hellenistic influence before the renewed conquest of Gandhara.

14 Indeed, the map given by Salomon (1999: 2) suggests that he includes Kasmira in ‘Greater Gandhara'; Behrendt (2004: 16, 22) does so explicitly.

15 On Patanjali's link to Kasmira, see Bronkhorst 2016; 2017, with references to further literature. Note that the ‘Sarvastivada' is here used in a general and im¬precise manner; it is not at all certain that the early Abhidharma developments in northwestern India belonged to that school in particular.

16 The spread of Sarvastivada Abhidharma may have to be distinguished from the spread of the Sarvâstivâdins themselves. With regard to the latter, Schopen (2004a: 41 n. 34) draws attention to inscriptions referred to in Bareau 1955: 36 (inscription of the second century ce from ‘près de Peshawer, dans l'Ouest du Cachemire, à Mathurâ et à Çrâvastî'), 131-132, and the sources there cited; Lamotte 1958: 578 (earli¬est Sarvâstivâda inscription in Mathurâ, first century ce; cf. Konow 1969: 30ff.); Willemen et al. 1998: 103-104 (monastery at Kalawân with earliest mention in an inscription of the Sarvâstivâdins, 77 ce according to Hirakawa 1993: 233); Salomon 1999: 200, 205 (according to Salomon, it is ‘likely that rayagaha- [in this inscribed potsherd] referred to a place of that name, presumably named after the original Râjagrha in Magadha, renowned in Buddhist tradition' (213)).

17 The influence of the new Abhidharma on Jainism, too, may go back to an early date and a region different from Greater Gandhâra; see Bronkhorst 2011: 130ff.

18 See note 16, above.

19 For the relative chronology of the earlier Abhidharma works, see Dessein 1996. We should not forget, of course, that the grammarian Patanjali's was already ac¬quainted with the fundamental notions of the new Abhidharma soon after 150 bce. Different signs point in the direction that Patanjali's lived in Kasmira; see Bronk¬horst 2016; 2017.

20 Roger Wright kindly draws my attention to Conze's (1960: 11) mention of the Arapacana chapter of the Satasahasrika Prajnaparamita as evidence for its north¬western origin. There is indeed evidence to think that the Arapacana syllabary had its origin in Gandhâra (Salomon 1990; Falk 1993: 236-239). Schmithausen (1977: 44-45) concludes from this that the passage was enlarged, so as to include, beside the pudgalanairatmya that is behind the non-existen of a bodhisattva, also the Mahayanist dharmanairatmya, which is behind the non-existence of Prajnâpâramitâ. Schmithausen's conclusion is doubtful. Neither ‘bodhisattva' nor ‘perfection of wisdom' figure in the traditional lists of dharmas, so the same logic that can deny the existence of a bodhisattva can also deny the existence of the perfection of wisdom. Indeed, the passage under consideration says in so many words that the perfection of wisdom is not a dharma: tam apy aham bhagavan dharmam na samanupasyami yad uta prajnaparamita nama; ‘I do not, O Lord, see a dharma called “perfection of wisdom”'. A complicating factor that prajnawisdom' does figure in the traditional lists, unlike prajnaparamita. I assume that the scholiasts would distinguish between ‘wisdom' and ‘perfection of wisdom', just as they distinguish between dharmas and their beginning, or birth ati); the former exists (because it is a dharma), the latter does not (because it is not a dharma). I must admit that the issue cannot be considered fully settled.

22 Cf. Falk & Karashima 2012: 20: ‘It is hardly far-fetched to assume that this text had its origins in Gandhâra proper, that is in the Peshawar valley with its tributar¬ies, including the adjoining region of Taxila'. See also Karashima 2013. With respect to Bactria, Fussman (2011: 36), summing up a discussion, states: ‘On dira donc que la présence au moins occasionnelle de moines mahayanistes à Kara-Tepa et Fajaz- Tepa n'est pas exclu, qu'elle est même probable, mais qu'il n'existe aucun indice le démontrant'. The nikaya-affiliation of these two monasteries was Mahâsânghika (2011: 35).

23 Note, however, Samuels 1997; Appleton 2010: 91-108.

24 Cf. Ruegg 2004: 51: ‘no single philosophical doctrine and no single religious practice - not even the bodhisattva-ideal or the svabhava-sünyata-(nihsvabhavata) or dharmanairatmya-doctrine - can of and by itself be claimed to be the main  religious or philosophical source of the Mahayana as a whole'. Ruegg presumably includes the bodhisattva-ideal in this enumeration because this ideal also existed outside Mahayana; see the preceding note. Cf. Schopen 2004a: 493-494: ‘There is.a kind of general consensus that if there is a single defining characteristic of t Mahayana it is that for Mahayana the ultimate religious goal is no longer nirvana, but rather the attainment of full awakening or buddhahood by all. This goal in one form or another and, however nuanced, attenuated, or temporally postponed, char¬acterise virtually every form of Mahayana Buddhism that we know.' Vetter (1994; 2001) argues ‘against the generally held notion that Mahayana and Prajnaparamita are identical, and for the thesis that the two came together at a certain moment in time, and yet did not always and everywhere remain united' (2001: 59).

25 Also see Ruegg 2004: 11 with note 15. Fujita's article relies heavily on Sarvastivada materials, but suggests that there may have been bodhisattvas also in other Nikayas. The Sarvastivadins, needless to add, were the very Buddhists who elaborated, or at any rate preserved, the scholastic ideas of Greater Gandhara here under discussion. Williams’s (1989: 26ff.) discussion of the Ajitasena Sutra may be of interest here.

26 Nattier (2003: 10) cautiously specifies that the Ugra-pariprccha-sutra ‘should called a “Mahayana sutra” - not, that is, without considerable qualification'.

27 Drewes (2010: 62) - referring to Dantinne 1991 (p.43?) and Pagel 2006 (p. 75) - points out that the Ugra-pariprccha-sutra is not necessarily especially early.

28 See, however, Harrison 1978: 55: ‘In its interpretation of a “Mahayana-ised” form of buddhanusmrti in terms of the doctrine of Sunyata [the Pratyutpanna-sutra reveals tensions within the Mahayana.'

29 Cf. Nattier 2003: 181: ‘Even the Lotus Sutra - widely read through the lens of “emptinessphilosophy by both traditional East Asian Buddhists and modern readers - only rarely uses the term sunyata, and in general seems more concer with urging its listeners to have faith in their own future Buddhahood th encouraging them to “deconstruct” their concepts.'

30 tena sravakayaniyah evam janati, evam ca vacam bhasate: na santy a abhisamboddhavyah I nirvanaprapto ’smiti I atha khalu tathagatas ta desayati | yena sarvadharma na praptah, kutas tasya nirvanam iti am bhag n bodhau samadapayati I sa utpannabodhicitto na samsarasthito na nirvanaprapto bha- vati I so ’vabudhya traidhatukam dasasu diksu sunyam nirmitopamam mayopamam svapnamaricipratisrutkopamam lokam pasyati I sa sarvadharman anutpannan aniruddhan abaddhan amuktan atamondhakaran naprakasan pasyati I. Cf. Kotsuki 010, V.44b.1-3 (p. 66-67); Mizufune 2011, V.56b.5 - 57a.1 (p. 81-82).

1 Karashima 2001: 172: ‘The portion in the Lotus Sutra where we can clearly see e influence of the sunyata thought system, is in the second half of the Osadhi- parivarta (V). Hence this verse portion, which is not found in Kumarajiva’s transla¬tion, is thought to have been interpolated at a much later time.' See also Vetter 2001: 83ff.

32 On the presence of old Arya-verses in this text, see Klaus 2008.

33 I have been able to profit from Douglas Osto’s as yet unfinished article, ‘Reim¬agining early Mahayana: a review of the contemporary state of the field’, which he kindly sent to me; see also Osto 2008: 106ff.; Drewes 2010. 


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