Articles by alphabetic order
 Ā Ī Ñ Ś Ū Ö Ō
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

Alayavijndna: On the Origin and the Early Development of a Central Concept of Yogacara Philosophy by Iambert Schmithausen

From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

in both thought and theories (cf. M. Vetterling Braggin, 'Femininity', 'Masculinity' and 'Androgyny': A Modern Philosophical Discussion, Totowa, N.J., 1982; J. Grimshaw, Philosophy and Feminist Thinking, Minneapolis, Minn., 1986) would no doubt note that Pitzer-Reyl's textual analyses proceed on mainly conventional lines, and that they encompass no attempts to probe into the thinking in

Buddhist sources on the basis of the insights and the new evaluative frames which current feminist philosophical critiques have tended to generate. However, a case could well be made for bringing the latter to bear on those analyses, for patriarchal attitudes are sometimes camouflaged. Even so, taken as a whole, there is much to commend in this monograph. Many readers might perhaps note with relief

that naive reductive accountings that loom large in many modern studies relating to early Buddhism are absent here: what one encounters, rather, is an attentiveness to texts and for the most part a balanced interpretation of their contents. Accordingly, Die Frau im friihen Buddhismus should indeed be ranked among the small (yet growing) number of writings that seek to investigate and discuss an important subject—the status of women in Buddhism.

Vijitha Rajapakse

Alayavijnana: On the Origin and the Early Development of a Central Concept of Yogacara Philosophy, Two volumes, by Lambert Schmithausen. Studia Philologica Buddhica, monograph series, IVa-b. Tokyo: International Institute for Buddhist Studies, 1987. vii-ix + 700 pp. ISBN #4-906267-20-3.

There has been, until now, no monographic treatment of the alayavijnana concept in any Western language. There are, of course, obligatory (usually brief) discussions of the concept in virtually every work on Yogacara. But if we consider only works written in languages other than Japanese, the best single resource remains Louis de La Vallee Poussin's brief introduction to the topic written more than fifty years ago ("Note sur 1'alayavijnana," Melanges chinois et bouddhiques 3 (1934): 145-168). The work under review here far outstrips anything previously available on the topic, and will, no doubt, remain the starting-point for further research for a long time to come.

The first volume of Schmithausen's work (241 pages) contains his text; the second (475 pages) contains his notes (1495 of them), bibliographies, and other critical apparatus. The relative size of these two volumes shows the author's interest in supplying complete documentation for every point he makes; one of the great strengths of his work is the extent to which it provides not only references to but also (often) critical evaluations of the work of other scholars in this field. This is especially valuable in the case of Schmithausen's discussions of Japanese scholarship, since this is so often difficult of access for Western Buddhologists. While Schmithausen's work may not be "a full account of the history of research on dlayavijndna" (pp. 1-2)—he disclaims any such intention—it is

considerably more comprehensive in this respect than anything else in a Western language known to this reviewer, and the best we are likely to get until Schmithausen himself offers us more. The extensive and detailed discussion of the theories of Suguro Shinjo, Sasaki Yodo, Enomoto Fumio, and Kajiyama Yuichi (among others) in chapter seven (pp. 144182) is without parallel in Western-language work. The first volume contains twelve chapters and two appendices. The heart of the argument is found in the first five chapters, in which Schmithausen's theory as to the origin of the dlaya-concept is presented and argued for. The remaining chapters and the appendices are devoted to more specific issues, including methodological questions and particular disagreements with other scholars. I shall not attempt to survey all this in a brief review, but shall rather attempt to lay bare the main lines of Schmithausen's argument, to express some reservations about his methodology, and to give at least a taste of the rich material to be found in the book. In chapter one (pp. 1-17) Schmithausen states his goal, which is to explore "the origin of the concept of alayavijnana" (p. 2), to get at "the

question of its very birth. . .the specific question of why and in which context alayavijnana as a peculiar type of vijndna, clearly distinguished from at least the ordinary forms of the six traditional vijnanas, and also expressly called 'alayavijnana,' was first introduced" (pp. 9-10). This question, if I understand Schmithausen's comments on it aright, is not simply about the origins of a particular concept (i.e., the concept that there is a type of vijndna different in kind from the usual six, a type whose existence is required in order that certain dogmatic and exegetical needs be fulfilled); neither is it simply about the origin and first use of a term—alayavijnana. Rather, it is a question

about the context in which such a concept and such a term first came together, a much more limited issue. Schmithausen explores this issue by examining the major occurrences of the term in the "earliest pertinent Yogacara source" (p. 11), which he judges to be portions of the so-called "Basic Section" of the Yogdcdrabhumi (i.e., the seventeen-6/mmt text, sometimes called bahubhumihavastu), and locating therein a passage that he judges to show the coming together of the concept and the term in the way needed to answer the question with which he began. In chapter two Schmithausen isolates such a passage and analyzes it, and in chapters three through five he sketches the lines of development that sprang from it. Before turning to the specifics of Schmithausen's theory, some comments on his

presuppositions and method are in order. He is, as he says, "hopelessly enmeshed in the historico-philological method and its presuppositions" (p. vii), and all his theories on the relationships among the various strata of Yogacara texts are predicated upon the reliability of that method as he practices it. In his earlier works on the history and provenance of Yogacara texts (especially "Sautrantika-Voraussetzungen in Virnsatika und Trim$ika" [Wiener Zeitschrift fur die Kunde Siid- und Ostasiens 11 (1967): 109-137], and "Zur Literaturgeschichte der alteren Yogacara-Schule" [Zeitschrift der

Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft Supplementa 1/3 (1969): 811-823]) Schmithausen arrived at his conclusions largely through terminological and stylistic analyses. If a particular term with a precise technical meaning in later texts is not found in a particular text or text-corpus, or is found only in obviously non-technical contexts, this is taken as good grounds for thinking that the text in question belongs to an earlier stage of development than the texts in which these terms are found with their full technical meanings. Similarly, if it can be established, by study of the known corpus of a specific author, that he has certain clearly recognizable thought patterns and habits of style, then a work that lacks these patterns and habits may reasonably be thought not to belong to that

author. The method is one that, given the fragmentary state of Indian Buddhist texts, and the fact that most of them do not survive in the language in which they were written, requires an enormous degree of philological expertise, including, in the case of the text-corpus with which Schmithausen works, skill in Sanskrit, in various forms of Middle Indo-Aryan, Tibetan, Chinese, and Japanese. Schmithausen possesses the necessary skills in abundance, probably to a greater extent than any other Western

scholar of his generation; but he is, to the taste of this reviewer, not sufficiently alive to the inherent limitations of his method, especially when applied to materials as fragmentary and problematic as what remains of early Indian Yogacara texts. These limitations can best be brought out by looking at the disagreements between Schmithausen and Hakamaya Noriaki, one of the best and most productive of the younger generation of Japanese scholars now working on Yogacara. To these dis agreements Schmithausen devotes an entire chapter (pp. 183193), and in his comments on them reveals a good deal about his own methodological presuppositions. Schmithausen rejects what he takes to be Hakamaya's excessively high valuation of the deliverances of the Buddhist tradition on such matters as the date and

authorship of texts, and charges Hakamaya, inter multos alia, with allowing these deliverances (on, e.g., such matters as Asanga's role in the compilation or authorship of the Yogacarabhumi, and on the Abhidharmasamnccayas status as a Mahayana work) to warp his reading and interpretation of (some of) the texts of the tradition. Schmithausen advocates, in contrast to Hakamaya's presupposition that the deliverances of the tradition are to be trusted unless there are pressing reasons to the contrary, a kind of methodological skepticism in such matters: the traditional judgments of Buddhists about the

provenance of texts are to be ignored unless they can be supported by the findings of historico-philological study. There is, no doubt, some justification for Schmithausen's approach; especially where Indie materials are concerned, the scholar can place little confidence in the quasi-legendary attributions given them by the tradition. But it is far from clear, to this reviewer at least, that the findings of the historico-philological method are, when applied to materials of this kind, worthy of all that much more confidence. And this is especially true when Indian Buddhist texts are under

discussion, since all too often these do not survive in any Indie language and the terminological studies upon which Schmithausen relies so heavily have to be undertaken at one or two removes from the original. The result of this lack of proper materials and the speculative and debatable nature of just about every premise in Schmithausen's cumulativecase inductive arguments for his conclusions means that they are often (perhaps usually) only marginally, if at all, more likely to be true than are the deliverances of the tradition. To a philosopher it would be hard to choose between the two sets of conclusions.

Another major drawback of the historico-philological method, in Schmithausen's hands just as much as in those of other practitioners, is that it shows a distressing fondness for disjecta membra as against complete texts and contexts. For example, in his debate with Hakamaya over the proper understanding of the Abhidharmasamuccaya's definitions of sunyatd (this section of the Abhidharmasamuccaya does not survive in Sanskrit; Pradhan's reconstruction [Pralhad Pradhan, ed., Abhidharmasamuccaya of Asanga, Santiniketan, 1950, p. 40, lines 10-18] is, as usual, an unsatisfactory melange of the

Tibetan and Chinese variations; Schmithausen provides a far more accurate Sanskrit retranslation in notes 1213 and 1223, pp. 478, 480), Schmithausen's arguments gain what power they have solely by separating a particular definition—that concerning the defining characteristics {laksana) of sunyatd—from its broader context and then constructing an argument from silence. While it is certainlytrue that the doctrine of dharmanairdtmya is not explicitly mentioned in this section of the Abhidharmasamuccaya, this is not sufficient reason by itself to conclude that the author/compiler of the text did

not have the doctrine in mind. This is especially true since the text as a whole can scarcely be read without coming to the conclusion that its author/compiler was clearly aware of and meant to express various important dimensions of the dharmanairdtmya doctrine (e.g., in its discussion of the three kinds of sunyatd [Pradhan, loc. cit.], and in its analysis of the dharmacategories [Pradhan, ed. cit., pp. 16ff.]). The fact that it is possible to point to isolated definitions which neither state nor imply the dharmanairdtmya doctrine shows only that the text picks up and makes use of a number of definitions that go back to a very early period; it does not show that the text's author/compiler was unaware of later traditions and doctrines.

Schmithausen's debates with Hakamaya thus illustrate splendidly both the strengths and the weaknesses of his method. The latter are evidenced principally in its reliance upon long chains of probabilistic arguments whose premises are weak, and in its fondness for disjecta membra over complete texts; for, that is to say, Formgeschichte over Redaktionsgeschichte. This does not mean that the traditionalist is always in better case; on the questions at issue in the Schmithausen-Hakamaya debates this reviewer would judge Hakamaya to have the better of it as far as the exegesis of the Abhidharmasamuccaya is concerned, and Schmithausen to have the better of it as far as the history and compilation of the Yogdcdrabhumi is concerned. But these are

necessarily tentative judgments; they can only be justified by arguments too lengthy for a review of this kind. I have given the methodological issues this much space only because they are so important for understanding Schmithausen's enterprise in the work under review. To return to Schmithausen's substantive conclusions: he identifies a passage from the samdhitabhumi as the "initial passage," the text-place in which the concept that there is a vijndna quite other than the standard six sensory consciousnesses comes together with the (quasi)-technical term alayavijndna for the first time. In this "initial passage" the a/oya-concept is used to explain exit from the attainment of cessation (nirodhasamapatti). This is a condition in which mind and its concomitants have altogether ceased to

function, as also have the six sensory consciousnesses. The possibility of leaving such a condition is explained by the continued presence in it of the dlaya. The "initial passage" is not yet formalized into a proof, as it later is in the Viniscayasangrahani, but Schmithausen sees in it, and only in it, the fulfillment of his requirements for a passage that illustrates the "birth" of the dlayaconcept. He makes the fascinating though highly speculative suggestion (pp. 28ff.) that the use of the term alayavijndna in this "initial passage" may possibly show Saiikhya influence, as also may the (later) development of the typically Yogacara theories about the active sensory consciousnesses and the manas. These are suggestions which will repay further investigation. This "initial passage" reveals that the earliest Yogacara ideas about the dlaya present it as possessing (or perhaps simply consisting in) the seeds (bija) of the active sensory consciousnesses; as sticking to or hiding within the

material sensory consciousnesses; and (by implication) as a subtle "gap-bridger," preventing death in advanced states of trance. Nothing is said or implied in Schmithausen's "initial passage" about the presence of the dlaya in other states, or about the dlaya as the object of attachment, the basis of dtmabhdva, or about the dlaya and cilia- or vijnaplimdtrata. All these themes are, of course, well-developed in later Yogacara, but are entirely absent here. Schmithausen's preliminary conclusions are that these aspects of the dlaya were not yet thought of at the time of its "birth," and thus that the very earliest stages of Yogacara thought about the dlaya show little or no significant connection with Mahayana thought (p. 33). This conclusion is in broad agreement with much of Schmithausen's earlier work on the Yogacara, and rests upon certain definite prior convictions of his about what is and what is not a Mahayana

concept. In chapters three, four, and five (pp. 34—108), Schmithausen traces something of the course of the developments by which the dlayavijndna came to have the attributes given to it in mature Yogacara theory (as, for example, in the Mahdydnasangraha). In doing this he uses mostly materials from the "Basic Section" of the Yogdcdrabhumi, the Samdhinirmocanasutra and the Viniicayasangrahani, attempting to show, in somewhat circular fashion, that there are perceptible strata within this material through which a more-or-less linear development of ideas about the dlaya can be traced, and, at the same time, basing his discrimination of these strata almost entirely upon the fact that certain complexes of ideas and terms are present (or not present) at particular text-places. This kind of

circularity is endemic to the historicophilological method, and is especially evident in these chapters of Schmithausen's work. Its presence, as Schmithausen is himself aware (p. 34 and passim), makes his conclusions far less than certain; but it detracts not at all from the value of the materials he gathers and expounds here. I have no space to discuss the corpus of material presented and analayzed by Schmithausen, much less the details of his historical reconstruction. It must suffice to say that he traces the conceptual developments that connected the dlaya to the rebirth process, that is, to the grasping and appropriating of a new body, in chapter three; those that connected the negative terms daufthulya, updddna, and so forth, with seeds (bija), and thus made the dlaya the locus for the

operations of dausthulya (I note in passing that Schmithausen cites and discusses extraordinarily valuable textual material on this difficult term: see especially notes 461—482) in chapter four; and the attempts on the part of Yogacara theorists to show in what sense the dlaya meets the traditional requirements for being a vijndna (i.e., that it cognizes or represents an object) in chapter five. In sum: Schmithausen's work is a model of careful and exact philological scholarship, and is a major contribution to Buddhist studies. It makes available, through its analysis of texts from the

Yogdcdrabhumi (see especially appendices I and II, pp. 220-241), and through its critical comments on Japanese studies of early Yogacara, much material not previously studied, and in so doing suggests many avenues for further research. The groundwork is laid here for future philosophical studies of the psychology and epistemology of the Yogacara. Schmithausen also exhibits astonishing linguistic virtuosity in this work: he shows his com

mand over all the necessary Buddhist canonical languages as well as over the secondary literature in Japanese, and is capable, in addition, of writing a technical monograph in a language not his own. I suspect that few, if any anglophone Buddhologists could match these skills; Schmithausen may thus serve as an appropriate r61e-model for those now entering the field. While this reviewer has reservations, expressed above, about Schmithausen's method, and about many of the details of his stratification of the texts and his historical reconstruction of the development of ideas, these are entirely outweighed by the values of the materials he presents and analyzes.