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A Structuralist Examination of the Origins of the Māra Mytheme and its Function in the Narrative of the Dàoxíng Bōrě Jīng, the Earliest Complete Recension of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā-prajñā-pāramitā-sūtra

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A Structuralist Examination of the Origins of the Māra Mytheme and its Function in the Narrative of the Dàoxíng Bōrě Jīng, the Earliest Complete Recension of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā-prajñā-pāramitā-sūtra.

William James Giddings

Submitted in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirement for the Degree of Ph.D.

1st May, 2014

Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London.


Abstract

By comparing the instances of the Māra mytheme in the narratives of the prajñāpāramitā-sūtras with those found in non-Mahayana texts, this thesis explores how this vitally important persona, one central to the narrative account of the bodhisattva quest for awakening, developed from earlier mythic prototypes. Pali sources identify a number of alternative identities for Māra the most significant of which being Namuci, an asura who took control over the mind of Indra. Using linguistic ideas originally developed by Saussure, the storylines of the Māra and Namuci myths can be reduced to a simple, common narrative statement or syntagm. Adopting this approach demonstrates how apparently new narratives can be derived through the application of paradigmatic changes within that syntagm. Furthermore, drawing upon the findings of historical linguistics, it was possible to interpolate potential Proto-Indian-European origins for the Māra mytheme. Rather than supporting the traditionally accepted view of Māra as an allegory for death, this enabled the signification of the actual name Māra to be seen as pointing towards a ‘grinding-away’ or oppression of the mind. This was achieved by relating the Māra of Buddhist mythology with the mare-hag common to a number of IndoEuropean folklores. Support for this argument is also found in Pali narratives which depict Māra entering the thoughts of others engaged in meditation during the night in order to induce feelings of fear and uncertainty. Finally, based upon these findings, it was possible to scrutinize the narrative and nested tales of the

Aṣṭasāhasrikā-prajñā-pāramitā-sūtra in its earliest recension, the Dàoxíng Bōrě Jīng, and identify how the original Māra myth underwent structured, paradigmatic modifications that reflect a bodhisattva’s progress towards final awakening.


Acknowledgements

There are so many people who have been absolutely vital to the task of completing this thesis. Historically, I must first express my belated thanks to Edward Conze whom I briefly met at a short course on the topic of the Heart Sutra given at the Marpa House retreat centre a short while before his death in 1979. He spoke at length about the agonizing difficulties in effectively translating such problematic religious texts as the prajñā sutras into English. His account was something that captured my imagination and motivated me to extend upon the work in this field. Conze’s accomplishments tower above all others such that knowledge of his work is essential for anyone coming to grips with Mahayana studies.

Academically, I must express my deep gratitude for the support of my supervisor, Professor Yao Xinzhong. His steady encouragement and guidance has kept me focused on the task at hand and has been invaluable, helping me through the difficult task of working through the vast ocean of ideas and issues surrounding the creation of the source texts studied. My second supervisor, Dr Wang Youxuan also receives my deepest thanks for providing insights into some of the more subtle aspects of critical theory drawn upon in order to complete this research. Finally, I must express my sincerest thanks to my wife Lucy and daughters Jane and Georgia who have not only tolerated the extensive periods of time in which I have been absorbed in my books and texts, but have been sources of constant emotional support and encouragement. Dedicated to my own kalyāṇa-mitra, the Venerable Lama Chime Rimpoche. 


Contents

Abbreviations 7 Introduction 11 Methodology 13

Meaning, Structure and Language 15

Chapter Overview 22

1 The Dàoxíng Bōrě Jīng 24

1.1) Narrative Summary of the Dàoxíng Bōrě Jīng 27

1.2) Dramatis Personae 39

1.3) Personalities Discussed but not Present at Gṛdhrakūṭa 45

1.4) Anonymous Groups and their Progression on the Path 48

1.5) Illusion, Miracle and Mind Control 53

1.6) Conclusions 65 2 Māra Pāpīmā 67

2.1) Textual Origins 67

2.2) Māra, from Deva to Demon 103

2.3) Conclusions 107

3 Māra in the Dàoxíng 108

3.1) Māra’s Work: to Destroy the Transmission 112

3.2) Māra Temptations and the Bodhisattva Path 140

3.3) The Avaivartika Temptations 145

3.4) Pride and Haughtiness, Narratives and Origins of a Potential Backstory 150

3.5) Signs of Māra’s Defeat 157

3.6) Māra in the Tale of Sadāprarudita Bodhisattva 158

3.7) The Inclusion of Māra in Other Contexts 170

3.8) Conclusions 173

4 Overcoming Māra: the Upāya-kauśalya of the Kalyāṇa-mitra 175

4.1) Going Beyond 175

4.2) The Great Dharma is the Great Method 177


4.3) Conclusions 188 5 Samādhi as Depicted in the Dàoxíng 189 5.1) Some Features of the Śrāvaka Practice of Samādhi 190 5.2) The Dàoxíng Description of Samādhi 191 5.3) Conclusions 210 6 The Path to Awakening 211 6.1) The Language of the Path 211 6.2) The Travellers on the Path 213 6.3) Paradigmatic Changes in the Idea of the Spiritual Journey 226 6.4) Going Beyond the Grounds and Path of the Arhat 230 6.5) Māra Encounters and the Stages of the Path 232 6.6) The Depiction of the Path In the Tale of Sadāprarudita 235 6.7) Conclusions 242 7 Conclusions 244

Appendices 247

Chapter 9. The Remedy - Awakening to Māra 248

Chapter 17. Taking Up Space 261

Chapter 19. Good Friends 268

Chapter 28. Sadāprarudita Bodhisattva 279

Chapter 29. Dharmodgata Bodhisattva 304

Bibliography 328


Abbreviations

AA Manorathapūraṇi Aṅgutarra
AN Aṅguttara Nikāya
Ap Apadāna
BuA Buddhavaṃsa-aṭṭhakathā
Dhp Dhammapada
DhSA Atthasālinī
DA Sumaṅgala Valāsinī
DN Dīgha Nikāya
Iti Itivuttaka
J Jataka
KN Khuddaka Nikāya
MA Papanñca Sūdanī, Majjhima Commentary
MN Majjhima Nikāya
Mtu Mahāvastu
SA Sāratthappakāsinī, Saṃyutta Commentary
SN Saṃyutta Nikāya
Snp Sutta Nipāta
Thag Theragatha
Thig Therigatha
Ud Udāna
Vin Vinaya Piṭaka
T Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō 大正新脩大藏經
(online Version, http://www.cbeta.org)
DA 長阿含經 Dīrgha Āgama (T 1)
EA 增一阿含經 Ekottara Āgama (T 125)
MA 中阿含經 Madhyama Āgama (T 26)
SA 雜阿含經 Saṃyukta Āgama (T 99)
SA2 別譯雜阿含經 Saṃyukta Āgama -Alternative Translation (T 100)
Chāojīng 般若抄經 (T 226)
Dàbōrě 大般若波羅蜜經 (T 220)
Dàmíngdù 大明度經 (T 225)
Dàoxíng 道行般若波羅蜜經 (T 224)
Xiǎopǐn 小品般若波羅蜜 (T 227)
Dàzhìdùlùn 大智度論 (T 1509)
RV Ṛgveda
AV Atharvaveda
TS Taittirīya saṃhitā (Yajurveda)
MS Manusmṛti
OED Oxford English Dictionary
(online version, http://www.oed.com)
CED Collins English Dictionary
(online version, http://www.collinsdictionary.com)
Italicization and Bracketed References
Current English words of Sanskrit or Pali origins are given without diacritics spelt according to the Collins Shorter English dictionary (CED). Unless specified, numbers in round
brackets, e.g. (434a02), denote line references in the Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō whereas those in square brackets, e.g. [MK14] refer to items in tables.

==Āgamas in Chinese Translation==

References for Chinese and Pali text correspondences obtained from the Suttacentral database for early Buddhist texts, translations, and parallels (http://suttacentral.net).

List of Figures
Figure 1: Two dimensional synchronic syntagm. 20
Figure 2: Three dimensional diachronic syntagmatic space. 21
Figure 3: From Namuci to Māra. 94
Figure 4: Yama and Māra. 100
Figure 5: Temptation and trickery. 162
Figure 6: Māra and the kalyāṇa-mitra. 186
Figure 7: The good and bad teachers. 187
Figure 8: Metaphors for the process of change and development. 228
Figure 9: Processes of change and development and the notion of the path. 229
Figure 10: Approaches of Māra and stages of the path. 234
Figure 11: Elements of the path as narratemes in the tale of Sadāprarudita. 238

List of Tables
Table 1: Powers of the Buddha, Māra and the bodhisattva. 56
Table 2: References to dreams and dreaming. 62
Table 3: Visions and apparitions. 64
Table 4: Similes of dreams and illusions. 65
Table 5: The five classifications of Māra. 67
Table 6: Verses containing rain imagery in the Theragatha and Therigatha. 84
Table 7: Binomes employing the character. 104
Table 8: The thirty-five Māra temptations of the aspiring bodhisattva. 115
Table 9: Avaivartika temptations -1. 146
Table 10: Avaivartika temptations -2. 148
Table 11: Avaivartika temptations -3. 151
Table 12: Misrepresentation as trick and temptation. 161
Table 13: References to the upāya-kauśalya. 181
Table 14: Analogies expressing the value of an upāya-kauśalya. 182
Table 15: Synoptic list of samādhi references as part of the discourse. 201
Table 16: First set of forty-eight named samādhis. 205
Table 17: Second set of twenty-five named samādhis. 207
Table 18: Twelve categories of samādhi. 208
Table 19: Comparative list of ranked samādhis. 209
Table 20: Ranking of samādhi types. 209
Table 21: The four bodhisattva grounds. 216
Table 22: References to the nava-yāna-samprasthita-bodhisattva. 218
Table 23: References to the ādibhūmi-bodhisattva. 220
Table 24: References to the avaivartika-bodhisattva. 222
Table 25: References to the abhiṣeka-bodhisattva. 225
Table 26: The bodhisattva grounds and their topographic similitudes. 226
Table 27: Parallel list of the four grounds of the śrāvaka and bodhisattva yānas. 227
Table 28: Opposing positions of entrapment and release. 233

Introduction

As the bodhisattva path is pursued, the closer a bodhisattva approaches his personal bodhimaṇḍala, then the closer he approaches the ‘limit of samsara’ and the reach of Māra’s grip. This will be a path through numerous grounds requiring the undertaking of severe hardships, performance of great altruistic deeds, bodily sacrifices, and the passage through both divine and hellish realms. When entrance to the buddha path is at hand, the more a bodhisattva will be ‘tempted’ by Māra who approaches in the form of inter-personal obstacles, tortuous doubts, fears and uncertainties. The penultimate task of a bodhisattva is to directly face Māra and his host, as exemplified in the life stories of the Buddha himself who sat beneath the bodhi tree on the banks of the Nerañjara; depicted in the Lalitavistara-sūtra as the ninth episode in the life of the Buddha. The goal of a bodhisattva is to become one who has ‘conquered the enemy’ (arahant) and become ‘completely awakened’ (sambuddha) and ‘gone beyond’ (tathāgata) the grip of Māra. This awakening implies a change in mental state, of becoming ‘lively’ (Watkins 2000, p.95); it is the process of a bodhisattva becoming aware as in the sense of being watchful; a process of witnessing what is happening within his mental environment with the aim of becoming protected from its beguiling effects. The Dàoxíng repeatedly depicts the Buddha urging the bodhisattva to awaken to the ‘works’ or ‘deeds’ of Māra. In order to enter and tread upon the buddha path a bodhisattva must recognize the content of the waking mind to be no different that of the sleeping mind (457b18). As the quality of both states of consciousness is the outcome of factors working within the mind, they are essentially the same in nature.

Much of what is commonly understood of the Māra encounter is derived from hagiographies of the Buddha such as the Lalitavistara, Buddhacarita, Buddhavaṃsa and the writings of later commentators. In turn, the creation of these works has depended upon a range of textual sources such as those found in the earlier accounts given in the Nikāya and Āgama collections; the present corpus representing a fraction of a much broader early oral tradition. Further adding to the confusion, received accounts of the nature of Buddhist mythical characters presented in these texts make no reference to sources outside the Buddhist tradition, even in those cases where the earlier textual origins of such personae is well documented. Such isolation may not be due to the rejection of external dogmas; most religious traditions are covetous of their cultural legacies and the brahmanic transmission of the Vedas was no exception. Although so many of the major disciples of the Buddha and the principal exegetes of its Indian traditions are described as brahmans by caste, it is surprising that scant reference is made to these literary sources or their mythological aspects in their criticism of the views of outsiders. Apart from the reticence to directly cite non-Buddhist works, there is the possibility that those exegetes of the brahman caste who joined the early sangha may not themselves have been initiated into the transmission of the śruti (lit. ‘hearing and listening’) and so were not privy to the teachings of the Vedas. Furthermore, the criticism of other schools and religious movements found in Buddhist literature such as the Mahā-prajñā-pāramitā-śāstra (T 1509) is that these were typically restricted to abstract views upon the cause and effects of moral action rather than the belief in preternatural forces.

More mythologized in content than the earlier Nikāya and Āgama works, Mahayana sutras extend the Māra mytheme. Although the diversity of names for the ‘Pāpīmā’ largely disappear this is offset by the introduction of new narrative structures. Amongst the earliest texts we find accounts telling of an invisible Māra that haunts and whispers in the ears of the Buddha and his disciples during the stillness of the night. Yet, in later works, Māra becomes something of a diabolical enemy able to shape-shift, to call upon demonic armies, and to transform the environment in order to lead the minds of unwitting bodhisattvas astray. The Dàoxíng contains in excess of a hundred and forty references related to Māra distributed through some seventeen of its thirty chapters. This provides a rich depiction of Māra and his works and represents an optimum point for beginning any new line of inquiry. In order to complete this thesis it was necessary to produce a complete working English translation of the Dàoxíng, one which closely reflects the various metaphoric nuances of the text based upon Karashima’s critical edition of the Dàoxíng contained in the Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō. Those chapters considered most important to the exploration of the Māra mytheme and its related topics are presented in parallel Chinese-English translation in the appendices of this thesis.


Methodology

Recent scholarship has seen a revaloration of the narrative content of Mahayana sutras in Chinese translation as potential sources of historical evidence for the study of Indian Buddhism (Gombrich 2009, p.98). Added to this, studies such as Fronsdal (1998), Drewes (2011), Boucher (2008) and Nattier (2003) explore the putative origins of the early Mahayana movement through the narrative analysis of various sutras. The work of these researchers stands in contrast to that of earlier scholars such as Edward Conze and Étienne Lamotte as less emphasis is placed upon the philological study of the emergence the genre of prajñā-pāramitā literature or the core doctrine of śūnyatā. Broadening the scope of investigation, such studies include the emerging expression of the notion of the bodhisattva, the path, the means of transmission and the cult of the book. As a result, what has come to the fore is the exploration of the textual evidence for signs of a gradual movement away from depicting the teaching of the Buddha as the quest for escape into some form of passive nirvana. Narratives found in the earliest Mahayana sutras such as the Ugraparipṛccha, Rāṣṭrapālaparipṛcchā and Aṣṭasāhasrikā-prajña-pāramitā, portray the bodhisattva path and the quest for sarvajñā and buddhahood as something much more dynamic.

This re-examination of texts for historical evidence has its caveats. Harrison (1995, p.54) talks of the problems of generalizing early Mahayana Buddhism based specifically upon the ‘close reading’ of textual sources alone, born of the assumption that individual texts are representative of some kind of singular Mahayana movement. Other factors are important outside of doctrine and he acknowledges the contribution of other methodologies, particularly Buddhist Anthropology. Harrison comments that it is not doctrine that causes religions to be compelling, but that such movements capture the imagination of their followers because ‘they arouse their faith and convince them that they provide an exclusive or unique access to whatever power is held to underlie or pervade the world, to the numinous, to the transcendent’. The examination of generic, core sacred texts alone is insufficient in the attempt to present a model of the dynamics underlying the cultural factors to which these texts are the expression of some form of reaction. Other textual sources need be considered. To do otherwise is, as Schopen (2010, p.1) would have it, to rely upon a manuscript tradition that ‘has been heavily edited... ...is considered canonical or sacred, and it was intended – at the very least – to inculcate an ideal.’

The implication for the textual researcher is that specific works must be considered as targeting particular ideals which in turn are elements of a more complex gamut of ideas. Furthermore, many of those ideas may not have been of primary importance to a particular author and were in turn built upon simpler, fundamental ideas whose influence had become obscured to later generations of readers but was vitally alive to an earlier audience. The challenge lies in establishing how such texts furnish evidence. Unlike archaeological artifacts that have the potential to be located in both space and time, it cannot be assumed that religious texts are historical records. Although sutras can be regarded partly as a transcription of an earlier oral tradition, such texts are not necessarily statements of factual events or observations, but are evidence that testify to changes in opinions and belief (Vasina 1997, p.31). They are open to processes of redaction and emendation and, as in the case of the larger sutras, constructed using a wide range of literary devices that regularly blur the distinction between religious myth and novel fiction (Warder 1970, p.424). What emerges from these studies is the observation that the ongoing development in narrative typically reflects the process of change within the interpretation of accepted Buddhist teaching (Lancaster 1968, p.31). This role of narrative as the key means of teaching, particularly during the earliest historical period of Indian Buddhism, lies in the assertion by groups such as the Mahāsaṃghikas and Sautrāntikas that the Buddha’s discourses (sutras) were ‘perfect in themselves’ (Dutt 1998, p.80) and that exegetical materials, particularly the Sarvāstivādin abhidharma-piṭaka, should not be considered as canonical works.

Important as the above mentioned studies are, these examine the function of Buddhist ideas within Buddhist literature. The methodology adopted in this thesis is not only an attempt to revalorize Buddhist mythic narrative, it endeavours to envisage a framework within which the development of recognizably Buddhist narratemes can be placed, to some degree, within a broader corpus of IndoEuropean mythic narratives. The nature of this approach infers that there is a structural relationship between the various narratives of what might be superficially regarded as unrelated mythic traditions. Whilst the authors of new works may claim that their works are unique, the creation of new texts are typically in response to some pre-existing narrative background. This is because the positioning of new ideas as semiotic significators is always in relation to some preexisting signifier. So, how are apparently disparate or even closely related narratives to be explored? The creation of structures is, by necessity, a process of abstraction. The question then arises as to how such abstractions can be produced? Literature, as an extension of language, is the written record of ideas and, as in the case of ancient texts, possibly the transcription of pre-existing orally transmitted tales. Although philological studies connect language to texts, in order to match the belief and meaning to ideas contained within language, approaches derived from linguistics and semiology need to be applied. Meaning, Structure and Language


1.1.1) Saussure, Semiotics and Structuralism

Breaking with the accepted, substantive view of language in which words represented objects, the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure established within a robust theoretic setting the view that words referred specifically to ideas. And, as there is no necessary connection between words and the objects to which they refer, language becomes arbitrary. In explaining the relationship between words and the ideas that they signify, Saussure used the terms langue to denote the rules and constructs of a signifying system, and parole for specific instances of their use. Within a conventionalized system of signification he then applied the terms signifié (signified) and signifiant (signifier) to refer to the two parts of the sign. The organization of these signs into compound structures, each with differentiated meaning was next expressed using the notion of the syntagm. In developing the idea of arbitrariness, Saussure described the analysis of language as either diachronic or synchronic; where the former depicts the study of time based relational changes in the uses of linguistic codes, and the latter that of the relationship between such codes as if these were frozen in time. For Saussure then, the development of language was a chain of synchronic states (Chandler 2007, p.248). The study of signs and their significations would become known as semiotics. At first sight the use of the syntagm as a means of portraying complex narrative may appear simplistic. However, as Labov (1972, p.360) points out, the simplest narrative is a merely a ‘sequence of two clauses temporarily ordered’.

The impact of this approach had widespread implications. Later academics such as Claude Lévi-Strauss (anthropology), Jacques Lacan (psychoanalysis), Roland Barthes (philosophy) and Vladimir Propp (literary criticism), would adopt semiotic principals that considered signifiers, as arbitrary forms, are not restricted to the spoken word alone and are applicable to all forms of symbolic communication. Signification systems modelled upon linguistic principals, could therefore be extended beyond simple phraseology into more complex, communicative structures such as belief, literature and the visual arts. This notion of interpreting the interrelated meaning of cultural practices and signifiers in terms of a larger overarching system gave rise to the theoretical paradigm known as structuralism.


1.1.2) Narratology

Structuralist approaches to the study of myth has some precursors in the field of comparative mythology as in Frazer’s The Golden Bough (1890, 1906-15), Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949) and his subsequent works in The Masks of God series (1962-8). Such studies attempt to draw together myths taken from a broad range of cultural sources with the aim of cataloguing their narrative parallels combined with the attempt to abstract these into some form of monomyth or urmyth. The shortcoming of these approaches is the possibility of regarding myths from one of two extreme standpoints. That is: 1) regarding all mythic traditions as unique and distinct with no shared textual origins, or 2) assuming that all myths develop from a universal set of a priori mythic archetypes. Such theorizing, as Csapo (1995, p.7) points out, tells more about the theorizer than the myths it attempts to explain. These caveats do not undermine the value of structuralist methodologies but they do caution over the selection of the range of valid data. In restricting the line of inquiry to mythic narratives taken from within linguistically related textual sources, changes to the specific features of the narrative details can be observed and patterns of development identified.

Narratological considerations are made by Osto (2004, p.35) in his study of the Gaṇḍavyuha Sūtra. Osto notes the similarities between the tales of Sudhana in the Gaṇḍavyuha Sūtra and Sadāprarudita in the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñā-pāramitā Sūtra in terms of their thematic contents (the quest for the kalyāṇa-mitra) and the structural function of such tales within these texts as a whole. He goes onto suggest that these are the outcome of a period in Indian cultural history which saw cross-sectarian flourishing in narrative literature, styled as avadāna, or ‘glorious-tales’. In making comparisons with modern fictional genres, MacMahan (2002, p.131) suggests that the larger Mahayana sutras are a kind of ‘symbolic fantasy’ with many parallels to science fiction. In a comparative study of Indian religious narratives, Ayyappa Paniker (2003, pp.6-7) singles out the feature of ‘serialisation’ as the key ingredient of the Indian narrative in which an apparently endless string of episodes befall a single hero figure. Such episodes, he adds, are ‘detachable without any detriment to the total frame’. There are some parallels with the modern ‘soap opera’ in which each episode is open ended with ongoing narratives focused on the key protagonists typically spanning many episodes that contains shorter narratives or singular events within frame-stories (Turner & Cunningham 2000, p.121). Certain features of the Nordic Saga genre are there too, as clans vie against each other as with Māra and his sons, daughters and followers, and the Buddha with his ‘sons’ and ‘daughters’ in the form of the sangha. Finally, structural parallels can be observed with the key features of the classic epics. There is a central hero, an in medias res setting of cosmic importance, actions of great valour, divine and demonic interest in the central action, the recollection of heroic deeds and grandiose style (Holman & Thrall 1980, p.161).


1.1.3) Structuralism: Propp and Lévi-Strauss

In his seminal work Morphology of the Folktale (1928), Vladimir Propp first presented the idea of reducing the narrative elements in a related group of stories into simple units or narratemes. The Russian folktales examined were relatively simplistic narratives and did not constitute complex literary works or, as in the case of mythological texts, integrate into a broader scheme of imagery and meaning. Whilst Propp did not explore the significance or value of these tales to their readership, he demonstrated that structure is a readily recognized facet of a text and that such structures are present even if the inclusion of those structures were not intended by design. Consequently, structure becomes the basis for a narrative grammar (Culler 2004, p.18). Using a list of codified narratemes, Propp (1968, p.116) alluded to the creation of new tales (serialization) through the recombination of narratemes according to recognized structures. The first serious application of structuralist approaches to sacred texts was made by the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss who was dissatisfied with the way in which the study of mythology had become ‘a picture of chaos’. In ‘The Structural Study of Myth’, Lévi-Strauss argued for a movement away from the application of psychological principals in the study of myth to one of linguistic models based upon the ideas of Saussure. He also presents the notion of the mytheme, a basic element of construction much like Propp’s narrateme. The mytheme differs from the narrateme in that mythemes are composed of binary or ternary oppositions. Furthermore, the mytheme is not concerned with the specific details of any individual within a text, but is developed from their function within the development of the mythic narrative. In comparison, a mytheme may appear as a factor in unassociated mythic traditions whereas the narrateme is an element within a sub-group of closely related texts.


1.1.4) The Value of Structuralist Ideas

The adoption of a structuralist approach enables the Dàoxíng to be re-examined in a manner that goes beyond philological methods such as redaction analysis in which discourse variances between numerous translations of the same text are compared as by Lancaster (1968) and Karashima (2010; 2011). Similarly, this approach does not favour the view that such discourses present some form of manifesto for the declaration of ideas that form the basis of philosophic argument. Adopting the latter approach may lead the researcher to dismiss the various narrative elements and presence of devatās as ‘litany’ or empty, meaningless elaboration (Conze 1974, p.xvii). Placing focus upon narrative provides the opportunity to position texts within a broad framework; one that does not see Buddhist texts developing in isolation to the extent that the inclusion of Vedic deities can be simplistically dismissed as ‘brahmanic influence’. This is something of misnomer. Early Indian Buddhist and Vedic sub-cultures shared a common legacy, one equally shared by Jainism and other schools, a conceptual legacy which, in becoming modified, is expressed using differing signs albeit in structurally similar ways. In order to find such structures within this apparent chaos, the pragmatic approach is to identify those central mythological personae of equivalent structural importance and from there, examine their attributes and functions.

1.1.5) Application of Saussurean Ideas

Syntagmatic Axis

Position denotes the relationship between signifiers that form meaningful structures.

Figure 1: Two dimensional synchronic syntagm.

Paradigmatic Axis

Position denotes the contrast between signifiers that alters meaning.

Signfiers in each column can be substituted in the main syntagm (shadowed) to express structurally related ideas but of differing meaning.

The Saussurean theory of the relationship between paradigms as signifiers in the formation of complex ideas is illustrated in figure 1. The horizontal axis denotes the relationship between ideas and the vertical axis, related ideas which can be interchanged within the syntagm to create structurally similar syntagms with differing signification. As there is no change in the arbitrariness of the specific signifiers, this depicts a temporarily closed, synchronic syntagm. The comparison of diachronic changes within syntagms, can therefore be envisaged as parallel planes (see figure 2) in which differences between positionally related syntagms can be expressed multidimensionally as in some form of syntagmatic space. Each plane represents what Saussure would have recognized as a closed textual context and the relative placing of these layers denote distinct contexts.

Figure 2: Three dimensional diachronic syntagmatic space.


The accumulation of differences in signifiers within a syntagm through processes such as addition, subtraction, displacement and transposition, may result in an effective semantic change in meaning, especially if any signifier undergoes a binary change or an irreversible modification. This would imply that an arbitrary starting point in the difference chain may not be immediately recognizable as being related to other planes in the semantic space. In practice, the layers are representative of instances of differing textual sources. The placement of syntagms in such a framework not only provides a convenient way of visualizing inter-textual developments, but also offers a means of interpolating and extrapolating possible directions of inquiry into areas of hitherto unexplored narratives. Based upon the above diagram, the lowest planes (dotted) would indicate mythemes found in Proto- Indo-European narratives (protonarratives) the texts for which are no longer available but form the basis for emerging genres. The subsequent planes then represent earliest mythic narratives available in written, codified recensions, and the topmost layers, narratives in their current forms. For the purpose of this thesis, these correspond to Vedic Hymns, and sutras belonging to the Nikāya/Āgama and Mahayana genres. Based upon the premise that the Buddha, as the core figure in an emerging Buddhist mythology, represents a paradigmatic shift, the precursor needs to be identified along with its binary opponent. As the prevailing branch of IndoEuropean culture and its associated mythology that the historical personage of the Siddhārtha Gautama was born into was predominantly Vedic, it would be reasonable to assume therefore, that upon his awakening to become the Buddha, which is his effective apotheosis, he becomes compared with various deities of the Vedic pantheon. Certain narratives, such as the Brahmanimantanika Sutta (MN 49, MA78) depict the Buddha journeying to the Brahma heavens and establishing his supremacy over the devas of the highest realms by driving out Māra who has possessed the mind of the deva Baka Brahma. The events presented in this text position the value of the Buddha’s own dharma over those methods that aim to lead the pursuer to reach some form of eternal divine state. Needless to say, the act of exorcizing Māra from the deva relies upon the reader possessing a clear understanding of the Buddha-Māra opposition in order for the tale to become meaningful.


Chapter Overview

Although the Dàoxíng is regarded as a seminal work for the development of later Mādhyamaka thought, for the purpose of this thesis it will be considered to be a work belonging to ‘Early Buddhism’, originating at some time between the first and second centuries BCE (Conze 2000, p.1). With this view in mind, the contents of the text will be seen as a form of snapshot of that period with its unique contribution being a critique of the trends of that period through the use of narrative and the innovative solutions that it encapsulates. Chapter 1 discusses the structure and narrative development of the Dáoxìng, the roles of the key personae and their relative functions within the text. Next, chapter 2 begins the process of exploring the textual evidence for the origins of the Māra personae and its development from pre-existing narratives into the recognizable Buddhist mytheme. Armed with these findings, chapter 3 returns to the text of the Dáoxìng and examines how the mythemes continue a process of narrative development which embraces the bodhisattva path. Along with changes to the Māra mytheme the Dáoxìng offers insights into other developing areas of early Mahayana thought which are defined in some part at this stage in terms of the Māra myth. These are the topics of the upāya-kauśalya, the kalyāṇa-mitra and samādhi which are examined in chapters 4 and 5. Chapter 6 examines the topic of the path itself. By applying structuralist ideas it is possible to see how the four-fold path of the arhat undergoes a paradigmatic change to become a four-fold bodhisattva path. Again, the stages of the path are related through narrative to the Māra mytheme. Finally, Chapter 7 summates the findings of this study and the appendices contain the translations from five chapters from the Dáoxìng which are particularly relevant to the topic of this research. 


1 The Dàoxíng Bōrě Jīng

In re-approaching the study of the narrative content of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñā- pāramitā-sūtra the question has to be addressed, which of various recensions can be considered closest to the format of any Indic urtext? Whilst the Lokakṣema translation is the earliest, this factor alone is not sufficient justification for selection. Critical editions of a Pāla dynasty Sanskrit recension exist from Nepalese sources (Mitra 1888, Wogihara 1932,1935 and Vaidya 1960), the relatively late dating of the text admitting the potential for revision and expansion, which only serves to make matters more complex. Some fragments of an early recension of the chronologically later Larger Prajñā–pāramitā Sutra have been found (Bongard-Levin & Hon 1996), but these date to the fifth century CE. Whereas Sander (2000, 2002) describes fragments of the version of Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñā-pāramitā-sūtra from the Kuṣāṇa period being amongst the Buddhist works held in the Schøyen collection.

More recently Falk (2011, pp.20-14) described a birch-bark roll in the so-called ‘Split Collection’ which was identified as containing parallels of chapters 1 and 5 of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñā-pāramitā-sūtra. A Gāndhārī text written in Kharoṣṭi script, the palaeographic evidence suggested a dating of the first century CE, this was later confirmed by C14 dating that placed the text’s likely copying as 74 CE. Following an initial comparison of the Gāndhārī text with other recensions of the sutra, it was established that Lokakṣema’s Chinese translation offered the closest match although the latter was itself a developed text due to ‘inflation through stock phrases and synonyms.’ Subsequent comparative studies by Falk and Karashima (2012, 2013) have provided listings of the corresponding passages of the Gāndhārī text and the Lokakṣema Chinese translation. Amongst the conclusions drawn in this study is that the variations in the text, particularly the transposition of certain paragraphs, suggests that whilst the Gāndhārī and Lokakṣema’s source texts were similar, Lokakṣema did not work with a direct predecessor to the Gāndhārī text, but one of a slightly different tradition (ibid. p.99).

In order to expand upon the research produced by Conze, Lancaster (1968) produced a comparative study of the various Chinese translations produced over a period stretching some five centuries against the extant Sanskrit text. In doing so he identified structural changes to both the narrative and doctrinal content of the various translations as they appeared over time. His findings also illustrated how the contents of the later or ‘middle texts’ (T 220, T 227) followed the structure of the Sanskrit text more closely than the earlier versions (T 224, T 225, T 226). Lancaster identified one hundred and fifty differences between the earliest version translated by Lokakṣema and the Sanskrit text. From these findings two questions arose: were the changes doctrinal and, if so what doctrinal topics were these? Lancaster then identified twelve topics which he listed (p.3) as: upāya-kauśalya, kuśala-mūla, bodhisattva, dharma-kāya, tathatā, prajñā-pāramitā, bhūta-koṭi, advaya, bodhi-pakṣa, dhātu, Dharma/dharmas, and karma/saṃskāra. The inclusion of textual material was not merely a matter of adding new doctrinal references but a process that resulted in structural changes that altered the framework of the text. Although found in the earliest version, Lancaster (p.315) shares Conze’s opinion that the tale of

Sadāprarudita is a later addition due to the reference to named sub-groupings of the thirty-seven bodhi-pakṣika-dharmas. On the other hand, Mäll (2003, p.43) after speculating on the possibility of reconstructing some alternative abhidharma system embedded within the Sanskrit text concludes that the various listings are unique. On the basis of this, there are reasonable grounds to reject Conze’s view that the tale is a later edition simply because group listings present in the nested tale are not found in other parts of the text. The inclusion of embedded illustrative tales, albeit on a smaller scale, are present elsewhere and form a major structural feature of the text. These smaller tales act as similes to further convey the significance of the phraseology of the dialogue, whereas the larger tale functions to integrate the separate ideas presented in those dialogues into a consistent and integrated vision of the bodhisattva path. Lancaster’s study maps the process of textual recension and so is not directly concerned with the origins and portrayal of narrative themes. The findings of Lancaster’s study are important for the purpose of this thesis as they exemplify how changing doctrinal fashions have modified the discourse of the text even to the point of damaging the flow of the entire work itself. On the importance of narrative Lancaster (p.202) comments that the narrative: ...found in Lokakṣema is simple and well told with a quality of suspense and drama. On the other hand, the Sanskrit has been rearranged and infused with so much meritorious material that it fails to convey the full import of the symbolic journey of the Bodhisattva to find the Prajñāpāramitā.

Recognizing the contribution of structuralist theory to mythic texts, Lancaster relates the tale of Sadāprarudita to the yardstick of Campbell’s notion of the ‘monomyth’. This comparison served to identify how the lack of completion in the later recensions resulted in a progressive impoverishment of the narrative till the tale itself became a mere ‘remnant’ (p.209). One critique of this approach is that Campbell’s monomyth is heavily influenced by the narratives surrounding the life stories of the Buddha (Campbell 1993, p.31) and ignores how the Dàoxíng provides a structural account of the Buddhist path in terms of the various grounds of the arhat and bodhisattva. Whilst Lancaster identified how various narrative elements have been removed, his study did not approach the possibility of how these were related to narratives existing outside the Dàoxíng. One notable exception is the incident in which Sadāprarudita offers to sell his own flesh, which bears strong parallels with the recognized mytheme in Indian epic tales of sārīra dāna, or the giving of body parts. This narrateme is found in a number of jātakas, along with the variations in non-Buddhist works including the Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa. Lancaster compared this episode with that of the Jātaka of King Śibi on the basis of Śibi’s actions of giving away his own flesh during a test planned by the Vedic deities Viśvakarman and Śakra who respectively transformed into a pigeon and a hawk. Lamotte (1944, p.255) provides a more elaborate listing of similar practices, yet the purposes are different. Unlike Śibi who gifts his flesh to spare the life of the pigeon from the attacks of the hungry hawk with the expectation of no personal benefits, Sadāprarudita sells his flesh for use in what he believes to be a brahmanic rite with the full expectation of personal rewards. The pivotal criterion is, as Lamotte (ibid.) points out, that the giver expresses no sense of regret for such actions. Furthermore, a significant difference between the two tales is that the restoration of the King’s body is due to the power of his own action and not the miraculous power of the devas. The common outcome of both these tales, as envisaged within the metanarrative of the path, is that the donors eventually become buddhas. The value of Lancaster’s work in the preparation of this thesis is his conclusion that in the later recensions, the role of narrative was undermined by the emendation of doctrinal passages. On the basis of this, the text judged most suited to the purposes of further narrative study is the Lokakṣema translation.

Two further important studies focusing upon the Dàoxíng have appeared in recent years produced by Seishi Karashima. The first of these, a glossary, was published in 2010 followed by a critical edition in 2011. Of lasting significance, these works extend upon Lancaster’s comparative study by drawing together in a single reference the parallel passages of all extant Chinese, Tibetan and Sanskrit recensions in situ against the main body of the Lokakṣema text. In addition, Karashima’s extensive comments and re-punctuation of the Chinese text of the Taishō edition lends itself to a greater accessibility of what is fundamentally a difficult text to read. Those chapters selected for translation into English were prepared from this critical edition and are included in the appendices.

A recent study by Orsborn (2012) examines the prajñā–pāramitā texts from the standpoint of a ‘chaismic methodology’. In this approach Orsborn adopts a novel and innovative combination of critical methods drawn from textual criticism that are then applied to the inversion of narrative structures rather than sentence word ordering. Through his examination of the changing impact of the literary technique of the chiasma across a number of narrative events, Orsborn deduces that claims made by earlier scholars such as Conze that the body of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā-sūtra was compiled from various fragmentary sub-texts are erroneous. Orsborn holds that the balance of chiasmas within the narratives of the text indicate that the sutra was originally composed as a complete chiasmatic whole (p.359). The findings of this thesis go some way to concur with this view based upon the development and expression of themes found in both the discourse and narrative elements of the Dàoxíng.


1.1) Narrative Summary of the Dàoxíng Bōrě Jīng

In order to provide a clearer understanding of the overall flow of this complex work, the following pages contain a synopsis of the content of the thirty chapters of the Dàoxíng. As the received division of the text into chapters does not necessarily reflect changes in the narrative, headings have been chosen which were considered more in keeping with the flow of the text and the corresponding chapter numbers provided in brackets. The means of identifying the key story points was based upon their contribution to the continuing development of the discourse. In effect, these comprise the central questions focusing on the pursuit of prajñā-pāramitā and entrance into the buddha path along with the gist of their answers. Certain events such as the appearance and actions of the devas are also taken as contributing to the narrative development as these serve to accentuate the ideas given by the principal interlocutors and can, to some extent, be seen as punctuating the development of the discourse. The function of the tale of Sadāprarudita is vitally important to the discourse as some form of conclusion. The dialogue of the main body of the sutra is difficult to penetrate and so the tale as some form of ‘dramatization’ of the theory discussed by the principal characters offers an alternative means of communication. It will be noticed from this summary that the Māra narrateme, along with those of the four stages of the path and the practice of samādhi are not significant, a feature which possibly resulted in the impoverishment of the narrative in the ‘later’ recensions described by Lancaster.


1.1.1) Opening and Key Note Address (Chaps. 1–2)

Some thirty years after his awakening, the Buddha and other members of the sangha have assembled on the fifteenth day of the month at the Gṛdhakuta Peak. The gathering has come to hear the Buddha speak of prajñā-pāramitā. Rather than talking himself, the Buddha invites Subhūti to address the assembly. At first there are some doubts over Subhūti’s ability to talk on the subject, but these are allayed by the Buddha. Subhūti then speaks on the topic of prajñā-pāramitā based upon his own direct experience of following the path. He relates his perspective to another issue close to the hearts of the śramaṇa, that of sarvajñā (omniscience). The gist of what Subhūti has to say is that the quest for the path is a matter of pursuing words. And, as words are nothing in themselves, the quest for words is the pursuit for nothing. Whatever a bodhisattva conceives himself to be seeking, it is merely something that he imagines to be there. This, he adds, is the sarvajñā that a bodhisattva believes himself to be looking for. Aware that such a statement is startling, perhaps even dispiriting, he explains that those who can come to terms with this truth without any fear or trepidation are those who have found the goal. After saying this, Śakra sprinkles flowers upon Subhūti which he says are like everything experienced, a product of the mind. Subhūti is then asked which of the pāramitās are foremost, he answers that there is no such thing, that the teachings are words which of themselves create nothing. On the basis of this there can be no real ‘higher’ or ‘lower’. He adds that no one is ‘carried over’ by the power of the dharma. Following this, the devas comment that Subhūti does speak with the power of a tathāgata.

1.1.2) Commendation of the Buddha (Chaps. 2–3)

The Buddha joins in the general discussion explaining how prajñā-pāramitā removes the poisons of the mind and that prajñā-pāramitā, rather than his physical body, is the basis of his being a Buddha. Maitreya expresses some concern over what Subhūti has put before them as it may discourage newly-training bodhisattvas as they will require vast quantities of merits. Subhūti answers that such people are sure to find the stability and peace of the path so this is not a concern. He adds that those finding the upāya of the path will go beyond the preoccupation with such thoughts; even the thought of gaining merit is a ‘poison’ to the mind. Subhūti turns to the Buddha for clarification who says that the dharma is nothing to be held onto and nothing to be let go of; nor is there anything to know or to find. Bodhisattvas are urged to complete the pāramitās but freedom comes from this understanding.


1.1.3) Resolution of Doubts (Chaps. 3–5)

Once more Śāriputra expresses his doubts and seeks clarification from the Buddha that prajñā-pāramitā is the basis for awakening. The Buddha confirms that is it and adds that the prajñā-pāramitā texts should be worshipped like a buddha as prajñā guides the other pāramitās. Śakra asks what is to be obtained, the Buddha says that there is nothing. Subhūti takes the matter further, and is told that it is dualistic thinking that needs to be given up. When further pressed in the matter, the Buddha adds that there is nothing within the five skandhas that was ever bound or will ever be released.


1.1.4) The Practice of Peace and Calm (Chap. 6)


A dialogue next follows in which the Buddha and Subhūti discuss how the pacification of the senses is not enough; the effects of the propensity towards dualistic thought have also to be calmed. After a period of further discussion on the topic, the devas prostrate to the Buddha and experience a common vision of seeing a thousand Buddhas, each with a disciple like Subhūti.


1.1.5) Teachings of the Future (Chaps. 7–8)

Subhūti asks how Maitreya will teach in the future. The Buddha explains that Maitreya will be pure, clear and unhindered like space. The metaphor of the teaching being like space is then extended by the Buddha who adds that, like space, there is no discernible cause nor anything to find nor any end. Subhūti eulogizes the prajñā-pāramitā and, as the topic is elaborated in a discussion with Śakra, the subject of Māra arises.


1.1.6) Awakening to Māra and the Light of Prajñā-pāramitā (Chaps. 9–11)

The Buddha urges that the deeds of Māra should be woken up to, and gives a wide range of examples drawn from daily practice. Next, he explains how Māra comes to cut short or thwart the progress of a bodhisattva and that recitation of the sutra will give protection. The Buddha explains how the prajñā-pāramitā is a great light that shines upon the world, that a tathāgata’s mind is ‘broad and vast’ and, like space, it is all-embracing. Śakra asks of the signs of this whereupon he is told that there are none, it is a construct of ideas. The unfathomability of the prajñā-pāramitā is next discussed ending with the Buddha commenting on how progress on the path goes unnoticed and that faith is needed to offset any doubt. Those who have faith are born in Tuṣita to hear more from Maitreya whereas those who lack faith enter the paths of the arhat or pratyekabuddha.


1.1.7) Similes of Possession and Entrance into the Bodhisattva Path (Chaps. 12–13)

The Buddha presents a range of similes that conveys a clearer image of what it means to have the right method (upāya-kauśalya), the means of bringing confidence and vigour to a bodhisattva thereby preventing his drifting into the arhat and pratyekabuddha paths. Subhūti asks about the practice of newly training bodhisattvas, the Buddha explains that their practice is seeking to give up attachment to the skandhas and coming to know that there is nothing that causes the joy of the arhat and pratyekabuddha paths.


1.1.8) Expansion of the Idea of Acausality, ‘Rooted in Nothing’ (Chap. 14)

Subhūti describes how the dharma is ‘rooted in nothing’ and ‘grows’ from nothing. The devas laud this statement and ask the Buddha for further clarification. He explains how a bodhisattva will ‘go beyond’ when he is no longer attached to the skandhas or anything related to the notion of the path. Śāriputra again is doubtful, saying how difficult this is to understand. The Buddha agrees. At that point a number of devas and people in the assembly undergo various levels of spiritual advancement but a number of bodhisattvas become arhats. The Buddha explains how these bodhisattvas had practised the first five pāramitās but had not received the benefit of prajñā-pāramitā. After discussing the nature of the path with the Buddha, Subhūti says that there is only one path. If there is no basis for any difference in dharmas, it follows that there is no difference in the path. If a bodhisattva does not fear this they will become a buddha. The Buddha then confirms the validity of what Subhūti has said.


1.1.9) Advancement on the Path, Becoming an Avaivartika (Chaps. 15–16)

Subhūti asks the Buddha about the signs of an avaivartika-bodhisattva. The Buddha describes these signs in detail, the foremost being an unshakable fear derived from an absence of dualistic thought. Again Subhūti asks about how this can be seen from the outside, the answer he receives is that the other paths will be given up as they deal with ideas around impermanence and its signs. The Buddha next explains how an avaivartika will be repeatedly approached by Māra who will assume a wide range of guises. Following this, Subhūti and the Buddha enter into a dialogue on the topic of the practice and entry into that which is ‘deep’. The Buddha expands upon the ideas of unfathomability, unreckonability and the limitations of understanding. The skandhas and all other dharmas are unfathomable and unreckonable as they are like space (sky) as they cannot be got at. Subhūti says that bodhisattvas are seeking a state of mind that is like space but the Buddha cautions against simply turning away from thoughts, as this would lead to becoming an arhat. Śāriputra speaks of the ‘three gates of samādhi’, and begins a discussion on the effects of dreaming. Subhūti comments that there is no moral outcome to misdeeds performed in dreams but, none the less, dreams are the result of causes and conditions. Śāriputra asks that if all is space, where do causes come from? Maitreya explains that these are like words, they cannot be directly apprehended.


1.1.10) The Giving of an Assurance (vyākaraṇa) to Gaṇgā(-devī) Upāsikā (Chap. 16)

The Buddha talks of the patience of a bodhisattva, his aspiration to create a world free of suffering, and how a bodhisattva does not fear the pain and hardships of the path. Inspired by this Gaṇgā(-devī) Upāsikā gives a flower offering explaining that she has no fear. In response the Buddha describes how she too first raised the thought of awakening before Dīpaṃkara and promptly gives an account of her future appearance in the world as a buddha.

1.1.11) The Samādhi of Space (Chap. 17)

Subhūti asks the Buddha how a bodhisattva enters space through the practice of samādhi. He is told by regarding the five skandhas to be like space and to see dharmas this way whilst amidst them. Subhūti seeks clarification on how a bodhisattva can know such experiences when he is no longer aware of them. The Buddha answers by saying that whilst there is looking there is no seeing as the mind (heart) does not fix upon anything. He adds that when a bodhisattva enters the samādhi of space, there is neither cogitation nor aspiration. The Buddha then uses a range of similes to convey his meaning. Subhūti asks how is it that a bodhisattva does not see himself on the path regardless of the pains he endures. The Buddha says that as a bodhisattva enters the samādhi of space, there are no signs nor any wish for samādhi. As a bodhisattva enters more deeply towards the gate of nirvana, all splitting-apart’‛ in the heart no longer occurs. A bodhisattva at this stage no longer sees himself on the path. Next, the Buddha reiterates the importance of this condition as the upāyakauśalya that protects. He adds that the heart of the avaivartika does not sunder‛ what is known into numberless parts’. This, he finally says, is the ultimate pearl of knowing the dharma that no arhat or pratyekabuddha can ever reach.

1.1.12) More on Avaivartika Signs and Turning Away from Māra (Chap. 18)

The Buddha provides more details on the avaivartika signs which pivot around the freedom from fear. Following this he explains how a false avaivartika will not have the power to exorcise the presence of an evil yakṣa. Next, further examples are given on how Māra will come to tempt an avaivartika with all manner of wily means, all aimed at thwarting the entry of a bodhisattva into the buddha path. Subhūti asks for comments on the idea of leading a reclusive life. The Buddha cautions against living in secluded isolation which he says will not lead to the right practice of giving and may result in hallucination and the urge to evangelize and wrongly denounce others.

1.1.13) The Prajñā-pāramitā is the Best of ‘Good Friends’ (Chap. 19)

The Buddha explains that it is prajñā-pāramitā which enables a tathāgata to obtain sarvajñā, and illustrates his view with a number of similes. Subhūti asks what are the signs of prajñā-pāramitā. He answers that having no obstructions indicates that all dharmas have been found to have illusory appearances. Subhūti asks, if dharmas are empty (i.e. illusory), what causes the desire for birth? The Buddha replies that this occurs because beings desire that which realizes their wishes. The Buddha adds that he has no desire to reach out for that which would fulfil wishes, even if it is empty. It has to be understood that there is nothing to grasp after. When this is truly reached a supreme compassion for others arises after which a bodhisattva knows that he has already found prajñā-pāramitā. Following this the Buddha uses a number of comparisons of the merits gained from the practice of a vast number of acts of generosity with one single experience of prajñā-pāramitā. Bodhisattvas with such an experience will have the ability to be compassionate to all and to see all the sorrows of countless beings and yet not be cowed. They will not dwell upon signs. They will be worshipped and receive offerings even though they are bodhisattvas and not complete buddhas.

1.1.14) The Acquisition of Merit and Training (Chaps. 19-20)

Śakra says to the Buddha that a bodhisattva needs to have acquired a tremendous amount of merit in order have the opportunity to practise prajñāpāramitā. The Buddha replies saying that it requires the equivalent of unimaginably vast numbers of people leading perfectly complete moral and ethical lives. An unnamed bhikṣu then comments that the merits of such bodhisattvas have surpassed even those of the ruler of the devas himself. Śakra agrees adding that to have one thought of prajñā-pāramitā requires more merits than he possesses. He then speaks of the merits and achievements of a bodhisattva and how they will receive the support of the devarājas. Ānanda doubts that these are the words of Śakra himself. Śakra responds by saying that whatever he has said are the words of the Buddha. The Buddha tells Ānanda that such bodhisattvas will be approached and tempted by Māra and will come under his sway if they harbour any doubts. Māra will praise them if they argue with other bodhisattvas, something that an avaivartika would never do. He adds that one should regard all three paths as being one, the differences are how long it takes to reach the buddha path. Subhūti asks about how a bodhisattva trains to find sarvajñā. The Buddha says soon, if prajñāpāramitā is practised, as it drives Māra away. After some discussion on the rarity of a bodhisattva, the Buddha adds that one moment of prajñā-pāramitā exceeds any degree of offerings.

1.1.15) Enduring the Hardships of the Pursuit (Chap. 23)

Śakra comments upon the hardships of the accomplishments of bodhisattvas and then sprinkles māndārava flowers upon the Buddha. Next, he makes the earnest wish that those who seek awakening are capable of bearing such hardships. Śakra then asks the Buddha what is to be gained from all this. The Buddha responds with a series of comparisons in which the mass of benefits gathered is greater than Sumeru, all the waters of the oceans and the vastness of space. He adds that the difficulties surrounding understanding this can cause Māra’s agents to approach as those seeking to become buddhas are also working to destroy Māra’s dominion. Such bodhisattvas obtain the most fortuitous of births, are worthy of respect and never again enter into any woeful existence.

1.1.16) Awakening the Mind from its Dreams (Chaps. 23–24)

Subhūti asks the Buddha, if the mind is like a dream how can it be awoken? The Buddha replies by saying that turning away from illusion is part of the process of being deluded. Subhūti asks how illusion can cause awakening. The Buddha explains that a bodhisattva pursues but is not afraid when nothing is obtained. He then compares prajñā-pāramitā to space in which there are no thoughts of any near or far because space has no form. The Buddha adds that prajñā-pāramitā is like an illusory man and reflections in water, they appear real, but are non-sentient imagery. Śāriputra, together with a hundred thousand devas, poses the question of why bodhisattvas exert themselves. Subhūti answers by saying that bodhisattvas do not see their efforts in this way. They do not see themselves or others as existing nor in need of release. All that they see is space, an extent without limits, bounds or differences.

1.1.17) Fearlessness (Chap. 24)

The dialogue again turns to the emotional stability of an avaivartika during which the prospect is discussed that even if all beings became part of Māra’s horde, this would not disturb an avaivartika. Added to this are two unassailable factors, the power of vows and the gazing protection of all the buddhas.

1.1.18) Ratnaketu and Akṣobhya (Chap. 24)

The Buddha briefly describes the efforts of bodhisattvas in the presence of buddhas Ratnaketu (Luólínnàzhàngnà Fó 羅麟那杖那佛) and Akṣobhya (Āchù Fó 阿閦佛). The Buddha proceeds to explain that these bodhisattvas experience a faith in the teaching which does not rely upon causes. The joy that they experience too, is said to have no causes, growing from nowhere’.‛

1.1.19) Śakra Raises Uncertainties, the Ultimate Word of the Buddha (Chap. 24)

Śakra raises the point that bodhisattvas will lose faith if they hear that there is no cause or basis to prajñā-pāramitā or the sutras and dharmas. Subhūti replies by saying that thought is like shooting an arrow into the empty air, there is nothing to hit. The Buddha’s teaching springs from nowhere, there is nothing that waxes nor wanes. There are no distinctions. Whereupon devas sprinkle māndārava flowers over the assembly and the Buddha predicts the future awakening of many bhikṣus in the gathering.

1.1.20) Importance of Correct Transmission of the Sutra (Chap. 25)

The Buddha tells Ānanda that a bodhisattva is unsurpassed and this can only be achieved by following the teachings of the prajñā-pāramitā, adding that only those in the human and Tuṣita realms are able to practise these teachings which are like being in the presence of a buddha. It is the storehouse from which all other teachings are born and should not be carelessly lost. The Buddha says that the merits of a multitude of people diligently following the other paths are not the equal of those of following prajñā-pāramitā for just one moment.

1.1.21) Akṣobhya Buddha (Chap. 25)

The Buddha uses his spiritual powers to create a vision of Akṣobhya Buddha together with his sangha which lasts a brief moment. He comments that dharmas are also like this – what is ordinarily seen is not what is there.

1.1.22) Conceptualizing Prajñā-pāramitā (Chaps. 26–27)

Subhūti asks the Buddha how is prajñā-pāramitā to be cognized, is it like space, empty and endless? The Buddha answers that when prajñā-pāramitā, the skandhas and nidānas are cognized, it is as though they arise and end from causes and conditions, although this is not so. When a bodhisattva understands this, Māra is struck down with grief and he is free from harm. The Buddha again urges the awakening to the effects of Māra’s deeds. After repeating previous statements on the supremacy of prajñā amongst the pāramitās and the gravity of the merits of its practice even for the briefest moment, the Buddha names Gandhahastin Bodhisattva in the realm of Akṣobhya Buddha as one who can practise like this for a whole day. Subhūti asks the Buddha why do bodhisattvas follow some form of path. The Buddha explains that it is due to the need to find something permanent, to follow prajñā-pāramitā is to follow something which has such qualities, namely an experience of spaciousness.

1.1.23) The Tale of Sadāprarudita Bodhisattva (Chaps. 28-29)

The Buddha tells Subhūti that bodhisattvas should be like Sadāprarudita, a bodhisattva who lives in a distant buddha-kṣetra named Nitya-Gandhavatī (Nízhēqiántuóbōwù 尼遮揵陀波勿).

At first Sadāprarudita has a dream which prompts him to seek out the great dharma, but he finds nothing and becomes despondent. In a second dream a deva tells him about a past buddha named Dharmodgata-Aśugatra (Tánwújiéāzhùjiéluó 曇無竭阿祝竭羅) after which he goes deep into the mountains to live as a renunciant. After becoming despondent again, he hears the voice of a deva which tells him to seek prajñā–pāramitā. After giving Sadāprarudita some advice on how to practise, the deva then instructs Sadāprarudita to go eastwards. He sets off on his quest but only to become despondent yet again. Sadāprarudita then has a vision of a golden buddha who gives him further instruction on emptiness. The golden buddha then tells Sadāprarudita to go a further twenty-thousand leagues to the land of Gandhavatī. After giving a description of the wonders of that land, the golden buddha tells Sadāprarudita to seek out a bodhisattva named Dharmodgata who will teach him the prajñā–pāramitā. But he must, the buddha warns, know and awaken to Māra’s work. Sadāprarudita sets off with great enthusiasm to find Dharmodgata. On his way he passes through a Māra realm where he decides to sell himself in order to buy offerings for his future teacher. No one responds to this offer as Māra controls the minds of the people in that realm. Śakra, however, sees Sadāprarudita and decides to put him to the test. Transformed as a brahman, Śakra accepts Sadāprarudita’s offer to sell flesh, blood and marrow. As Sadāprarudita is cutting himself apart, a merchant’s daughter sees what is going on and intervenes. After explaining his reasons for causing himself harm, Śakra reveals his true identity and restores Sadāprarudita’s injured body to health. At this point the merchant’s daughter decides to become a disciple of Sadāprarudita and joins him in his quest accompanied by her five hundred slave girls and five hundred wagons full of precious things. Together, they continue on the journey and reach Gandhavatī. They meet Dharmodgata Bodhisattva and present their offerings.

Sadāprarudita tells Dharmodgata of the story of his quest and receives instruction on the dream like nature of the world of experience. In reaction to this, Sadāprarudita experiences ‘sixty-thousand samādhis’ during which Dharmodgata returns to his mansion. Next, Dharmodgata enters into retreat to practise samādhi for seven years. A week before Dharmodgata’s return, devas inform Sadāprarudita who decides to clean his teacher’s throne in preparation. But, just after the throne has been cleaned and redecorated, Māra ruins it by raining down filth. In order to restore the purity of the throne, Sadāprarudita and the five hundred women seek out water but cannot find any. So, they cut open their bodies and clean the site with their own blood. Again, this is seen by Śakra who not only restores their injuries but transforms the site into a jewelled palace surrounded by trees and pools. Dharmodgata returns to teach Sadāprarudita and a vast gathering of bodhisattvas the meaning of prajñāpāramitā for a period of seven days. Various omens occur including the falling of māndārava flowers. The five hundred women devote themselves to Sadāprarudita whom they see as no different to a buddha. Sadāprarudita offers everything he possesses to Dharmodgata who accepts the gift but offers it back in return. Sadāprarudita then experiences a further ‘sixty thousand samādhis’. Dharmodgata then instructs Sadāprarudita on how to speak with the voice of a buddha and appeal to the minds and aspirations of others. Following a lengthy talk on the nature of awakening, divine music is heard and the assembly see vast numbers of buddhas everywhere praising Dharmodgata following which they grant Sadāprarudita the assurance that he will become a future buddha named KāmaKatidha-Phalāya.

1.1.24) Entrusting the Teachings to Ānanda (Chap. 30)

Concerned that the prajñā-pāramitā teachings may be lost, the Buddha entrusts Ānanda with the task of memorizing the sutra, ensuring that it is committed to writing and taught widely amongst bodhisattvas. Ānanda is told that he has always been loyal and devoted but to lose just one word of the prajñā-pāramitā sutra would be to betray this loyalty to the Buddha. The Buddha urges the sutra to be written, placed in a high place and worshipped. All those in the assembly are delighted, bow to the Buddha and depart.

1.2) Dramatis Personae

Following a review of the overall structure of the sutra, a brief examination of the qualities and roles of the dramatis personae serves to illustrate the contribution of the protagonists to the staging and flow of the text. For the full signification of the narrative to be realized, it is not merely an issue of what is said, but who says it. In addition to those who actually speak, some consideration also needs to be given to the personae named and described in the discourse whose actions are related to the text but who are not themselves present or part of the nested tales. Finally, two closely related themes are relevant, the processes of awakening and delusion are briefly discussed, namely the external control of the mind and the nature of dreaming. Amongst the most apparent structural features of the Mahayana sutra is the ‘cast of thousands’, and the Dàoxíng is no exception. Unlike other voluminous works however, the Dàoxíng names relatively few of the attendees, essentially restricting itself to naming only those who contribute to the discourse. In treating the Dàoxíng as story narrative rather than history, it is reasonable to assume that the portrayal of the assembly and the naming of specific personae is for a purpose and not for some sense of mechanical completeness.

The opening scenario names only five personae: the Buddha, the bhikṣus

Śāriputra and Subhūti, and two bodhisattvas Maitreya and Mañjuśrī. Chapter 2 (430a15) introduces Mahākauṣṭhila, Mahākātyāyana and Pūrṇa-maitrāyaṇī-putra with Ānanda first speaking in chapter 3 (434b03). Each persona has an associated talent for which they are famed. Śāriputra is renowned for wisdom, Mahākauṣṭhila for his understanding of pratītya-samutpāda and analytic thinking, Mahākātyāyana for his understanding of basic principals and the ability to explain obscure topics of doctrine, and Pūrṇa-maitrāyaṇī-putra for his ability to teach. Of these named disciples Subhūti is perhaps the most unusual as he is essentially a ‘forest-dweller’, a meditative renowned for his practice of maitrī-dhyāna. In the subsequent chapters of this thesis it will be shown these qualities of Subhūti are key elements in the development of the discourse and its approach towards the practice of samādhi, the conquest over Māra and entrance of a bodhisattva into the buddha path. The significance of Ānanda derives from his ability to remember. Ānanda best

represents the actual audience of the written text because it is to him that the Buddha entrusts the entire sutra. All, with the exception of Ānanda, are regarded as arhats but they are not described as such in this text. Although the Dàoxíng gives no indication of the age of these men, it can be read that they are all experienced and wizened elders based upon the relative dating of the portrayed gathering given in the closing paragraphs of the sutra as being thirty years after the Buddha’s awakening. It is no coincidence then, that these personalities are brought together as those aspects of their achievements are the areas open to question and criticism within the text. When asked to address the group, Subhūti does not present or elaborate upon any well understood doctrine but, from the outset begins to present a novel view of the path and its goal which is steadily unpacked throughout the remainder of the text. Subhūti is by no means any simple listener. It is little wonder then that in the development of the Mahayana, the primary accomplishment of Subhūti shifts from that of ‘forest-dweller’ to one of being ‘foremost in explaining the void’ (Conze 1974, p.83). Those ‘great disciples’ that do not contribute to the development of the text were perhaps deliberately absented from the discourse due to their own particular abilities not bearing a direct relation to the dilemma presented in the text and its resolution. Maudgalyayāna’s prowess is that of the supernatural powers gained by meditation, Mahākāśyapa ascetic discipline, Aniruddha possessing the ‘divine eye’, Upāli keeping the rules of discipline and Rāhula mastery of the esoteric.

1.2.1) The Mahāsattva Bodhisattvas

Whilst Mañjuśrī is listed as present in the assembly, only Maitreya engages in the discourse. As the future buddha in waiting, he first speaks in chapter 4 when he contributes to the discussion of the upāya-kauśalya (438a14) which is given as a bodhisattva ‘taking delight’ (quànzhù 勸助, anumodanā) in the achievements of others in their practice of the pāramitās. Next, in chapter 7 (438b10), Maitreya cautions Subhūti about revealing aspects of the later stages of the bodhisattva path to those new aspirants who may be intimidated by what is said. Finally, in chapter 16, when dealing with the prospect of appearing a future buddha, Maitreya explains that his means of teaching prajñā-pāramitā will be one of speaking about dharmas that he does not actually see (457c11). The common thread running through these instances is a bodhisattva’s concern for the awakening of others and applying appropriate means of facilitating their progress. When compared to the contribution of Maitreya, the silence of Mañjuśrī is a curious point. Karashima (2010, p.503) notes that no other recension contains this reference and the reasons for this are open to conjecture. One possibility is that inclusion in the Dàoxíng is the outcome of a scribal addition or, alternatively, the absence in later works is the result of some deliberate omission because of the lack of dialogue. During the period in which Lokakṣema was working, the cult of Mañjuśrī was already established (Lamotte 1960), a situation that already resulted in the Mañjuśrī persona becoming a protagonist in six of the other eleven texts attributed to Lokakṣema. Regarding this non-speaking role, Harrison (2000) describes the inclusion of Mañjuśrī in the Dàoxíng as a situation in which the character becomes ‘plugged into the frame-story’, a point from which the Mañjuśrī persona proceeds to gain ever more importance in the development of Mahayana narrative. Assuming the inclusion of this vignette appearance is not the outcome of some scribal error, such an early association of the prajñā text genre with the bodhisattva of wisdom, would certainly have provided later compilers of Mahayana sutras with the textual precedent to make decisive paradigmatic changes. For example, in the Saptaśatikā Prajñā-pāramitā-sūtra, (Wénshūshìlì Suǒ Shuō Móhē Bōrě Bōluómì Jīng 文殊師利所說摩訶般若波羅蜜經, T232), the interlocutor in the form of Subhūti (arhat), becomes displaced by Mañjuśrī (bodhisattva-mahāsattva), although the other main protagonists of the Dàoxíng are present.

1.2.2) Bhikṣus

Anonymous, individual speakers as a rule do not occur in the text yet there are always exceptions. In chapter 20 (463b19), a ‘certain bhikṣu’ addresses Śakra in an almost irreverent manner. The bhikṣu is not posing a question, or adding to the development of the dialogue. The anonymity of the speaker has the effect of reducing the comment into some form of footnote or adjunct. It becomes a reminder to the audience that from the Buddhist perspective, even the ruler of the Vedic devas, almighty as he is, still lacks the power to resolve the ultimate mysteries of the mind. Śakra can evaluate the effects, but he cannot achieve these for himself.

1.2.3) Lay Followers

Gaṅgā(-devī) Upāsikā is the only lay follower named in the text and appears towards the end of a lengthy conversation on the final realization of the path. Firm of faith, Gaṅgā(-devī) says that she has no fear and will enter any awful place to seek awakening and the transmission of a buddha. As she scatters flowers upon the Buddha these remain suspended in the air due to his ‘mighty-power’. The Buddha then explains that her actions are the same as his own when Dīpaṃkara gave him his assurance (458b02). In return the upāsikā becomes the sole person to be named in the gathering as someone receiving an assurance of their future return as a buddha. The gathering is told that she will appear in the world with the name Suvarṇapuṣpa Buddha during the tārakopadma-kalpa after being reborn many times as a man in the realm of Akṣobhya Buddha. He adds that in a past life she raised the first thought of awakening within the sight of Dīpaṃkara Buddha. Of all the available versions of the sutra, only the Dàoxíng omits the element -devī from her name and perhaps with good reason. Both Conze and Karashima name her as the ‘Goddess of the Ganges’ whereas the outcome of the narrative found in the text does not easily permit such a literal interpretation. One potential cause of confusion is interpreting the sprinkling of flowers as a characteristic of the devas as portrayed on numerous occasions in the Dàoxíng and not as the simple expression of the upāsika’s declaration of faith and her overcoming of fear. At the end this event, the Buddha confirms Ānanda’s comment that Gaṅgā(-devī) has ‘crossed-over’ (i.e. she had already entered the bodhisattva path). She is free of what the opening chapters of the Dàoxíng describe as causing the aspiring or developing bodhisattva to fall victim to Māra temptations or to seek out the arhat path: fear, doubt and the lack of faith.

The inclusion of Gaṅgā(-devī) is something of an emotive, narrative excursion more of which will be explored later in this study. Although not important in the sense that she directly contributes to the development of any central theme, her inclusion is deeply significant; Gaṅgā(-devī) is a woman, not a man, nor is she a member of the sangha or named earlier as being in attendance. The accounts of her past and future are themselves nested tales within the frame-story of the sutra. There is a ‘flashback’ (analepsis) to her past and a ‘cutaway’ (prolepsis) to her future. Much like Ānanda and Sadāprarudita, her inclusion is one of appealing to the minds of the listening audience by conveying the idea that they too are able to complete the path.

1.2.4) Śakra, Brahma, Prajāpati and the Deva-putras

Attracted by the light of truth that radiates from the Buddha, the Dàoxíng describes the devas arriving in fantastically large numbers. Chapter 2 (429a11) mentions the presence of some seventy-five thousand devas with Śakra leading forty thousand trāyastriṃśa devas and the catur-mahā-rājakāyikās a legion of twenty thousand. Additionally, there are ten thousand brahmā-kāyika and five thousand brahma-vihārā devas. Of these only Śakra is named as one of the key interlocutors and his presence is indicated in almost every section of the text. Two separate lists of heavenly beings are contained in chapters 3 and 4 which show inconsistencies of transliteration and content which can be considered to be a result of problematic translation. In order to identify the function of the presence of such a profusion of devas in the narrative a closer examination of the structure of the text and the details these provide is required. Chapter 20, simply entitled “Śakra Devānām Indra”, begins with Śakra saying to the Buddha that a bodhisattva needs to acquire a tremendous amount of merit in order to have the opportunity to practise prajñā-pāramitā. The Buddha replies, saying that it requires the equivalent of unimaginably vast numbers of people leading perfectly complete moral and ethical lives. In itself, merit and virtuous action are not imaginable, whereas the light and the features of the devas are. Immersed within a society abounding with religious imagery and mythical accounts of the creation of and maintenance of the world, the audience for this text would have understood its unambiguous message: the merits of a bodhisattva who has found prajñā-pāramitā outstrip those of a deva. The topic of merit also forms the subject of chapter 3. In addition to the presence of Indra, the text indicates the attendance of Brahma and Prajāpati (the Vedic progenitor) each of whom is accompanied by an undisclosed number of devas. And, unusually, the Ṛsi devas are also included as being among this group. The critical issue here is that within the theory of transmigration, the accumulation of merit produced from altruistic action results in divine rebirth. Those whose weight of virtue had the power to create and mould the cosmos have come to the assembly and, even before unnamed bhikṣus of comparatively lowly status, admit that their condition pales in comparison with that of a buddha or bodhisattva.

In terms of the ‘divine truth’, the Ṛsis, the original ‘hearers’ of the Vedas are listed being present in the gathering as further testament to the gravitas of the prajñā-pāramitā. Their joint praise, it must be noted, lauds Subhūti rather than the Buddha. The Buddha is the saviour, but the teaching he has chosen to give reveals a world of entrapment and a path to release (i.e. the path of the arhat). Subhūti has already heard the ‘truth’ from the Buddha, but moves the direction of the debate towards one in which the disciples seek to become a samyak-saṃbuddha, someone who possesses Brahma and Prajāpati like powers by being capable of creating buddha-kṣetras or returning to the world without sinking in it in order to turn the wheel of dharma. Moreover, within the Vedic mythology of creation, the world has many undesirable qualities such as death, suffering and entrapment which the creators cannot rectify but which the buddhas in their creation of their parallel ‘pure realms’ (jìngtǔ 淨土) have overcome.

1.2.5) Yakṣas

In chapter 2 (429c19) the audience is told that the devas, in their private thoughts, are aware that yakṣas of various sorts are able to hear the teachings given by Subhūti. Similarly, in chapter 25 (469a19), yakṣas are named as being amongst the groups empowered through the Buddha to share in the vision of the Akṣobhya Buddha. The majority of contexts in which yakṣas are identified includes them within a general grouping of non-humans typically formulated as ‘devas, nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kinnaras and mahoragas’. As sentient creatures they are able to value the Buddhas teaching. Chapter 3 (434c29) describes yakṣas being drawn to written volumes of the sutra. In doing so they will worship and seek receipt of its benefit in a manner akin to worshipping a living buddha. In general, however, the yakṣas within the Dàoxíng are depicted as being something of a hindrance. Chapter 15 (455b28) presents a number of instances. The Buddha explains even Vajrapāṇi, the ruler of the yakṣas along with cohort of yakṣas, will not be able to encroach upon an avaivartika-bodhisattva because they are unshakable. In the same passage there is some implication that yakṣas are capricious beings in need of appeasement but an avaivartika is no longer concerned with any form of sacrifice to the yakṣas (455c09). As a class of sentient beings, the yakṣas constitute a wide range of nature spirits whose dispositions can range from malevolent to benign (DeCaroli 2004; Sutherland 1991). Significant as yakṣas are within Indian mythology, their origins as reflected within ancient texts are not clear. Yet, as the Vedic textual tradition develops, the depiction of the yakṣa becomes more debased till they acquire qualities of both the beast and human; animative forces in nature worthy of awe and then finally demons. Sutherland (1991, p.70) comments: It is the quality of mysteriousness that also contributes to the growing sense of fear and dark malevolence that comes to be associated with the yakṣa. His obscurity is assimilated to another aspect of the unknown or the primal mystery, its dangerous or abysmal potential for obfuscating the luminous elements of creation that are related to the sacrifice. This process of ‘obfuscating the luminous’ is addressed elsewhere in the discussion of Māra, but there is further relevance here in the discussion of the depiction of the yakṣa in the Dàoxíng in the form of demon possession. An account given in chapter 18 (459c27) presents the Buddha describing how Māra works to deceive onlookers by claiming he has the power to exorcise malign yakṣas.

1.3) Personalities Discussed but not Present at Gṛdhrakūṭa

1.3.1) Dīpaṃkara Buddha

Two references are found, in chapters 3 (431a07) and 16 (458b01). The first of these relates to the Buddha’s own receipt of an assurance of his future awakening and the second to that of Gaṇgā (-devī) presented above. When the Buddha describes his encounter with Dīpaṃkara he explains that this occurred simultaneously with his finding prajñā-pāramitā.

1.3.2) Akṣobhya Buddha

Akṣobhya has no direct influence on the proceedings of the sutra although he is presented in connection with the universality of the bodhisattva path. As already noted above, the realm of Akṣobhya Buddha is first mentioned in connection with the assurance given to Gaṅgā(-devī). The second occurrence is found in chapter 24 (467c08) where the Buddha describes how those bodhisattvas born in this realm are avaivartika due to their faith in prajñā-pāramitā. The final reference is in chapter 25 (469a20) where the assembly is described as seeing Akṣobhya surrounded by his assembly due to the Buddha’s mighty-power. This event promotes Akṣobhya’s unnamed buddha-kṣetra as a place where a bodhisattva has the capacity to excel. Nattier (2000) discusses the importance of Akṣobhya in the development of Pure Land Buddhism, comparing the descriptions of Akṣobhya’s realm of Abhirati given in Lokakṣema’s Chinese translation of the Akṣobhya-tathāgatasya-vyūha (T313; Āchùfó Jīng 阿閦佛經) with that of Amitābha’s realm of Sukhāvatī. Whilst Abhirati has many parallels with the Sahā world presided over by Śākyamuni (ibid. p.81), bodhisattvas in Abhirati enjoy miraculous powers, are free from all temptation by Māra and can journey to other realms to receive teachings from different buddhas.

1.3.3) The Bodhisattvas Ratnaketu and Gandhahastin

A single passage naming Ratnaketu Bodhisattva, a disciple of Akṣobhya Buddha, is found in chapter 24 (46c01). Dealing with the unassailability of an avaivartikabodhisattva, the discussion surrounding him develops the theme of the universality of a buddha’s awareness. A situation in which the minds of the buddhas throughout the multiverse form a cosmic web, each buddha is aware of the others and the events of the beings of those spheres and the achievements of bodhisattvas in particular. The Buddha mentions that those who enter into avaivartika grounds are not aware of it, but their progress does not go unnoticed. The buddhas of the ten directions are aware, their glances give protection and they praise such achievements. The theme re-emerges in the tale of Sadāprarudita amongst the list of the sixty thousand samādhis he experiences. In chapter 25 (470a12) the text discusses the power of a mind of prajñā-pāramitā. After repeating previous statements on the supremacy of prajñā amongst the pāramitās and the gravity of the merits of its practice even for the briefest moment, the Buddha names Gandhahastin (Qiántuóhējìn 揵陀訶盡), a bodhisattva in the realm of Akṣobhya Buddha, as one who can practise like this for a whole day.

1.3.4) The Buddhas Gandhālaya and Dharmodgata-Aśugatra and the Bodhisattvas Dharmodgata and Sadāprarudita.

The names of these buddhas are mentioned in the tale of Sadāprarudita contained in chapters 28 and 29. Gandhālaya (Qiántuóluóyé 揵陀羅耶) presides over the realm of Nitya-Gandhavatī where Sadāprarudita is said to live (470c22). The wording of the tale’s scenario suggests that Sadāprarudita is unaware of Gandhālaya, but due to the maturation of his past karma, he is still able to raise the thought of becoming a bodhisattva. The name Dharmodgata-Aśugatra (471a08) is later revealed to Sadāprarudita in a dream but once again, this is a past buddha and one whose teachings are lost. Following these simple introductions, there is no further mention of these buddhas. Sadāprarudita, however, finds the namesake bodhisattva Dharmodgata who acts as his teacher. The contribution of these two buddhas to the narrative is purely incidental, their absence serving to create a sense of pathos which later gives rise to optimism. Although, these buddhas may be long since gone, Sadāprarudita still finds his kalyāṇa-mitra. What the overall narrative of the sutra appears to present is a set of linked scenarios in which individuals of sufficient merit (i.e. Subhūti, Gaṅgā(-devī), Dharmodgata and Sadāprarudita) have the potential to act in buddha-like ways. Whilst complete awakening is far away, they bear a buddha’s ‘mighty power’ (wēishén 威神, anubhāva) and have the potential to transform their worlds (477b04).

1.3.5) Māra

Although Māra makes no direct, personal appearance within the events of the text, he is a significant persona and is discussed in greater depth in chapters 2 and 3 of this thesis. It should come as no surprise that Māra is not present, he is the attacker of individuals and not the crowd. The backdrop to the earliest accounts of Māra portray the contemplative life promoted by the Buddha’s teachings and the quietude that it generates as the circumstances within which Māra’s presence becomes apparent. Although the majority of instances depicted in the Dàoxíng are situations in which Māra is considered as secretly influencing the contents of his victim’s minds, two instances in chapters 3 (434a06) and 29 (472b01) depict a Māra possessing a physical presence albeit not in a transformation body or with the intent to deceive. Central to the mythic depiction of the effects of prajñā–pāramitā dispelling delusion, Māra is seen as preying upon the thoughts of sarva-sattvas and actively working against those who wish to break his grip upon their minds. Although not directly stated as such, Māra’s control over the mind of his victims is treated much like a bad dream as the only remedy to his influence is to ‘awaken’ from his influence through the recognition of signs.

1.4) Anonymous Groups and their Progression on the Path

Whilst the named personae of the sutra are the key debaters on the topic of prajñā-pāramitā, none would appear to be a direct beneficiary of the discourse. This is not to suggest that they are not portrayed as expanding their insight in the wake of the points raised by Subhūti and elaborated upon by the Buddha. For instance, at the outset of the text Śāriputra expresses doubts about Subhūti (425c11) only to later replace these with delight in the explanations that he hears (426a03). The paths of the arhat, pratyekabuddha and bodhisattva may be described as ‘one’ (454a22) yet, ironically, the foremost disciples receive no assurances of buddhahood although what is said, especially by Subhūti, becomes the basis for the progress of others. The implication is clear – they have not yet entered the bodhisattva path. Their passage onto it appears in the somewhat later Saddharma-puṇḍarīka-sūtra where they each receive an assurance. This curious state remains in accord with the purpose of the text as offering an alternative to the path of the arhat and cautioning against its pursuit. Subhūti is asked to speak in the sense of instructing, for the benefit of the assembly which he does, and in so doing, it is the ‘assembly of the unnamed’ that benefit most, the Buddhist Everyman.

Two passages (451a, 453b) describe members of the assembly undergoing spiritual experiences as a direct result of hearing the discourse in a manner much like the ‘receipt and departure’ narrateme often found at the end of many sutras. This narrateme, apart from providing a balanced, formulaic ending to correspond with the ‘thus have I heard’ opening, also portrays the presence of a sense of faith and optimism in the minds of those who have received the text. It would also be valid to infer that the communicative function of this narrateme is one of evoking within the audience a similar sense of sharing or possession (Aramaki 2003). This requirement is more necessary in texts such as the Dàoxíng as, unlike the relative simplicity and direct talk of the shorter texts of the Āgamas and Nikāyas, the extended narratives of Mahayana sutras are more challenging, perhaps even problematic. To be an effective pedagogic tool, the text has to do more than merely inform; it must convince its audience of the validity of its content and encourage them to adopt it as religious truth. The inclusion of events that portray the effects of the immediately preceding discourse upon its attendees may not necessarily give rise to understanding, but may result in the suspension of doubt and fear to a sufficient level for the contents to be accepted. The description of an immediate effect serves to signify that what has been presented should be considered as being a more potent method. The first of these occurs in chapter 11 (451a) where the ‘tathāgata-dharma’ is said to be ‘unreckonable’, ‘like space’ and ‘without bounds’, and the second in chapter 14 (453b) following a discussion upon ‘basic nothingness’. If the two examples are placed together alongside the narrateme of ‘receipt and departure’ the similarities can be seen. 478b12

佛說經已。諸弟子、諸菩薩,諸天、諸阿須倫、諸龍、鬼神、諸人民,皆大歡欣,為佛作禮而去。 The Buddha had finished speaking this sutra. All the disciples, all the bodhisattvas, all the devas, all the asuras, all the nāgas and yakṣas, and all the people, each of them was greatly joyed, bowed towards the Buddha and went. 451a12 佛說是經時,五百比丘僧、三十比丘尼皆得阿羅漢;六十優婆塞、三十優婆夷皆得須陀洹道;三十菩薩皆逮得無所從生法樂,皆當於是婆羅劫中受決。 As the Buddha spoke this sutra a group of five hundred bhikṣus and thirty bhiksụ ṇīs became arhats, sixty upāsakas and thirty upāsikas found the srota-āpanna path and thirty bodhisattvas found the joy not born of any dharma, all to receive an assurance during the bhadra-kalpa. 453b28

佛言:是本無甚深,甚深。“ ” 當說本無時,二百比丘僧皆得阿羅漢;五百比丘尼皆得須陀洹道;五百諸天人皆逮無所從生法樂,於中立;六十新學菩薩皆得阿羅漢道。  The Buddha said: ‘Basic nothingness is very deep, very deep.’ When basic nothingness was spoken of two hundred of the bhikṣu sangha became arhats, five hundred bhikṣuṇīs found the srota-āpanna path, five hundred devas obtained joy from the dharma that arises from nowhere and sixty of the newly training bodhisattvas all reached the arhat path.

The gist of this narrateme can be expressed in the syntagm:

After the Buddha speaks, various groups receive the fruits of the path, some experience joy and then proceed to apply what they have received. A further example of the re-working of existing story-lines is found in chapter 24 (468b01). Following the discussion of a bodhisattva’s fearlessness some ten million trāyastriṃśa devas sprinkle māndārava flowers upon the Buddha. A group of unnamed bhikṣus, then take up some of the blooms and offer them with the pledge to follow the Buddha’s teaching. Smiling, the Buddha again gives assurances for not just the bhikṣus but the devas too, saying that they will all become buddhas during the phala kalpa, each with the name Avakīrṇakusuma. In this case, it is the ‘flower scattering’ narrateme mentioned above with regard to Gaṅgā(-devī), which of itself is a paradigmatic shift in the syntagm of the narrateme. Not only is there a shift in the personae of the givers, but also in the time frame. In the case of the Buddha and Gaṅgā(-devī), the juncture between them was the encounter with Dīpaṃkara in the distant past, whereas the point of departure in this event in the Dàoxíng is indeterminate and such uncertainty allows the potential of both the acts of aspiration and sincere offering as occurring within a single lifetime.

Fearlessness, as established in the Gaṅgā(-devī) episode, is the sign of faith and this instance is the same. The difference lies in the immediacy of the process and the huge numbers of beings involved. Once again, such events can be abstracted to form a common narrateme. After making genuine aspiration, when a devotee gives a flower offering to a buddha in complete faith, then an assurance will be given.

1.4.1) Robbers, Armies, Soldiers and Illusionists

Throughout the Dàoxíng the Buddha and others are portrayed using a range of similes to convey the imagery necessary to communicate the idea of prajñā-pāramitā as allaying both fear and the effects of delusion. Those contexts in which fear is mentioned links this emotion with severe personal attacks by outsiders. Fear is associated with the prospect of falling victim to raids by brigands and marauding soldiers, the perceived threat of their attacks going beyond the loss of property to that of ‘stealinglife (zéi suǒ shā 賊所殺, 457c24). The image of the robber (zéi 賊, caura) occurs in chapters 8 (445b02), 9 (447c09, 338b09), 15 (445b23, 455c08), 16 (457c23, 457c26, 458a27) and 18 (461b10, 461c05, 461c06, 461c07). Whilst these assailants are portrayed as human, in chapter 18 (461b10) the ‘robber’ becomes associated with the term rākṣasa (luóchà 羅刹). This association is an important one as it extends the idea of the theft of property to include the mythic, as the rākṣasa is a despoiler and causer of grievous harm at a more profound level.

The earliest textual references to the rākṣasas are found in the Ṛgveda where these mythic beings are described as the ‘enemies of mankind’. Unlike the ambivalent yakṣas, the rākṣasa are eaters of flesh and drinkers of blood, a bringer of disease and the despoiler of the sacrifice (MacDonnell 1897, p.162-164). The mythology describes the rākṣasas attacking at night and then dispelled by the light of the Sun. This connection with light, fire and the Sun is again found in the Ṛgveda, where Agni, lord of fire, is also known as the ‘subduer of the rākṣasa’. Attributes of the Vedic Agni are found in the narratives surrounding the Buddha within the Dàoxíng. Agni is the divine messenger, in that he accepts and takes offerings to the devas and in return brings their benediction. The parallel in Buddhist myth is a buddha who receives sincere offerings (flower offerings) and returns the boon of an assurance of future buddhahood (shòujué 受決, vyākaraṇa).

The power of light and radiance is another key Mahayana narrateme found in the Dàoxíng and forms the subject of chapter 10. Light connects the buddhas and bodhisattvas with the supra-mundane (lokôttara) and is described as being the radiant light born of sarvajñā and prajñā–pāramitā (449a03) that shines upon the world (zhàomíng yú shìjiān 照明於世間). The opening of chapter 10 explains that the basis of this light is prajñā–pāramitā which, when pursued or recited as a text, imbues the bodhisattva with the mighty-power of a buddha which protects against the approaches of Māra (448c17).

The theme of attack and protection leads to the subsequent anonymous grouping, soldiers (bīng 兵). This category is not discussed as separate topic but included in lists found within chapters 3 (431c12, 431c17, 433c12), 9 (447c10), 15 (455c08), 17 (458c02) and 18 (459b21), where the role of the soldier is not defensive but offensive requiring the use of weapons and devising of stratagems of destruction. This particular viewpoint stands in contrast to the allegorical description of the bodhisattva as some form of ‘spiritual warrior’ given in chapter 1 (427c02) where the bodhisattva is said to ‘gird the great armour’ (móhēsēngnà sēngniè 摩訶僧那僧涅, māhasaṃnāha-saṃnaddha) and to ‘set out in the great chariot’ (móhēyǎn sānbázhì 摩訶衍三拔致, mahāyāna-saṃprasthita), yet the bodhisattva in this accoutrement bears no sword or bow; his weapon is the magical power of the prajñā-pāramitā. The connection of robbers with soldiers is a distinctive feature of this earlier version. The Sanskrit text has only two references to soldiers and these are the hordes dispatched by Māra or produced by the craft of an illusionist.

The final anonymous group antithetical to the Buddha and his mission is found in chapter 3 (433c21). Described as yìdàorén 異道人, or ‘path wanderers’ (parivrājakas), these are followers of some sects considered up as ‘up to no good’ (wúyǒu shàn yì 無有善意) and all of whom bore evil intentions (dūlú chí è yì 都盧持惡意). The context in which this instance occurs implies that a dispute would arise if parivrājakas were to enter the assembly. The outcome of this would be the failure to transmit the prajñā–pāramitā which can be seen as the basis of the text associating such groups with Māra. The Dàoxíng paints a bleak picture of the parivrājakas although as Malalasekera (1938, p.159) points out, some basic ideas were common to the Buddha’s teachings and certain groups of parivrājakas and that whilst their goal was deathlessness, this was most probably the goal of rebirth in a brahma world. Within the Buddhistic context then, this would be a path deviation, again indicating a close association with the temptations of Māra.

1.4.2) Groups of Sentient Non-Humans

Various groups of creatures are said to come to worship and receive the benefit of the prajñā-pāramitā. The most extensive list is found in chapter 3 in an address given by the Buddha (434c28). He speaks of how these diverse groups will come to worship and receive the prajñā–pāramitā teachings with each group obtaining similar benefits. The contribution of such lists to expanding the vision of the text is further emphasized in chapter 29 (475b16) when Dharmodgata talks of the universality of prajñā-pāramitā. In this instance, those categories of creatures not hitherto considered able to pursue prajñā-pāramitā such as hell beings, animals and various forms of malignant spirits are also included. The distinction made in the text however, is not that such beings are able to pursue the path, but that those who are capable of doing so transcend dualistic views which produce the illusions of good and bad.

1.4.3) The Merchant’s Daughter and the Five Hundred Women

These women are found with the tale of Sadāprarudita. None are named, not even the merchant’s daughter who acts as the benefactor of the bodhisattva in his quest. Whilst they are diligent in supporting the Sadāprarudita, they are not described as progressing upon the path, but it would appear that the tale of Gaṇgā (devī) contributes much to their portrayal. Their complete surrender in faith to Sadāprarudita (475c28) leads to them all becoming transformed into men with each receiving an assurance of their becoming a samyak-saṃbuddha (477b15).

1.5) Illusion, Miracle and Mind Control

Similes containing references to the trickery of illusionists (huànshī 幻師, māyakāra) and the power of illusion to deceive the unwary is encountered in five locations: chapters 1 (427c07), 23 (466b22), 25 (469c25) and 29 (475a29). The wording of the Lokakṣema text relies upon constructions derived from a single term huà to convey the idea of transformation which is then used to construct compounds such as huàchéng 化成, huàfó 化佛, huàhuàn 化幻, huàrén 化人, huàxiàn 化現, and huàzuò 化作. This process of transformation does not make any distinction between what is considered to be a miracle in which some transubstantiation has taken place, an apparition, hallucination or some other form remarkable change. (See Karashima 2010, p.219-222 for a complete listing and comparison with other recensions). The nature of illusion is, to some extent connected to the ability to imagine. One notable instance is found in a simile contained in chapter 24 (467b13). Here, the Buddha encourages his listeners to imagine an infinite number of Māras each transforming further infinite numbers of Māras who wage an assault on an avaivartika-bodhisattva. The text makes no distinction as to whether these transformations are either good or bad, it is a matter of who creates them and for what purpose. By way of contrast to the Māras, in chapters 2 (430a23), 22 (465c09) and 24 (468b01) the benign Śakra and the trāyastriṃśa-devas are said to produce flowers which are then sprinkled upon the Buddha. These, as might be expected, are no ordinary flowers but heavenly māndārava flowers (wéntuóluó 文陀羅), which are also to be regarded as illusory as revealed in a conversation between Śakra and Subhūti in chapter 2 (430b01) .

The Dàoxíng does not depict Māra’s hordes as bearing arms but other narrative accounts such as those found in the Lalitavistara-sūtra draw upon a wealth of Vedic allusion in order to expand the vision of the Māra assault to include blows dealt by shape-shifting demons wielding cudgels, spears, swords and arrows (Bays 1983b, p.465). Within the context of the Lalitavistara-sūtra, these demonic forms are apparitions (ibid. p.463) whose weapons become transformed by the power of Buddha into ‘garlands and canopies of flowers’ (ibid. p.480).

In addition to the creation of projected mental objects which have appearance but lack substance, both Māra and Śakra are portrayed displaying powers of transfiguration. In chapter 15 (455b09) Māra assumes the form of a yakṣa and in chapter 28 (472b17) Śakra becomes a brāhmaṇa who appears before Sadāprarudita. Both acts are deceptions although the motives are opposite; Māra’s aim is to tempt whereas that of Śakra is to test, the outcome of the temptation being regress, and that of the test progress. Beings seen in visions as in the case of the unnamed gold coloured buddha that radiates light who manifests before Sadāprarudita (chapter 28, 471b16), also appear through a process of transformation. In this case however, it is not to test or tempt the bodhisattva but to instruct him. The transformation buddha is not described as produced by anyone and simply appears during a moment of crisis. Such an appearance from nowhere would appear to serve two purposes, the resolution of a story conflict and to inject more detail into the narrative.

Bodily restoration also is described in this context. In chapter 28 (472c21) Śakra heals Sadāprarudita after a test of faith and again in chapter 29 (474c15) the deva restores the wounds of Sadāprarudita along with those of his five hundred women followers after they cleanse the teaching hall of Dharmodgata with their own blood. Then, at the end of the chapter, these women transform into men (huàzuō nánzǐ 化作男子) because of their merits (477b16). Of these, the event of the women becoming men is somewhat incongruous with the other depictions. It would appear that they possess the power to change their appearances much like the devas and māras, but the narrative would suggest otherwise as these changes are not produced at will. As a result, this one-off event leaves the reader with the impression that the text is implying that experience of the phenomenal world and embodiment within it are the outcomes of certain forms of moral action.

1.5.1) The Buddha’s Mighty Power

Referred to in some twenty-one locations throughout the text, the ‘mighty power’ of the Buddha (fó wēi shén 佛威神, buddhānubhāva) is an important topic in the narrative of the sutra which can be easily overlooked. Functionally, this ‘mighty power’ is much like the ‘power of transformation’ possessed by the devas and māras except for two notable exceptions: the buddhas do not display transfiguration nor the ability to restore injury or destruction. Furthermore, possession of this ‘mighty power’ is not restricted to the Buddha as an anuttara samyak-saṃbuddha as various references make clear that elements of it are attainable by a bodhisattva, either as a buddha’s proxy or through direct personal possession. The differences in the capacities of the powers between a buddha and a bodhisattva of the advanced stages of the path are said to be based upon the accumulation of merits.

A comparative table of the narratives containing references to these various powers in the Dàoxíng can be produced as follows:


Power B M S

P1 Causing changes to the environment (rain and earthquakes). * * *

P2 Averting or nullify the effects of injury and its causes. * *

P3 Transfiguration. * *

P4 Making others see or not see what is there (visions, illusions). * *

P5 Emitting light. * *

P6 Knowing the minds of others. * * *

P7 Knowing what others are doing * * *

P8 Seeing the past and the future *

(B = buddhas and bodhisattvas, M = Māra, S = Śakra)

Table 1: Powers of the Buddha, Māra and the bodhisattva.

These various powers are not found with equal regularity in the text and some instances do not contribute to the overall development of the narrative. For instance, power over the environment is [P1] a significant factor in the Māra temptations (446c25, 474b26) whereas this is mentioned only twice in connection with the buddhas and bodhisattvas. In the first instance the earth is said to tremble when a bodhisattva has ‘crossed-over’ (453b24) and the second occurs whilst Dharmodgata teaches his assembly (477b09) as he described as possessing a buddha’s mighty-power. On numerous occasions the Dàoxíng tells the reader that bodhisattvas who recite the sutra (443c13, 446a16, 446c16, 446c18, 448c17) obtain the power and protection of the buddhas from physical harm [P2].

Unlike the descriptions of Māra in which the minds of others are manipulated to cause fear and doubt, those of the Buddha (443b16, 469a20) and Dharmodgata (477b10) portray the creation of samādhi-like visions [P4] which become the basis of hope and faith. Light [P5] is described as being emitted by the Buddha in the description of the scenario (429a15), during the discourse (458a14), and by bodhisattvas following the passing of the tathāgatas (433c07, 459b17). The source of this light is said to be prajñā–pāramitā (444c16, 449a01, 449a03). The narrateme of light is also significant in the story of Sadāprarudita in terms of his vision of the golden buddha (471b20), experiences of samādhi (474a11) and the descriptions of Dharmodgata (473b09) and his realm (473a18) Gandhavatī. The power of knowing the thoughts of others [P6] is attributed to the Buddha

(433c28), Śakra (463c23), and Subhūti (425c13, 429c13, 429c21). In the case of Subhūti, he is described knowing what Śāriputra, Ānanda and the devas are thinking. Although Māra is not described as reading the minds of others, such an ability is subsumed as Māra is able to work upon the desires, fears and doubts of others.

All the buddhas see bodhisattvas progressing on the path elsewhere [P7] (436a25, 446a13, 460a05, 467b21, 467b12) and praise those who become avaivartikas (467c03, 467c17, 472a20) whereas both Māra and Śakra know the actions of bodhisattvas in order to tempt or test them. Whilst the Buddha alone is usually considered as being omniscient [P8], in the sense of also being able to see the chain of causality that connects the past, present and future, the mahāsattva is also portrayed as having similar abilities (427b18, 434c28).

The acts of transfiguration within the narrative are problematic if any attempt is made to relate these to the corporeal states of the Buddha, Māra or Śakra. The Buddha has physical form, Śakra in the assembly is a being of light and is noncorporeal whereas the state of Māra appears to be indeterminate. As a paranirmitadeva Māra is certainly non-corporeal, yet in two instances corporeal existence is implied. The first occurs in chapter 3 (434a06) where Māra is said to be riding in a chariot drawn by four horses and the second is where Sadāprarudita passes through ‘a realm famed for being the country of Māra’s pleasure’ (guó míng mó suǒ lè guó 國名魔所樂國) (472b01). This ambiguity should not be seen as a hurdle in identifying the role of transfiguration as a narrative device. Regardless of the motive, the instances where Māra and Śakra transform involve some attempt to deceive the beholder.

1.5.2) Demonic Possession, Dreaming and Illusion

Chapter 18 offers a brief but significant opportunity to explore the differences between what the text conveys as being demonic possession (guǐshén suǒ qǔ chí 鬼神所取持, amanuṣya-graha) and the work of Māra. Whilst discussing the topic of the false avaivartika, a potential scenario is described in which Māra leads a bodhisattva to wrongly assume that he has received an assurance and is already a buddha. The bodhisattva is duped into believing this because his pride leads him into thinking that he has exorcized the demons that have taken control of others. The Dàoxíng does not elaborate on what the effects of such a possession might be although one of the merits described in chapter 3 (435b24) is that bodhisattvas will not experience malevolent spirits daring to enter and control their ‘winds’ (guǐshén bùgǎnjìn 鬼神不敢近氣). As a result, when they wake up they will not ‘think greatly of food; their thoughts and bodies are supple, fair and full’. DeCaroli (2004, p.25) observes that Buddhist texts largely avoid the topic of spirit religion, perhaps due to such matters being inappropriate for the sangha. This would tally with a later comment in the Dàoxíng (455c09) where matters relating to yakṣas or demons (guǐshén 鬼神) are said to be amongst those to be avoided by an avaivartika. DeCaroli (ibid.) continues:

...numerous primary sources tell of spirit-deities who could take control of the bodies and minds of their victims. In many cases this possession is seen as the cause of severe illness, whereas in other examples it seems to be a desirable state akin to the ecstatic trance of a medium. These effects do not match the results of the deeds of Māra given within the Dàoxíng. Māra does not inflict any physical harm upon his victims nor cause them to become either unconscious or blissful. To the contrary, the effects of his less than desirable influences act to promote heightened anxieties filled with doubt and fear. Whilst dabbling with demons may be discouraged, the Dàoxíng does list two means of driving out demons: a buddha’s mighty power and the touch of the maṇi pearl (435c26). If, within the context of the narrative, the demon possession found in chapter 18 is taken as real, then exorcism of that demon must be real too. Yet, the ‘mighty-power’ that produces the exorcism is non other than Māra’s (460a20). Māra’s thoughts alone, it would appear, are sufficient to cause such demons to flee. This effect is much like that described in chapter 3 (431b17) in which the scent of a herb called ‘māghi’ is said to be enough to drive away the predation of snakes. Yet, the source of the power to conquer evils that is likened to both the māghi herb and the maṇi pearl is non-other than prajñā–pāramitā. How can these apparently similar forces work to effect the same end yet remain opposite in purpose? Re-examination of the text suggests fear is again Māra’s weapon as the demons are said to leave, quit, go or be removed (qù 去). They are turned back much like the way in which various narratives portray Māra seeking to instil fear in the mind of the bodhisattva. Unlike the description of possession given above, however, the Dàoxíng portrays Māra’s victims as being free to make their own choices. The temptations of Māra are such as to sway their decisions and not their actions, as he cannot compel them into doing his bidding.

The question remains, however, as to what the text can tell us of the similarities and differences between the power of prajñā–pāramitā to dispel Māra and that of Māra’s control over demons. As established above, Māra uses fear and doubt, yet the power of prajñā–pāramitā upon Māra has not been to create fear but to act, somewhat ironically, upon Māra in a Māra like way. The power of prajñā–pāramitā whether as practice or recitation acts to keep Māra away. Even when Māra has the intent to ‘ruin’ a bodhisattva, prajñā–pāramitā will cause Māra to make the active choice to go elsewhere. The example of this has been mentioned briefly above in reference to the incident found in chapter 3 in which Māra rides in his chariot (434a06), aware of the gathering at the core of the text, and sets off to ruin them. But, Śakra becomes aware of Māra’s intent and ‘thought-recites’ (xīnzhōng sòngniàn 心中誦念) the prajñā-pāramitā whereupon Māra ‘turned about [on his] path and went back’ (fùdào huánqù 復道還去). There is no despondent wailing or running away as found in the melodrama of the Lalitavistara-sūtra.

1.5.3) Dreams, Illusions and Visions

The significance of dreaming is an important yet overlooked topic in the study of the Dàoxíng which is surprising given that the topic occurs in some twenty-two instances. Most of these cases relate to bad-dreams or nightmares as being the outcome of actions that violate the śīla prohibitions performed whilst awake. Conversely, good actions result in pleasant dreams or even encounters with divine beings. Actions performed in dreams (discussed in chapter 16) are neutral much like the deeds performed by the various devatās but, equally, without a moral basis the dharma practised in dreams too has no outcome. The narrative describes how dreams provide the bodhisattva with visions of buddhas in other realms much like those described in samādhi, a topic that re-emerges in Mahayana texts such as the Cundī Dhāraṇī Sūtra (Qī Jùzhī Fómǔ Suǒshuō Zhǔntí Tuóluóní Jīng 七倶胝佛母所說准提陀羅尼經, T 1077). The use of dreams and dreaming in similes suggests that whilst the dream world is considered illusory, it is not necessarily delusory. Although the actions carried out in dreams are neutral, the mind is capable of being deceived by the forces of its own content. The avaivartika is depicted as someone who recognizes the dream-state and is able to make moral judgements whilst within it, as pointed out in chapter 15 (454c). What is experienced has positive benefits in modifying ethical behaviour as well as furnishing deeper insights into the Buddha’s teaching. The ‘gates of samādhi’ (sānmèi mén 三昧門) depict minds states entered into which exhibit qualities of both the waking and dream states (457b15). A full study of this line of inquiry is outside the scope of the work, but it becomes clear that the various states of samādhi depicted in the Dáoxìng are closely related to the dream experience.

Accounts of ‘visions’ and ‘voices’ are also present in the narrative. Where these are differentiated is that such encounters are neither dreamt nor experienced in samādhi but arise abruptly, as in the tale of Sadāprarudita or, as mentioned previously, through the Buddha’s mighty power. Within the narrative of the Dáoxìng, as in the case of Sadāprarudita, such experiences typically concern the revelation of information to the recipient but do not necessarily form a transformative religious experience. Māra acts to control volitional activity by attempting to sway the thoughts of his victims rather than gaining control over the body as in spirit or demon possession. Whilst these two mythic forms of attack upon the individual may appear to be closely related, they are different, especially with regard to the outcomes. A victim that succumbs to Māra’s temptations will act in a way that leads to making adverse decisions and choices. The victim of possession, on the other hand, is not responsible for the deeds carried out whilst under external control. As the occurrence of references to spirit possession appears to be somewhat rare in the narratives contained in sutras, alternative sources need to be examined in order to shed light on how this topic was viewed by the early Buddhist sangha.

Spirit possession during sleep and its effects upon the arhat is central to one of the five propositions of Mahādeva presented during the second Buddhist council. Discussed in some depth by Dutt (1998, p.22-37), Mahādeva claimed that sleeping arhats are capable of being led by spirits in their dreams resulting in the nocturnal emission of semen. In its account of the second council, the Kathāvatthu (II.1) asserts that such discharges are natural much like the discharge of urine, excrement and saliva. In other words, the arhat is incapable of becoming possessed and that such emissions are not the result of sexual desire produced by possession. The Milinda Pañha (composed first century BCE) also gives some comments on dreams. Nāgasena states that these are of six types, those caused by wind, bile, phlegm, a deity, personal habit and premonition (Rhys-Davids 1894, p.157). Of these, he holds that only the latter are ‘true’. In the ensuing discussion (ibid. p.160) Nāgasena explains that deep, dreamless sleep and trance (nirodha or the fourth jhāna) in which the act of knowing abates, is the condition in which ‘divine intention’ is manifested. Dreams occur, the discussion ends, as a transitional state between wakefulness and deep sleep. The topic of the parallels between the dream and samādhi will be explored in greater depth in relation to the origins of the Māra mytheme later in this thesis but an overview of reference to how the Dàoxíng specifically addresses dreams and dreaming is important to establish the connection between these two topics.

1.5.4) Dream Incidents in the Dàoxíng

Hitherto, the significance of dreaming is an important yet largely overlooked aspect in the study of the Dàoxíng which is surprising given that the theme occurs in excess of twenty instances. These can be summarized in the following table.


Chap. Line Ref. Description

DR1 3 435b10 Merit produces freedom from nightmares, and the ability to see buddhas, stūpas, and the sounds of prajñāpāramitā in dreams.
DR2 3 345b20 Spirits cannot take control of the body’s vital winds whilst asleep.
DR3 7 444a27 Simile. Prajñā–pāramitā is insubstantial like a dream.
DR4 8 445a19 Dreaming of a buddha is a sign of receiving the prajñāpāramitā teachings.
DR5 13 452c07 Simile. All dharmas are like dreams, they are empty illusions and insubstantial.
DR6 15 454c02 An avaivartika has control over himself in the dreamstate, is watchful over his habits and remains cognizant of the ten precepts.
DR7 16 457b17 Dreams experienced during the day and night are not different.
DR8 16 457c01 Benefits of dream practice. Is giving dāna in dream real? Maitreya says that is it not.
DR9 18 459b05 A bodhisattva-mahāsattva does not dream of being an arhat, pratyekabuddha or living in solitude; nor does he instruct others to do so.
DR10 18 459b10 An avaivartika dreams of teaching others.
DR11 18 459b16 A bodhisattva-mahāsattva will dream of being seated high and radiating light.
DR12 18 459b18 A bodhisattva-mahāsattva will dream of the ability to change form and shift location.
DR13 18 459b20 A bodhisattva-mahāsattva will have no fear in his dreams. If he dreams of others suffering, then he will awaken and make the vow to save others.
DR14 18 459c02 If a bodhisattva dreams of beasts and people preying upon each other, then he will awaken and resolve to create a world free from evil.
DR15 18 459c08 If the bodhisattva-mahāsattva dreams of fire and disaster, then he will recognize these as a dream and not become afraid
.
Table 2: References to dreams and dreaming.

In comparison with the list given in the Milinda Pañha, no reference is found in the Dàoxíng to imbalances in bile and phlegm having any effect upon the bodhisattva’s dreams although deity intervention and wind dysfunction are mentioned in a single passage [DR1, DR2]. The remaining accounts are produced from a combination of the dream-causes of habit and prophecy. Unlike the Milinda Pañha classification, dream contents are portrayed as signs of progression upon the path and are therefore prophetic of the certainty of receiving teaching [DR4]. Māra, it should be noted, is conspicuous due to his absence in the schema of dreams, although the vigilance prescribed during the waking state [DR6, DR7, DR9] to avoid Māra temptation finds its parallels in the recognition of disasters as dreams whilst dreaming [DR14, DR15]. The descriptions given in the text of the worlds inhabited by buddhas, and bodhisattvas emitting light again have parallels with the descriptions of the various states of samādhi given in the text, a topic later discussed in this thesis. The discourse of the text makes it clear that any practice of the path in the dream state is insubstantial [DR8] and, just like taking delight in committing murder in dreams, there is no karmic retribution or gain in merit. However, upon awakening during a dream, the bodhisattva may, due to the sights seen in the dream-state, have an emotional response that consolidates his practice [DR13]. As signs of advanced progress, a number of contexts describe an avaivartika, although not yet a Buddha, beginning to behave like a Buddha whilst dreaming [DR10, DR11, DR12]. The remaining two references are similes in which the process of pursuing the path and the goal of prajñā-pāramitā are compared to dreams in that they are insubstantial [DR3, DR5]. Chapter 18 represents the last section of the text in which the discourse makes reference to this topic. The tale of Sadāprarudita contains further references to dreaming and dreamlike states of samādhi. The visions and voices seen by Sadāprarudita are subsumed under the category of dreams based upon the events themselves and the comment made by the Buddha found in the dialogue in which dreams (i.e. things seen and heard which are not physically present) of the day and the night are said to be the same (zhòuyè mèng zhōng děngwúyì 晝夜夢中等無異) (457b18). These are summarized as follows: Chap. Line Ref. Description DR16 28 470c28 A deva instructs Sadāprarudita to search for the ‘Great Dharma’. DR17 28 471a10 A trāyastriṃśa deva tells Sadāprarudita about the Buddha Dharmodgata-Aśugatra; he promptly awakens and makes the vow to become awakened. DR18 28 471a16 A voice in the air tells Sadāprarudita to seek out the Prajñā-pāramitā. DR19 28 471b16 A golden Buddha transforms in the air, teaches Sadāprarudita that ‘all dharmas are like a dream’, and then tells him of Gandhavatī. Table 3: Visions and apparitions.

It was mentioned earlier that the devas appearing in this tale serve to inject information into the narrative; none-the-less, such devas must still conform to recognizable stereotypes even if the appearance is in a dream [DR16]. The notable exception here, however, is that these revelations are not portends requiring the expertise of a specialist in the art of dream interpretation. The appearance of the trāyastriṃśa deva has an outcome much like that found above in [DR13] where, ironically, experiences in dreams rather those of than everyday life are portrayed as the stimulus for Sadāprarudita’s heightened level of aspiration. The voice in the air [DR18] and the appearance of the Golden Buddha [DR19] are both redolent of [DR1] in which prajñā–pāramitā is heard of in dreams. Again there is irony as whilst Sadāprarudita learns much of the core of the prajñā-pāramitā teaching in this state, reference back to [DR8] informs the reader that this teaching is not real and has no lasting effect. This is what is found in the case of Sadāprarudita. He has not found the goal of his quest and falls back into sorrow following a period of elation. Sadāprarudita fails to recognize the illusory and unreal nature of the contents of both his dreams and samādhi like visions, even though he had been instructed to do so (471c02). Following the appearance of the golden Buddha, the act of divine revelation would appear to undergo a process of paradigm change from one of dreams and visions to that of samādhi. This process is reflected in the narrative as the immediate response of Sadāprarudita is to experience the ‘seeing all the buddhas of the ten directions samādhi’ (472a18). The remaining references to dreams and dreaming are in the forms of similes and occur in the teachings given

by Dharmodgata and relate to the dream-like nature of the buddhas and bodhisattvas.

Chap. Line Ref. Description

DR20 28 473c16 Buddhas are like an illusion, like someone in a dream.

DR21 29 475a14 A woman seen in a dream is nothing. Prajñā-pāramitā too, is nothing.

DR22 29 475a21 Someone seen in a dream is nothing. Prajñā-pāramitā too, is nothing.

Table 4: Similes of dreams and illusions.

These three similes are fundamentally the same as those given earlier, i.e DR3, DR5 and DR19. The key difference lies in the focus of the simile, the very idea of buddhahood and the realization that underpins it.

1.6) Conclusions

In this chapter the overview of the structure of the Dáoxìng revealed a simple scenario in which a handful of men discuss some points of advanced religious praxis in front of a large assembly. The development of the text, however, reveals a much more complex situation in which each of the various personae and the events that occur in the staging of the dialogue can be seen to have significatory functions towards the overall narrative flow of the text. When compared to the more simplistic accounts contained in the Nikāya and Āgama anthologies which convey a sense of plausible reality, the narrative of the Dáoxìng often appears confusing and complex, contradictory and phantasmagorical. This should not be regarded as a failing on the part of the crafting of the text. Although it is not possible to second-guess what the authors exactly had in mind when producing the recension from which the Dáoxìng was translated, the threads of ambiguity contained in the narratives support, rather than undermine, the dialogue of the text which encourages abandoning the pursuit of a religious career aimed at gaining some form of actual spiritual asset in favour of one of acts of altruism and social engagement. The functional contributions of the personae in the Dáoxìng can be considered as serialized developments of well-understood prototypes. The raw materials drawn from which these were defined include a range of sources embracing other Mahayana and non-Mahayana texts of that period and pre-existing Vedic myths. The thoughts and actions of the bodhisattva are portrayed as being private but, none the less are played out on a cosmic scale, viewable by those of divine power who would either wish him well or intervene to cause his downfall through the manipulation of his thoughts. Within the context of the Dáoxìng, the persona which undergoes the most consistent and methodological development is Māra Pāpīmā. Functionally these changes provide a narrative yardstick by which to evaluate the progress of the bodhisattva in terms of a widely understood mythic framestory. 

2 Māra Pāpīmā

2.1) Textual Origins

2.1.1) Existing Categories of Three, Four and Five Māras

The generally accepted view on the nature of Māra is derived from the shared textual origins that produced commentarial literature of both the Theravada and Sārvastivāda canons. The Visuddhimagga (VII, 60) lists five categories of Māra whereas the Abhidharma-kośa, Dà Zhìdù Lùn and Yogācārabhūmi-śāstra each list four. Based upon the analysis given by Malalasekera, Guruge (1988) summarizes these categories as being presented in sets of either three, four or five in number which are worth reviewing at this point.

Set of Three Set of Four Set of Five

Skandha-māra * * *

Maraṇa-māra * * *

Deva-putra-māra * *

Kleśa-māra * *

Abhisaṃskāra-māra * *

Table 5: The five classifications of Māra. The first group of three is closely aligned to the earliest teachings:

1. Skandha-māra. Individual existence as the conditioned product of the five skandhas which is subject to transformation resulting in illness, aging and death.

2. Maraṇa-māra. Death itself.

3. Deva-putra-māra. A deity that rules over all the worlds of realm of desire; the personification of the ‘ultimate boundary’, that appears before those who seek to break the bonds of entrapment within samsara.

Even the briefest examination reveals the close relation of these three categories. The original aspiration of the bodhisattva Siddhārtha Gautama was to find a solution to the sufferings of the human condition that are decrepitude and death. As decrepitude is the fundamental outcome of conditioned existence, the lack of permanence itself is ‘death’. The notion of death goes beyond simple corporeal mortality as it includes the ‘death’ of the momentary conscious condition. As these issues are abstract and theoretical, they are depicted mythologically as Deva-putramāra (lit. Māra the Son of God’).‛

The adaptation of existing Vedic mythology would be crucial to the expression of the Buddha’s new ideas. This point is dramatically illustrated in the events of the Brahma Saṃyutta (S 6.1.1). This text depicts how the Buddha pondered the futility of sharing his experiences with others and Brahma presents the solution. Rather than expressing ideas in pure unfamiliar abstract forms, the Buddha adopted a pedagogical style of responding to the personal capacities of his listeners (Bodhi 2007, p.6). Consequently, his teaching contained reference to existing views and narratives which were refined and remoulded to convey his new vision in terms that his audience would understand (Gombrich 2009).

For the Buddha the escape, or liberation from suffering, comes as the outcome of moral action derived from a heart (citta) freed from the ‘roots’ of unwholesome action combined with misapprehension of a permanent, entrapped, non-physical being (pudgala) or ‘self’ (ātman) as the ultimate perpetrator of those deeds. In accord with this anātman doctrine, the next group of four, in its emphasis upon moral choice and action, replaces the mythic Deva-putra-māra with two alternative categories:

1. Kleśa-māra. The defilement of the mind and its propensity towards unwholesome actions.

2. Abhisaṃskāra-māra. Actions that arise as an outcome of defilement and, due to their momentum, become the basis for their future recurrence. The resulting list of four, closely related theoretical ideas draws together the processes surrounding the creation of the misperception of the existence of a permanent inner self struggling to maintain its existence. Finally, the list of ‘five’ is simply the merging of these two sets together for the purposes of completing the process of classification although, as will be seen, the later Mahayana texts add a further category, the Māra-karmāṇi, or ‘Māra Works’.

2.1.1.1) Stages in the Development of the Māra Mytheme

As useful as these lists are, they are fundamentally generic, providing a convenient framework within which to categorize the appearances of Māra in the primary textual sources. What is not addressed is how the myth of Māra is potentially developed from narratives which become expressed in the descriptions given in the earliest verse sections of the Nikāya and Āgama anthologies. A formative stage that is subsequently followed by periods of consolidation in the development of narrative centred suttas, and their elaboration and embellishment in the hagiographies of the Buddha and other non-canonical works, particularly those of the jātakas and the emerging Mahayana. The application of structuralist methodology to the narratives of the Buddhist Māra mytheme and key Vedic mythological figures named or alluded to in a range of Buddhist canonical works will expand our understanding of this problem.

2.1.1.2) The Earliest Form: Versed Texts

The rich canonical legacy that forms the basis of Buddhist teaching was a later development, with all Buddhist traditions appearing to adopt written transmission during a similar time frame. Furthermore, the development of the early canonical works was progressive, as Hirakawa (1990, p.69-70) points out. Following the death of the Buddha, anecdotes in both prose (sūtra) and verse (gatha) that formed the core teaching were assembled together and used for collective chanting in a process of person-to-person transmission. Crucially, as Nakamura (1987, p.46) discusses, during this earliest period bhikṣus spent most of their lives as recluses and philosophical speculation was forbidden and so narrative, rather than abstraction, was central to the transmission process. Within the corpus of Pali texts the SuttaNipāta section of the Khuddaka Nikāya is most indicative of the transmission of this period. One such text in particular, the Padhāna Sutta (Snp 3.2) as the meeting point of several identifiable Vedic mythemes, will be adopted in this thesis as the starting point for the development of the Māra mytheme.

2.1.2) Who or What is Māra?

Buddhist culture, like any other, is evolutionary and so providing a singular description of even a key personality such as Māra is problematic as the specific details of his depiction shift with both time and tradition. However, given the significant number of references to Vedic deities within the early Buddhist texts, the Māra mytheme most likely evolved from an earlier paradigm, one which was significant in a period prior to the emergence of Buddhism, perhaps one founded within Proto-Indo-European (PIE) myth. The major deities of the Vedic pantheon certainly become personae within the metanarrative of the Buddha mytheme, but perhaps the origins of Māra as a mytheme are drawn from the narratives of more mundane, day to day encounters with lesser, earth bound spirits. A linguistic examination of the name Māra itself would be suggestive of this due to the ubiquity of legacy Māra myths’ in Indo-European Language and folklore. Further evidence‛ for such lesser origins’ also comes from narrative considerations. Although Māra is‛ a deva, in the early strata of narratives he is not associated with the Vedic devas and is even described at times as being a yakṣa, a class of spirit associated with the inhabitation of worldly sites. So, if Māra is to be considered as some form of antihero what, then, is the importance of the hero within this mythic backdrop? The divine hero is central to Vedic mythology, particularly in the form of Indra, and within Buddhism as the questing bodhisattva, Siddhārtha Gautama. Indra, the ruler of the trāyastriṃśa devas, is the most significant of all deities in early brahmanic culture. Depicted as the great conquering hero, Indra is the warrior king of his people, subduer of demonic forces and malevolent enemies and one worthy of the highest sacrifice. Later, in the divine dramas that underpin the development of both Buddhism and Jainism, Gautama Buddha as the conqueror’ (‛ jina) and Mahāvira as the great-hero’ (‛ mahā-vira) rise in prominence, effectively displacing the Vedic Indra as that divinity from whom the faithful seek those boons which bring about the fulfilment of their greatest desires. Indra subdues asuras and other foes alike to become the supreme lord and ruler of the heavens and the warrior (kṣatriya) śramaṇa Gautama does likewise in order to become the arahant, one having‛ conquered the enemy’ (Edgerton 1953, vol. II, p.67), and cakravartī-rāja, a ‘wheel turning king’. But, for someone who rejects violence and cruelty, who are his foes and what is his means of victory?

2.1.3) The Buddha’s Enemies: Devadatta and Māra Pāpīmā

2.1.3.1) Devadatta

Based upon narratives found in the Pali vinaya, Buddhist tradition identifies two great and yet distinct enemies of the Buddha, namely Devadatta and Māra. Ray (1994, pp.162-173) presents a synoptic account of the depictions of Devadatta in extant canonical resources based upon current scholarship. Unlike the foe Māra, who from the outset is fundamentally mythic in nature, the basic layer of tales surrounding Devadatta has some historical foundation. The Mahāsāṃghika vinaya, regarded as the earliest vinaya recension (Lamotte 1998, p.172), offers a less villainous account of Devadatta than the vinayas of the Sthaviras which subsequently inform the depiction of Devadatta in Mahayana works such as the Amitāyur-dhyāna and Saddharma-puṇḍarīka sūtras. Drawing upon the accounts given by Malalasekara (1998), the gist of this backstory can be summarised as follows. A cousin of the Buddha, Devadatta is one of the early converts to the

Buddha’s new teaching. After taking bhikṣu ordination at Anupiyā, Devadatta becomes widely regarded for his ‘supernormalpowers. With time, the status of Devadatta in the sangha rises and the Buddha praises him as one of the eleven chief elders. Regardless of this, Devadatta bears a deeply held enmity towards the Buddha which becomes stronger with time. After a number of years, Devadatta asks the Buddha to step down and let him take leadership of the sangha. The Buddha refuses. After gaining the support of a number of followers, including Prince Ajatasattu, the son of King Bimbisāra and key patron of the Buddha, Devadatta enters into a murderous pact. The prince will depose his father and take control of Magadha and Devadatta will depose the Buddha and take leadership of the sangha. Ajatasattu tells Bimbisāra of his intent to take control, Bimbisāra acquiesces and abdicates but Ajatasattu imprisons and starves his father to death. He then provides archers in an attempt to assassinate the Buddha which fails. Devadatta makes two attempts to kill the Buddha, one by causing an avalanche and the other by turning loose a raging bull elephant. Again, both incidents are unsuccessful although in the case of the avalanche, the elderly Buddha suffers a grievous injury to his foot, the trauma of which results in a Māra encounter.

Devadatta next claims that the community is too lax and that the Buddha is too soft. He approaches the Buddha with a plan to change the community rules. These are rejected by the Buddha and so Devadatta hatches a plot to cause a schism. This scheme also fails following which Devadatta falls ill and dies to be swallowed up by the earth. Ajatasattu recants and becomes a patron of the Buddha but is later killed some thirty years later by his own son. In much the same manner as a Shakespearean history, the message of the text goes beyond any historicity behind the events portrayed. The biases contained within such storytelling serve to provide a particular set of ideas encapsulated in narrative form. The two parallel storylines function to compare the durability of two rulers, one spiritual and the other worldly. Both have established leaderships, disloyal kinsmen and become the subjects of political scheming. The contrastive feature is that Bimbisāra is vulnerable whereas the Buddha is not. The empires (kṣetra) of kings that conquer worldly enemies will fall but that of the conqueror who has defeated death itself will endure. There are strong structural resonances of this backstory with the mythological narrative of Namuci’s plotting against Indra discussed later in this chapter in which conflict is born of the enmity of Namuci towards a benign Indra in a short-lived friendship between customary adversaries, the devas and asuras. Whilst tradition tends to vilify Devadatta as an enemy, his positioning within the course of events is one of rivalry. He does not wish to ruin the dharma or thwart the progress of others, he simply wants to takes control.

2.1.3.2) Māra Pāpīmā

The second, and most important foe is Māra, who, in comparison to Devadatta presents no direct attempt to physically injure the Buddha. Māra’s method and purpose are quite different in that he seeks to prevent or curtail the spiritual career of both the Buddha and his followers in their quest to obtain the means of escaping from samsara. Texts such as the Padhāna Sutta and the Theragatha and Therigatha anthologies present narratives set in times of solitude in which the narrator is alone, perhaps seated in samādhi and exposed to the flow of strong emotions and dark thoughts. Significantly, these encounters are not presented as inner monologue but as soliloquy or inner dialogue in a manner described by Jaynes (1993, p.86-87). In this latter case, the narrator of the passage engages in silent dialogue with some other, typically unnamed, persona that finally becomes recognized as Māra. Whilst the voices may talk of death, thinking of death is not death. Traditional etymologies imbibe the name Māra with meanings of death but what basis can there be for attaching negative associations to this name as what is depicted is a momentary inner-dialogue in which thoughts ‘heard’ are perceived as being ‘spoken’ by an invisible second person.

Studies of PIE religious views may shed some light on this problem. Whilst the Vedas form the earliest stratum of written sources for Indo-European texts, these must be considered post-PIE in nature and expressive of a particular branch of IndoEuropean mythology. In the absence of concrete textual evidence, comparative mythology and linguistic evidence, as Matasović (2010) points out, provides the materials and foundation to plausibly reconstruct some of the religious ideas of the‛ speakers of the common PIE language’. Any discussion in this field is purely inductive and cannot posit any view of how such ideas were expressed or formulated, but it does have the potential to extend the understanding of the semantic value of these words. Mallory & Adams (2006) provides a comprehensive overview of the methods and conclusions presented by researchers in this field and posits the existence of a core set of PIE mythemes and narratemes. This list includes such deities as the Sky God, Goddess of the Dawn, Mother-Earth, Sun, Moon, Storm and the Divine Twins along with the key narratemes of Horse-Sacrifice, DragonSlaying, Drinks of Immortality, the World-Tree and the Battle of the Gods. Although Buddhist mythology is firmly located within a post-vedic period, the narratives depicted are, as is the case with Vedic myths, based upon pre-existing structures. With this in mind, it is reasonable to infer the possibility of the Buddhist Māra as being a similar modification of established narratives which were easily recognizable to their listening audience. What supportive evidence for this comes from the literature of PIE studies? In the absence of written texts or other artifacts from this period, arguments based upon the findings of research in the field of paleolinguistics must be considered. Amongst the discussion of the roots of some thirteen thousand modern English words, Watkins (2000, p.55) gives the root mer- as having the dual meanings of to‛ rub-away’ and to ha‛ rm’. Ordinarily, the connection between the ideas of ‘rubbingaway’ and ‘harming’ may not appear to be closely related. It is only when their expression in modern cognates is explored more deeply does the significance of this common root become apparent. Watkins points out that mer- is the root of the modern English compound word ‘nightmare’. Although the modern interpretation of this word is simply a that of a ‘bad dream’, the word ‘mare’ implies something much more. The OED gives a summary of the Germanic cognates derived from this root represented by the seldom used modern English word ‘mare’ having the primary meaning of a ‘spirit believed to produce a feeling of suffocation in a sleeping person or animal; a feeling of suffocation experienced during sleep; an oppressive or terrifying dream’.

This association with dreaming, however, is not exclusive and the term ‘mare’ with its original feminine gender inflection within English has also been described as ‘spectre’, and ‘hag’ in phrases such as the ‘mare-hag’. Such a gender inflection is not universal, as in the case of the German cognate Mahr which is masculine. The modern German cognate for nightmare, Albstraum, renders into English as ‘elfdream’. Although this association draws on a mythology more specifically Germanic in origins, it confirms the syntagmatic connection between tormented dreams and the intervention of an external, malevolent being (Grimm 1835). More recently the word nightmare’ and the contraction ‘mare’ have also been recorded as depicting‛ hindrances, obstructions and fraught situations in a manner quite similar to the Māra deeds discussed in chapter nine of the Dàoxíng itself (Source: CED). Credible sources of linguistic evidence from non Indo-European sources can also be found in the possible loan words in Sinitic languages. Scholars of paleolinguistics such as Edwin Pulleyblank (1966, p.35) have commented upon the possible influence of Indo-European languages such as Tocharian upon Shang and Zhou dynasty Sinitic, a topic further explored by Zhou (2002, 2003, 2005) and Schuster (2007). Specifically, in his study of the PIE origins of Old Chinese (OC) words, Chang (1998, p.20) suggests that the OC moa 摩 (modern mó) shares a common origin with the PIE melə (Pokorny 1953, p.716-9), meaning to mill’. Furthermore, ‛ mó 摩 also occurs in combination with nán 難 (difficulty) and zhé 折 to indicate the encounter of suffering and tribulation in a metaphoric context similar to that given above. Chang also points out one further correlation. Although the ideogram is not used for transliteration purposes, the Ancient Chinese mo 巫 (modern wū) matches the PIE mōra (Pokorny 1953, p.736), which he therefore suggests is a cognate of the modern ‛mare’ as female witch. Monier Williams (1899, p.811) ascribes the root mṛ to the origins of the word Māra but does not confine himself to exclusively Buddhist topics. His listing gives the key meanings of killing’, destroying’, death’, pestilence’, and slaying’. Again,‛ ‛ ‛ ‛ ‛ these are not behaviours easily associated with Māra himself who, in the earliest of texts, has no physical form. The associations with death and killing are to be found elsewhere in forms such as māraka (murderer or killer), māraṇa (killing, slaying, death, slaughter) and mārī (death and pestilence). In the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, for instance, King Kuvalayāswa is given the epithet ‘Dhundhu-Māra’ - the ‘Killer’ of the asura Dhundhu (Dutt 1896, p.243). The associations with death and its opposite are not confined to humans. The name of Indra’s capital is Amarāvati, ‘The Realm of Immortality’ and amongst the many epithets of the Vedic deity Kāmadeva, we find the appellations Mārā -the Destroyer and Māyī -the Deluder. Could it be the case then, that the wordMāra’ in the Buddhist context is a homophone of the ‘Māra’ of death but is based upon a related yet different verb root?

Whitney (1885, p.126-8) discusses the Sanskrit roots yakṣ and mṛd/mrad as having the core meanings ‘to press-on’ and ‘to rub-crush’. Here mṛd corresponds to the Indo-European root mer- but it is in this instance that the proximity of meaning for the root yakṣ is at its closest. Ling (1997, p.45) makes a comparison of the descriptions of yakkha and Māra which highlights some clear similarities, again the foremost being the frightful appearance during the darkness of the night. After comparing these features of the Māra mytheme, whose actions are to suppress rather than destroy or cause death, there are clear grounds pointing to the interpretation of the word Māra being derived from the root mṛd- rather than mṛ.

The Buddha, in being both human yet transcendent, is plagued by Māra, a being showing equally transcending qualities. Māra behaves like a yakṣa, and is described as such in the closing lines of the Padhāna Sutta (Snp 3.2), yet Māra is a deva-pūtra.

Unlike the Buddha, Śakra is divine, and otherworldly and so too are his enemies. Some correlation can be found which alludes to the use of the word Māra in contexts that are associated with preternatural forces of suppression, hindrance and the loss of vitality. Monier Williams lists three further entries: loha-māraka, mārī-mṛta and māriya. The loha-māraka is the personification of disease, plague and pestilence, mārī-mṛta is a spectre or apparition and māriya is something belonging to the god of love. In all instances, these are masculine words. If the Buddhist Māra mytheme is to be considered as a modification of some preexisting Vedic or Indo-European prototype then such a mytheme needs to be identified, one which shares common characteristics with the Buddhist Māra and, ideally, reference within some canonical source with alludes to a such a precursor.

2.1.3.3) Key Vedic References to Restraint and Depletion

The hymns recorded in the Vedas and their interpretation as given in the Brāhmaṇa commentaries, depict a world of physical checks and balances mythologically expressed in the conflicts between the devas and asuras. Manifestations of the forces of nature, they reflect a capricious anthropomorphous, animistic world (Thapar 1990, p.43) the effects of whose swings could be propitiated, or to some extent influenced, by the performance of sacred rites and sacrifices. If such beings were left to travel their natural courses, all would run well in both the heavens and the earth. The seasons would bring their bounty, natural disasters would be abated and life would be joyful. When things go wrong however, it is not the neglect of the devas that destroys the established balance, but the transgressions of others be they human or non-human.

In the context of the Vedas, the great ruler of the skies is Indra, the god of war, of rain, and storms (MacDonnell 1897, p.54-66). Indra is the self-manifesting deva who brings life to the land in terms of the seasonal release of flood waters running through the great rivers of the ancient Indian subcontinent. As the god of rain, his antithesis in the form of drought is mythologically personified as the asura Vṛtra (Pali: Vatra) whom Indra destroyed in order to liberate the waters of the world. Whilst Indra on numerous occasions in the Pali sources is named as Vatrabhu (the destroyer of Vatra) there is little evidence to suggest any correlation between the Vṛtra and Māra. This battle is more akin to a ‘creation myth’ which depicts the establishment of the accepted order from disorder. Above all, Indra succeeds and Vṛtra is destroyed. The entrapment of the waters is not due to any failing on Indra’s part. This does not preclude the association of Māra with any asura, and hence a traditional enemy of Indra. The connection comes through a different association that between Māra with Namuci.

2.1.3.4) Earliest Literary References to a Māra-like Personality -Namuci

The earliest Buddhist texts do not include definitive lists of qualities and characteristics but give legendary accounts of the interaction of divine and human personalities in terms of names and events. Amongst the various names ascribed to Māra is that of Namuci, a personality first encountered in the hymns of the Ṛgveda (RV 8.14.2) as an asura slain by Indra and the Maruts. A typical feature in the naming of the key foes of Indra is that all bear meanings which indicate a sort of hindrance, their structure derived from verb roots in combination with appropriate prefixes (Fowler 1942, p.36). MacDonell (1897, p.162) points out that the Sanskrit grammarian Pāṇīni gives the name Namuci as originating from the construction “na + muci” (lit. ‘non-releasing’) and thereby means ‘he who does not let (the rain) free’. Fowler, however, presents the notion of water as a symbol of the movement of the spirit and its associations of fecundity and emancipation. Doniger O’Flaherty (1981, p.160), on the other hand, suggests the more descriptive ‘demon who would not let go’ rather than using Namuci as a proper noun. The latter case is somewhat misleading as this approach tends to undermine the importance of Namuci as an enemy of Indra. Without making reference to any other sources outside of the Buddhist tradition, Buddhaghoṣa in his Suttanipata-atthakatha (ii, 386) regards the term ‘Namuci’ as an alternative name to Māra ‘because he does not allow either gods or men to escape from his clutches, but works them harm’ (Malalasekera 1938, p.31).

Within the study of Vedic myth the story of the conquest over Namuci becomes representative of the human struggle for release. Although Indra is associated with power, the root word contains overtones of the ability to be aware and responsive. As Coulson (1992, p.384) points out, ‘indriyaṃ’ denotes the faculty of the senses. For Indra to fall under the grip of Namuci it is not a matter of physical weakness but the gradual wearing away of the sensibility of Indra’s mind, the diminishing of his mental quickness and acuity of apprehension until Indra borders on a state of torpor. The connection between the clarity of the mind ( apramada) and the power for right action is confirmed as a valid backstory. In the Dhammapada, chapter 2 deals with the topic as a whole with the following two verses encapsulating the central ideas:

21. Carefulness is the place of the death-free; carelessness is the place of death. The careful do not die; the careless are as though (already) dead.

30. By carefulness Maghava (Indra) went to supremacy among the gods.

They praise carefulness. Carelessness is always blamed.

Trans. Norman (1997, p.4)

The gist of the myth contained in the Ṛgveda is as follows.

Indra (deva) and Namuci (asura) for some reason put aside the long standing differences between their races and enter into a pact to end their hostilities. Both agree that neither would attempt to kill the other, whether by day nor night or by means of anything dry or wet. A while after, Namuci saw Indra becoming weak as one day his ‘indriya flowed from every limb’ (Bloomfield 1893, p.115). Guilefully, Namuci then switches Indra’s soma, the life giving nourishment of the devas, with sura, the nourishment of the asuras which is toxic to devas. Indra becomes affected, poisoned by the effects of the sura, losing his vitality and freedom to act. Eventually, Indra becomes sick and, unable to act, falls under the grip of Namuci. Although Indra remains unaware of what has happened, Sarasvatī (the wife of Brahma) and the Aśvins (the divine horsemen), see what has Namuci has done and come to the aid of Indra, bringing a cure to rid him of the effects of the poisonous sura. Once revitalized, Indra takes his revenge upon Namuci within the terms of his pact by cutting off the head of Namuci at dawn. A time of day which is neither day nor night, and with the foam of the waters which is considered neither wet nor dry.

The core theme of this myth is that Indra becomes inhibited by the defilement of sura. Indra is not physically injured, it is his mind which is attacked. His energies are diverted, thwarted, held-back and, like still waters, become gradually sullied and stagnant. This myth then, encapsulates the eternal struggle between entrapment and release but there is no gaoler, only self-entrapment through a lack of vigilance. It is Indra himself who springs the trap by unwittingly choosing to consume the sura as he was not wary enough to notice the appearance or flavour of the sura as being different from that of soma. Then, unable to perceive the effects of the substance upon himself, Indra is totally vulnerable and, unable to release himself from the trap, depends upon the help of others.

The mythic significations of these helping devas is also important. Sarasvatī, now regarded as the goddess of knowledge, music and the arts, was during the Vedic period a river goddess, the ‘bestower of fertility, fatness and wealth’ (Dowson 1888, p.284) to be later displaced in this capacity by the goddess of the Ganges. The Aśvins are the divine horsemen, Nasatya and Dasra, born of Saranya the devi of the clouds and Sūrya the deva of the Sun. The Vedic manifestation of the PIE mytheme of the ‛divine twins’ (Ward 1968), Aśvins represent the sunrise and sunset bringing their treasures to mankind in order to alleviate the effects of illness and misfortune.

Of all the enemies of Indra, perhaps it is Namuci who is the most successful. Although he cannot hope to defeat the great hero, he takes the next best option –to thwart Indra, to place him into a listless, dormant condition. If he cannot achieve the great death, then death’s lesser brother sleep, will have to suffice. This close association of sleep and death is a strong theme in the Vedas. The Atharva-veda (AV 6.46), for instance, contains the following charm to protect against evil dreams.

1. Thou who art neither alive nor dead, the immortal child of the gods art thou, O Sleep! Varuṇāṇi is thy mother, Yama (death) thy father, Araru is thy name.

2. We know, O Sleep, thy birth, thou art the son of the divine womenfolk, the instrument of Yama (death)! Thou art the ender, thou art death! Thus do we know thee, O Sleep: do thou, O Sleep, protect us from evil dreams! Trans. Bloomfield (1899, p.167)

The image depicted above evolves around the image of a helpless sleeper who, in the same manner as the Indra-Namuci myth, is powerless to act against their condition. Only the actions of others through magic (the charm) and medicine can bring effective release.

2.1.3.5) Rain and Floods as Narratemes

Namuci is described as one who ‘holds back the flow of water’ (Bloomfield 1893,

p.144). This is an obvious reference to the adverse effect that Namuci has upon Indra who, as the lord of the sky, is the wielder of thunder and the rains that flow with it (Ions 1983, p.40). Any failing of the Moon, Sun and the gods of the sky to run in their intended courses too, outwardly manifests as unseasonable changes in weather. Natural disasters, particularly the failure of crops due to drought, are seen as the outcome of celestial disharmony (Dowson 1888, p.124). Whilst the hymns of the Vedas depict human attempts to appease the devas through offerings and blood sacrifice, the Buddhist context depicts the devas as positively disposed towards the performance of good deeds, the recognition of truth and the application of wisdom. This positive disposition and the effects of wholesome action as weather metaphors become regularly occurring themes within Buddhist metanarrative. Pali sources such as the Adhammika Sutta (AN 4.70, Woodward 1933, p.84-5) describes a direct relationship between human righteousness and the balance of the seasons. Specific references are made to the correct behaviour not simply of living creatures as a whole, but the fulfilment of the social obligations of the ruling classes in particular. Just as the harmony of the heavens is the result of the interplay of ruling forces, harmony manifested by rājas, their kin and ministers in their just rulership of their realms results in social harmony, prosperity and well-being for all. These were dependent upon right judgement combined with moral and ethical behaviour.

Rain is a key element in the narrative of the earliest period of the Buddha’s ministry. Several texts (Vin I 3; J I 80; BuA VIII 241; Ud II 1; Mtu III, 300, 302; DhSA 35, source: Malalasekera 1937, 1938) describe how the Buddha, some three weeks after his awakening, was seated in samādhi beneath the tree Mucalinda at Apālanigrodha, Uruvela. Then, as a deluge rained down, the Nāga king, also named Mucalinda, came from his realm and sheltered the Buddha in his coils and cobralike hood for a period of seven days. In the accounts of the entry of the Buddha into the city of Kapilavastu we are told that it rained. Similarly, when the Buddha first visited King Bimbisāra, a figure of extreme importance in the development of the Buddha’s śāsana, a thunderstorm arose and rain begin to fall upon the Buddha’s entry into Vajjian territory. The miracle Yamakāpāṭhāriya performed by the Buddha was a display of rain-making and elsewhere the Buddha is described as entering meditation during which a gentle rain would fall. The ability to make rain is also ascribed to a number of arhats and elders; these include Udakadāyīkā Therī (Ap II 521-2), Mahaka, (AA I 288-291), and Āyādāyaka Thera (Ap I 89-90) (source: Malalasekera, 1938). The Mudupāṇi Jātaka (J 262) associates rain with the fulfilment of wishes and the failure of rain as a sign of wrong deeds. Before delivering the Mahasupina Jataka (J 77), the Buddha explains the bad dreams experienced by King Pasenadi as a portent indicating a time ‘in the future when wicked Kings rule, rain clouds will gather, but there will be no rain’ (Kawasaki 1998). A further tale speaks of how King Bimbisāra fails to deliver on a promise to build a retreat hut for Subhūti. The rains do not fall until Bimbisāra recognizes his failing and fulfils his obligation. Similar accounts relate to Girimānanda Thera (Thag 325) and Godhika Thera (Thag 51).

2.1.3.6) Attributed Causes of Rain and Drought

Pali commentarial materials describe rain as being caused by a number of factors. In the Sāratthappakāsinī (SA II 255) an account is given of the visit of a Vassavalāhaka deva, (a god of rain, one of the five weather gods described in the Annadāyaka Sītavalāhaka Sutta, S 32.3) to an arhat in retreat in the Himalayas. Here a list of rain-making factors is given as: 1) nāgas, 2) supaṇṇas, 3) devas, 4) saccakiriyā, (‛acts of truth’ satyakryā), 5) changes in the weather, 6) Māra and 7) iddhis. By way of contrast the Vassantarāya [[[Vassa]]] Sutta (AN 5.197) gives these factors as rainstoppers: 1) the fiery element raging in the upper air, 2) excesses in the wind element, 3) Rāhu, 4) indolence of the rain clouds, and 5) the wickedness of men. In both cases changes to the rains are portrayed as the result of a mixture of physical forces and the actions of divine beings and humans. In the first set there is the conflict between the nāgas as the controller of waters that flows in the rivers, and the supaṇṇas ( suparṇa, lit. well-winged’, a euphemism for the ‛ garudas) the enemy of the nāgas . The devas should be regarded as benign and Māra (depicted both as deva and asura) as malicious. Acts of truth and the achievement of the iddhis are essentially human abilities. The second set, again exhibits a similar threefold distinction although this list does not include the nāga - supaṇṇa opposition. Here the negative function is attributed to Rāhu, a further asura enemy of Indra who, in addition to being a rain-stopper, is a schemer, born of illusion ( Maya) and someone who acts to bring about confusion. Under the earlier name of Svarbhanū, the Ṛgveda

(5.40) describes Rāhu as the bringer of eclipses; the consumer of both the Sun and Moon and so the one that brings celestial disharmony. In terms of mythic paradigms then, Rāhu, shares much of the functionality of Māra although he lacks the ability to entrap. Finally, wicked-deeds are the antithesis of saccakiriyā as the ultimate magical incantation and the power of iddhis derived from ascetic practices (Coomaraswami 1944, p.245-7).

The effects of rain and drought upon the land, especially from the viewpoint of the sustenance of new life, leads to the inclusion of a number of important metaphors within Buddhist literature. For example, the Saraṇāṇi Sutta (SN 55.25) reads ‘the Buddha’s doctrine is like a good field, well stubbed, the seeds sown there capable of sprouting and happily planted, and the sky god supplying constant rain ‘ (Source: Malalasekera 1938, p.1068). This suggests a potential early connection between language metaphors and the development of the pure lands or fields (buddha-kṣetra). Here the narrateme of the sky god’ is displaced by buddhas such as‛ Akṣobhya and Amitābha and the seeds sown’ being those of merit (‛ puṇya-saṃbhāra) and understanding (jñāna-saṃbhāra) (Nattier 2000, p.89). Rain as a metaphor for transmigration is found in the Vatthu Sutta (SN 1.54, SA 1005, SA2 231) where the Buddha is cited as saying: The creatures that dwell upon the earth Sustain their life by rain. Trans. Bodhi (2000, p.128)

This last reference resonates with the discussion given by Sastri (1963, p.293-4) in a study of Indian ancestor worship. Sastri points out how both the Chāndogya and Kauśitakī Upaniṣads describe the Moon as a gateway for the spirits of the deceased to ascend to the heavenly realms of the pitṛs (fore-fathers). Yet, this gateway is also the conduit for the return of those spirits dissatisfied with the heavens as they rain down upon the earth to become reborn again as some form of animal. For most purposes, however, the metaphoric value of rain as a benefaction takes a greater priority. The lack of rain, signified in the singular notion of drought appears not to be found. Nor is there a direct association with heat or fire and the lack of rain.

Metaphors that rely upon visions of heat and fire take a different course.


2.1.3.7) The Dualities of Fire and Water and the Mythic Opposites of Hot and Cool

Traditionally held as being given shortly after the Buddha’s awakening (Vin I 2435, source: Malalasekera 1938), the first use of fire as a metaphor occurs in the Ādittapariyāya Sutta (SN 35.25, SA197) and is used in a specific address made to a group of fire worshipping ascetics. Its use is continued in other texts such as the Andhabhūta Sutta (SN 35.29), Āditta Sutta (SN 22.61) and Kukkuḷa Sutta (SN 22.136). Rather than accepting the view held by those ascetics that fire is a purifying agent, the Buddha is described as using a stylized image of fire as a means of signifying mental agitation and lack of mindful control. This imagery is echoed elsewhere as in the Vesālī Sutta (SN 54.9, SA809) where dust, stirring heat and dryness are matched with mental disturbance, and the falling of the rain with the calming effects of the meditative practice of ānāpānasati. Imagery of the rain and the rain gods are significant narratemes in the verses of the Theragatha and Therigatha anthologies. These often portray scenarios similar to the Vesālī Sutta as in the verses of Aññākoṇḍañña (Thag 675) where the settling of the dust by rain is likened to the settling of imaginings by the action of wisdom (Norman 1995, p.67).

Theragatha

1 Subhūti
51 Goshika
52 Subāhu
53 Valliya
50 Vimala
54 Uttiya
110 Usabha
133 Rādha
325-329 Girimānda
330 Sumana
447 Sirimaṇḍa
522 Bhūta
675 Aññākoṇḍañña
985 Sāriputta
1102, 1135 Tālapuṭa
1240, 1273 Vaṅgīsa
Therigatha
55 Sukkā
487 Sumedhā

Table 6: Verses containing rain imagery in the Theragatha and Therigatha. Adverse conditions are typically described as ‘black-clouds’ (Sappaka, Thag 307), ‘thunder-clouds’ (Bhūta, Thag 522; Talakānia. Thag 760) or in similes such as ‘evil... the size of a cloud’ (Tālapuṭa, Thag 1001). Positive conditions, on the hand, are portrayed as ‘fine clouds’ (Tālapuṭa, Thag 1137) and indicate appropriate times to ‘enter the cave’ (Mahākassapa, Thag 1064). The sound of thunder, appears to be separated from the dark clouds associated with them. Such sounds are positive (Bhūtta, Thag 522; Tālapuṭa, Thag 1108) as they are the ominous sounds of Mahinda, the ‘Great Indra’ (Skt. Mahendra) (Tālapuṭa, Thag 1136). As containers fine clouds are the bearers of rains and through this positive association are metaphors for the effect of the release of the mind (Aṅgulimāka, Thag 872-873). Two verses attributed to Mahākappina express this most clearly:

548. He who has perfected, well developed, and practised indue order mindfulness of breathing, as taught by the Buddha, illuminates this world like the moon released from a cloud. 549. Truly my mind is purified, unlimited, well-developed;having penetrated and having been applied, it illuminates all the quarters. Trans. Norman (1995, p.55)

Verses telling of the efforts of number of elders such Vimala (Thag 50) begin to go beyond stylistic use as the contexts depicted indicate the emergence of a new narrateme -the dharma cloud. The key event in the tale of Vimala Thera is that he is only able to settle his mind (agitated by heat) when a vast cloud assembles and pours down its cooling rain. Other elders described as benefiting from the wholesome effects of rainfall and lightning include Subhūti (Thag 1), Sirivaḍḍha (Thag 41), and Cūlaka (Thag 211). Such references lead to the stylistic interpretation of samsara as ‘hot’ and nirvana as ‘cool’ as based upon the portrayal of personal experiences rather than the application of rhetorical stylistics.

The use of concept metaphors was vitally important in the expression of Buddhist views and should not be considered as literary devices such as simile or allegories as suggested by Guruge. Structurally, when a non-literal context is intended, the typical process is to present an analogy or parable which is embedded within direct speech and introduced as such. Furthermore, unlike concept metaphors, allegory and similes resist abstraction into the lists that form doctrinal tenets.

Concept metaphors are bound into a perception-based understanding of the world that results in the creation of tale-centred narratemes which, in turn, form the axioms of Buddhist doctrine. Amongst these is the core notion of ‘nirvana’ and its meaning ‘to extinguish’; that is, the putting-out of the fires of passions. The experience of entrapment itself is, ironically, not one related to a fixed location but motion. Existence, like fire, is fugitive, it roams. Its complement is not a process opposite but another concept metaphor: samsara, an act of ‘going’ or ‘wandering through’. In the communication of these views, Vedic mythemes are employed in the staging of Buddhist tales but they are put to different purposes. As Gombrich (1990) argues so clearly, although the teachings of the Buddha reject the fundamental assumption of brahmanic views, they develop in a number of ways as a reaction to them, adopting both terminology and ideas as and where appropriate in order to convey a unique message. Whilst the Buddha is presented as relying heavily upon metaphor in order to develop his views, Vedic thought is principally expressed through mythic structures and the performance of dharmas as rites (Olivelle 2004). The effective rejection of those rites is matched with a displacement of the old mythic order. This is not one of destruction, but transformation in which new, emerging ideas need to establish their ascendancy.

2.1.3.8) The Buddha’s Transcendence Over Vedic Mythic Polar Opposites

In order to establish the emerging supremacy’ of the Buddha within this over-‛ arching mythic environment, textual narratives do not portray the Buddha as an enemy of the core Vedic deity, Indra, but goes one step better, he is able to subdue Indra’s enemies. As divine ruler Śakra has many challengers apart from Namuci, some of which are also found in Buddhist texts. The Ṛgveda (5.40) describes Svabhānu as one who consumes the Sun. After a period of expansion, in the later brahmanas this mytheme becomes Rāhu, a bodiless, snakelike asura who seeks to bring chaos and disorder and swallows both the Sun and Moon. So far Namuci has been considered and so it is important to examine the contrast between Rāhu and Namuci. Although both are described as asuras, their modes of action are different. Namuci’s bid to defeat Indra is through poisoning. By substituting soma with sura, the method is internal. Whereas, Rahu’s actions are external as he seeks to cause disharmony in the heavens (i.e. overturn Indra’s rule) through his attacks upon others. In other words, Namuci’s actions serve to render Indra impotent whereas those of Rāhu are to make him ineffective. Unlike Namuci, however, Rāhu is never killed.

Continuing with this pre-existing narrative, the Candima Sutta (SN 2.9, SA 583, SA2 167) and Suriya Sutta (SN 2.10) relate how Rāhu’s attacks upon the Moon and Sun are the cause of both solar and lunar eclipses. As already mentioned, Śakra never completely overcomes Rāhu but, as Malalasekera (1938, pp.735-737) points out, the Samaṅgala Vilāsinī (DA I 285) and Buddhaghosa’s commentary to the Majjhima Nikāya, the Papañca Sūdanī (MA I 790) both give accounts of how the Buddha converts Rāhu to his cause. Non Vedic rain-stopping deities too, come under the Buddha’s sway. Furthermore, Malalasekera (ibid. p.291) also notes that commentaries on the Sutta Nipāta (Snp 1.10) describe the yakṣa Āḷavaka as the wielder of a great weapon named Dussāvudha; a weapon so powerful that when thrown into the air the rains would halt and crops wither for twelve years. When Āḷavaka threw Dussāvudha at the Buddha it dropped at his feet and turned into a rug.

2.1.3.9) Summary

From these references it can be seen that rain, as a manifestation of seasonal order, is a key narrative element in both Vedic and Buddhist mythology. The harmonious relationship between heaven and earth is depicted as the outcome of two factors: harmonious coexistence of devas and asuras, and harmonious existence amongst the peoples of Jambudvīpa. Acts of virtue serve as the causative forces that produce this harmony which brings about benefits shared by all. The greater power of control or influence a person has upon the lives of others, the greater the influence their moral acts have upon seasonal harmony. The Buddha as one who has perfected all moral action, has the power to influence heavenly and earthly events beyond the reproach of all opposition.

2.1.4) Namuci Within Buddhist Literature

An admixture of prose and verse, the Sutta Nipāta is a pithy collection of some seventy-one short suttas in five chapters and forms the fifth book of the Khuddaka Nikāya. Contained within this collection is the Padhāna Sutta (Snp 3.2) which offers the most direct associative reference to the mythemes of Namuci and Māra. Within the narrative of the Padhāna Sutta, Māra appears before the Buddha prior to his final awakening and attempts to thwart and redirect him; to cause him to relapse, give up the life of the śramaṇa and return to following religious observances typically presided over by brahmans. It should not be assumed that Māra, as a ‘trickster’, is directly malicious towards the Buddha. He appears to be compassionate in advising the Buddha not to strive for release from samsara, which is portrayed as impossibly difficult, but to seek a contented existence within it by accumulating merit and propitiating the beneficence of the devas. The relevant passage from the text reads:

You are emaciated and ill-looking, you are near to death! A thousand parts of you belong to death and only a fraction of you is alive. Live, good Sir! It is better to live. Living you may perform meritorious deeds. From practising celibacy and tending the sacrificial fire much merit is made, but what is obtained from striving? It is difficult to enter the path of extinction, it is difficult to do, difficult to maintain. Trans. Ireland, 1983.

Ever vigilant, the Buddha recognizes this as a ploy to distract him and immediately refutes the need for the merits afforded by brahmanic rites and affirms his resolution to remain steadfast to his vows, the practise of mindfulness, wisdom and concentration. Following this, the Buddha demonstrates his recognition by naming a list of ‘eight armies’ whose assaults are an attempt to destroy the focus of his mind. Again, the text reads:

Sensual desire is your first army, the second is called discontent, the third is hunger and thirst, the fourth craving, the fifth sluggishness and laziness, the sixth fear, the seventh indecision, and the eighth disparagement of others and stubbornness: gain, fame, honour, prestige wrongly acquired and whoever praises himself and despises others – these, Namuci, are your armies, the Dark One’s striking forces. A lazy, cowardly person cannot overcome them, but by conquering them one gains bliss.

Trans. Ireland (1983) These ‘dark armies’ do not quite match the description of the ‘Māra Host’ that comes to tempt the bodhisattva as found in later non-canonical works such as the Lalitavistara and Buddhacarita. The nature of these armies’ becomes more clearly‛ related to what can be considered to be a literary allegory as these portray the difficulties encountered by the bodhisattva in his attempt to sit in an uninterrupted state of samādhi. In a number of respects these are more comparable to the later list of the fetters (saṃyojana) which inhibit the śramaṇa’s effective practice of bhāvana.

As the title of the text, Padhāna, suggests, the central theme of this short text is ‛the struggle’ of Siddhārtha Gautama, intent upon finding the means of escaping the grip of death. This Māra-Namuci, has come to fill Siddhārtha with soporific thoughts that will lead him towards sinking back into the attachment to brahmanic rites. This abandonment of self-determination, of becoming lazy’ and cowardly’‛ ‛ has clear parallels to the situation of Indra in the Vedic myth. Furthermore, if such rites are considered to be fire worshipping, there is possible narrative connection with the Ādittapariyāya Sutta mentioned above.

In addition to the Padhāna Sutta of the Sutta-Nipāta, there is a second sutta with the same name found in the Aṅguttara-Nikaya (4.13, SA 875-876). Consisting of an address made by the Buddha to a group of disciples, the text provides a descriptive listing of the four exertions (cattārimāni sammappadhānāni) which are considered to be the basis of the seventh branch of the Eightfold Path. In terms of narrative structure, the most significant part of this lesser known text is the closing verse, which again draws together Māra and Namuci with a common thematic basis, torporific entrapment. The verse reads:

By right exertion they have conquered Māra’s realm:

Freed, they have passed beyond the fear of birth and death:

Those happy ones have vanquished Māra and his host And, from all power of Namuci escaping, are in bliss.

Trans: Woodward (1982, p.15)

Based upon references to commentarial materials, Malalasekera, Ling and others have consistently held that Namuci is another name for Māra yet pose no further questions as to the textual origins of this association. The narrative of the Padhāna Sutta develops by the Buddha saying that he is approached by and spoken to by

Namuci, following which Māra, the narrator says, becomes the recipient of the Buddha’s rebuke. The closing statement returns to Namuci yet we are told that the hindrances to progress are the armies of Kanha, ‘The Dark-One’ an earlier Vedic name for Kṛṣṇa. This association too, is based in mythic narrative. Kṛṣṇa is depicted in the Mahābhārata one who, as Wilkins (1882, p.184) points out, was not above‛ employing deception, and leading others to do it too’. This, drawing together with a second existing mytheme leads to the conclusion that the compiler of the Padhāna Sutta wants the reader to create associations from two distinct and recognizable mythemes, as narratemes, (i.e. narrative paradigms) in order to coalesce in the formation of a third – Māra.

The three remaining devices contained in the text, muñja grass, the crow and the stone, and the vinā may go some way in consolidating the connection with death. The function of the muñja narrateme in this sutta has already proved a topic of speculation (Shrader 1930). The text describes the Buddha saying that he wears‛ muñja grass’ of which there are two interpretations. Ireland explains that warriors wore muñja in their headgear to indicate ‘that they were prepared to die in battle and determined not to retreat’. This is an ambiguous interpretation. Preparation to die implies personal defeat, whereas not retreating implies the intent to succeed. Shrader (1930, p.109) suggests an insightful alternative. The wearing of a ring or belt constructed of muñja not only signifies an intent, but as vrata (religious vow) it furnishes divine power. References to the creation of such bands, the magical use of muñja to obtain strength and the power of soma are found in key brahmanic texts such as the Kṛṣna Yajur Veda (TS V 1.9, V 1.10), the Manusmṛti (MS 2.34, 2.164) and the Ṛgveda. (RV 1.161). In effect then, the wearing of bands of muñja is to imbue the wearer with a magical power capable of instilling fear in the enemies of the wearer which here are the mythic embodiments of death and entrapment within the process of becoming. The imagery of death is then extended in the narrateme of the crow, which Ireland translates as:

“For seven years I followed the Lord step by step but did not find an opportunity to defeat that mindful Awakened One. A crow flew around a stone having the colour of fat: ‘Can we find even here something tender? May it be something to eat?’

Not finding anything edible the crow left that place. As with the crow and the stone, we leave Gotama, having approached and become disheartened.” Found within a wide range of Indo-European myths, the crow or raven, as a carrion eater, is often associated with death, and more specifically within Buddhist mythology, the charnel ground. In the description of the cemetery contemplations’‛ (Pali: nava sīvathikā-manasikāra). The Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta (DN 32) and the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta (MN 10) both describe crows as being amongst those creatures eating the abandoned bodies of the dead. Although these passages suggests the narrative function of the crow, some consideration needs to be given as to why the stone would be of appeal to the bird. Verses from the Theragatha attributed to Mahākāla (Thag 2.16) describes a cemetery scene in which a large and swarthy, crow-like woman prepares a corpse for cremation by breaking up the body (Norman 1969, p.20). Based upon such imagery, one possible interpretation of the fat coloured stone spoken of in the Padhāna Sutta is that it depicts a stone for breaking up corpses and the fat colour described derives from flesh debris on the stone itself. The last of these three items is the vīṇā or lute’ mentioned in the following‛ passage, again taken from Ireland’s translation: Overcome by sorrow his lute fell from his arm and thereupon the unhappy spirit disappeared from that place.

In rendering the complete passage into English language cultural equivalents, Ireland diminishes the importance of two significators: the lute’ is the Indianvinā and the ‘spirit’ is a yakka (yaksha). The possession of the vinā is not mentioned in other versions of the temptation of the Buddha and so it leads to the conclusion that the author of the Padhāna Sutta wishes to make an association. The vīṇā is the invention of Nārada, a son of Brahmā who, as depicted within brahmanic myth, was often meddlesome and quarrelling (Wilkins 1900, p.383, Dowson 1888, p.218-9). Other accounts (Divejar & Tribhuwan 2001, p.30) suggest that the vīṇā, more properly called the Rudra-vinā, was created by the Vedic atmospheric deva, Rudra, the Howler’ (MacDonnell 1887, p.77). The ‛ Ṛgveda depicts Rudra as a fierce deity and amongst the number of descriptions made of him are the man-slayer’ (RV 1.114),‛ ‛the lord of Animal Sacrifice’ (RV 1.43), one who bears swift arrows’ (RV 2.33) and‛ ‘strong bow’ (RV 7.46). If Indra is the atmospheric deity that brings life through the flowing of water in rain and river, then Rudra brings destruction through its excesses as storm. Yet, as Chakrabarty (1986, p.3) emphasizes, Rudra combines in‛ himself the malevolent and benevolent, terrific and pacific, the demoniac and angelic features’. Rudra, unlike Indra, does not engage in warfare with demonic enemies, nor is he associated with the warlike activities of his sons, the Maruts. Whilst Indra is worshipped for protection, Rudra, as lord of storm, disaster and disease is worshipped in order to ‘preserve from calamity’ (McDonnell 1897, p.76). The Śatarudriya section of the Yajurveda, contains recitations that call upon Rudra to hold the falling of his arrows’ (Sivaramurti 2004, p.13-16). A comparison of this‛ imagery with that of non-canonical works such as the Buddhacarita, and Lalitavistara gives some striking parallels. The sky turns dark and Māra, as the leader of an army of sons and demons, fires arrows of mental poison at the seated Buddha and seeks to move him through a process of fear (Johnson 1972, p.194-202). Curiously, the Buddhacarita depiction also contains a reference to a dark woman, much like that found in the Theragatha described above.

Johnston’s translation gives:

But a woman, black as a cloud, with a skull in her hand, wandered about there unrestrainedly and did not remain still, with the intention of deluding the great seer’s heart, and resembling the intelligence of a man of inconstant mind wandering uncertainly among the various sacred traditions. Finally, the Padhāna Sutta in referring to the constant following of the bodhisattva step by step’ over a period of seven years, offers a somewhat different‛ modus operandi for Māra than generally depicted. Rather than a series of intermittent or even singular and powerful temptations, the image created is one of continuous interference and malaise. So, as a paradigmatic mytheme, who precedes whom? Does Māra precede Namuci, or vice versa? Certainly the text ends with the disheartening of Māra and his disappearance. But what happens to Namuci? Rather than taking the traditionally held view that Namuci is another name for Māra, the names should be take taken as structurally related mythemes.

In many respects both Namuci and Māra are genuine tricksters in the Jungian sense. Within the broader structure of such trickster-hero narratives, the trickster character attempts to thwart the hero by bringing confusion, typically representative of some primitive state of mind. The eventual effect, however, is to re-motivate or reinvigorate the hero into fulfilling the original purpose of his quest. Both Namuci and Māra work to control the mind of the hero, to draw him back into a more primitive, less potent state of mind. As Jung (1971, p.142) himself writes on the reaction to the onslaughts of the trickster: Only when his consciousness reached a higher level could he detach the earliest state from himself and objectify it, that is, saying anything about it. So long as his consciousness was itself trickster-like, such a confrontation could obviously not take place. It was possible only when the attainment of a newer and higher level of consciousness enabled him to look back on a lower and inferior state. (Trans. Hull)

The wholesale adoption of a fundamentally Vedic depiction of a trickster-type mytheme brings with it an entourage of other symbolic associations that could distract from the significances assigned within the emerging Buddhist context. The outcome then, was the development of a variant mytheme to which qualities could be added through a process of amalgamating recognized mythic narratives. The contrastive feature between the two sets of mythic polarities of the MāraBuddha and Namuci-Indra is that whilst the latter are both devatā and so of fine material existence, their actions bring about a physical consequence (the release of rains which cause fertility of the land thereby ensuring physical and material wellbeing of the people of Jambudvīpa). The Buddha, on the other hand, is physically seeking to effect an immaterial outcome’; that is, to lead the escape from samsara‛ and to surpass the devas themselves. For others to share in this felicity, his rains‛ must fall’, whereby wholesome roots grow’ into the fruits of the path’.‛ ‛ At this point, the key narrative elements of these two parallel myths can be abstracted and drawn together into a Saussurean paradigmatic-syntagmatic matrix which links the myths within a structural, linguistic framework. Reducing the tales to a single syntagm encapsulates common narratemes and also suggests a structural framework with which to compare later narratives. In this case the key narratemes as paradigms can be seen to form pairs of opposites focused around the hero’ as a‛ central character. These are: trickster – helper, ploy – resolution, beguilement – outcome, and inhibition – benefit.

Syntagm: ‘Using a deceptive ploy, the trickster beguiles the hero who becomes entrapped but, with the vision and help of others, the hero is released to vanquish his foe and re-establish order.’


Drawing upon the above structures, these tales can be rephrased in prose as in the following story synopses.

Indra-Namuci

Following a period of hostility, Namuci (an asura) and Indra (a deva) enter into a peace pact. Whilst Indra is in an honest quest for peace, Namuci is not. In order to defeat Indra, Namuci swaps Indra’s power giving soma for sura, a substance toxic to the devas. Unaware of this switch, Indra drinks the sura and gradually loses his power and his ability to rule wanes. Prajāpati and the Aśvins see through Namuci’s ploy and make Indra aware of it as well as giving Indra some restorative medicine. His strength regained, Indra kills Namuci and is able to continue in his rule.

Bodhisattva-Māra

Following a seven year period of harsh ascetic practices, the bodhisattva sits beneath the tree at Uruvela, resolved to find his avowed goal of overcoming death. Whilst sitting in samādhi, he is approached by Namuci who comes with some caring advice. He urges the bodhisattva to give up the hard path and observe brahmanic rites. The bodhisattva’s mind engages in doubts and apparitions appear before him that have the potential to cause the bodhisattva to break his vow. Seeing these forces at work for himself, the bodhisattva recognizes these as the work of his foe and, in being seen, Namuci is named as Māra, who then vanishes leaving the bodhisattva to continue with his divine mission. These narratives begin to paint a picture in which being awake, watchful and heedful is the means by which Māra is overcome and the process of death overturned. To confirm this relationship between wakefulness and freedom from death and somnolence and death-entrapment, alternative sources need to be examined in order to validate this hypothesis. For the purpose of this discussion two texts will be considered, the Devadūta Sutta (MN 130, MA 64) and the Dhammapada.

In the Devadūta Sutta the Buddha speaks of his ability to see Yama, quizzing the recently deceased as to their wrongful actions. When these are pointed out, the deceased claims that they were heedless’ or unaware’ (‛ ‛ pamāda) in the sense that they did not see what was going on. The text then compares these destinies of the heedless with the heedful. The heedless go to hell, whereas the heedful go to the heavens and beyond. The Dhammapada voices similar sentiments.

21. The Path to the Deathless is awareness; Unawareness, the path of death.

They who are aware do not die.

Those who are unaware are as dead.

Trans. Carter & Palihawadana, 2000. In the same chapter there is also a connection between Indra (Maghavan) and heedfulness.

30. By Awareness, Maghavan

To Supremacy among the gods arose.

Awareness they praise;

Always censured is unawareness.


This failure to maintain awareness’ or heedlessness is elsewhere translated as‛ ‛carelessness’ (Norman 1997), unwatchfulness’ (Mascar‛ ó 1973), thoughtlessness’‛ (Muller 1881) and negligence’ (Fronsdal 2006). These interpretations give weight to‛ the significance of prescience and the sense of understanding and anticipating the interplay of moral cause and experiential effect being viewed as personal assault in a hellish prison or in a realm of heavenly joy.


2.1.5) Other Māra Associations

2.1.5.1) Prajāpati, the God of Creation

In addition to the names Namuci and Kanha, Malalasekera (1938, p.619) also gives the following, alternative names for Māra: Adhipati (Ruler), Antaka (the End), Pamattabandhu (Friend of the Careless), and Pajāpati (Lord of Progeny, Prajāpati). Apart from pāpīmā (the wicked, the evil), Malalasekera adds three further epithets: anatthakāma, ahitakāma and ayogakkhemakāma which express various aspects of wishing ill, bale and the privation of the bliss of tranquillity. Examination of the first set of names suggest that these serve to establish identity, whereas the second set relate to the narrative function of Māra. In the traditionally accepted fourfold description of Māra, the Māra of Death is the most commonly identified form. Although narratives depict the young prince Siddhārtha Gautama pondering over the means of ending the sufferings of all living creatures, more specifically this is the fear of the degeneration of well-being, decrepitude and death. Ironically, these sufferings belong to the living and not the dead as life is the necessary precondition for mortality. Within the Buddhist theory of conditioned existence, death is not an end but a threshold or process of transition in a continuous cycle of transmogrification. Death then, is relative to individuated existence and arises from the precondition of birth. Birth and death are the basic mythic binary opponents. In terms of mythic personae, the existence of Māra as the process of death is balanced by Prajāpati (Bōnàhétí 波那和提, mentioned in the opening paragraphs of chapter 3, 431a01) as the creator of life. Malalasekera (1938, p.97) points briefly to this correlation because of Prajāpati’s ‘power over all creatures’ but goes no further in his elaboration. Although the primal creator is initially unnamed in the Ṛgveda, the conceptual connection between Prajāpati and the origins of the human condition is established. The text reads:

10 O Prajapati, lord of progeny, no one but you embraces all these creatures. Grant us the desires for which we offer you oblation. Let us be lords of riches.

Trans. Doniger O’Flaherty (1981, p.28)

If the assumption is made that Prajāpati, as with the other Vedic deities, is derived from pre-existing PIE mythic prototypes, then a potential relationship between Māra, Prajāpati and Kṛṣṇa can be hypothesised based upon a comparison of parallels found in the cosmogonies of other Indo-European mythologies. In the Hellenic Orphic tradition Phanes, otherwise known as Protogonos, is the creator of all things and arises from the silver primal egg which is the chaos of all elements (Guthrie 1993, p.80). Amongst the various names of this original being, there is that of Eros, the deity of sexual desire. Within the Ṛgveda, the first being arises from the Hiraṇyagarbha, the golden-embryo or egg (Donigger O’Flaherty 1981, p.27). This latter correspondence is significant as there is, as mentioned earlier, the association of Māra with Krṣna, who is also the god of desire. Prajāpati appears on a number of occasions in Buddhist sutras including the opening of chapter three of the Dàoxíng itself. From the standpoint of the mythology, Prajāpati is held to be the originator of life that gives rise to those living creatures which are subject to forces that bind them to the wheel of conditioned becoming. This topic emerges in the narrative of the Mūlapariyāya Sutta (MN 1, EA 44.6, MA 106) where the Buddha rejects the view that the purpose of the spiritual path is to seek spiritual communion with the agent that first causes entrapment as some means of escape. Logically then, Prajāpati is necessarily the basis of Māra. In other words, Prajāpati is the initial force of origination whereas Māra is the necessary, co-emergent force of containment.

2.1.5.2) Yama, the God of Death

The four categories of Māra include death (Maraṇa-māra) yet the mythic associations with Māra typically found in early canonical narratives do not associate Māra with the Vedic god of death, Yama. This dissociation is not surprising when it is considered that Yama is the key deity of the Ṛgveda who leads the souls of the deceased on the journey to the realm of the ancestors and, like Indra, is worthy of sacrifice and offerings (Doniger O’Flaherty 1981, p.44).

Whilst Yama as the god of death is grim, he is not evil but impartial and benign (Malalasekera 1938, p.681). Yama holds power over all samsara from his ministry adjacent to the gates of the great prisons of naraya, or hells’. The ‛ Devadutta Sutta (Nanamoli & Bodhi 2001, p.1029-1036) encapsulates elements of Vedic ideas relating to Yama presented in a manner suited to Buddhist metanarrative. In this text the Buddha is presented as describing the process whereby the consciousness of the deceased is led by divine messengers to Yama’s presence, who then determines their future destiny based upon the balancing forces of the deceased’s good and bad past moral actions. There is no deception of the deceased as Yama speaks of the importance of action and its results. Yama even goes so far as to acknowledge that the only means of effectively circumventing his power is to follow the teachings of the Buddha. The ending of the description consists of the Buddha stating that this understanding is uniquely his own. Although there is no overlap in the functions of the Māra and Yama mythemes, there are, however, some structural parallels between the accounts of Māra and Yama. The Padhāna Sutta describes the Buddhas as emaciated … ill-looking… and near death’ (Ireland 1965), and within both texts‛ there are encounters between emissaries, devas, a revelation of truth and its consequence, and an underpinning metanarrative of ongoing journeying. These parallels, along with their syntagm can be summarized in the following matrix.

Syntagm: ‛As the end approaches, emissaries appear to lead the traveller onwards to a place where he sees the truth, after which he continues on his journey.’

The tale of the spiritual journey of Siddhartha Gautama becoming a buddha is terminated by two events: the aspiration to overcome death, and the awakening to Māra. These are, for narrative purposes, the story dilemma and its resolution although this relationship is not superficially apparent. At first a physical resolution may be expected for the physical process. Although Māra is death personified, his defeat does not result in everlasting corporeal existence. The effect of awakening’‛ to Māra was to neutralize the experience of entrapment as the fear of doom as referred to in the closing verses of the Devadūta Sutta. Indeed, the life story of the Buddha ends with his death, which is not depicted as some dreadful fate but the opportunity to obtain complete release from the bonds of transmigration. Based upon such reasoning, Maraṇa-māra can be considered to be the process of dying, although not necessarily a process of entrapment.

2.1.5.3) Further Associations Between Māra and Death

The image of Māra leading with questions possibly relates to the content of the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta (MN16, DA2) in which Māra is described as approaching the Buddha shortly after his awakening as he sat beneath the Ajapala Banyan-tree at Uruvela. Māra is depicted as plaguing the Buddha, who had now found release from the compulsion to become reborn, with the temptation that he should let himself die. This raises a number of issues relating to the nature of Māra which, arguably, could be the basis for the association of Māra with death by suicide. Māra’s work is not to bring about untimely death in the sense of limiting the lifespan. Although Māra is described as ‘pāpīmā’ or ‘wicked’ this is purely within the context of ‘dharma-denial’. The death which Māra urges is not to drive those whom he tempts into pain but the encouragement for them to seek speedy release from their personal, physical sufferings on the path to becoming a buddha. The temptation presented is to ‘lay down the burden’ and to enter parinirvāṇa without engagement in any salvific mission. When Deva-putra-māra approaches, it is only to those who have already completed the path of the arhat, Māra’s enticement is for them to go the whole way, to enter into parinirvāṇa and never return. Personal death is inevitable and even Māra himself is ultimately mortal. Death alone, therefore, is not the ‘work of Māra’, there needs to be an ulterior motive. The ‘death’ produced by Māra’s works is to bring the transmission of the buddha dharma to an end. This, of course, relates back to the deeds of Namuci as one who sought to incapacitate Indra by replacing soma with sura. Consequently, the encounter mentioned above in Uruvela sets the paradigm as the Buddha himself denies entry into parinirvāṇa until such time that his teaching as śāsana as ‛royal edict, grant, charter’ (MonierWilliams 1899, p.1069) is firmly established.

2.1.5.4) The Mahāsamaya Sutta (DN 20, DA19, T 19, SA 1192, SA2 105)

The association of Māra with Namuci is also referred to in the Mahāsamaya Sutta; a topic raised by Malalasekera (1938, p.619) and briefly discussed by Ling (1997, p.55). In referring to commentarial sources, Malalasekera puts forward the view that Māra was simply the companion of a group of asuras which included Namuci. Re-examination of the sutta itself, however, does not lead to such an interpretation. The Mahāsamaya Sutta depicts a scenario in which the Buddha places himself above all the devatā common to both Vedic and popular religious culture. Namuci, as a key figure within the Vedic asura mythos, is listed as being present amongst the sixty groups of assembled devas that honour the Buddha. This list does not include Māra whose arrival along with his army is given at the end of the sutta. In spite of trying to bind and terrify the assembly, nothing was achieved and so Māra left. There is no direct association in the sutta between Māra and Namuci. So, should the connection given in the commentaries be considered apocryphal? Perhaps not. This lack of relation is not surprising, as the function of this text is to establish the position of the Buddha as universal refuge thereby giving weight to the epithet devâtideva, the ‛God of Gods’. Whilst the list of names of the various Vedic deities given in the Mahāsamaya Sutta is quite comprehensive, it ought be pointed out that Namuci was, according to the Vedic texts, killed by Indra. The presence of such devatās then, must be considered to be representative of all possible notions of the divine and demonic, one which can be deduced as being aimed at supporting a paradigm shift within familiar mythological narratives.

2.1.5.5) Later Encounters of the Buddha and Māra

The narratives found in sutras speak of subduing and allaying the approaches of Māra, rather than some crushing defeat or destruction. The traditional depiction of the Buddha’s defeat of Māra at Uruvela is quite unlike the demise of the asura Namuci in that Māra lives on to fight another day’. The destruction of Māra cannot‛ occur as the various forms of Māra depict the entrapped samsāric nature of being due fundamentally to avidyā, a state of dream-like unawareness, in contrast to the Buddha as the embodiment of freedom and bodhi, the state of awakening. As binary mythic opposites, the Buddha and Māra do not exist independently of each other. So, why does the Buddha constantly encounter Māra if Māra is, as Guruge (1997, p.28) suggests, a mere ‛allegorical representation’? How can the Buddha enter into various dialogues with a metaphor in contexts which do not contribute to the mythology of the quest, contexts in which there is no defeating of the ‘enemy’ but simply recognizing and acknowledging specific negative states of mind? This recognizing, the ‘awakening’ to Māra, is the goal of the quest but this awakening is no terminus. As the earliest texts relate, following the Buddha’s awakening he was still prone to Māra’s ‘attacks’. Māra is known and turned away, but never defeated as in the sense of some final destruction or eradication.

Scenarios containing such personal, post-awakening encounters between the Buddha and Māra occur less frequently within later Mahayana literature and not as direct temptation of the Buddha himself but of those seeking out awakening. Within the Dàoxíng, Māra is significant in absentia. The view depicted in these texts is that the Buddha is laukutara, a transcendent being free from the potential for defilement. Such views are most likely due to Mahāsaṃghika influences which perceived the Buddha as ‘otherworldly, perfect and free from all sufferings (Dutt 1998, pp.71-76). Both the Theravādins and Sārvastivādins, on the other hand, did not hold such views. The Pali Mahāvaṃsa describes how this issue was one at the core of the disputes dealt with at the Third council, held at the Aśokarama, Pataliputra, circa. 250 BCE. The inclusion of the Māra Suttas in the Pali canon is evidence to support the viewpoint that the Buddha could still be open to temptation but not fall victim to it.

2.2) Māra, from Deva to Demon

As this thesis deals with the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñā-pāramitā Sūtra in Chinese translation, some examination needs to be made of the efforts taken by Chinese translators to render the name Māra in a manner suited to their target audience. Superficially such changes may not appear to be critical in contributing to understanding the role of Māra in any individual sutra, but collectively, these can be considered to contribute to the establishment of a modified view of the Māra mytheme. This is particularly important when subsequent generations of scholars have no redress to urtexts in order clarify contextual meaning. The Dàoxíng uses ‘Bìmó’ 弊魔 to name Māra with other uses of the character including

‘Móluówǎng’ 魔羅網 (Hirakawa 1997, p.1271) to denote Māra-pāsa (Māra’s Net), and ‘Móshì’ 魔事 for the Māra-karmāṇi, the ‘deeds’ or ‘work’ of Māra. Analysis of the character chosen by the translator-scholars to render the IndicMāra’ goes some way to clarify the value of adopting the Chinese due to its association with a class of wicked, malevolent spirits and the practice of evil magic. Luó 羅 on the other hand is a character used almost exclusively to render the Sanskrit sound ‘ra’ although the specific meaning of the character is that of a net for catching birds. If ‘Māra’ were phonetically transcribed using those characters most generally associated rather than by the conventionalized binome, then Móluó 摩羅 would be expected or any similar homophone such as Mòluó 莫羅, Móluó 磨羅 or Mǒluó 麼羅 (Soothill and Hodous 1937). The following list of words exemplify how the term is used (source: Hàn Yīng Cídiǎn 汉英词典 1986, p.479):


魔怪 móguài demon, monster or fiend

魔鬼 móguǐ devil, demon or monster

魔窟 mókū den of monsters

魔力 mólì magical power, charm

魔術 móshù magical arts

魔王 mówáng ‘Prince of the Devils

魔掌 mózhǎo devil’s clutch

魔杖 mózhàng magic wand

魔爪 mózhǎo devil’s claws

Table 7: Binomes employing the character.

As the choice for name words in Chinese is often made on the basis of assigning personal characteristics to the objects labelled, it would therefore, be reasonable to assume that mó is a name-word ascribing a personal quality, in this case, a harmful spirit. What subsequently occurs, however, is a gradual disassociation of Māra from a preceding Buddhist mythos in which Māra is not described in any grotesque way, to one in which Māra becomes a demon or devil. Although the Sinitic culture into which Buddhism was being transplanted had an eager audience, Sinitic and Indo-European cultures do not share a common root either linguistically or mythologically. Naturally then, some level of disjunction is inevitable to the point that the Māra mytheme in later East-Asian Buddhism becomes sidelined in favour of myths more in keeping with established Sinitic narratives. In effect, an alteration in the signifiers used in the translation of the syntagm results in a diachronic change in meaning.

The fundamental immateriality of Māra should not be overlooked. Māra was described as the Mahāntam Yakṣam in later works such as the Mahāvaṃsa (MV II 260 10; 261 11) which connects Māra to a class of spirits, but not necessarily grotesque (De Caroli 2004). With this in mind, English translations of works from Chinese sources describing Māra have erroneously rendered Mó as a noun so giving ‘demon’ or ‘devil’ unlike those scholars who have worked from Sanskrit sources who consistently render Māra as a proper noun. It may appear to be a purely semantic argument to object to such terms but the impact is felt greatest due to the secondary associations which tend to lead the reader into assuming that such demons and devil are a class of living beings seeking to harm or injure the pursuer of the path. Within the western mythos, a demon or devil is a fallen angel’, an evil‛ creature associated with the underworld and hell as exemplified in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 391. Such associations are not correctly applied to Māra who after all, is also depicted as the ruler of the highest realm of the kāma-dhātu which therefore makes him a deva. As discussed earlier, the lord of the underworld taken from brahmanic mythology is Yama, the King of the Dead, whose name is generally rendered in Chinese as Yánmówáng 閻魔王, ‘The Demon Gate King’, a partially phonetic rendering where again the meaning of the words give some indication of personality and function. But again, like Māra, Yama is a mythologized force, a deva, who does not act in any threatening or overtly destructive way although his iconographic depiction is often typified as a fearsome or wrathful rakṣa-like being.

Finally, weight is added to the arguments that Māra was simplistically depicted as some kind of devil when the Chinese translations of predominantly Āgama works are considered in which the glyph 磨 (mó) is used for transliteration purposes.

With its meaning of rubbing or grinding upon stone’ it shares much of the‛ functional implications of the Indic root mṛd described which also has the meaning of rubbing-away’. Whilst it is purely speculative, perhaps the suggested reading of‛ 磨 as occurs due to the implication of 磨 as a polishing process that produces a desirable result unlike mṛd which has connotations of erosion. The use of 磨 within classical Chinese literature serves to illustrate this difference: 緇衣 24 《 詩》云:『自圭之玷,尚可磨也;斯言之玷,不可為也。』

Zi Yi (24)

It is said in the Book of Poetry (III, iii, ode 2, 5),

“A flaw in mace of white jade may

By patient toil be ground away; But for a flaw we make in speech, What can be done?

‘Tis past our reach.”

大學 4

詩》云:「瞻彼淇澳,菉竹猗猗。有斐君子,如切如磋,如琢如磨。瑟兮僩兮,赫兮喧兮。有斐君子,終不可諠兮!」

Da Xue (4):

In the Book of Poetry, it is said, “Look at that winding course of the Qi, with the green bamboos so luxuriant!

Here is our elegant and accomplished prince! As we cut and then file; as we chisel and then grind: so has he cultivated himself.

How grave is he and dignified!

How majestic and distinguished!

Our elegant and accomplished prince never can be forgotten.”

Trans. James Legge


2.3) Conclusions

Based upon Buddhist textual sources, the study of the Māra mytheme typically focuses upon Māra as death and the entrapment within samsara. In looking for a potential prototype for the emergence of the Māra mytheme some evidence is provided in the earliest texts which associate Māra with pre-existing mythemes found the Ṛgveda. Canonical commentaries discuss the origins of the name Māra originating from a root whose meaning is death, but a second root implying a process or rubbing-away or pounding, offers a potential alternative. Examination of the evidence derived from contemporary linguistic research into Pro-IndoEuropean language would suggest the possibility that the word Māra is derived from the notion of a ‘vexing-spirit’ that appears in the night as being more apt in which the spirit attempts to sap, or rub-away the living energies of its victim. When this process of ruination is applied in uniquely Buddhist narratives, it relates to contexts in which those in pursuit of the buddha dharma face circumstances which have the potential to deny the Māra-victim success in reaching their goal.

3 Māra in the Dàoxíng

The text of the Dàoxíng contains some one hundred and forty-six references to Māra distributed across ten fascicles. Regardless of this however, there is no single incident in the narrative of the text in which Māra directly intervenes either in the presence of the Buddha or as an ill-willing apparition before any of the attendees in the manner encountered in the earliest stratum of texts examined previously. An event in chapter 3 of the Dàoxíng, does describe Māra preparing to charge the assembly in a chariot drawn by four horses, (434a02) but only as one of a series of ill-wishers towards the Buddha’s teaching who become unwittingly thwarted in their plans through the power of Indra simply thinking of prajñā–pāramitā . For the aspiring bodhisattvas gathered in the assembly, those to whom Subhūti addresses his remarks in the opening chapter of the Dàoxíng, there are no vast hordes of demons, troupes of erotic maidens or fantastical visions of armies and malevolent spirits. Neither, as his comment suggests, does a bodhisattva find anything. There is no apparent gain, at least in terms of what the aspirants may have first imagined this to be. Sarvajñā is no ‘superknowlege’ but an empathetic responsiveness (i.e. compassion) which arises from samādhi. The concerns over progress upon the path voiced by Subhūti depict images of uncertainty, doubt and fear in a pattern that has resonances with the classification of Māra as defilement. Yet, the discourse makes little attempt to engage in introspection or the classification of these experiences but maintains the mythopoeic approach of portraying angst as the result of essentially external forces. There are no voices in the dark, but a movement away from the depiction of the approach of Māra as actual conflict to something more subtle in which the portrayed scenarios reflect observations in life in the sense of the possible negative experiences of establishing a footing in the religious life familiar to the listening audience. As will be seen, the móshì 魔事, as the works or deeds of Māra, are attempts to thwart the transmission of the bodhisattva method and the realization of its pursuit, portrayed as his interference through compounding the effects of desire and expectation. The outcomes of these conflicts are not portrayed as arising out of the wilful actions of those concerned but the manipulation of their thoughts by Māra as a paranirmita deva.

In the Dàoxíng the accounts of Māra’s exercise of power over miraculous transformations and his will over the natural elements is restricted to nested tales, as in chapters 28 and 29 that deal with the story of Sadāprarudita and his quest for his teacher, Dharmodgata Bodhisattva. Chapter 9 of the sutra (see appendices for a complete translation), focuses upon the works of Māra although there is no appearance of Māra. Its overall purpose is, as Onishi (1999) remarks, a polemic against bad teaching and the degeneration of the student-mentor relationship.

Referring back to the opening paragraphs of the Dáoxìng provides some indication as to this change of vein. The narrator informs the reader that the assembly is gathered to hear the Buddha speak but the Buddha nominates Subhūti to talk first. The gathering is there to receive further teachings on the prajñāpāramitā, but rather than presenting something extra or speaking in support of some previous view, Subhūti takes the discussion in a somewhat different direction.

The placement of these additional comments into the opening paragraphs of the sutra, it is reasonable to assume, are in reaction to some fundamental assertion or understanding which is not directly stated in the text, but can be implied by the process of narrative serialization. This is a process in which the Dàoxíng becomes an integral part of a broadening spectrum of Buddhist mythic narratives in which familiar themes and ideas are developed and progressed into new areas. By transferring the responsibility of making the opening remarks to Subhūti there is a fundamental shift in the point of address. As the persona of the Buddha is taken to be a being who has already completed the path, the sutras portray his teaching strategy as presenting visions of that path in variety of methods (upāya-kauśalya) adapted to suit the acumen of his followers.

A notable characteristic feature of the time frame of the earliest Mahayana sutras is that they are typically situated in a period following the awakening of Siddhārtha Gautama. Few, if any, instances present narratives depicting his personal pursuit of the path. The Buddha’s concern then, and therefore standpoint from which he speaks in the Dàoxíng, is that of a guide. Subhūti, on the other hand, as a disciple speaks from the viewpoint of the follower. These two perspectives, then result in two differing, but not opposing, lines of discourse. The Buddha is depicted as sure and authoritative, a characteristic that is emphasized by the doctrinal presumption that ordinary men are unable to realize the truth of the path for themselves. Since this is a path difficult to encounter and even harder to complete, the picture that develops is one in which members of the assembly are harbouring lingering doubts. This is portrayed in the narrative of chapter 1 where Śāriputra’s thoughts contain uncertainties over whether it is Subhūti himself that speaks, or the Buddha speaking through the mouth of Subhūti due to his spiritual powers (much like Māra’s ability to enter the minds of others in a negative way). But, Subhūti knows the thoughts in Śāriputra’s mind and makes it clear that all those who possess insight also have the power to speak like a buddha. This singular act situates the remainder of the discourse as originating in the domain of the ordi nary man, rather than in the sphere of some distant realm as in the case presented in Chapter 16 of the Saddharma-puṇḍarīka-sūtra (Watson 1993, p.xix). The sequence in which the narrative of the Dàoxíng engages in the process of textual serialization can be summed up as follows. 1. Opening Context The assembly wants to hear more about prajñā-pāramitā.

2. Change of Circumstance

Subhūti talks of seeing no path nor any goal and this should not be considered to be a cause of fear but a sign of success.

3. Presentation of New Dilemma

Doubts over the validity of following the bodhisattva path.

4. Resolution

The assembly is to recognize doubts and anxieties are unfounded and the attempts of Māra to control the mind. His means of access is based upon the desire to reap a personal reward from the pursuit of the path.

Shifting the practice of samādhi from one of analytic meditation with its resulting abstraction and personal isolation towards an experience of spatiality that is integrative and generates compassion and the movement towards renewed social engagement.

Creation of a fourfold path schema for the bodhisattva structurally related to the path of the śrāvaka.

5. Subsequent Doctrinal Readjustment

Theory of śūnyatā and the bodhisattva bhūmi.

The audience for the text is intended to identify themselves with some unnamed bodhisattva who aspires with difficulty to reach his goal. The scenarios of many of these narrative contexts are common-place and representative of day-to-day life in the monastic community. For the ‘ordinary’ bodhisattva there are no demonic legions, wild beasts, throngs of dancing temptresses or any fantastical visions of heaven and hell. These trials of Māra deal with the frictions that develop in the relationships between disciples and their teachers and between the disciples themselves and those outside the community. These obstacles appear to be everyday in nature, dealing with the bickering and divisions that lead to the breakdown in trust which inevitably results in the disruption of transmission of the prajñā–pāramitā sutra. Such experiences themselves are not ‘legendary’ but are explained through myth. As the initial motive to become a bodhisattva is presented as being emotional (i.e. compassion, rather than wisdom) the newly-training bodhisattva may possess the emotional drive but is it sustainable or something that can be turned to work against him? In a comment made to Subhūti in chapter 10 (448c13), the Buddha explains that bodhisattvas at this stage are:

新發意者,所知甚少,其心不入大法,亦不諷誦般若波羅蜜,是為魔所得已。自起魔因緣,至使得斷。 Those new to raising the wish know very little, their hearts have not yet entered the great dharma, nor do they recite and chant the prajñāpāramitā and, because of this, such people are got at by Māra. They themselves set up the causes and conditions whereby Māra cuts them short. For the beginner, then, motivation and commitment is conditional unlike that of an avaivartika-bodhisattva who has obtained prajñā–pāramitā and whose compassion is the outcome of a higher samādhi within which perceptions of subject, object and action no longer occur. This is a state of mind which, the narrative suggests, offers protection from Māra’s influence upon the creations of the mind.

The discussion of the function of the Māra mytheme in the Dàoxíng can now be divided into three stages.

1. The Māra-karmāṇi, as works against newly training (nava-yāna-samprasthita) bodhisattvas.

2. Direct attacks, attacks upon advancing (ādibhūmi) and irreversible (avaivartika) bodhisattvas.

3. Māra’s role in the tale of Sadāprarudita Bodhisattva.

3.1) Māra’s Work: to Destroy the Transmission

Drawing upon the survey of Māra passages given by Ling (1997, p.96-163) based upon Pali sources, the circumstances in which narratives depicting Māra’s attempt to subvert disciples or potential disciples of the Buddha can be seen to fall into four general categories. These are: the contamination of susceptible minds, the manipulation of events, working in a transformation body and direct intervention. In terms of Mahayana narrative, the aim of Māra is no longer the ruination of the individual’s attempt to achieve personal release from samsara, but the destruction of the teachings passed from teacher to disciple; instructions that lead the bodhisattva to ultimately enter the buddha path. The progress of a bodhisattva towards becoming an avaivartika, as with the śrāvaka becoming an arhat, is one of stages. And, for both groups of aspirants, the accomplishments on the path vary. As the appellations avaivartika (irreversible) and arahant (foe-destroyer) both suggest, there is a level of resistance to adversities which, it can be argued from the viewpoint of narratology, are the assaults of Māra. Based upon this idea of ‘levels of resistance’ there are grounds to suggest that the four categories of Māra assault can be largely mapped to the stages of the path.

The Māra deeds found within the Dàoxíng can be considered as fitting into such a schema although the text does not present the discussion in a progressive order. Instead, references are embedded in the text and presented in response to the requirements of its narrative development. The notable exception to this is chapter 9 which focuses upon Māra’s attacks upon the newly-training bodhisattva. At first reading it might appear that the deeds which are the members of this list are distributed in an arbitrary manner throughout the text. A closer reading however, will not only reveal a structure of related deeds in ‘clusters’ but also a gradual serialization in which emphasis changes according to the deepening of the disciples’ engagement and understanding of the bodhisattva path. These begin with doubts over entering the path and problems with interacting with other pursuants. Next, the doubts develop into anxieties over personal expectations and finally, the occurrence of problems in the relationship between the aspiring bodhisattva and his teacher. The following table provides a synoptic overview of the thirty-five karmāṇis contained in chapter 9 and are sequentially numbered according to their occurrence in the text. The second column refers to the location of passages in the Taishō edition of the Dàoxíng.

Basic malaise

MK1 446c22 Feeling dissatisfied.
MK2 446c23 Becoming confused.
Attitude whilst writing texts
MK3 446c25 Feeling startled.
MK4 446c26 Fooling around.
MK5 446c27 Bickering.
MK6 446c28 Gazing around.
MK7 446c29 Losing concentration.
MK8 447a01 Restlessness.
MK9 447a02 Lack of self-confidence.
Disappointment with textual narratives
MK10 447a03 Not hearing his own name mentioned.
MK11 447a05 Not hearing his home town named.
Aspiration and acumen
MK12 447a20 Misunderstanding the goal.
MK13 447a27 Having the wrong ambition.
MK14 447b07 Confusing the ‘lesser’ for the ‘bigger’.
MK15 447b14 Being satisfied with something ‘lesser’.
MK16 447b22 Ignorance of the real value of the teaching.
Expectation of personal security
MK17 447b29 Heeding talk of gaining wealth.
MK18 447c04 Expecting an assurance of future buddhahood.
MK19 447c08 Anxieties over safety.
MK20 447c12 Heeding talk of gaining property.
Confusion over the path
MK21 447c15 Losing sight of the bodhisattva upāya.
Breakdown in the relationship between the disciple and teacher
MK22 447c23 Illness and loss of interest, followed by...
MK23 447c25 ...recovery and personal disinterest.
MK24 447c28 Rejection by the teacher.
MK25 448a03 Stinginess.
Basic malaise
MK26 448a06 Indifference.
MK27 448a10 Seeing no value in the teaching.
MK28 448a12 Fatigue.
Heeding the confusing talk of others
MK29 448a16 Talk of entering nirvana.
MK30 448a21 Talk of entering the dhyāna heavens.
Failings of the teacher
MK31 448a27 Making excuses not to teach.
MK32 448b07 Belittling talk.
MK33 448b13 Reluctance to teach.
The discouragement of others
MK34 448b18 Talk that causes doubts.
MK35 448b25 Talk of becoming a śrāvaka and srotapānna.
Table 8: The thirty-five Māra temptations of the aspiring bodhisattva.

At this point the specific deeds can be explored in more depth and compared against similar narratives in earlier, non-Mahayana texts. 3.1.1) Basic Malaise (MK1, MK2) The first grouping epitomizes the nature of the karmāṇi as a whole, in the sense of these being feelings of dissatisfaction [MK1] and confusion [MK2]. No contexts are given for these two karmāṇi nor is there any wrong-doing as there is no activity. It is reasonable to read within this the interpretation that as there is no mindfulness upon any specific action, any sudden change which is contrary to the original aspiration to follow the path is presented as the work of Māra.

3.1.2) Attitude Whilst Writing Texts (MK3 - MK9)

The scenario of the second cluster is engagement in the transcription of the sutra. Although numerous Mahayana texts laud the virtues of writing copies of the text, both the archaeological and textual evidence suggests that the process of copying may have been a hurried activity often prone to error and even driven by ‘commercial’ constraints (Schopen 2010, p.402). As mentioned earlier, the final chapter of the Dàoxíng sees the Buddha cautioning Ānanda against the loss of the text but chapter 9 offers some details as to how this might happen. The mechanics of the transcription process are not described in the sense of whether the task is accomplished through sight copying, dictation or writing from memory (Salomon 1999, p.83, n.18). Neither is the intended usage of the text provided. The reader of the Dàoxíng does not know whether the bodhisattva is making a copy for his personal use or for some other purpose, however care and attention is always cautioned. Here the dialogue explores how such lapses might occur. These include the effects of being startled by thunder and lightening [MK3] (a topic later echoed in chapter 15) and lack of focus or interest in the repetitive task of copying [MK7]. The passage is also suggestive that disciples are working in groups as the distractions they become involved in include making fun of each other [MK4] and bickering [MK5]. The sequence of the remaining karmāṇi in this cluster would appear to offer an escalating sequence of influences, beginning with becoming disengaged and gazing around [MK6] to the lack of concentration [MK7] giving rise to restlessness [MK8] . This process of disengaging with the task at hand results in a lack of confidence which [MK9], as the planting of the seeds of doubt [MK34] is the very objective Māra seeks to achieve.

3.1.3) Disappointment with Textual Narratives (MK10, MK11)

This grouping of two karmāṇis can be seen as building upon this lack of faith and confidence. The text describes a bodhisattva as entertaining the thought that he will never receive an assurance of his entry into the prajñā-pāramitā (447a02). He wants to see some form of textual reference or evidence to prop-up his confidence but this is to no avail. As he waits to hear mention of both his own name [MK10] and some sort of reference to his home town [MK11] in the narrative of the text, his longings and desires are frustrated and so regret sets in.

3.1.4) Aspiration and Acumen (MK12 - MK16)

The next cluster of karmāṇis portray wrong aspiration and confusion arising from desire. It begins with the Buddha telling Subhūti that if a bodhisattva adopts the wrong motive then, even after many kalpas of practice, there will be no progress. Effectively giving up the pursuit for prajñā–pāramitā, such bodhisattvas will settle

for second-best and ‘easily stray’ (447a14) away from the path. Unlike the preceding groups which are discussed in everyday terms, the failure to make the ‘right choice’ is expressed through the use of simile. Misunderstanding the goal [MK12] has three similes: a dog choosing to eat with his master’s slaves rather than the master himself, searching for elephants, and looking for an ocean. Having the wrong ambition [MK13] is compared to the attempt to build a tower that reaches the heavens. Confusing the small with the big [MK14] is portrayed as judging a king as an emperor simply by the appearance of his clothes.

The association in this chapter of the śrāvaka and pratyekabuddha paths with something ‘lesser’ becomes apparent with the similes of a man making active choices between various foods [MK15] and precious jewels [MK16]. This, it could be argued, is a matter of taste, but the final simile makes the position clear. Here a man is depicted as actively choosing a crystal as being more valuable than a priceless pearl. A closer reading of the passage rules out the argument that this choosing is a matter of culpability. The discourse presents the idea that those foods and treasures which it alludes to being most flavoursome and precious are the most beneficial yet there are those individuals who, regardless of this, would still choose that which is of lesser benefit. Such folly or muddleheadedness, the text is implying, is not an expression of personal taste but the result of Māra’s influence. This issue of the comparatives of what is ‘small’ and ‘big’ and the ability to choose between them has resonances with the conceptual divisions between what constitutes the Greater (mahā) and Lesser (hīna) vessels (yāna). But, typical of its style, the Dàoxíng specifically refers to the Mahayana through transliteration as móhēyǎn 摩訶衍 rather than translation which gives the term dàshèng 大乘 (lit. ‘Big Vehicle’ or ‘Big Vessel’) typically adopted by other translators (Karashima 2010, p.324-325). The idea of any ‘superior’ or ‘inferior’ vessel is alien to the text. The portrayal is one of choice between objects of value as metaphors for methods and practices (dharmas) of the various paths rather than some choice between sects or communities (Nattier 207, p.174). What the text does clearly portray is the author’s underlying expectation that the teachings of the bodhisattva path should flourish and be accepted in favour of other methods and aspirations. Any other choice, the discourse concludes (447b26) is bùxiá 不黠, or ‘not-smart’.

3.1.5) Expectation of Personal Security (MK17 - MK20)

The drifting-away of the attention of a bodhisattva towards thinking upon more materially rewarding activities is also presented [MK17]. The text offers no back story as to why this might be, but the reader is told that problems are in the making for those who turn away from their duties, lured by listening to others talk of gaining personal wealth. Yet, as Schopen (2009) points out, the archaeological evidence suggests that in many instances those members of the sangha who resided in purpose built communities often enjoyed a standard of living above that of the average lay supporter. Taking this scenario as a valid backdrop in the absence of any other setting, there would be few causes for concern in the area of provisions and material welfare. So why heed such talk? The text does not mention desire or comfort as the motivator. This would suggest interpreting the motive as being a sense of insecurity which offers a potential basis for the creation of doubts which again is Māra’s aim (MK34). This search for assurance is explored further in the next topic.

The task of copying the text is presented as being constantly fraught with temptation [MK18]. The bodhisattva is described as entertaining a belief that the passages being written are, in some way, an expression of his own personal achievement on the path and so the deluded scribe wants to hear of his own assurance. The extant Sanskrit recension, as Karashima (2011, p. 239, n.392) points out, strives to expand upon the message that prajñā-pāramitā is not something contained in words that can be achieved through the process of writing. From the standpoint of the narrative development of this chapter, this principal seems to be little understood by the unfortunate bodhisattva whose thoughts are rife with Māra projections. In some ways the text is cautioning the reader to be wary of the text itself. The reader is urged to copy, read and recite it. This is a process that will generate tremendous merit but ownership of the text will not bring awakening. The text, in the sense of the ‘cult of the book’, is a relic of the buddha, but not the ‘germ’ of the buddha (435c11). Elsewhere in the Dàoxíng the assembly is told that bodhisattvas should not become fearful over not receiving an assurance of their future awakening, something which only a living buddha can give. It tells them that such an assurance has already been received. Yet, the suggestion in this passage is that doubts are best removed when answers are given in writing. The Buddha then, is depicted as cautioning against the seeking of any assurance. The subsequent temptation in the list [MK19] shifts the focus of concern from thoughts of finding security in the acquisition of some spiritual accolade back towards thoughts over goods from elsewhere and the conditions for their provision.

The early Buddhist monastic community is often pictured by modern scholars as groups of individuals who have given up their families and the role of householders in favour of a beggar’s life roaming and living apart from others in their quest for spiritual release. The ‘going forth’ of those received into the sangha was not an entrance into any closed community in sense of western monasticism. The life of the bhikṣu was proscribed by regulation and prohibition and not through vows in the sense of a binding contract. There was no requirement to completely sever all ties with the family in the sense of becoming estranged. Vinaya regulations, for instance, permitted members of the sangha to tend upon members of their families were any of them to become ill. Whilst the ownership of personal possessions and the conditions of personal relationships of members of the sangha were regulated and private wealth prohibited, this situation prevailed only whilst individuals were active members of the monastic community. Necessary objects such as clothing and begging bowls only belonged to a bhikṣu whilst he was alive. Regulations even proscribed against the bequeathing of such objects to other bhikṣus in the event of death. In effect, the equipment of the path belonged to the community and was not owned personally by any individual. Schopen (1995) discusses this matter in more depth drawing upon the earlier works of Oldenberg (1882) and Horner (1938). He establishes how, as member of the sangha, a bhikṣu have may regarded himself as homeless, unmarried and possessing nothing whilst the family of that bhikṣu still regarded him as a householder, a married man and an owner of property pending the possible return to worldly life. The Suttavibhaṅga of the Theravada vinaya (Horner 1949, p.21-38) provides an example of this situation. Furthermore, entering into the sangha required support which itself may have been forthcoming from former assets, family or village. Based upon this, it is reasonable to argue that the breaks between individual members of the sangha and their families were not as complete as sutra narratives lead the reader to first imagine. Concerns over such matters form the crux of a number of transgressions discussed in the vinaya and are reminiscent of the temptations presented in this chapter of the Dàoxíng. Even if there is cause for concern over the well-being of relatives as well as their own personal security and assets in the face of political unrest and the assaults of robbers, such preoccupations, especially those born of nostalgia or sentimentalizing, are causes of temptation. Within the Pali vinaya such actions are categorized as minor transgressions in which there is weakness but no abandonment of the aims of the sangha. The jargon of vinaya describes these as potential causes of ‘defeat’ (Pali. pārājika), which Horner (ibid. p.38) points out, is to be defeated by Māra. Neither the vinaya nor the Dàoxíng indicates that such matters are so severe as to lead the reader to believe that the path of śramaṇa can no longer be followed. The Dàoxíng, as a Mahayana sutra, however, strives to establish the point at which such thoughts, especially if they result in anxiety, run counter to the pursuit of the bodhisattva path.

Preoccupation with thoughts over material gains, albeit those permitted to members of the sangha [MK20] is an assault which will result in what the text describes as lìng yì luàn 令意亂; that is, causing the thoughts to become confused by entering into a state of turmoil. A list of such objects is given which includes ‘riches and gains, robes, clothing, drink and food, beds and bedding and medicines for wasting illnesses’. Whilst desire for such items may appear trivial, comparison with the basic list of permitted resources (niśraya) for the prerequisites of life (pariṣkāra) highlight the contrasts. Such items are typically described as food, alms, clothing as discarded rags, lodging at the foot of a tree, and fermented urine to use as medicine (Frauwallner 1956, p.74). A further list gives the following eight items: the three robes, an alms-bowl, a razor, needle, belt and a water-strainer (Gethin 1998, p.88). The image formed, even within such a brief passage, is a picture of the scribe-bodhisattva chasing after objects forbidden to him under prātimokṣa regulations (Prebish 1975, p.13-14). These would also include the acceptance or handling of gold or money, the inappropriate acceptance of robes, eating inappropriate foods, sleeping on high beds and using bedding and blankets of the wrong materials. The urge to have such items is emphasized in the same passage as it describes how practice and recitation are abandoned in addition to the commitment to writing the sutras. In a discussion of the archaeological and textual evidence, Schopen (2000, p.85) comments that whilst pre-Aśokan monastic communities were basic caverns, caves or shelters, by the time of the emergence of the Mahayana, communal structures were more complex, and possessed substantial assets. The regulations governing the members of such communities were open to adaptation to the extent of allowing the possession of personal property and private wealth (ibid. 91). Taking the matter further, Schopen (2009) argues that it is erroneous to consider the members of the Buddhist sangha as ‘marginal radical ascetics’. In accord with the widely held view in classical Indian culture, the accumulation of wealth was seen to be the outcome of good karma and a number of works describe the Buddha and some other senior members of the community as ‘rich and famous’. In light of this, how are the warnings given in the Dàoxíng to viewed? There is no outright condemnation of wealth or its possession in the discourse. In many ways it is because material wealth becomes a new sign of meritorious achievement as in the description of Dharmodgata Bodhisattva. He is said to dwell in a palace (474b08), have 6,800,000 wives and concubines (471c24), to sit upon multiple thrones of precious stones and metals (472a01) and is the recipient of tributes of rare and valuable objects from those to whom he gives instruction (473b10). The portrayal is intended to present an image of someone ‘who has it all’, sex (kāma), money (artha) and social order (dharma). Dharmodgata Bodhisattva holds the perfect balance of the ‘set of three’ (trivarga) puruṣātha, or ‘goals of human existence’ (Olivelle 2004, p.242) to which later treatises would add mokṣa, or liberation to this list to form a ‘set of four’ (caturvarga) goals. Although puruṣātha are not expressed within Buddhist literature, these are vital ideas in Indian moral philosophy and are widely discussed in key texts of the Indian classical period, such as the Dharmasūtras and the Manusmṛti. As the trivarga primarily related to the activities of the householder, Prasad (2008, p.360-362) suggests that this latter addition provides a distinction between right social and personal action. The narrative of the Dàoxíng certainly portrays Dharmodgata Bodhisattva as a liberated, awakened being although his awakening is not solely for his own benefit. In the same tale (472b01) we are told that Sadāprarudita passes through a country said to be Māra’s realm of pleasures, a description that is comparable with the city of Dharmodgata Bodhisattva. The distinction lies in that Dharmodgata spontaneously leads others to awakening and release whereas Māra acts deliberately to the contrary.

The need for the ownership of something that fulfils a deep seated desire is a key feature of the tale of Sadāprarudita, the bodhisattva who ‘forever wails’. He represents what Schopen (ibid.) would describe as a ‘marginal radical ascetic’, someone whose actions only to serve to horrify others and to cause himself distress. As will be discussed later in this study, the ultimate resolution of Sadāprarudita’s distress is through patient acceptance and devotion to his teacher, Dharmodgata. He becomes more urbane as the path he has found enables him to re-engage within what is depicted within the tale as mainstream society. And, in the process he begins to accumulate those elements of the trivarga relevant to him, namely: wealth as sponsorship (artha), the companionship of the merchant’s daughter and her five hundred maidservants (kāma), and Dharmodgata’s teaching (dharma). The conclusion that can be drawn from this is that the Dàoxíng cautions its audience against the preoccupation of the mind with desires and anxieties over matters of personal wealth, but does so using acceptable references within the narrative of the sutra. The bhikṣu portrayed as writing the text becomes some form of idealized character, someone whose behaviour is derived from stereotypes founded upon earlier narrative structures whilst engaged in the activities and environment of a later period. Errancy on his part has to be enshrouded within terms of the potential violation of community regulations and the fulfilment of the bodhisattva aspiration.

3.1.6) Confusion over the Path (MK21)

The narrative at this point in the series of temptations sums up the net effect of the Māra attacks on a bodhisattva’s mind. He will become distracted, confused, regretful, agitated and anxious to a point where he is no longer to able to train in the method of the prajñā-pāramitā. The text shows the Buddha explaining how, when a bodhisattva is engaged in the ‘deep method’ shēnfǎ 深法 (gambhīradharma), Māra will come to create confusion and cause the bodhisattva to become dissatisfied with the method and lose the intent to apply it [MK21]. In the bulk of the text, shēn 深 is a descriptor for prajñā–pāramitā, although the term shēnfǎ 深法 only occurs in three locations (446c15, 447c15 and 456c26). A definition of what is meant by ‘deep’ forms the opening topic of chapter 16. The translation of the text from Karashima’s Critical Edition (p.323) reads: 須菩提!若乃内菩薩使入深。何等為深?空為深,無想、無願、無識、無所從生滅,泥洹是為限。

Subhūti! If a bodhisattva enters into the deep, what is it that is deep? Space (← ) is deep, [as there] is no thought, there is no wish, there is no knowing, a place where there is no birth and death. [It is] the goal of nirvana.’ The ‘deep method’ then, is the means of reaching the goal. The Dàoxíng elevates the importance of the ‘means’ again through the use of transliteration, giving òuhéjūshèluó 漚和拘舍羅 for the doctrinal idea of upāya-kauśalya. The context of the passage implies that the bodhisattva has yet to ‘find’ this ‘means’, much like any other object. Again the text gives little indication, but the application of the ‘deep method’ has resonances with the Māra temptations discussed earlier in terms of the liminal state of samādhi.

3.1.6.1) Breakdown of the Disciple and Teacher Relationship (MK22 – MK28)

The following cluster of seven karmāṇis focuses upon the problems arising between the teacher and those who receive instruction from him. There is no implication that the teacher lacks either the knowledge or ability to instruct, other matters form obstructions such as the want of motivation or generosity. Prior to examining these any further, it would be useful to briefly explore the notions of ‘friends’ and ‘masters’ derived from textual sources as these are significant to developing the idea of how ‘friendship’ rather than simple ‘instruction’ becomes a prominent theme in the Dàoxíng.

3.1.6.1.1) Good Friendship (Kalyāṇa-mittatā) in Pali the Sources

Direct, person-to-person contact is depicted as vitally important to the bhikṣu following the religious life. The Itivuttaka (1-27) presents the Buddha emphasizing the role others have in developing the qualities of the follower of the path, he concludes that a ‘monk who is a friend with admirable people abandons what is unskilful and develops what is skilful’ (trans. Thanissaro Bhikkhu). Many other Pali texts also approach this subject. The Buddha speaks of himself as the good-friend as, due to him, living beings subject to birth are freed from birth. In his Visuddhimagga (Nyanamoli 1991), Buddhaghoṣa makes a number of references to the ‘good-friend’ and includes their absence in his list of the eighteen faults of the monastery (ibid. pp. 120-121) along with the presence of those who would hinder right practice, bhikṣus in the forms of ‘incompatible persons’ (visabhāgānaṃ puggalānaṃ atthitā). More importantly, Buddhaghoṣa (ibid. p.22) describes the ‘good-friend’ as being someone who can instruct the disciple in matters previously unknown to him and is capable of resolving any doubts that arise whereby faith is developed. The majority of Buddhaghoṣa’s references relate to the good friend as someone a disciple can approach in order to obtain instruction in the topics of meditation best suited to his personal disposition (ibid. p.90). The earlier Vimuttimagga by Upatissa (Ehara et al, 1961), which now only exists fully in Chinese translation as the Jiětuō Dào Lùn 解脫道論 (T 1648), discusses the role of the good-friend more fully with chapter 5 dedicated to the topic. In approaching the question of how to search for the ‘good friend’, one particular passage bears a striking resemblance to the way in which the Dàoxíng portrays Sadāprarudita Bodhisattva being directed towards Dharmodgata Bodhisattva (41b14-472a07). The Vimuttimagga describes how a disciple must ask other disciples for direction (ibid. p.50). In response, the ‘fellow-student will answer: “In such and such a country, in such and such a monastery, in such and such a place of meditation set apart for the Order, such and such a teacher of meditation is honoured by all”.’ Reading such passages informs us how the Indian authors were aware of such themes and drew upon them as narratemes for development of their tales. Also in this chapter Upatissa (ibid. p.49) gives a list of the qualities of the good friend as a teacher which parallel those found in the Nettippakaraṇa of Kacchana Thera (Ñanamoli 1997, pp. 216-217). Upatissa’s list includes ‘loveableness, esteemableness, the ability to counsel well, patience (in listening), the ability to deliver deep discourse and not applying oneself to useless ends’. Again, these factors, or rather their reversal, become narratemes adapted to further develop the list of karmāṇi. Compared to Buddhaghoṣa’s criteria, there is less emphasis on meditative practice and the personal direction of the disciple. Upatissa’s description of the ‘pre-eminent good friend’ (ibid.) is a savant of the suttas, abhidhamma and vinaya; someone knowledgeable and therefore in possession of such texts and capable of expounding them. As these commentarial materials do not appear to make the distinction between the good-friend and text-bearer, it would suggest that this notion is a later distinction developed in a period during which writing begins to establish itself over memorization as the principal receptacle of texts, a change which later gives rise to the criticism of the dharmabhāṇaka found in the Dàoxíng.

3.1.6.1.2) The Dharma-bhāṇaka

A characteristic narrateme of the Mahayana sutra also found within the Dàoxíng is that of urging the bearer of the text to recite it in order to allay the effects of misfortune. Although, as chapter 15 of the Dàoxíng expresses, the realization of the prajñā-pāramitā through the process of samādhi is presented as the ultimate nullifier of misfortune. The words of a text are deemed to contain talismanic or magical power of its own, an aspect of what Gregory Schopen (1975) describes as the ‘cult of the book’. In numerous instances, the Dàoxíng expresses the importance of reading and reciting the text. Chapter 3 provides a lengthy description of the importance of the text and the significance of the written word as expression of thought. It is given greater prominence than bodily relics in the form of sārīra or any other accoutrement of authority. In chapter 30, during the closing dialogue of the Dàoxíng, Ānanda is entrusted with the transmission of the sutra. Following the familiar, structural narrateme that typically opens sutras with the line ‘Thus have I heard’, the Buddha tells Ānanda that he must memorize each word of the text and not waver as it is later written down so that no single word becomes lost (477b25). With such emphasis upon maintaining the accuracy of this transmission, the importance of the role of ‘text-bearing’ is highly significant. With no means of communication other than orality and the written manuscript, the narrative of the Dàoxíng would appear to support the pains taken in its accurate and formal transmission on the one hand, but then seeks to affirm the superiority and nature of the ‘source’ from which these ideas first originated as something achievable by all bodhisattvas. Unlike texts such as the Saddharma-puṇḍarīka-sūtra which broadly includes all those in possession and chanting the text under the category of the dharma-bhāṇaka, the Dàoxíng takes a somewhat different approach, the dharma-bhāṇaka is someone who actively directs others in the reproduction and transmission of the sutras.

The topic of the dharma-bhāṇaka has been explored in greater depth by Drewes

(2006, 2011) and Gummer (2012). Gummer makes especial reference to the Suvarṇa(pra)bhāsottama-sūtra which Emmerick (2004), in the introduction to his English translation, dates in origin to the fifth century CE. The contexts she examines are portrayals of the dharma-bhāṇaka as a law-expounder, preacher, lecturer, public reader of works or teacher. Whilst the dharma-bhāṇaka described by Gummer (op. cit. p.143 ) ‘takes on the role of the Buddha in the dramatic ritual of oration’, Drewes (2006), in his study of the origins of the Mahayana, takes the position further by stating that role of the dharma-bhanaka was not simply restricted to the memorisation and transmission of sutras, but embraced composing the texts, even modifying and adapting them to meet the changing needs of their target audiences. Apart from the tramission of the text, it does not necessarily follow that the role of dharma-bhāṇaka implies any specific commitment to the spiritual direction of the aspiring bodhisattva and the relationship implied may be formal, if not even lacking genuine commitment. Important as the dharma-bhāṇaka is, there are caveats. In chapter 2 of the Dàoxíng, for instance, Subhūti in response to a direct question from the devas which alludes to him being a dharma-bhāṇaka, comments that a dharmabhāṇaka is an illusion arising from the desires of those who listen to his preaching. He continues to tell the devas that those listening hold a desire for ‘something’ which they misapprehend the dharma-bhāṇaka as possessing, but which actually does not exist at all.

The Dàoxíng contains some fifty or so references to the dharma-bhāṇaka. The frequency of these is biased towards the opening chapters of the text with the majority of incidences, which are found in chapter 9, in connection with the topic of Māra’s deeds. Passages found in chapter 3 (435c02, 435c05, 435b07) however, express the importance of the dharma-bhāṇaka’s ability to explain the meaning of the sutra, rather than merely being concerned with the ownership of the text. Perhaps it is this issue, over the contrasting roles of the possession of some physical artefact and working towards its replication and the ability of the bodhisattva to speak from a position of personal insight and experience, that leads to the fuller expression of the idea of the kalyāṇa-mitra in chapter 19.

This emphasis upon the function of the dharma-bhāṇaka is apparent in the translation style of the Dàoxíng. The terms dharma-bhāṇaka and its synonym dharmaśravaṇika found in the extant Sanskrit text are not transliterated but translated as fǎshī 法師 and jīngshī 經師 thereby stressing the mastery of such individuals as experts or instructors. Similar constructions found in other Chinese texts are lǜshī 律師, lùnshī 論師 and chánshī 禪師 for masters of the vinaya, abhidharma and dhyāna.

The particular contexts presented in the chapter 9 of Dàoxíng convey the idea of some kind of giving and receiving between the dharma-bhāṇaka and his students. Hence, as Subhūti observes, there is the desire for something, and it lies on both sides of the relationship. It is this desire or attachment, when it goes unrecognized by those in the transmission relationship, that becomes an effective open invitation for disaster in the form of Māra interventions. But this is not the Māra of death, nor any fictional allegory as Guruge (1988) suggests. Furthermore, for the scenarios to be valid, in the sense of having a plausible basis within the narrative itself, the dharma-bhāṇaka as someone of considerable understanding has to be hoodwinked too. This then, can only be the work of Māra as a para-nirmita-vaśa-vartin; a deva with the power to intervene in and manipulate the thoughts of others. Or, using the more technical language of the Abhidharma kośa (De La Vallee Pousin 1988II, p.466) ‘beings whose objects of desire are created by others but who themselves dispose of these objects created by others’. As a narrative that poses a dilemma necessarily requires some form of resolution, the basis of the disharmony has to be externalized. If the dilemma’s causes were internal, this would imply the pursuit of the buddha dharma itself to be a process of delusion making. The method of the path cannot, by its very nature as a means of awakening, itself become a means of delusion.

3==.1.6.2) The Kalyāṇa-mitra and Prajñā–pāramitā==

In contrast to the dharma-bhāṇaka, the Dàoxíng also speaks of the ‘good-friend’ (shàn zhīshi 善知識) or kalyāṇa-mitra. The term implies someone who ‘knows what is good’ for the disciple although later translations have given the more literal rendering, shányǒu 善友 (Soothill & Hodous 1937, p.368). The opening dialogue of chapter 19 (461c26) gives a clear definition of the term kalyāṇa-mitra with exemplars. The text reads: 佛語須菩提:佛天中天是菩薩摩訶薩善知識。若有說般若波“ 羅蜜者,教人入是經中,是菩薩摩訶薩善知識。……

The Buddha said: ‘Subhūti, the buddha, the bhagavan, is a bodhisattvamahāsattva’s good-friend. If there are those who speak of the prajñāpāramitā and teach others to enter into this sutra, [then they] are a bodhisattva-mahāsattva’s good-friends. ...

Here the difference between the dharma-bhāṇaka and the kalyāṇa-mitra becomes most clear. Both are involved with the teaching of the sutra, but there is a change in implied meaning. A disciple training with the dharma-bhāṇaka receives transmission of the text, whereas the kalyāṇa-mitra instructs in how to enter into the transmission in the sense of the actualization of its essential meaning. This is not a recitation from memory or from a written text, nor is it exegesis. The two roles are not directly associated within the text but neither is there any indication of mutual exclusivity. This distinction is also found elsewhere. The Large Prajñā-pāramitā-sūtra makes extensive reference to the role of the kalyāṇa-mitra as someone who prepares the bodhisattva in the pursuit of the path through the application of his ‘skill in means’ (Conze 1975, p.533). This contrast between the potential ruin of the bodhisattva’s relationship with the dharma-bhāṇaka and the success of the kalyāṇamitra is epitomized in the relationship between the bodhisattvas Sadāprarudita and Dharmodgata found in chapters 28 and 29 of the Dàoxíng. In preparation for the discussion of this, the discourse of chapter 19 (461c25) focuses upon the necessity for the disciple to have a mentor capable of finding the method best suited to the disciple’s personality and disposition. The Dàoxíng (462a07) refers to such a mentor possessing ‘four qualities’, the sìshì 四事 or catuḥ-saṃgraha-vastu, which are: 1) generosity towards others (bùshīyúrén 布施於人, dāna), 2) joy towards others (huānlèyúrén 歡樂於人, priyavacana), 3) benefiting others (ráoyìyúrén 饒益於人, arthakṛtya), and 4) togetherness (děngyǔ 等與, samānârthatā). Such qualities or ‘works’ within the Chinese are linguistically at least, related through a process of construction to the Māra karmāṇi. Based upon the events in the narrative of the Dàoxíng, it is Māra’s aim to influence the mind of the bodhisattva in order to abandon the search for the buddha path through a process of magical ability, whereas the kalyāṇa-mitra directs the bodhisattva towards the buddha path through the power of wisdom, and truth. Mythologically, they form a new binary pair as the function of the Buddha as liberator is transferred to the kalyāṇa-mitra. The application of this mytheme can be seen at work in the Dàoxíng in chapter 28

(471a11). Here, Sadāprarudita is said to live in the realm of the former Buddha Dharmodgata-Asú gatra who has passed into parinirvāṇa in the distant past and that all trace of his disciples and teachings were lost, but who later finds his kalyāṇamitra in the form of Dharmodgata Bodhisattva. So profound is the ability of the kalyāṇa-mitra to work with the disciple that his qualities are compared to those of the disciple’s mother, father and home. Furthermore, whilst the chapter opens with the discussion of the ‘good-friend’, the flow soon changes and drifts into an altogether different area. The nature of the ‘teacher’ alters from being someone who understands the mind of the disciple to a situation in which the bodhisattvadisciple has progressed to the point where he is no longer led by another; his life experiences upon the path become his teacher as he becomes increasingly responsible for his own liberation.

The first context [MK22] presents a situation in which the dharma-bhāṇaka becomes so ill as to be unable to teach. But, how can illness or extreme physical fatigue be Māra’s doing? The analysis of the Māra mytheme given earlier in chapter 2 of this thesis has established that Māra does not cause direct harm but acts through the control of circumstances, the creation of illusions and the manipulation of the mind. In these two cases the physical condition of the dharma-bhāṇaka is the basis of his change in behaviour and there no indication that he has chosen not to instruct the disciple for some other reason. There are potential parallels to be found in the non-Mahayana literature which describe Māra as causing physical pains rather than inactivity. The Māratajjanīya Sutta (MN 50) contains an account of how Māra is said to have entered the body of Moggallana and caused him to experience great physical discomfort but with no physical harm. Through the power of his insightful practice of samādhi, Moggallana is quick to recognize Māra and immediately names him. The simple act of naming is enough to expel Māra.

The Māratajjaniya Sutta exists in three Chinese translations (MA 131, T 66 and T 67) and a number of Sanskrit fragments which contain a number of narrative differences. A full, comparative study of these lies outside the scope of this study but two key structural features are shared with the Māra encounters described earlier. The Bìmó Shì Mùlián Jīng 弊魔試目連經 (T 67) contains a scenario in which Maudgalyayāna is practising walking meditation during the dark of night (yèyúmíng zhōng jīngxíng 夜於冥中經行). Māra becomes aware of this, comes away from some unnamed task (presumably harassing the Buddha or some other arhat), transforms himself into a light and then enters the belly of Moggallana (zì huā chèjǐng rù mùlián fù zhōng 自化徹景入目連腹中). The Chinese text does not mention any discomfort but describes Maudgalyāyana feeling his belly rumble amidst feelings of hunger and the bearing of a heavy burden (yóurú jīrén ér fù zhòng dān 猶如飢人而負重擔). Importantly, although Māra attacks at night, there is no injury.

Within classical Indian mythology, the piścas are a class of beings which also attack at night but cause ‘flesh-eating’ (kravyād) illness. Iconographic depictions of piścas are of vampire-like monsters whereas Māra is a deva-pūtra of the highest realm of the kāmāvacara. Vedic myth informs us that the trayastriṃśa-devas are nourished with soma and asuras with sura and the Abhidharma commentaries talk of the paranirmita devas delighting in the desires of others. On the basis of this, perhaps there is the strong possibility that the original concept of ‘delight’ also embraced the idea of taking nourishment.

The karmāṇi scenarios portray the influence of Māra upon the mind of a dharmabhāṇaka which induces inactivity, much like the sura induced torpor of Indra at the hands of Namuci. Unlike Moggallana however, the ill-blighted dharma-bhāṇaka of the Dàoxíng lacks the ability to recognize his assailant. This attack is a double blow as the disciple is clear-minded but uncaring. The vinaya guidelines urge disciples to give service to their teachers and that bhikṣus should tend for the sick amongst their communities. Here however, the focus of the parable lies upon the failure to complete the transmission. There is no mention of the disciple’s tending on the dharma-bhāṇaka during his period of illness as the Aśvins cared for Indra. The overall picture painted is one of a dharma-bhāṇaka instructing a group of disciples of mixed abilities and motivations. Those least motivated, as indicated in the readiness to regard the interruption due to illness as a complete breakdown in teaching, are the amongst the bodhisattvas thwarted by Māra in their progress. The subsequent description of the teacher returning to health supports the interpretation that the list of the thirty-five karmāṇis is not arbitrary but organized in a sequence, albeit somewhat loose. This idea is further supported by the choice of language used in the Chinese text. Here, the teacher gets ill (shēndé bù’ān 身得不

安) but then recovers (shì ān 適安). Although the teacher has regained his vitality this has little effect on his disciple who has become uninterested and actively turns his back on the instruction.

By way of contrast the immediately following karmāṇi [MK24] describes an instance in which a disciple wants to learn but the teacher rejects him. This is a reversal of MK23. Whilst it is feasible to see this scenario as a specific context, if it is viewed as the continued working of Māra, then the structuring of the narrative process even within an apparently routine list can be observed. The context does not identify who is under the sway of Māra, but as the text later reveals in the description of MK34, the ultimate victim is the disciple, someone who is a newly training bodhisattva (xīn xué púsà 新學菩薩). So the audience is left to conclude that whilst the disciple expressed a wish to learn, the wish should be considered as insincere or without deep conviction.

The topics of personal gain and acts of miserliness [MK25] also come under scrutiny but the problem is not one sided. A setting is presented that contains a situation in which both parties have the right motive, but their relationship is contaminated by harbouring greedy, materialistic thoughts. The dharma-bhāṇaka, someone who would always be treated with great respect and hospitality, has the expectation of receiving some form of offering beyond that normally given. The implication is that the master is seeking to teach for personal gain and, in adopting such an attitude, has attracted only those disciples who have a similar disposition and who themselves are also not generous. What is also alluded to here is a kind of stinginess. The disciple wants the teachings to be shared with him, but would keep what he has, and not give the master any due service nor, it may be implied, have any intent to pass on the benefit of what is learnt to others.

The complete breakdown in the relationship between a teacher and disciple is also envisaged [MK26]. It is described as a situation in which the disciple displays no interest nor any intent to learn anything. In reaction to this, the teacher refuses to teach and both parties are portrayed as unhappy. It is not difficult to construe the passage as implying that there may even be some form of irreconcilable acrimony between the disciple and teacher. A lack of interest and disengagement with the teaching of the dharma-bhāṇaka is given as the next potential cause of a breakdown in the transmission [MK27]. The text describes a teacher that wants to teach but his disciples simply do not want to learn. The final scenario in this cluster is one in which the teacher becomes physically exhausted to the point of lying down with no desire to get up, even though the disciple has arrived and is ready to begin [MK28]. The actions of the parties concerned generate a negatively charged emotional response. The wording of the Chinese text gives the two as being in discord, bùhégě 不和合 (asāmagrī). The expression bùhégě only occurs within this chapter of the Dàoxíng and its usage places emphasis upon the increasing frustration of the disciple and the temptation to give up what appears to him to be the increasingly uncertain practices associated with following the bodhisattva path.

3.1.7) Heeding the Confusing Talk of Others (MK29, MK30)

Two karmāṇis relate to the influence of fellow disciples upon a bodhisattva. By way of comparison with the karmāṇis 3-9 which discusses the disciple’s lack of concentration and basic inability to engage with the instruction process, karmāṇis 29-30 reflect a situation in which the disciple has formed an idea about the bodhisattva path but his commitment to it is not yet irreversible. The backstory is one in which a teacher is addressing a group of disciples on the topic of prajñāpāramitā and the attendees are making their own transcriptions. During the writing of the transcriptions a doubting bodhisattva listens to someone else in the group described as ‘contrary and complaining’ [MK29]. Based upon the subject of those comments, it can be assumed that the dharma-bhāṇaka has at some point discussed ‘bearing the hardships’ of the lower three realms of samsara; modes of existence in which it is said that the Buddha’s teaching cannot be understood. Ordinarily there is no discussion of the bodhisattva’s entry into these realms within the prajñāpāramitā sutras and so it must be reasoned that the subject approached in this scenario is the topic of the bodhisattva path based upon narratives found in the non-canonical jātakas common to both the Mahayana and non-Mahayana. The notion of maintaining a continued presence in samsara is further alluded to by the disputant’s comment upon quickly cutting the ‘roots of birth and death’. As the outcome of such a change of aspiration would be to seek entry into nirvana without remainder, this would be nothing other than entry into the śrāvaka path. The Chinese text is ambiguous as to just who is under Māra’s grip. One ordinarily assumes it to be the listener, but what of the disputant? Within the discourse of this chapter 9 of the Dàoxíng there is no mention of any transformations by Māra so it is not the tempter himself that speaks but some proxy. Schopen reads such passages as the evidence of emergence of factions within communities of bhikṣus who shared a common acceptance of the vinaya as the basis of their mode of living but differed in terms of doctrinal content and its interpretation. In effect then, the discourse of the Dàoxíng imputes that the thoughts of those who do not follow the bodhisattva path are still, to some extent, unwittingly influenced by Māra. In the passage of the text describing MK30 there is a simple, yet distinctive comment the meaning of which requires further consideration. It reads yǒu lái rén zuò yú zhòng zhōng 有來人坐於眾中, ‘someone comes to sit amongst the

assembly’. The contrast in what follows is important as this person voices views on the matters of meditative practice which, even to those bhikṣus who do not follow the bodhisattva path, would be considered as a lesser goal, namely rebirth in either the rūpa or ārūpya-dhātu heavens. Although the text offers no description, it would be reasonable to conclude that the speaker extolling such practices of dhyāna is not a follower of the Buddha but an ‘outsider’, a parivrājaka.

Narratives depicting the life of the Buddha such as those found in the Lalitavistara-sūtra describe how dwelling in meditative absorption was the goal of the methods taught by his two teachers Ārāḍa Kālāma (Bays 1983b, p.362-363) and Rudraka Rāmaputra (Bays 1983b, p.373-375). Reliance upon the techniques they taught was rejected by the Buddha as part of his own pursuit of the bodhisattva quest as they did not bring lasting results. Added to this is the speaker’s suggestion that even the path of the śrāvaka that leads to the fruit of the arhat should be abandoned. This latter consideration itself is reminiscent of the temptation at Uruvela in which Māra urges the Buddha to return to praising the sacrificial fire and perform good works with the expectation of obtaining a more fortunate rebirth in some heavenly realm.

The two classes of heavens lauded here are those of the rūpa and ārūpya-dhātu. Within Buddhist cosmology these realms do not sit within the kāmadhātu and so their inhabitants are beyond Māra’s reach. These modes of existence are purely the creation of mind and are considered attainable by the arhat during dhyāna. The rūpa-dhātu is a realm of pure aesthetic experience, described as one in which only the forms of experience remains as all desire has gone and only the physical body remains (Sadakata 2004, p.63). In the ārūpya-dhātu even the awareness of the body is transcended and the practitioner experiences the mind alone. Gradually the subtle processes of reflexive awareness dissolves away as all thoughts, emotions and any sense of time and dimensionality vanish until there is no longer any experience of anything substantial, there is only an ineffable experience of all pervading space. From the mythological perspective, there are no mental creations for Māra to engage with. But, sublime as this may be, and the abhidharma texts describe how inhabitants of these most rarefied of realms are astronomically vast in size and live for unimaginably long periods of time, such beings have not yet reached the state of an anuttara-samyak-saṃbuddha. Inevitably, after such periods of time, the inhabitants of these two realms will have exhausted the momentum of the accumulated benefits of their previous good actions and sink back into the lower realms to again fall prey to Māra’s predation. In terms of the failure to complete the transmission which is the main concern of this chapter, the inhabitants of these higher realms are ‘sidelined’ out of samsara in some form of heavenly ‘dead-end’. Whilst they have reached personal beatitude and are relatively free from duḥkha, they are unaware and unresponsive of the plight of sarva-sattvas and are no longer capable of engaging with them.

3.1.8) Breakdown of the Teacher-Disciple Relationship

The discussion over the Buddha’s concerns regarding the influence of Māra upon the mind of the individual bhikṣu can now be extended into the relationship between the dharma-bhāṇaka and his disciples. Here though, the dharma-bhāṇaka is not so much concerned with the welfare of others but his own health, perhaps indicating that the ‘model’ dharma-bhāṇaka of the text is getting on in years. As with the Buddha’s comments on the aspiring bodhisattva considered above, he speaks of the dharma-bhāṇaka as having a pre-occupation with material possessions and their acquisition. There is a contrast, however. Unlike the disciple whose worries are over his allocation of community possessions and perhaps the desire for something a little extra, the possessions sought by the dharma-bhāṇaka as someone of influence and prestige are a level of magnitude higher. In effect, we have the dharma-bhāṇaka looking for what amounts to a ‘better-deal’ for his services. Such a self-serving approach, the text is telling us, is in itself nothing outside the permitted practices, but pursuing personal wealth at the expense of completing the transmission or transcription of the teachings will not be in the best interests of the community in the long term. In other words, his disciples will lose heart, give up the bodhisattva pursuit and drift into following the path of the arhat. The role of the teacher presented in the Dàoxíng is someone who acts as a leader or role model for the aspiring bodhisattva to ultimately emulate. Frauwallner (1956,

p.71) discusses the issues surrounding the induction of new entrants into the sangha as outlined in a number of early vinaya texts. Based upon incidents in which the behaviour of younger bhikṣus was unruly, a new incumbent must become subordinate as disciples (sārdhaviharī) to an older bhikṣu by begging him to act as his master (upādhyāya). Following this, the ‘master and disciple should consider themselves as father and son’. It cannot be assumed that the dharma-bhāṇaka described in this chapter acts as such a close mentor, but the value placed upon the role of the teacher within the community needs to be seen as something more than a reader of texts. The text implies that a high level of trust and faith in the dharmabhāṇaka as being a requirement from the disciple. Similarly there are reasonable expectations to be made of the teacher. Again, drawing from earlier, non-Mahayana texts, the Udayi Sutta (AN 5.159) describes the Buddha listing five qualities of a good teacher. He gives these as being able: 1) to speak of the method step by step, 2) to explain the sequence of cause and effect, 3) to speak out of compassion, 4) not to speak out of material reward and, finally, 5) to speak without belittling others. The Dàoxíng also informs the reader in its own terms what to expect from a teacher (shědáluó 舍怛羅, śāstṛ) who is bodhisattva-mahāsattva and, more vitally from the perspective of bodhisattva path a ‘kalyāṇa-mitra’, the ‘good friend’ capable of applying the ‘four factors’ (sìshì 四事, saṃgraha-vastu) mentioned earlier. Perhaps as a polemic against non-bodhisattva methods, the shortcomings of the dharmabhāṇaka relate more closely to the qualities given in the Udayi Sutta than those given in the Dàoxíng as a Mahayana sutra.

3.1.8.1.1) Problems Originating with the Teacher

Before proceeding further it might prove useful to refer to a first hand account of the relationship between teachers and their disciples. Chapter XXV of Yìjìng’s (義淨) ‘Record of Buddhist Practices’ (Takakusu 1896) gives a detailed description of the relationship between the teacher and disciple during the period of his travels to the ‘western regions’ in the seventh century CE. He describes the dependence of the disciple upon his teacher, especially in the matter of behaving in accord with the regulations of the vinaya. Additionally, in much the same tone as the Dàoxíng, Yìjìng (ibid. p.120) asserts the commitment of the teacher (upādhyāya) as being vitally important by quoting the Mūlasarvāstivādanikāya-vinaya-saṁgraha (Gēnběn Sàpóduōbù Lǜshè 根本薩婆多部律攝, T 1458) which derides the ineffective teacher saying:

‘rather be a butcher than be a priest who gives others full ordination and leaves them untaught’. Yìjìng then proceeds to describe how a teacher will instruct the disciple reading from texts, giving explanations and addressing issues over the disciple’s personal practice. Care and service was integral to this relationship in which the disciple tends upon his teacher on a day to day basis and the teacher upon the disciple during times of the latter’s illness.

The model teacher-disciple relationship presented in the sources offers no description of how this relationship might break down. The image inculcated in them is one in which those who take upon themselves the role of teacher are faultless. The author of the Indic urtext of the Dàoxíng thought not. And, if it is assumed during this earlier period that many such teachers were also considered to be arhats, then traditional accounts discussing the ‘Five Points’ (De La Vallee Pousin 1910) or complaints of Mahādeva which led to the schism within the sangha that formed the Mahāsaṃghikas and Sthaviras factions would support the need for reexamination of the role of the teacher-mentor. An expanded, comparative study of this topic is more fully discussed by Lamotte (1998, p.274-285), but the list given by Watters (1904, p.268) taken from the Āpídámó Dà Pípóshā Lùn 阿毘達磨大毘婆沙論 (T 1545) ( Abhidharma-mahā-vibhāṣā-śāstra) is of greater interest. It reads:

1) An arhat may commit a sin under unconscious temptation, 2) One may be an arhat and not know it, 3) An arhat may have doubts on matters of doctrine, 4) One cannot attain arhatship without the aid of a teacher, 5) The “noble ways” may begin by a shout, that is, one meditating seriously on religion may make such an exclamation as “How sad!” and by doing so attain progress towards perfection. This list taken from the Sārvastivāda sources not only highlights concerns over the temptation of the arhat, but points 2-5 bear parallels with other topics contained in the discourse of the Dàoxíng, these being doubts over the certainty of reaching the goal, the necessity of finding a kalyāṇa-mitra, and the nature of samādhi; topics discussed in greater detail later in this thesis. The Dàoxíng discusses the actions of Māra upon the dharma-bhāṇaka. Although dealing with the topic’s ‘failings’ these are not any violation of the prātimokṣa; the Buddha cautions against them and presents to the audience a means of their avoidance but there is no censure or ‘prescription’ (Gethin 1998, p.40). This is an approach that epitomizes the essential differences between sutra and vinaya.

3.1.9) Failings of the Teacher (MK31, MK32)

The Dàoxíng makes it clear that a newly training bodhisattva (xīn xué púsà 新學菩薩) is still open to the effects of experiences of rejection and disaffection which come from following a teacher whose only long-term interests are the acquisition of personal gain or adulation. The topic of the effects of the ‘wicked master’ or ěshī 惡師 is discussed a number of times in the text, and a list of ‘four factors’ associated with them is given in chapter 5, (441c17-19) which closely parallels those given in chapter 9. Although this is a rendering of the Sanskrit pāpa-mitra or ‘bad friends’ (Karashima 2010, p.143), these factors caution directly against what those people say. In chapter 1 the Dàoxíng refers (427b01, 447b07) to both the ‘wicked’ and ‘good masters’ shànshī 善師 and their role of giving instruction supportive of the aspiring bodhisattva’s pursuit of the quest. The choice of Lokakṣema’s target language terms for what other recensions identify as the Sanskrit kalyāṇa-mitra (ibid. p.409-10), can be identified as aiming to instil a contrast between the role and methods of the teachers encountered by bodhisattvas on different stages of the path. The ‘good master’, the Buddha tells Subhūti (427b09), leads the bodhisattva to awaken to Māra’s work and to be protected from it whereas the ‘wicked master’ does not.

In the first instance of this category [MK31] the Buddha is depicted cautioning against a dharma-bhāṇaka puffed-up with pride and who considers himself as being the basis of refuge. Desertion of the disciple combined with disparagement is next discussed [MK32]. The Buddha speaks of the dharma-bhāṇaka who would plan to sever connections with his disciples, perhaps giving the excuse that he has to travel to some distant and inhospitable place which they would not be able to endure. He tells them to ‘think upon it’. Should this passage be read as a metaphor or be taken literally? The Dàoxíng makes a number of references to ‘girding the armour’

(móhēsēng nà sēngniè 摩訶僧那僧涅, mahāsaṃnāha-saṃnaddha) of the bodhisattva and ‘setting out in the chariot of the Mahayana’ (móhēyǎn sānbázhì 摩訶衍三拔致, mahāyāna-saṃprasthita) to both engage with śūnyatā and to work for the benefit of living beings. Equally, this could mean going to some actual distant land in which case portraying the bodhisattva quest in terms of the hero-quest (448b10) would be the use of empty ‘fancy talk’ (shēn hǎo yǔ 深好語). Although the distinction is left unresolved and remains open to the interpretation of the reader, it is understood that the outcome is the same. The words of the teacher only serve to undermine the faith and confidence of the disciple in the value of pursuing the bodhisattva path. If the pursuit of the path of hardships is too hard, then what is the purpose of following the path? As the master himself has planted the seeds of doubt in the minds of his own disciples, they take these as truth, ponder upon them and ‘little by little’ begin to give up.

3.1.10) The Dharma Master who Gives Excuses not To Teach (MK33)

Based upon the four-factors of the kalyāṇa-mitra given above, the issue of the worth of the dharma-bhāṇaka does not lie in the personal benefits the master has gained for himself but on how he is able to work for the benefit of others. In the final karmāṇi of this cluster, the master is described as willingly accepting disciples with the intent to lead them in the transmission of the sutra but ultimately fails them. Rather than beginning the process of expounding the teachings, the dharmabhāṇaka avoids his obligation by ‘going out to beg’ [MK33]. Whilst the context could be taken at face value, the reports given by Yìjìng (Takakusu 1896) on life in the Indian vihāra do not describe walking the alms-round as having a high priority. Furthermore, given the sangha’s possession of wealth, as argued consistently and convincingly by Schopen, it would be reasonable to assume that communities to a large extent drew upon their assets and sponsors for their daily upkeep. In such a setting the practice of begging becomes a practice of piety and only comes fully into its own during the time when bhikṣus were travelling. If the dharma-bhāṇaka is not journeying elsewhere, then there is the possibility the expression (448b14) ‘keen on going out to beg’ (jiànxíng qǐ xiōng 健行乞匈) is used euphemistically. Similar ideas are also conveyed in the phrase (448b15) ‘I have to go somewhere, I must go and ask someone something’ (wǒ dāngyǒusuǒ zhì, zé yǒusuǒ wènyán 我當有所至,則有所問

言). The passage concludes that this failing teacher rarely and unwillingly bestows the sutras upon his disciples indicating that he is present but actively chooses not to teach.

3.1.11) The Discouragement of Others (MK 34, MK35)

The final pair of karmāṇis relate to how Māra works against the newly-training bodhisattva. The first [MK34] presents a scenario in which Māra controls the thoughts of someone claiming to have ‘every one of the deep sutras’ (yǒu yīyī shēnjīng 有一一深經). In an attempt to out-trump the ideas of some newly training bodhisattva, they become argumentative and offensive. In effect, those who superficially work towards the same goal are working against each other. Again these themes have parallels in the Pali sources. The topic of pride-driven argument is addressed in the Pasura Sutta (Snp 4.8) in which the disputers achieve nothing other than feelings of haughtiness or defeat. The message put to the reader is that any forcible insistence that a particular viewpoint is correct over any other similar view necessarily engenders disengagement, scepticism, doubt and rejection of any associated teachings. In this case, the offended party gives up the pursuit of the bodhisattva path. At the end of the list [MK35] as some form of definition as the Dàoxíng describes the Buddha summarizing the aim of Māra’s actions as being to cause a newlytraining bodhisattva to change his aspiration and to give up, choosing instead to become a śrāvaka with the intent of pursuing the path of the srota-āpana.

In order to present the bodhisattva aspiration as superior to that of the śrāvaka, any cause for a newly aspiring bodhisattva to give up the quest to become an anuttara- samyak-saṃbuddha is presented in the Dàoxíng as ‘the work of Māra’. PreMahayana narratives, on the other hand, have portrayed such works as Māra’s attempt to prevent the escape from samsara. During the process of these narratives undergoing paradigmatic change, the goal of Māra shifts from encouraging his victim, now a bodhisattva not to give up the pursuit of path completely, but to follow it with a different intent. In this altered narrative, Māra’s efforts are to entice the bodhisattva to ‘fall’ or ‘sink back’ into the śrāvaka path with the aspiration of becoming a srota-āpana. The narrative foundations of these karmāṇi can be traced in part to the inversions of the descriptions of both the good teacher and disciple in non-Mahayana texts which are regarded as originating prior to the creation of the Indic urtext of the Dàoxíng.

3.2) Māra Temptations and the Bodhisattva Path

The studies of the prajñā–pāramitā sutras examined in preparation of this thesis have rarely approached the depiction of the bodhisattva path in these texts, perhaps because the topic is embedded in the narrative in a non-systematic way. The Dàoxíng contains no lists, numeric or otherwise, which link the stages of the path together. There is no mention of the ‘ten grounds’ (shídì 十地, daśa-bhūmi) typical of later, embellished texts such as the ‘Large Sutra’ (Conze 1979) and the Dà Zhìdù Lùn 大智度論 (T 1509) which also sees the creation of an analogous set of ten śrāvaka and pratyekabuddha grounds. Other, differing lists of ten bodhisattva grounds are also found within Mahayana texts such as the Fànwǎng Jīng 梵網經 (Brahmajāla-sūtra; T 1484) and the Shídì Jīng 十地經 (Daśabhūmika-sūtra; T287).

The absence of such an enumerated list is possibly indicative that the divisions were recognized but had not yet undergone a process of doctrinalization. That is, the ideas were contained in sutras as narratemes, but had yet to be abstracted and incorporated into some form of abhidharma-like exegesis. The occurrence of mixed translation and transliteration methods for the rendering of the names of the grounds of the bodhisattva path in the Dàoxíng gives weight to this interpretation. Based upon this, differences in the received lists themselves can then be viewed as variations derived from the serialized additions to the narrative of the bodhisattva path found in the sutras in which these lists occur. This topic, and how it can be seen as paradigmatic development of the similarly numbered śrāvaka path will form the topic of chapter 6 of this thesis. For the purposes of the remainder of the examination in this chapter these stages can be defined as: 1) nava-yānasaṃprasthita, ‘newly entered into the vehicle’, 2) ādibhūmi, ‘first ground’, 3) avivarti(ka), ‘irreversible’, and 4) abhiṣeka, ‘anointed’. Although four stages are named, these are not discussed in equal degrees as the text places greatest emphasis upon the stages of the nava-yāna-saṃprasthita and avivarti(ka). Whilst the ādibhūmi and abhiṣeka grounds are named, these are less effective vehicles for the purpose of presenting Māra encounter narratives. Some theorizing on the relationship of these in the overall schema of the path will shed light on why this so. The Dàoxíng explains how Māra approaches those who have the dharma, and seeks to cause them to become confused and so to lose their way. In the case of the nava-yāna-saṃprasthita grounds, the aspirant had newly entered the path and so stands upon the threshold of entry into the bodhisattva path, which only genuinely begins on the ādibhūmi, literally the ‘first ground’. An avaivartika, has to all intents and purposes, done all that needs to be done in order to become awakened and approaches the threshold of entering into the buddha path as an abhiṣeka-bodhisattva. In the metanarrative of the temptation, Māra’s aim of thwarting the bodhisattva is to lead him into becoming a śrāvaka and an arhat.

Given this four-fold division of the path in the Dàoxíng, it should not be surprising to find relatively few references to the ādibhūmi and abhiṣeka bodhisattva grounds. Although the reader is told that Māra follows the bodhisattva at all times, it is these threshold or liminal states in the path that are most critical. In chapter 2 this topic was discussed based upon reports of liminal meditative states in Pali sources. In the Dàoxíng, there are no direct references to Māra encounters other than those in nested tales. The approach taken in the text is one of generalization by extending the idea of the certainty of future Māra temptations rather than containing hagiographic reportage. As explored in the discussion of the karmāṇi, the approaches of Māra work to instil doubt and confusion in the mind of bodhisattva. For the newly aspiring bodhisattva, this is uncertainty over entry into the bodhisattva path. Once this is found, it can be read that ‘order is restored’, the aspirant becomes a bodhisattva and his progress begins. At some point, the bodhisattva becomes a bodhisattva-mahāsattva and enters the ground of the avaivartika. Following this, an avaivartika aspires to the buddha path. Again Māra approaches but works to generate fear. If this is overcome, the ‘anointed’ bodhisattva progresses on towards completing the buddha path. The essential qualities of the ‘doubt’ and ‘fear’ serve to undermine certainty over the possibility of achieving the fruits of the path.

Embedded within the metaphoric language of the path are ideas which denote a passage from one of state of being to another. In order to progress upon the path, not only are external hardships to be endured, so are challenges to self-identity and all that is assumed to be substantial in life. The latter, of course, are the works of Māra. The change of tone within the Dàoxíng then, is not just that such experiences have allegedly happened to others advanced in their pursuit of the path, but that they will inevitably happen to others in the course of their progress. The movement between the ‘grounds’ of the path will result in ‘encounters’ that take the pursuer into liminal states; contexts in which previously understood experiences of structure lose their integrity and perceptions of anti-structure arise from which a renewed sense of communal belonging and responsibility develops.

As described earlier, narratives surrounding the life of Siddhārtha Gautama, whilst still a bodhisattva, were instrumental in the formation of Campbell’s notion of the monomyth. Principally dealing with mythological texts, Campbell (1993, p.10) applies the ideas expressed by the French ethnographer Arnold Van Gennep in a seminal text entitled Les Rites De Passage first published in 1909. Drawing from Van Gennep’s theories, Campbell presents the idea of the hero myth becoming expressive of the experiences of life-stage transitions, or ‘rites of passage’. According to Gennep, a ‘rite of passage’ is a necessary feature of any form of life transition and expresses the dichotomy existing between ‘stable’ and ‘transitory’ structures. Each process of transition is characterized by three phases: separation (séparation), transition (marge), and incorporation (agrégation). Here, separation implies the isolation of the individual from fixed social or cultural structures, transition also termed ‘liminality’ expresses the succeeding state of ambivalence, with the final phase of corresponding to the individual’s return and reintegration into society with a renewed social status. Other scholars who have applied ritual theory to the emotional life of the Buddha include Turner (1969) and Bell (1992). On the life of the Buddha, Turner (ibid. p.197) comments that ‘we have a classic case of a “structurally” well endowed religious founder who underwent initiation into communitas through stripping and equalizing and putting on the behavior of weakness and poverty.’ As Turner’s model is typically dealing with sacred ritual, the term ‘communitas’ is used to indicate the passage into a sacred rather than common community. Imagery of the bodhisattva being engaged in religious rites of ascension is found in the Dàoxíng’s metaphoric descriptions of the bodhisattva path. The aspirant as an ‘initiant’ enters a period of waiting, in which he seeks to find the bodhisattva path. When access is found, he girds his armour and becomes the vigilant hero. To make progress, the bodhisattva then rides in the great-vehicle or chariot till such time that he becomes the ‘mahāsāttva’, unshaken and resolute in the face of his foes. This journeying, as passage, ultimately leads towards the buddha path and anointment (abhiṣeka) and, as a monarch, to dispense his dharma and exert social order through the power of his just wisdom.

3.2.1) Temptation of the Avaivartika-bodhisattva

The signs of the bodhisattva’s entry into avaivartika grounds forms the key topic of chapter 15, whereas the discussion of how the bodhisattva ‘turns-away’ from Māra’s assaults is found in chapter 18. Importantly in this latter chapter, only the true avaivartika is described as possessing the ability to defeat malicious yakṣas through the process of exorcism. If a bodhisattva on the grounds of the avaivartika path has become completely aware of the various works of Māra mentioned above, the question that arises is how can such a bodhisattva be tempted? Unlike those upon the nava-yāna-samprasthita grounds who are uncertain over the possibility of accessing the path, those upon avaivartika grounds are firmly placed upon it and must make a choice. He must choose between becoming an arhat in this life and entering parinirvāṇa at death, returning one last time as a pratyekabuddha, or progressing onto the higher buddha path. Of these three, the first two offer immediate release, but to fully accomplish the buddha path will require vast quantities of merit accumulated over equally vast amounts of time and expose the bodhisattva to many difficulties. The Dàoxíng presents an avaivartika as ever victorious during such times, but such difficulties have to be endured. Whilst the narratives of the jātakas speak of many physical difficulties over many lifetimes, the Dàoxíng, on the other hand speaks specifically of the following approaches of Māra who seeks to plant seeds of doubt.

3.2.2) Signs of the Avaivartika-bodhisattva

In the opening paragraph of chapter 15 (454b18) the Buddha explains that an avaivartika experiences the same unshakable dhyāna as an arhat, pratyekabuddha or buddha. Using the metaphoric language of the path, the Buddha next explains how an avaivartika ‘enters’ a ground like that of a buddha, a domain of meditative experience which has no basis. This domain, previously discussed in chapter 17 of the Dàoxíng, is described as ‘basically nothing’ (běnwú 本無). Like empty space, this domain is something that can be experienced but it cannot be said that anything is found or obtained from within it. On ‘returning’ an avaivartika is left with a ‘taste’ of that experience which he will describe as a state of neither existing nor not existing. The significance of this is so profound that the account (454b24) gives the Buddha concluding that because of this sign, the pursuit is ended (yòng shì bǐ yòngshì xiāng xíng jùzú 用是比用是相行具足). As a result, the bodhisattva no longer recognizes any other śramaṇa, brahman or deva as his better, makes no offerings to them and can spontaneously speak of the dharma, as he has now completed the training in ‘all dharmas’.

It is against the background of this later action that the text informs its audience that Māra is incited once more to come and harass the bodhisattva. Māra cannot cause the bodhisattva to abandon the quest for the path, he has already completed it and no longer has any personal use for it. The temptations now wrought by Māra are those which would result in an avaivartika no longer acting like a locum buddha, abandoning engagement in the world and entering nirvana.

Chapters 15 and 18 depict the Buddha describing this category of temptation. In chapter 9, Māra does not ‘move’ in the sense of coming to the presence of the bodhisattva as he typically influences the minds of his victims. As the object of this category of assaults is an avaivartika, an established bodhisattva who has ‘awakened’ to Māra’s works, Māra is portrayed using more powerful tactics. His attempts at deception now involve either approaching his potential victims in transformation (huàzuò 化作, abhinirmita) bodies or through direct (wǎng dào 往到, upasaṃkramaṇa) contact. Amongst the contexts listed, the Dàoxíng (464a09) also presents Māra as causing a ‘fire-storm’ (huǒ fēng 火風) which bears parallels to the ‘thunder and lightning’ integral to the karmāṇi listed in chapter 9 (Karashima 2010, p.233, suggests reading this as huǒ yŭ 火雨, ulkā-pāta, or a shower of meteors). Clearly used as an illustrative device to give some indication of the weight of the ensuing assaults, the ‘fire storm’ is not momentary like the thunder but continued and on ‘all four sides’ (sìmiàn 四面). Furthermore, the effects are upon the bodhisattvas collectively and not upon any individual and it is their responses of anxiety and confusion which are portrayed as being influential on the mind of the bodhisattva. Although the thunder and lightning mentioned in chapter 5 is not explicitly stated as being created by Māra, as a narrative development, Māra as one of the controllers of weather and atmospheric events can be clearly associated with such phenomenon that lead to anxiety and fear.

Prior to the examination of the specific references, one further narrative change occurs in the latter section of the sutra, namely the multiplicity of Māras. On numerous occasions within the Dàoxíng the discourse refers to vast number of world systems. By necessity then, just as there are many worlds, each one like a cakravāla with its own buddha, there are equally as many Māras, if not more. Moreover, although the core myth regards Māra as a singular, named persona, the extended narratives treat the mytheme as a class of ill-wishing creatures. Just as all the tathāgatas in those realms are aware of the advancing bodhisattva (perhaps of the radiance of his light) so, all those Māras are potentially aware too and are grieved by the bodhisattva’s successful progress (463c27).

3.3) The Avaivartika Temptations

The first discussion of the avaivartika temptations is found in chapter 15 and relates to what can be described as confrontational approaches. These temptations are not in response to specific events, nor due to Māra’s attempt to directly influence the minds of others. The modus operandi for these is the power of magical transformation in which Māra produces various forms of apparitional beings (column 3) in an attempt to scare an avaivartika into turning away from the quest for the buddha path. These are summarized in the following table.


Tine Ref. Beings Objective

AT1 454c21 Avaivartikas in hell. Confess errors and gain rebirth in the heavens.

AT2 452c29 Śramaṇa. Renounce the bodhisattva path taught by a false buddha.

AT3 455a14 ‘Someone’ Enduring hardships is not the Buddha’s method.

AT4 455a21 Bodhisattva. Practising does not result in the receipt of an assurance.

AT5 455a28 Bhikṣu. All arhats were once bodhisattvas who could not become buddhas.

AT6 455b09 Yakṣa. The bodhisattva teachings are the work of Māra.

AT7 456a04 The Buddha. If no assurance is received then the bodhisattva will become an arhat.

AT8 456a10 The Buddha. To convince the bodhisattva that a fake buddha has been teaching him the wrong path.

Table 9: Avaivartika temptations -1.

More astute, the avaivartika does not fall prey to Māra’s mind games and so the transformations are manifest in a bid to create the appearance of a convincing solid and plausible deceptive reality, albeit with some elements of mythic vision [AT1]. The words spoken by the various groups [AT4, AT5, AT7] of beings are aimed at inculcating doubts within the bodhisattva over whether the path pursued will produce the anticipated results.

In this cluster there are no temptations over the possibility of material gains or expectations of personal fame or favour. The focus of these doubts is that the teachings originate from a false buddha and so are deceptive, leading to prolonged misery before finding any respite. Māra wants an avaivartika to feel regretful for the path chosen [AT1], to confess his errors, to renounce the teachings of the false buddha [AT2, AT8] and to seek higher rebirth in the heavens.

The forms miracled by Māra are those that can be taken to be familiar to the bodhisattva in his quest. The first group is that which he seeks to be, namely an accounted for avaivartika. The subsequent three classes (śramaṇa, bodhisattva and bhikṣu) are followers of the path with the singular exception [AT3] of the ‘other person’, yìrén 異人. Karashima (2011, p.310) offers little to clarify the meaning here, but it should not be interpreted as indicating a class outside this group of three but interpreted as a repetition of the temptation. The yakṣa [AT6] as amānuṣa or non-human, is not a pursuer of the path but recognizes its power. The classification of the yakṣa is somewhat ambiguous in Buddhist mythology as they are attributed with both benign and malignant qualities and often act as protectors (DeCaroli 2004, p.15-16). Perhaps it is in the light of this latter function that the yakṣa form is included in this cluster; the ploy being that the yakṣa is appearing to come to an avaivartika’s aid with information that would release him from misery. By way of contrast, the presence of a deva in this instance would run counter to the established behaviours of such beings in other contexts found in this sutra. Were a deva to come, the expectation would be

that the deva would praise the merits of the bodhisattva or reveal the hardships encountered as being some form of test (472c18). In the final temptation Māra creates the appearance of the Buddha who then approaches the bodhisattva informing him that as no assurance has been given, the only resolve is to follow the path of the arhat. It would appear that even without an assurance, the true avaivartika does not lose his determination. The imagery depicts the possession of an assurance as being catastrophic, leading an avivartika-bodhisattva into the lowest depths of samsara. Whereas the lack of an assurance will lead him towards his only other option, complete release and extinction. Yet, the section concludes, an avaivartika remains steadfast and does not respond to such reproaches which he regards as hearing the sound of Māra (455b05). The idea embedded within this group of Māra deceptions is that the bodhisattva path ultimately leads to the entrance into the path of the arhat. This runs counter to the ‘one-path’ (yīdào 一道, eka-yāna) viewpoint characteristic of the Mahayana perspective and presented in the Dàoxíng in chapter 14 (454a20). Although the goal of the pratyekabuddha is not mentioned in the avaivartika temptations, this is doctrinally consistent as the pratyekabuddha does not rely upon the instructions of others. The dialogue in chapter 14 where the idea of the ‘one-path’ is encountered is not led by the Buddha but presented as part of a three-way exchange of views between Subhūti, Śāriputra and Pūrṇa Maitrāyanipūtra. Needless to say, the Buddha supports Subhūti’s interpretation that as the basis of all three paths is the same, the eventual goal too must be the same – entry into the buddha path. The observation that such key notions are first expressed within the text by Subhūti is deeply suggestive of an intent by the authors of the Dàoxíng to present new directions in doctrine that appear to have arisen in response to the unresolved dilemmas of prolonged practice. In terms of creating narrative structures, such issues are voiced by familiar personae with commonly understood traits. In accord with this, the function of the voice of the Buddha is to provide judgement, a definitive description and to expand upon the core issues raised.

The next set of temptations found in chapter 18 is more complex due to its setting within what amounts to a series of nested tales rather than part of the dialogue. The smallest of all the groups, Māra comes as himself. There is no description of his form, nor the specific circumstance of the bodhisattva at the time of the temptation.


Line Ref. Beings Objective

AT9 460a15 As himself. Receipt of an assurance is merely words.

(Māra claims his awesome presence caused the yakṣa to flee, not the power of the avaivartika). AT10 460b06 In various forms. Speaks of the assurance in a way to make a bodhisattva feel proud and haughty, and to believe that they have obtained ‘something’.

AT11 461a07 As himself. Urges abandoning the tathāgata method by dwelling in solitude.

AT12 461b18 As himself, flying in the air. Urges the acceptance of renunciation as the true method of tathāgata. Table 10: Avaivartika temptations -2.

In the cluster found in chapter 18 which deals with the topic of ‘letting go’ or ‘turning-away’, Māra comes to the bodhisattva and once again speaks, but the severity of the context is less intense and the apparent voice of the tempter more subtle. The doubts produced are over the value of words themselves [AT9] and how attachment to ideas produces a sense of inflexible pride [AT10] in the bodhisattva. This latter temptation also encapsulates the idea of obtaining something, which runs contrary to Subhūti’s original assertion that the bodhisattva finds nothing (426a23). Logically, the idea of finding ‘nothing’ and ‘something’ as equivalent is merely a matter of word substitution. But the deception here is that this ‘nothing’ is itself an ‘other-something’. This idea of possessing nothing, is expanded in [AT11] in which Māra attempts to persuade an avaivartika to live in solitude. This is not the simple rejection of social engagement but rejection of the role of working like a tathāgata; that is, fulfilling the role of a kalyāṇa-mitra as a locum buddha.

Finally in this group rejection of the pursuit as the pursuit [AT12] can be seen as a manipulation of the notion that ultimately the path must be let go of, an idea first expressed in Alagaddūpama Sutta (MN22, MA200) as the raft simile and later revisited in the Vajracchedīka Prajñā-pāramitā-sūtra (Conze 1975, p.34). The gist of the simile is that the path itself should not become an object of attachment once its function is complete. Whilst Alagaddūpama Sutta does speak of the requirement of holding-fast to the raft in progress this is not attachment. The contrastive feature between the simile and this temptation is the promotion of the act of rejection as the means of practice. The Dàoxíng speaks of ‘abandonment’ as being the spontaneous release of the perception of the duality of self in pursuit. An avaivartika lets go of the idea of the pursuit, but does not reject it as Māra would suggest. The text (461b18) describes Māra espousing ‘three [types] of abandonment’ (sānyuǎnlí 三遠離) which are not elaborated upon. Karashima (2011, p.174, n.315) comments that this is unparalleled in all other recensions, pointing out that other texts have read wáng 亡 or wàng 忘 for the character sān 三. Such reading would prove more consistent with the tone of the passage as these alternatives imply meanings ranging from abandonment in the sense of forgetting or omission (wàng 忘) through to something becoming lost or dying (wáng 亡). As a whole, expressions such as wàngyuǎnlí 忘遠離 or wángyuǎnlí 亡遠離 imply the falling away of attachments are through a process of ‘forgetfulness’ or ‘withering away’. It is not the active process of replacing one object of attachment with another as Māra suggests. The Dàoxíng, it can be interpreted, is cautioning the reader against confusing deliberate apathy or inertia for what its authors regard as release.

The nature of the approach of Māra in these temptations receives little attention although the last context (461b18) is distinctive in as much as Māra is described as ‘flying up in the air and stands’ (wǎngfēi zài xūkōng zhōnglì 往飛在虛空中立). The image portrayed is that the words are spoken by some form of divine apparition. Again this narrative feature finds parallels in the tale of Sadāprarudita in which the various visions are seen by the bodhisattva provide him with boons in the form of information and guidance. In these latter accounts the information furnished is supportive of the pursuit that the bodhisattva is actively engaged in, whereas in the Māra temptation there is a direct attempt to deceive the bodhisattva into taking an erroneous course of action.

3.4) Pride and Haughtiness, Narratives and Origins of a Potential Backstory

Although the bulk of Dàoxíng portrays the avaivartika-bodhisattva as irreversible in his pursuit, uncowed, unruffled, independent, vigilant, omniscient and capable of acting as a locum buddha chapter 21, entitled ‘Pride’ (gònggāo 貢高), differs somewhat in its depiction. The path of the avaivartika becomes a gamut of various sub-levels of achievement in which intense pride can occur that becomes the weakness that Māra needs in order to renew his assault. The text (464b14) speaks of two bodhisattvas, ‘one with still far to go and one with not so far to go’ (yuǎnlí yuǎnyì búdà yuǎn 遠離遠亦不大遠), their continued reliance upon their teachers and the friction and argumentation that can spark up between them. Until this point in the text, the avaivartika has been praised as a class of bodhisattva that the reader has been led to presume will be someone who ‘knows better’. Yet chapter 21 is cautioning against this sense of ‘knowing better’ and the pride that the text depicts as inevitably arising in the heart of the bodhisattva.

The opening paragraphs of chapter 21 describe how Māra becomes enraged by the success of those bodhisattvas who have gone beyond the stage of aspiration. The Buddha is described explaining to Ānanda how Māra will create a ‘fire storm’ (huǒ fēng 火風) that will surround those bodhisattvas ‘to scare them so that their hair will rise and hearts become confused and thoughts to spin’ (464a11). As this statement stands alone, unconnected as a narrative event to the remainder of the text, it can be interpreted that this is a fictional metaphor used to portray the anger of Māra and to convey the imagery of the incessant and ever present uncertainty and confusion wrought upon the bodhisattva. This point is further clarified by the subsequent comment made by the Buddha in which he explains that those bodhisattvas who follow wrong and confused paths are ignored by Māra.

Unlike the earlier examples where Māra’s temptations are intermittent, here the text speaks of Māra ‘going and staying’ (xíng zhù 行住) with the bodhisattva. In effect then, the bodhisattva, the vigilant hero, effectively becomes someone under siege, a victim to a continuous barrage of assaults wrought by Māra using his key weapons: thoughts of doubt and feelings of fear. Developing from this premise, a final set of seven temptations is described in the text which can be summarized as follows.


Line Ref. Temptation

AT13 464a09 Fire storms and the creation of fear.

AT14 464a14 Doubts leading to confusion over meaning.

AT15 464a18 Desertion of the good teacher.

AT16 464a21 Taking up with a bad teacher.

AT17 464a24 Failing to understand the prajñā–pāramitā teachings whilst instructing others to follow it.

AT18 464b04 Receiving gifts from various Māras, causes the rising of pride and the belittling of others and their achievements.

AT19 464b07 Stirring up thoughts.

AT20 464b13 Two bodhisattvas arguing with each other.

Table 11: Avaivartika temptations -3.


The text explains that a sense of dissatisfaction (búlè 不樂) with the prajñāpāramitā is the starting point of Māra’s assault. This causes the bodhisattva to harbour fear [AT13] and develop uncertainties over the very existence of prajñāpāramitā [AT14] and the value and efficacy of the path. The confusion that arises because of this leads to a disbelief and rejection of the instruction and guidance of the ‘good teacher’ (shànshī 善師) [AT15] whilst following the advice of the ‘bad teacher’ (èshī 惡師) [AT16]. If it is assumed that the narrative implies that the good teacher is someone who has hitherto worked with the bodhisattva in order to secure his progress on the path, then why is such a teacher rejected? The text explains that the bodhisattva has failed to understand the ‘deep’ matters of the prajñā–pāramitā and, because he cannot grasp what it is that is to be kept or ‘watched over’ (shǒu 守), he no longer wants to listen. It is not that the teacher is engaged in any matter contrary to the pursuit as in the earlier karmāṇi but there is a failure on the part of the bodhisattva to break through his confusion. The ‘bad teacher’ cleaved to is similarly undefined. The confused bodhisattva’s choice of teacher is based upon the need of perceiving himself as being in possession of something that distinguishes himself from others and, perhaps, from what he once considered himself to be (464a22). The theme of teaching is carried through into the subsequent temptations; the confused bodhisattva who is engaged in the role of a teacher and falls victim to Māra with negative results for all those whom he instructs.

This cluster of temptations represents the only instance in the Dàoxíng in which the generalized bodhisattva as the subject of the Buddha’s discourse is portrayed as actively instructing others. The text speaks of the bodhisattva directing disciples in the practice of the pursuit and the transcription of the text, much like the dharmabhāṇaka discussed previously. Clearly the backstory to this temptation requires the reader to assume that the teaching-bodhisattva has received the transmission of the sutra, the reason for this being that the Dàoxíng describes the bodhisattva thinking disparagingly about the progress of his disciples compared to his own [AT17]. This development stands in contrast to those student bodhisattvas described in chapter 9 (MK4, MK5) of the sutra who exhibit open and vociferous disrespect towards each other.

The adulation of the teacher becomes a further issue. Unlike the dharma-bhāṇaka who abandons his disciples in order to chase after personal wealth, the text speaks of Māra giving something much more seductive, lavish gifts [AT18] and flattering talk. These also find parallels with the earlier karmāṇi [MK10, MK11]. The passage speaks of Māra praising the confused bodhisattva with talk of his place of birth and family. Temptations centring around the importance of the bodhisattva’s place of birth, family, the sense of self-worth and the belittling of others are topics that first enter the dialogue in chapter 9. In those examples, the aspiring bodhisattva seeks to find personal and family details in the texts he is transcribing and the dharmabhāṇaka speaks disparagingly about others. Whilst these could be interpreted as ‘general topics’ it would be over-simplistic to dismiss these brief references or to interpret them in terms of what a modern reader might describe as family matters or pejorative talk. Given that the historical period during which the Indic urtext of the Dàoxíng was composed is distant both chronologically and in terms of cultural values, textual evidence needs to be identified that would give some insight into what might be the basis for such behaviours. Schumann in his Der Historisches

Buddha (1982, English translation by Walsh, 2004) discusses the textual accounts of the socio-political environment in which the historical person of Siddhārtha Gautama lived. What Schumann’s well-argued study makes clear is the impact of the prevailing Vedic caste system upon the organization and culture of the sangha. The caste system of this period, he points out (ibid. p.28), was not as rigid as in subsequent eras of Indian history. The caste of an individual was largely determined by the work done by the family and some movement between castes was possible. Textual evidence indicates that most of the central elite of the sangha were either directly related to the Buddha, members of the same caste, or brahmans. There were notable exceptions such as Upāli, a barber who was master of the vinaya. The Pali canon contains the details of many members of the early sangha, giving their names, professions and sometimes their father’s profession. This may well have been to identify individuals with the same name, but as caste was largely determined through profession this functions as a register of caste through inference. Although the sangha was supposed to be caste-less, it was not ‘always forgotten’ (ibid. p.166) . Some references will illustrate this point. The positioning of the Buddha within the caste system is expressed in the narrative of the Ambaṭṭha Sutta (DN 3, DA 20, T20) in which the Buddha, in response to being called an outcaste by the brahman Ambaṭṭha, uses his knowledge of

family history and the mythic divine origins of his own clan, the Śākyas, to establish the caste superiority of the kshatriyas over the brahman family (gotra) of Ambattha. In the Vasala Sutta (Snp 1.7) the brahman Aggikabhāradvāja verbally abuses the Buddha, presumably because he considered that the presence of a śramaṇa as someone without caste had ritually defiled a fire-offering he was preparing. Again, drawing upon a deep knowledge of the caste system and the myth based relationship of high-birth and pure meritorious acts, the Buddha is portrayed returning a barrage of criticism against the brahman based upon the importance of right moral action in terms of the castesystem. The Buddha ends by denouncing those who are driven by falsehoods, lack of sympathy, hatred and anger as being the actual outcastes (Pali: vasala). Amongst the criticisms made in this sutta, specific mention is made of pride, self- exultation and the belittling of others which has close parallels with the temptations of Māra discussed in the Dàoxíng. Based upon this, it is reasonable to infer that such textual references or the observation of parallel circumstances that led to the formulation of similar narrative paradigms, form the basis of the Māra temptations. In response, is there any textual evidence for the permitted continuance of caste discrimination in the early sangha? The Pilinda Sutta is a brief text that gives an account of how a bhikkhu named Pilindavaccha, born into brahman family, consistently addresses others as vasala. The Buddha accepts that no offence was intended and urged Pilinda’s fellow monks to tolerate such behaviour because Vaccha had been born into a brahman family for five hundred lifetimes and so it was his custom to address others as ‘outcaste’. Schumann’s analysis (ibid. p.188) of named personae in the Pali sources indicates that no single caste was in the majority. The caste with the highest level of representation (men and women included) were brahmans (45%) followed by kshatriyas (29%), vaisyas (18%), casteless (6%), and sudras (2%). Schumann makes a valid observation of why the lower castes are so poorly represented. Manual workers were often slaves or bondsmen and so not free to join the sangha whereas skilled workers would have been paid in advance and so were, in effect, debtors who were also forbidden from joining the religious community. On the basis of this, lay social differences were carried into the sangha as the caste system was not opposed by the Buddha, his objections were against the contempt displayed by brahmans towards the members of other castes and the perception that personal worth was limited by caste.

The Dàoxíng makes no direct reference to the caste associations of the assembly or any of the dramatis personae. The brahman caste is mentioned in two contexts only. Brahmans are described as being amongst those groups that an avaivartikabodhisattva will not bow to, and the form adopted by Śakra in chapter 28 in order to test the determination of the Sadāprarudita. By no means conclusive, the description of Sadāprarudita’s sponsor as a merchant’s daughter would imply the caste of this woman being that of a vaisya. Furthermore, as an itinerant wanderer, Sadāprarudita could be described as having lost caste, therefore becoming an outcaste, and Dharmodgata, as the benevolent ruler of a city, would be a kshatriya.

Although speculative, drawing upon the caste composition of the sangha as potentially biased in favour of the brahmans, the development of narrative derived from a polemics against caste-driven prejudices is feasible, something which Schumann describes (ibid. p.193) as being a ‘false attitude of mind’; a combination of features which the Dàoxíng portrays amongst the Māra temptations.

In chapter 8, the Dàoxíng describes an avaivartika as someone who does not judge (454b24) or criticize others (454b29), so in chapter 18 (464b04), the proud and haughty bodhisattva tempted by Māra has few avaivartika merits (āwéiyuèzhì zhōng gōngdé shǎo 阿惟越致中功德少). Thus, there is a fuzzy divide between stages (grounds) and achievements (fruits). This, the text describes, combined with a bodhisattva’s pride in himself, would inculcate a sense of duality in which the bodhisattva over-values his own achievement whilst under-valuing the achievements of others. At this point Māra intervenes in order to stir up the thoughts of the demeaned bodhisattva who then rejects everything that others have told him [AT19]. Clearly the authors wished to emphasize the difficulties of such a situation as the text speaks of the arising of anger, of emotions turned upside down, and the whole experience as being hellish. As with the clusters described earlier, this set shows signs of serialization. The incidents are not completely isolated, but thematically lead one into the other. In AT18 there was pride, this became division and anger AT19 which result in dispute and argument AT20. The text first speaks of arguments between those following the bodhisattva path and arhat paths. This is an interesting point. The text has already hinted at the notion of an ‘eka-yāna’ and this addition would support this view as whilst the Dàoxíng portrays the Mahayana as a superior path to those of the śrāvaka and pratyekabuddha, none the less it denounces even this as being the basis of pride. The context makes its point plain, however; there should be no arguments.

Of the four chapters of the Dàoxíng that contain the Māra temptations, chapters 9, 15, and 18 have the Buddha addressing Subhūti whereas in chapter 21 it is Ānanda. Examination of the differences between these two personae readily indicates why this shift occurs. As was described above, the avaivartika of chapter 21 is, ironically, still on shaky ground. This is redolent of the hagiography of Ānanda. A bhikṣu for over forty-four years and personal aide (Pali. upaṭṭhāka) of the Buddha for some twenty-five years who, despite his great knowledge of the teachings (dhamma) and regulations (vinaya) of the Buddha, was still not recognized as an arhat until the eve of the first council. The tales surrounding Ānanda portray an emotional and sensitive man, someone at the centre of things who was often held in low esteem by many of the other elders. Nyanaponika and Hecker (1997, pp. 139-182) provide a comprehensive life-story of Ānanda derived from Pali sources, a significant proportion of which relates the criticisms directed towards Ānanda. Perhaps the most significant of these incidents are those of Udāyī who criticizes Ānanda’s expression of personal faith in the Buddha (in a remarkably Mahayanist way) and Mahākassapa who is portrayed as having used the diminutive term ‘kumāraka’ or ‘boy’ in his admonishment of the already middle-aged Ānanda. The image of Ānanda constructed in these accounts as back story is that Ānanda is ‘someone almost there but not lost, as they will eventually make it’.

Not normally associated with Mahayana texts, Ānanda is a surprisingly prominent persona in the Dàoxíng. Whilst it is Subhūti who is depicted as initiating the discussion of the practice of prajñā-pāramitā and the quest for sarvajñā, it is Ānanda who, in the final chapter, is entrusted with maintaining the text and its transmission. Without him, and those who behave like him, the transmission will become lost. Perhaps this is the reason for his inclusion in the narrative. Other structural binary factors can be identified too. Albeit derived from an earlier oral history, Buddhist literature creates its own mythos and tradition would have it that two defining characters are overwhelmingly present in the majority of its key episodes. These are the Buddha as giver (principal protagonist), and Ānanda as custodian (narrator). Ānanda is the ever trying, ever learning and loyal follower. He is the quintessential pursuer of the path with whom, it can be argued, the reader is intended to identify himself. The Dàoxíng, like many other Mahayana texts, urges its own writing; it speaks of taking it up, keeping it, and reciting it. The text is to be explained to others in much the same way as Ānanda’s description given in the Mahàgosinga Sutta (MN 32, MA 184, EA 37.3, T154.16) on the question of what sort of bhikkhu has the ‘power to illuminate’. In this, he says:

Here, friend [213] Sariputta, a bhikkhu has learned much, remembers what he has learned, and consolidates what he has learned. Such teachings as are good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, with the right meaning and phrasing, and which affirm a holy life that is utterly