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Buddhist Spiritual Practices - Thinking with Pierre Hadot on Buddhism, Philosophy, and the Path

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by David V. Fiordalis



Table of Contents Acknowledgments ix Introduction David V. Fiordalis 1 Some Remarks on Hadot, Foucault, and Comparisons with Buddhism Steven Collins 21 Schools, Schools, Schools—Or, Must a Philosopher be Like a Fish? Sara L. McClintock 71 The Spiritual Exercises of the Middle Way: Reading Atiśa’s Madhyamakopadeśa with Hadot James B. Apple 105 Spiritual Exercises and the Buddhist Path: An Exercise in Thinking with and against Hadot Pierre-Julien Harter 147

The “Fecundity of Dialogue” and the Philosophy of “Incompletion” Maria Heim 181 Philosophy as a Way to Die: Meditation, Memory, and Rebirth in Greece and Tibet Davey K. Tomlinson 217 Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating: The Practice of Wisdom and the Treasury of Abhidharma David V. Fiordalis 245 Bibliography 291 Contributors 327 Selected Titles from Dharma Publishing


Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating: The Practice of Wisdom and the Treasury of Abhidharma David V. FiordalisH ow should we think about the place of philosophical discourse in Buddhism? This question, of course, assumes some definition of philosophy, which just as obviously the Buddhist philosophers could not have shared, at least not in precisely the same terms, since they did not coin the term philosophy or borrow or translate it into their own languages, so far as we know, until the modern period (in Japan, for instance). It is clearly an etic question, a question “we” (contemporary persons, Buddhists or non-Buddhists, scholars, philosophers, students, inquirers) ask from outside the classical Buddhist philosophical tradition. We ask the question in order to understand something more about Buddhism, Buddhist philosophy, and philosophy itself. How should we answer it while still striving to appreciate and to convey an appreciation for classical Buddhist philosophy on its own terms? We can best do this by considering how particular Buddhist philosophers may themselves have concep tualized and answered the question. In this essay, we will put the question to Vasubandhu, an Indian Buddhist philosopher of the fourth-fifth century.1 1  For an overview of Vasubandhu, see Jonathan Gold, “Vasubandhu,” in Edward N. Zalta, ed., The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Spring

2017 Edition. <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2017/entries/vasubandhu/>. (Last Accessed March 17, 2017.) Gold elsewhere describes Vasubandhu somewhat playfully as “perhaps the greatest Buddhist philosopher after the Buddha.” See his Paving the Great Way (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015), 1. Some might argue whether the Buddha was a “philosopher” at all; others may have

Buddhist Spiritual Practices246 Since the essay engages in a thought experiment in translation and cross-cultural interpretation, it begins by reflecting briefly on certain key concepts, philosophy included. “For,” Matthew Kapstein has written, “we cannot ask ourselves what Buddhist philosophy might be without at the same time asking what it is that we mean by ‘philosophy’.”2 Readers will likely hold a variety of conceptions of philosophy; some may not see any difference between philosophy and philosophical discourse. In

this regard, Kapstein has drawn attention to the distinction between a “problems and arguments” approach to philosophy, which he says still predominates in academic philosophy departments in the English-speaking world, and an alternative approach based on the work of Pierre Hadot, who argues for a more holistic conception of philosophy as a “way of life.” While the “problems and arguments” approach has gained currency in recent decades among western scholars as a means to engage the Buddhist philosophical tradition, Kapstein argues that Pierre Hadot’s presentation of ancient philosophy provides a better model for understanding Buddhist philosophy. Consider first what Bertrand Russell writes in a famous


essay on the value of philosophy. “Philosophy,” he says, “like all other studies, aims primarily at knowledge.”3 In this respect, philosophy, as a field of “study,” works alongside “the body of the sciences” (among which Russell includes history), giving them “unity and system,” while helping to “diminish the dogmatic assurance which closes the mind different preferences. Many these days would seem to confer the title of “greatest Buddhist philosopher” upon Dharmakīrti; others in the past and today might favor Nāgārjuna. If not entirely fruitless, at least the debate serves to highlight a shortlist of “influential” Buddhist writers whose work became standard in one way or another.

For instance, works by Vasubandhu and Dharmakīrti remain standard to the Tibetan Buddhist monastic curriculum today, constituting two of the five main subject areas. Nāgārjuna’s philosophy also remains central to Tibetan monastic education, though the root text for its study in Tibetan monasteries is Candrakīrti’s Madhyamakāvatāra (Introduction to Middle Way Philosophy). For an account of Tibetan monastic education in general, see George Dreyfus, The Sound of Two Hands Clapping (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003). 2  Matthew Kapstein, Reason’s Traces (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2001), 4. 3  Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy (London: Oxford University Press, 1913), 154.

Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating 247 against speculation.”4 Now, others may draw different conclusions about Russell’s understanding of philosophy from his body of work. In the same essay, he waxes eloquently upon “true philosophic contemplation” of the universe by which “the mind also is rendered great” and “becomes capable of that union with the universe which constitutes its highest good.”5 Yet, Russell’s vision of philosophy still remains closely tied to scientific investigation and logical analysis, and thus for him philosophical activity appears largely to be a scientific or academic, if speculative and theoretical, exercise. By contrast, Pierre Hadot has asserted that ancient philo- sophers viewed philosophy as an all-encompassing way of life. Speaking at one point about the Stoics in particular, Hadot draws a contrast between philosophy as such and


philosophical discourse, with the former being the “lived practice of the virtues of logic, physics, and ethics” and the latter being “discourse according to philosophy.”6 Although I have not seen Hadot cite it, the following passage from Epictetus’ Manual aptly depicts the distinction Hadot wishes to attribute to the ancient philosophers: The first and most necessary place (part, topos) in philosophy is the use of theorems (precepts, theoremata), for instance, that we must not lie. The second part is that of demonstrations, for instance, how is it proved that we ought not to lie. The third is that which is confirmatory of these two and explanatory, for example, how is this a

demonstration? For what is a demonstration? What is consequence? What is contradiction, what is truth, what is falsehood? The third part (topic) is necessary on account of the second, and the second on account of the first; but the most 4  Russell, Problems, 154, 161.5   Russell, Problems, 160, 161.6  Pierre Hadot, What is Ancient Philosophy? Michael Chase, trans. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Belknap, 2002), 172; Hadot, Qu’est-ce que la philosophie antique? (Paris: Gallimard, 1995), 265: Les stoïciens distinguaient la philo- sophie, c’est-à-dire la pratique vécue des vertus qu’étaient pour eux la logique, la physique et l’éthique, et le «discours selon la philosophie», c’est-à-dire l’enseignement théorique de la philosophie . . .


Buddhist Spiritual Practices248 necessary and that on which we ought to rest is the first. But we do the contrary. We spend our time on the third topic, and all our earnestness is about it: but we entirely neglect the first. Therefore, we lie, but the demonstration that we ought not to lie we have ready at hand.7 Here we see a different valuation of dogmatism and its assurances from what Russell seems to offer. Epictetus defends the central role dogmas or precepts play in living a philosophical life by invoking their practical application in situations of daily life. He contrasts this lived philosophy with philosophical discourse, and in doing so suggests that some kind of tension between

what we might call “practice” and “theory” was alive even in his times. How then should we begin to conceptualize the relationship between philosophy, conceived, according to Hadot, as the Stoics did, as the lived practice of certain virtues, and philosophical discourse or discourse according to philosophy? For Hadot, the key to understanding this relationship lies in the concept of “spiritual exercises.” Yet, precisely what Hadot means by the phrase has caused some debate.8 When translated from French into English, the phrase takes on a range of connotations Hadot may or may not have meant to emphasize. For instance, the English wordspiritual” may evoke for some readers a religious

dimension (a term not without its own range of connotations in English), while others may sense a contrast with the physical body, whereas Hadot may intend something both broader and more ordinary.9 7  Epictetus, The Discourses of Epictetus; with the Encheiridion and Fragments. George Long, trans. (London: George Bell and Sons, 1890), 403. I have modified Long’s translation slightly for grammar and syntax. 8  See, for instance, John Cooper, Pursuits of Wisdom (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), but also Matthew Sharpe, “How It’s Not the Chrisippus You Read: On Cooper, Hadot, Epictetus, and Stoicism as a Way of Life,” Philosophy Today 58.3 (2014): 367-392. The latter article, which critiques Cooper’s reading of Hadot based on a close reading of Epictetus’ Manual, only came to my attention in the latter stages of editing this chapter. 9  On this point, I believe that Cooper has done Hadot a disservice by disallowing him the flexibility of his usage of the phrase. Cooper criticizes Hadot for extending the term to cover “perfectly ordinary ways of getting oneself to understand the real meaning and implications of philosophical arguments and


Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating 249 In his famous essay entitled “Spiritual Exercises,” Hadot settles on the term only after some deliberation. He entertains various alternatives: thought exercises, intellectual exercises, ethical exercises, and Paul Rabbow’s choice, moral exercises. Dissatisfied with them all, he chooses spiritual exercises, he later says, “because it leaves no doubt that we are dealing with exercises which engage the totality of the spirit.”10 By spirit, he earlier says he means not only “the individual’s entire psyche,” but also “the objective Spirit” or “the perspective of the Whole.”11 It remains unclear whether he wishes to exclude the body or affirm a particular metaphysical position on the relationship between the individual and the universal. Perhaps he does, but elsewhere he defines spiritual exercises more broadly as “voluntary, personal practices intended to bring about a transformation of the self.” 12 Again, with spirit and self, we run into questions of translation and philosophical

positions, to fix them in one’s mind and make oneself ready to apply them smoothly to situations in life as they may arise” and “activities of daily life in which one infuses one’s actions with one’s knowledge of Stoic logic or Stoic physical theory, as well as Stoic ethical theory” (Pursuits, 402). Yet, re-envisioning such “ordinary” practices and activities as transformative in line with a particular set of philosophical virtues is precisely Hadot’s point. And notice how sharply Cooper distinguishes the philosophical from the religious life, defining the latter as “grounded in sacred texts and validated through intense feelings of conviction generated in prayer or in the sense of having a personal relationship to a higher power” (Pursuits, 21). Few scholars of religion, much less Buddhism, would find such a definition adequate. 10  Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, Michael Chase, trans. (Oxford, UK, and Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1995), 127; Hadot, Exercices spirituels et philosophie antique, 2nd Ed. (Paris: Études Augustiniennes,

1987), 60: . . . parce qu’elle marque bien qu’il s’agit d’exercices que engagent tout l’esprit. 11  See Hadot, Exercices spirituels, 14: tout le psychisme de l’individu. For the latter phrases, Hadot has “l’Esprit objectif . . . la perspective du Tout . . . ” (14). Chase has “the individual’s entire psychism.” See Way of Life, 82. 12  Hadot, Ancient Philosophy, 179-180; La philosophie antique, 276: . . . des pratiques volontaires et personelles destinées à opérer une transformation du moi. Rather than “spirit” for esprit, one might consider “character” or even “person.” Elsewhere Hadot replaces the word self with subject or individual. See, for instance, Ancient Philosophy, 6; La philosophie antique, 22: . . . une transformation du sujet . . . ; and Hadot, The Present Alone is our Happiness: Conversations with Jeannie Carlier and Arnold I. Davidson. Marc Djaballah, trans. (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008), 87. Buddhist Spiritual Practices250 interpretation, for as Steven Collins argues in his essay opening this


volume, Hadot’s French usage does not always clearly assert the idea of the Self in an absolute or ontological sense, but rather often simply


refers to oneself, one’s whole person in a more quotidian sense, one’s body, mind, emotions, habits, and conceptions.13 Be that as it may, Hadot also uses classical typologies to define the concept of spiritual exercises. He cites two ancient lists drawn from the works of Philo of Alexandria: One of these lists enumerates the following elements: inquiry (zetesis), thorough investigation (skepsis), reading, listening, attention (prosoche), self-mastery (enkrateia), and indifference to indifferent things. The other names

successively: reading, meditations (meletai), therapies of the passions, remembrance of good things, self-mastery (enkrateia), and the accomplishment of duties. Hadot uses these lists, he says, to help him describe “Stoic spiritual exercises,” which he proposes to study “in succession:” First attention, then meditations and “remembrance of what is good,” then the more intellectual exercises: reading, listening, inquiry, and thorough investigation, and finally the more active exercises: self- mastery, accomplishment of duties, and indifference to indifferent things.14 13  Collins, pages 22-26 of the present volume. 14  Again my translation slightly modifies Chase’s. See Hadot, Way of Life, 84; Exercices spirituels, 18-19: L’une de ces listes énumère: la recherché (zetesis), l’examen approfondi (skepsis), la lecture, l’audition, l’attention (prosochè), la maîtrise de soi (enkrateia), l’indifférence aux choses indifférentes. L’autre nomme successivement: les lectures, les meditations (meletai), les therapies des passions, les souvenirs de

ce qui est bien, la maîtrise de soi (enkrateia), l’accomplissement des devoirs. A l’aide de ces listes, nous pourrons faire une brève description des exercices spirituels stoïciens en étudiant successivement les groups suivants: tout d’abord l’attention, puis les meditations et les «souvenirs de ce qui est bien», ensuite les exercices plus intellectuels que sont la lecture, l’audition, la recherche, l’examen approfondi, enfin les exercices plus actifs que sont la maîtrise de soi, l’accomplissement des devoirs, Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating 251 These lists also point to Hadot’s own broader classification of spiritual exercises, by which he divides his essay into four sections:

learning to live, learning to dialogue, learning to die, and learning how to read. Each of these sections describes a general type of spiritual exercise for Hadot, including the last one, which speaks to a more modern context.15 In this way, Hadot asserts that philo- sophical discourse should also be seen as a type of spiritual exercise or practice.16 Collins, in his essay in this volume, usefully refers to such practices as “regimens of truth,” emphasizing the fact that these practices are concerned “with finding, and embodying the Truth: not just the truth of this or that, but a Truth which englobes and permeates the entire universe, and which necessarily involves a total change in the knowing subject, not merely a changing in what he or she knows.”17 The idea that “spiritual exercises” or “regimens of truth” bring the individual face to face with an all-encompassing truth, the knowledge of which demands a total transformation in the knowing individual, including one’s values, desires, and behaviors, invites comparison with Russell’s conception of philosophy as a “study” that aims to bring “unity and system” to disparate bodies of knowledge, while somehow uniting the individual

with the universe, but it also evokes the Buddhist goal of seeing things as they really are and the transformative impact of such a vision of the truth. Hadot gives a central place to intellectual exercises in his conception of philosophy as a way of life, but he sets philosophy and l’indifférence aux choses indifférentes. 15  On learning how to read and the importance of genre, see Maria Heim, The Forerunner of All Things (London: Oxford University Press, 2014), and her essay as well as McClintock’s and Harter’s

essays in the present volume. 16  Hadot, Way of Life, 104: “As for philosophical theories: they were either placed explicitly in the service of spiritual practice, as was the case in Stoicism and Epicureanism, or else they were taken as objects of intellectual exercises, that is, of a practice of the contemplative life which, in the last analysis, was itself nothing other than a spiritual exercise;” Exercices spirituels, 51: Les theories philosophiques sont ou bien mises explicitement au service de la pratique spirituelle, comme c’est le cas dans le stoïcisme et l’épicurisme, ou bien prise comme objects d’exercices intellectuels, c’est-à-dire d’une pratique de la vie contemplative

qui n’est elle-même finalement rien d’autre qu’un exercice spirituel. 17  Collins, page 45 above. Buddhist Spiritual Practices252 philosophical discourse in an uneasy relation: “Philosophy and philosophical discourse . . . appear to be simultaneously incommensurable and inseparable.”18 The indissoluble relationship Hadot sees between philosophy and philosophical discourse arises from a basic tension between knowledge and self-transformation, a tension also embedded in the problem of defining spiritual exercise. Philosophical discourse as a type of spiritual exercise becomes necessary but cannot be sufficient for the

practice of philosophy to have its transformative effect on the individual. At the same time, philosophy must somehow remain oriented toward an all-encompassing truth, and not merely “the truth of this or that.” This all-encompassing truth must necessarily also involve the knowing individual. The tension here between the quest for truth, on the one hand, and for personal transformation or development, on the other, will remain in the background throughout what follows, and returns explicitly in the conclusion, when we consider what we can gain from comparative exercises like the current one. Thinking about Buddhist philosophy with Pierre Hadot, and focusing on the relationship between acquiring knowledge and personal transformation, not only helps us to understand better how Buddhist philosophers saw the place of reason in Buddhism. It may also help us to clarify our own relationship to knowledge, and thus begin to recognize its potential to transform our lives. So, how should we think about the place of philosophical


discourse on the Buddhist path? And since the Buddhist tradition

contains many voices, as does philosophy in general, we do best to focus our question more specifically: how can we best apply what Pierre Hadot says about the Stoic understanding of the role of philosophical discourse in philosophy to help us understand what a particular Buddhist philo- sopher, Vasubandhu, says about place of abhidharma and its practice on the Buddhist path? Some reasons are given below for the choice to analyze Vasubandhu in this essay, but first we need to state its main claim and unpack a key assumption built into question 18  Hadot, Ancient Philosophy, 172; La philosophie antique, 266: Philo- sophie et discours philosophiques se présentent ainsi à la fois comme incommensurables et inséparables.

Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating 253 as just stated. This assumption is the analogy that (on Vasubandhu’s understanding) abhidharma discourse is to the Buddhist path what (according to Hadot’s understanding of the Stoics) philosophical discourse is to Stoic philosophy. The idea may be represented in formulaic fashion: abhidharma : Buddhist path ::

philosophical discourse : Stoic philosophy. And now the thesis: just as the concept of spiritual exercise is a key to Hadot’s understanding of the relationship between philosophical discourse and the philosophical life in ancient philosophy, so the three types or practices of wisdom or discernment (prajñā)—learning (śruta), thinking or reasoning (cintā), and cultivation (bhāvanā)— provide the key to understanding how Vasubandhu perceives the relationship between abhidharma and the Buddhist path. More specifically, then, for Vasubandhu, these three practices model the pursuit of wisdom, with the rational practice of abhidharma providing an important pivot along a continuum of practices from learning to cultivation. Why Vasubandhu? Why his Treasury of Abhidharma? Matthew Kapstein and Sara McClintock have both suggested independently that Pierre Hadot provides a useful model for thinking about the place of philosophical discourse in Buddhism. In doing so, both have gone somewhat against recent trends in the academic study of Buddhist philosophy, and their suggestions have provoked healthy debate. Some scholars (including authors in the present volume)

have sought to apply, extend or test their suggestions, while Vincent Eltschinger has engaged them in a more challenging way, prompting both Kapstein and McClintock to respond in more recent publications with further clarification and elaboration. Much of the controversy has focused on the aptness of and challenges to applying Hadot’s model

of philosophy as a way of life to the Buddhist philosophers of the logical or epistemological school, particularly Dharmakīrti, and to later Buddhist philosophers influenced by his methods, principally

Buddhist Spiritual Practices254 Sāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla.19 It would be useful to extend the discussion to include a broader array of Buddhist philosophers, including someone like Vasubandhu, who may have laid some of the groundwork for later developments. A point on which Kapstein, McClintock and Eltschinger all seem to agree is the potential usefulness of Hadot’s model for thinking about Buddhist theoretical discourses concerning the path, and here again Vasubandhu’s work comes to mind. Kapstein states,

anyone who has even a passing familiarity with Buddhist path texts—works such as Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga (Path of Purity), Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra (Introduction to Enlightened Conduct), or Tsong-kha-pa’s Lam-rim-chen-mo (Great Sequence of the Path)—will appreciate that there is a powerful analogy to be explored here.20 Both Kapstein and McClintock have also emphasized the centrality of the three types of wisdom to this analogy. For instance, McClintock writes, “we can point to the practices of study (śruti) [sic], thought or deliberation (cintā), and meditation or cultivation (bhāvanā), as three crucial ‘spiritual exercises’ of the tradition.”21 In his own work, Eltschinger draws

attention to the three types of wisdom, describing them as “a three-fold schema of the Buddhist path to nirvana and awakening.”22 “Buddhism,” he writes, “readily presents itself as a gradation of 19  A second, related line of debate concerns the historical evidence available to support the proposed connections between Buddhist philosophy, “spiritual exercises,” and Buddhism as a way of life. See the essays by Collins, McClintock and Apple in this volume, as well as Vincent Eltschinger, “Pierre Hadot et les ‘Exercices Spirituels’: Quel Modèle pour la Philosophie Boudddhique Tardive?” Asiatische Studien Études Asiatiques LXII.2 (2008): 485-544, particularly 526, and Sara McClintock, Omniscience and the Rhetoric of Reason: Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla on Rationality, Argumentation, & Religious Authority (Boston: Wisdom, 2010), 18. 20  Kapstein, Reason’s Traces, 8. 21  McClintock, Omniscience, 17, n. 35. See also, Kapstein, “‘Spiritual Exercise’ and Buddhist Epistemologists in India and Tibet,” in Steven M. Emmanuel, ed., A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy, 270-289 (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), 271 and n. 4. 22  Vincent Eltschinger, “Studies in Dharmakīrti’s Religious Philosophy: 4.


The Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating 255 three successive types of discernment (prajñā).”23 His doubts concern the straightforward application of this scheme—whose purpose he considers “soteriological” or “hermeneutical” (and by implication not truly “philosophical”)—to the Buddhist epistemological texts and the place of reason therein. But with respect to these latter texts, Eltschinger is still willing to recognize them as “spiritual exercises of the discursive type aimed at creating a methodological and doctrinal habitus.”24 This agreement, both the general orientation toward

cultivation or self-transformation, and the specific identification of the three types of wisdom as a model or framework for understanding this orientation, seems significant and it deserves to be explored in greater detail.25 Cintā-mayī Prajñā,” in Piotr Balcerowicz, ed., Logic and Belief in Indian Philosophy, 553-592 (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2010), 562; “Quel modèle?,” 522: unschématisation ternaire du chemin bouddhique en direction du nirvāṇa et de l’éveil. 23  Eltschinger, “Quel modèle?,” 522: Le bouddhisme se présente volontiers comme la gradation de trois types successifs de discernement (prajñā). 24  Eltschinger, “Quel modèle?,” 526: . . . reconnaissons donc en ces oeuvres [logico-épistémologiques bouddhiques] des exercises spirituels de type discursive destinés à créer un habitus méthodologique et doctrinal. In

this way, Eltschinger contrasts his notion of “the acquisition of a methodological habitus” (l’acquisition d’un habitus méthodologique) with “a therapeutic (or soteriological) interpretation, such as Kapstein and McClintock have proposed” (comme l’ont propose M. Kapstein et S. McClintock . . . une interprétation thérapeutique (voire sotériologique). The precise difference Eltschinger sees between his notion of habituation and Kapstein or McClintock’s (or Hadot’s) usage of spiritual exercise remains unclear to me. 25  Despite being a well-known and oft-cited formula, the three types of wisdom could stand to receive more scholarly analysis. So far, in addition to the above-cited work by Kapstein, McClintock, and Eltschinger, see also Martin Adam, “The Concepts of Meditation and Three Kinds of Wisdom in Kamalaśīla’s Bhāvanākramas: A Problem of Translation,”

Buddhist Studies Review 23.1 (2006), 71-92, especially 82-83. Adam also cites S. N. Balagangadhara, “How to Speak for the Indian Traditions,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 73.4 (2005), 987-1013, especially 1005, and an unpublished conference paper from 2005 by Brian Nichols, entitled “A Consideration of the Relationship between Thinking and Meditating: The Threefold Typology of Wisdom in Vasubandhu and Kamalaśīla,” which Nichols has been kind enough to share with me. The former provides a rather general discussion, while Nichols engages directly with the typology as it is found in two actual Indian philosophers’ work. Nichols also usefully cites Donald S. Lopez, Jr., ed., Buddhist Hermeneutics (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1993), 7-8,


Buddhist Spiritual Practices256 I want to build upon the common ground suggested above by continuing to explore the three types of wisdom, their deployment in specific Buddhist texts, and their usefulness to us as a means of understanding how particular Buddhist philosophers conceptualized the place of reason and its practical application on the Buddhist path. For this purpose, Vasubandhu and his Abhidharmakośa (Treasury of Abhidharma, hereafter Treasury) and commentary (bhāṣya) can provide a useful focus.26 Vasubandhu may have been among the earliest Buddhist philosophers to employ these concepts in this particular way, and the foundational character of his work thus prompts closer analysis. The three types of wisdom also appear at

various points in Vasubandhu’s commentary—or at least the commentary attributed to him—on the Mahāyānasūtrālaṅkāra (Adornment to the Mahāyāna Scriptures, hereafter Adornment), a text sometimes said to have been composed by Vasubandhu’s elder brother, Asaṅga.27 While we find the same threefold classification of wisdom specifically a passage from the introduction in which Lopez draws attention to the Saṃdhinirmocana-sūtra about which more will be said below. 26  In what follows, when I refer to the Treasury, I generally mean to include its commentary as well. The following editions of the Sanskrit have been consulted for this essay: (1) Prahlāda Pradhan, ed., Abhidharm-Koshabhāṣya of Vasubandhu (Patna: K. P. Jayaswal Research Institute, 1967); (2) Dwārikādās Śāstrī, ed., The Abhidharmakosa & Bhāṣya of Acārya Vasubandhu with Sphutārthā Commentary of Ācārya

Yaśomittrā, 2 vols. (Varanasi: Bauddha Bharati, 1998); and also based on the above two printed editions: (3) Paul Hackett and Dan Lusthaus, eds., Vasubandhu: Abhidharmakosa-bhasya, Göttingen Register of Electronic Texts in Indian Languages (GRETIL). < http://gretil.sub.uni-goettingen.de/gretil/1_sanskr/6_sastra/3_phil/ buddh/vakobhau.htm>. (Last accessed March 14, 2017.) The following translations have also been consulted. First and foremost: Louis de La Vallée Poussin, trans., L’Abhidharmakośa de Vasubandhu, 6 vols. (Paris: Paul Geuthner; Louvain: J.-B. Istas, 1923-1931), which translates from the Chinese into French with copious annotations, but with direct access only to fragments of the verses in the original Sanskrit. I have also looked at the following annotated English translation of La Vallée Poussin’s French translation (of the Chinese translation of the

Sanskrit): Gelong Lodrö Sangpo, trans., Abhidharma- kośa-Bhāṣya of Vasubandhu, 4 vols. (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2012). 27  For an edition of the Sanskrit and French translation: Sylvain Lévi, ed. and trans., Mahāyāna-sūtrālaṃkāra (Paris: Librairie Honoré Champion, 1907); for an English translation, see L. Jamspal et al., trans., The Universal Vehicle Discourse Literature (New York: American Institute of Buddhist Studies, 2004). Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating 257 in certain Pāli sources, such as the Saṅgīti-sutta of the Dīgha-nikāya, the Vibhaṅga, and the Visuddhimagga, this scheme does not seem

central to the way the Pāli sources conceive the stages of the path.28 Instead, the “scriptural” text that most closely resembles Vasubandhu and Asaṅga’s usage appears to be the Saṃdhinirmocana-sūtra ( The Scripture Revealing the True Meaning, hereafter True Meaning).29 The historical relationship between this Mahāyāna scripture and Asaṅga and Vasubandhu remains unclear; other studies may reveal more contemporaneous or earlier Buddhist texts, such as the Mahāvibhāṣā or other texts existing now only in Chinese translation, which deploy the three types of wisdom in similar or distinctive ways. For our purposes, however, Vasubandhu’s Treasury, augmented by texts such as the Adornment and the True Meaning, can provide a basis for looking at the early usage

of the three types of wisdom in a specific Buddhist theoretical or philosophical context. The Treasury and its commentary, composed as a single text, conforms in subject matter and style to the unique Buddhist genre of abhidharma.30 It is a highly rationalist and scholastic 28  For the Saṅgīti-sutta, see T.W. Rhys Davids and J. E. Carpenter, eds., The Dīgha nikāya, 3 vols. (London: Pali Text Society, 2006-2015), vol. 3, 220; for a digital version of the PTS editions of this and other texts of the Pāli Canon, and which preserves their page numbering, see GRETIL, <http://gretil.sub.uni-goettingen. de/>; for an English translation of this discourse, see Maurice Walshe, trans., The Long Discourses of the Buddha (Boston: Wisdom, 1995), 486. This passage is noted in Étienne Lamotte, History of Indian Buddhism from the origins to the Śaka era. Sara Webb-Boin,

trans. (Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium: Institute Orientaliste, 1988), 45, n. 86. For a translation of the Visuddhimagga, which includes citation from and references to the Vibhaṅga, see Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoḷi, trans., The Path of Purification (Onalaska, WA: BPS Pariyatti, 1999), 438 and references. For an edition of the Pāli text of the Visuddhimagga, see Henry Clarke Warren and Dharmananda Kosambi, eds., Visuddhimagga of Buddhaghosâcariya (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1950), 371. 29  For an edition of the Tibetan translation with a French translation, see Étienne Lamotte, ed. and trans., Saṁdhinirmocana Sūtra, l’explication des mystères (Paris: Adrien Maissonneuve, 1935). For an English translation of the Tibetan translation, see John Powers, trans., Wisdom of Buddha: The Saṁdhinirmocana Sūtra (Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1995). 30  On abhidharma as a genre

and its conception in the Pāli commentaries, see Maria Heim’s contribution to the present volume. Buddhist Spiritual Practices258 presentation of the basic tenets and key concepts of the Buddhist teachings on the nature of reality and the path to awakening. Paul Griffiths considers it analogous to the Visuddhimagga, which Kapstein describes (in the quote above) as a Buddhist path text.31 Although it is interesting to consider it as a path text—and this was one motivating factor behind the decision to focus on it in this essay—the Treasury’s basic structure may derive more directly from the four noble truths.32 The four noble truths, of course, includes the path, which Vasubandhu treats in detail in chapter six of the Treasury. Yet, it is noteworthy that even his explanation of the path

begins with a discussion of the four noble truths. As we will see, this section of the work provides him an occasion to reflect on the relationship between the practice of the path, including the practice of abhidharma, and the realization of the four truths, that is, of the true nature of reality. More generally, the work moves from ontology and cosmology to theories of action and mind, before outlining the negative qualities to be removed by practicing the path, the path itself, its main goal, awakening, which the text defines as knowledge of the true nature of reality,33 and the various other forms of knowledge and meditative attainment achievable by following the path. The text concludes with an independent treatise articulating and defending the key Buddhist doctrine of no-self. In its literary style and format, the Treasury also fits into the

traditional Indian genre of root verses and commentary thereupon, which is common to most Indian systematic treatises or śāstras. The commentary contains a largely dialectical format of question and answer, give and take of reasoned arguments. As Gold describes it, “The commentary pits the Vaibhāṣika against a great many philosophical 31  Paul Griffiths, “Indian Buddhist Meditation,” in Takeuchi Yoshinori, ed., Buddhist Spirituality I , 34-66 (New York: SCM Press, 1983), 64.32  Charles Willemen, Bart Dessein and Collett Cox, Sarvāstivāda Buddhist Scholasticism (Leiden: Brill, 1998), 273. In this respect, Vasubandhu follows earlier summaries or distillations of the Vaibhāṣika or Sarvāstivāda Abhidharma system by such authors as Dharmaśreṣṭhin and Dharmatrāta, works now extant only in Chinese translation. 33  Treasury, chapter 6, verse 67a: anutpādakṣayajñāne bodhiḥ (Pradhan, 382; Śāstrī, 795).


Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating 259 opponents, and the winners of the debate are not always clear.” Many have noted that Vasubandhu seems critical of the Vaibhāṣika system at certain points, and may sometimes be seen to defend what he calls the Sautrāntika perspective of those who take the Buddha’s teachings as the final word.34 Since it largely assumes a systematic Buddhist vision of the world, the Treasury can also be described as a dogmatic philosophical text in the sense Hadot gives to this term,35 and insofar as abhidharma explicitly and intentionally depends upon the Buddha’s body of teachings considered authentic by the school, it can also be described as an exegetical project. Abhidharma interprets the body of Buddhist teachings in a systematic fashion, draws out key concepts found in those teachings, and applies them systematically to a world of subjective experience. However, we should allow Vasubandhu to describe for us the nature and purpose of abhidharma, and to describe how one does abhidharma as a type of practice. It

is also a key moment for his use of the three types of wisdom as a model for practice. Abhidharma and the Practice of Wisdom What is wisdom and how can one practice it? The practice of

wisdom sounds like a felicitous expression, but what could it mean to practice wisdom or engage in practices leading to wisdom? Opinions will vary, of course, even among Buddhists. One can find an example of the phrase in a beautiful line that recurs almost like a refrain in several verses in the first and second chapters of the Prajñāpāramitāratnaguṇasaṃcayagāthā (Verses Gathering the Precious Virtues of the Perfection of Wisdom, hereafter Precious

old, Paving, 2. The name Vaibhāṣika refers to one of the ancient Buddhist philosophical schools and would seem to correspond, at least to some degree, to the early Buddhist institution and monastic lineage of the Sarvāstivāda. By contrast, the name Sautrāntika does not seem so clearly to have corresponded to any specific Buddhist institution or monastic lineage. It may even initially have been more exclusively a school of thought or what McClintock usefully calls a schoolDox in her essay in this volume. 35  Hadot, Ancient Philosophy, 106-107; La philosophie antique, 168-170, where he usefully describes the methods of the dogmatic philosophies of the Epicureans and Stoics.


Buddhist Spiritual Practices260 Virtues): “This is the practice of wisdom, the highest perfection.”36 Here, wisdom must refer, in part, to understanding emptiness, while its practice might involve, among other things, learning the teachings contained in the Perfection of Wisdom literature. Yet, it is difficult not to hear an echo (and a critique) of another prominent definition of wisdom here. In the second verse of the Treasury, Vasubandhu defines abhidharma as, above all, “pure wisdom (amalā prajñā), along with its accompaniments.”37 While Vasubandhu most likely composed the Treasury well after the Perfection of Wisdom and other Mahāyāna Buddhist literature had begun to be established, both sources would seem to indicate a primary concern with wisdom and its practice. How do we understand the connection Vasubandhu makes between abhidharma and wisdom, and what does it mean to say that abhidharma is “purewisdom? Recall briefly the figure of Śāriputra: the Pāli scriptures

recognize him as being “preeminent in wisdom” among the Buddha’s disciples, but he is also among the most common interlocutors found in the Perfection of Wisdom literature and several other Mahāyāna scriptures, where he is often made to represent an incomplete or inferior understanding. I take it to be no coincidence that several early Buddhist traditions also attribute to Śāriputra a key role in the production and promulgation of the Abhidharma literature. 38 Abhidharma nevertheless came to represent an 36  Precious Virtues, chapter 1, verse 12d: eṣā sa prajñāpāramitāya caryā. This line repeats in verses 14, 23, 24, 25 (with a minor variation), 26, and 28, and chapter 2, verses 1 and 12.

For an edition of the Sanskrit, see Akira Yuyama, ed., Prajñāpāramitāratnaguṇasaṃcayagāthā (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976). While the Precious Virtues is a verse text that mirrors the structure of the Aṣṭasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitā (The Perfection of Wisdom Scripture in Eight-thousand Lines), and the latter may be the earliest dateable Mahāyāna Buddhist scripture we possess, this fact does not mean the verse text, as a whole or in parts, is demonstrably the same age as the prose. For a translation of both the prose and the verse texts, see Edward Conze, trans., The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines & its Verse Summary (San Francisco: Four Seasons, 1973). 37  Treasury, chapter 1, verse 2a: prajñā ’malā sānucarā ’bhidharmaḥ (Pradhan, 2; Śāstrī, 9). 38  For the association between Śāriputra and the Abhidharma literature, see, for instance, Lamotte, History, 189-191. See also the article by Heim in the present volume. On Śāriputra and his depiction in Mahāyāna scriptures, see Sara


Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating 261 expression or distillation of the Buddha’spure wisdom,” and even if the Perfection of Wisdom literature may have sought to challenge or redefine this association, it also may share certain attitudes concerning the nature of wisdom and its practice with Vasubandhu and the Vaibhāṣika Abhidharma system he sets himself the task of articulating and critiquing in the Treasury.39 Vasubandhu recognizes several types or senses of the word, prajñā , translated thus far as wisdom, and we must discern the range and nuances of his usage, if we are to understand how he connects it to abhidharma and its practice. Paul Williams cautions us, “Wisdom is, alas, all too rare; prajñā is not.” “Prajñā,” he explains, “is a mental event, a state of consciousness,” and here he seems to have in mind the fact that the Vaibhāṣika Abhidharma system

lists prajñā as one of the ten factors that accompany any moment of consciousness.40 While he is correct so far as he goes, Williams’ remark does not entirely account for the polysemy of the word. In a useful article on its usage, Padmanabh Jaini has pointed out that prajñā must have at least two varieties in the Treasury and the Vaibhāṣika Abhidharma system McClintock’s essay in this volume, especially her footnote 20. See also the brief remarks in the introduction in Conze, Perfection, xii-xiii. 39  On this point, see Padmanabh Jaini, “Prajñā and dṛṣṭi in the Vaibhāṣika Abhidharma,” in Lewis Lancaster and Luis O. Gómez, eds., Prajñāpāramitā and Related Systems: Studies in Honor of Edward Conze (Berkeley: Berkeley Buddhist Studies, 1977), 403-415. 40  Paul Williams, Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge, 2009), 49.

Williams himself cites Jaini’s article to support his discussion. For the passage from the Treasury that supports Williams’ claim, see chapter 2, verse 24 and commentary (Pradhan, 54; Śāstrī, 147). It is unclear from this passage whether Vasubandhu wishes to affirm that all ten factors do, in fact, always and individually accompany every moment of consciousness, or that some of them might be reducible to other factors. He uses the term, kila, “so they say,” to tag the former position, and goes on to ask how we know that all ten exist distinctively in one and the same moment of thought. His response seems to be that thought and its concomitants are distinguishable only “with difficulty” (durlakṣana). Perhaps we see here an example of the style of reduction that recurs in many sections and arguments of the Treasury, including some that Jonathan Gold, Paving, argues reflect or demonstrate Vasubandhu’s core philosophical concern to carve away extraneous elements of the Abhidharma metaphysical system, or at least to show that they do not all exist substantially.

Buddhist Spiritual Practices262 generally.41 One is common to all states of ordinary consciousness; the other is not. These two types of prajñā are also distinguished from one another insofar as the former, common type is said to “involve judgement” (santīraṇa) and the latter does not. In parallel fashion, the Treasury describes prajñā as being either impure or pure, and pure prajñā is so called because it is that rare form of knowing that is free of any latent disposition or afflicting tendency, any passion, aversion, envy, or opinion, which would drive the creation of new karma and hold us in a state of imperfection. In his commentary on the second verse of the Treasury, Vasubandhu defines the word prajñā as “the discernment of dharmas.”42 Dharma here refers to the basic constituents of reality (or experience) according to the Abhidharma system, but the term also suggests a correspondence between reality and the basic elements of the Buddha’s teaching. In this passage, discernment of dharmas would involve a process of seeing the world purely in accordance with the basic elements of reality, both outlined in the Abhidharma system and reflected in the Buddha’s teaching. It would be

tantamount to seeing the world as an awakened being does.43 This, Vasubandhu tells us, is the meaning of abhidharma in its ultimate or absolute sense (paramārtha). How can we attain such a rarified state of wisdom or discern-ment? 44 Vasubandhu begins to answer this question by immediately 41  Jaini, “Prajñā and dṛṣṭi,” 406.42  Treasury, commentary on chapter 1, verse 2: tatra prajñā dharmapravicayaḥ (Pradhan, 2; Śāstrī, 9). 43  This also seems to be an implication of Vasubandhu saying that Abhidharma means pure prajñā “along with its accompaniments.” These accompaniments refer, the commentary tells us, to purified basic elements or dharmas, both physical and mental, which accompany pure wisdom in the body/mind complex of an awakened being. On an alternate, but I think compatible, representation of abhidharma as reflecting the particular vision of the omniscient Buddha, see Maria Heim’s essay in the present volume. Note also that Harter’s essay draws attention to the omniscience of the Buddha as the goal of the path. 44  In what follows, I will oscillate between wisdom and discernment in reference to prajñā, as general and more specific meanings of the term. Discernment implies a certain clear-sightedness, the ability to see things, even quite subtle things, for what they really are, while wisdom adds an additional layer of

Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating 263 contrasting abhidharma in this “higher” sense with other, more conventional and worldly senses of abhidharma and wisdom. “Speaking conventionally,” Vasubandhu says, “abhidharma refers to that wisdom, and that theoretical discourse (śāstra), by which one obtains wisdom in its ultimate sense.”45 Such wisdom or discernment will not yet be “pure,” because, being conventional, it remains enmeshed in the world of desire and conceptuality. Ordinary beings all possess wisdom in this ordinary sense to which Williams alluded above, and they use it to discern the everyday world and gain confidence in it. Discernment in this sense will continue to generate new karma, both good and bad, holding beings rooted in the mundane world.46 However, it can also help to produce the pure wisdom of awakening, especially when one seeks to embody the wisdom reflected in the theoretical discourse of abhidharma. This conventional wisdom or discernment, Vasubandhu tells us, may be generated through three interrelated processes or stages of practice: learning (śruta), reasoning (cintā), and cultivation (bhāvanā).47 In fact, these three “types” of wisdom are explicitly described as being “generated through practice” (prayogajā) in contrast to another type of conventional discernment of reality that is simply inborn.48 Hence, we can begin to speak of the practice of


correct judgement concerning the particular course of action to be undertaken in whatever circumstances. Both terms carry an appropriate cognitive dimension of knowledge or correct understanding. In this way, I will avoid another common translation of prajñā as “discrimination” or “discriminative insight,” which brings to mind unnecessary negative associations in contemporary American English. 45  Treasury, chapter 1, verse 2b: tatprāptaye yāpi ca yacca śāstram (Pradhan, 2; Śāstrī, 10). 46  I take this to be the broader significance of Vasubandhu saying that such discernment “comes along with defilements” (sāsrava), which he contrasts with pure wisdom, defined as being “without defilements” (anāsrava). 47  Commentary on chapter 1, verse 2b: yāpi ca śrutacintābhāvanāmayī


sāsrava prajñā upapattipratilambhikā ca . . . (Pradhan, 2; Śāstrī, 10). 48  While Vasubandhu clearly intends this contrast when he speaks of “inborn conventional wisdom” (upapattipratilambhikā prajñā), Yaśomitra actually says the three types of wisdom are “born of practice” (prayogajā) in his subcommentary on this passage. He uses the expression to explain the meaning of the term mayī, “consisting in,” in the expression “wisdom consisting in hearing, reflection and cultivation” (śrutacintābhāvanāmayī prajñā) (Śāstrī, 10). Later in the Treasury, however, Vasubandhu will himself describe some dharmas as prāyogika,

Buddhist Spiritual Practices264 wisdom as an actual concept in the Treasury, but how does Vasubandhu specifically connect these three practices to the abhidharma and its practice? In order to understand how Vasubandhu makes this connection, it is helpful to stay for a bit longer with the terms abhidharma and practice. First, we can see a certain preference for reason and rational practices in Vasubandhu’s presentation of the Buddhist path. This preference becomes manifest in several ways throughout his work. In the opening verse of the Treasury, for instance, while paying homage to the Buddha, Vasubandhu describes him as “teacher of the true nature of reality (yathārthaśāstṛ) who lifts the world from the mire of saṃsāra.” In the commentary on this passage, Vasubandhu explains that “the Buddha lifts the world from the mire of saṃsāra through being a teacher of teachings that accord with the true nature of reality, and not through his superhuman powers or his capacity to give the choicest gifts.”49 Here we get a hint of

Vasubandhu’s rationalism and his preference for rational practices, which nonetheless have soteriological value. In the third and final verse of the opening triad, Vasubandhu writes in this fashion about the purpose of abhidharma: Apart from discerning the basic constituents of reality in accordance with the Buddha’s teaching, no other method exists whereby afflictions may be quelled, and afflictions cause those in the world to wander adrift upon the ocean of existence. Hence, for that reason, abhidharma was taught, some say, by the teacher.50 “produced through practice,” and there he explicitly means factors generated by the three types or practices of wisdom. Chapter 2, verse 53ab and

commentary (Pradhan, 87; Śāstrī, 240; see also La Vallée Poussin, Kośa, vol. 1, 264-265). 49  Chapter 1, verse 1bc, and the following remark in the commentary: yathābhūtaśāsanācchāstā bhavann asau saṃsārapaṅkāj jagad ujjahāra na tv ṛddhivarapradānaprabhāveneti (Pradhan, 1; Śāstrī, 10). 50  Chapter 1, verse 3: dharmāṇāṃ pravicayam antareṇa nāsti kleśānāṃ yata upaśāntaye ’bhyupāyaḥ | kleśaś ca bhramati bhavārṇave ’tra lokas taddhetor ata uditaḥ kilaiṣa śāstrā (Pradhan, 2; Śāstrī, 14). My translation elaborates on the word dharma in the phrase, “discerning the dharmas,” in order to provide a clearer idea of the relationship between its two main meanings operative in Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating 265 Vasubandhu states even more directly in the commentary: “Without the instructions of abhidharma, a student simply cannot discern the basic constituents of reality.”51 However, Vasubandhu tags the last sentence of the verse with the word, kila, “some say,” and thereby indicates a degree of ambivalence toward some

aspect of this Vaibhāṣika argument for the centrality of abhidharma to the path. As an apparent defender of a Sautrāntika position that the Buddha’s discourses are the final word, Vasubandhu may simply wish to highlight the derivative nature of the Abhidharma and its dependency upon the Dharma, that is, the body of the Buddha’s teachings contained in the discourses.52 If so, this would neither diminish Vasubandhu’s apparent rationalism, which remains evident from these opening passages and elsewhere in the Treasury, nor reduce the importance of abhidharma as a key mode of reflecting rationally upon the Buddha’s teachings. While in its conventional sense abhidharma may offer an appropriate

analogy for our concept of “theoreticaldiscourse, the Treasury also challenges us to understand how abhidharma discourse works as a type of practice on the path culminating in a state of perfect wisdom (abhidharma in its ultimate sense). This brings us to practice. A survey of the Treasury, or Buddhist philosophy more generally, does not reveal a single, overarching concept for what we or Hadot might call “practice.” Instead, various terms express different aspects and meanings, and thereby form a picture of practice. Among the texts considered here, the Precious Virtues and the Adornment use caryā (from the root, car-) in a broad sense of practice, but Vasubandhu does not use this term in the Treasury. In an intriguing and somewhat elliptical passage in his commentary this context. I also make explicit that abhidharma is the implied referent for the pronoun eṣa. 51  Commentary on chapter 1, verse 3: na hi vinā ’bhidharmopadeśena śiṣyaḥ śakto dharmān pravicetum iti (Pradhan, 3; Śāstri, 12). 52  In the commentary, Vasubandhu attributes to the Vaibhāṣikas the position that the Buddha spoke abhidharma in a “scattered” or “disorganized” way (prakīrṇa ukto bhagavatā), and others led by venerable Kātyāyanīpūtra

“made it into a single collection and established it” (piṇḍīkṛtya sthāpitaḥ), citing the case of the Udāna for comparison. Yaśomitra interprets Vasubandhu’s stance here and aligns it with Sautrāntika (Pradhan, 3; Śāstri, 15). See also Gold, Paving, 265, note 19. Buddhist Spiritual Practices266 on the Adornment, however, Vasubandhu comments on carita, a word derived from the same root and sometimes also translatable as practice. His commentary there refers to “ten practices associated with the Dharma” (daśadharmacarita). In the Chinese translation, these are enumerated: copying (lekhanā), worshipping (pūjanā), gifting (dānam), hearing (śravaṇam), speaking (vācanam), memorizing (udgrahaṇam), clarifying (prakāśanā), reciting ( svādhyāyanam), reflecting (cintanā), and cultivating (bhāvanā).53 This fascinating list of Buddhist practices is broadly comparable with the lists Hadot quotes from Philo. To see how it helps us understand the Treasury and its discussion of the practice of wisdom, we must briefly look at one more Buddhist text. References to a list of “ten practices associated with the Dharma” are also found in the True Meaning, the well-known

Mahāyāna scripture which, as stated above, also most closely

reflects Vasubandhu’s usage of the three types of wisdom in the Treasury. In fact, the True Meaning explicitly links these ten practices to the three types of wisdom. In a passage that dis cusses how the bodhisattva (someone on the path to becoming a Buddha) should train in the six “perfections” (pāramitā), a list which includes “wisdom” (prajñā), and connects the development of these perfections to several path schemes, the Buddha says to Avalokiteśvara: First of all, bodhisattvas gain firm conviction in the bodhisattvas’ collection of scriptures, and in the teachings of the true Dharma concerning the perfections. After that, by means of the ten practices associated with the

Dharma, bodhisattvas 53  Adornment, chapter 20, verse 11 (Lévi, 183). Lévi’s Sanskrit edition refers only to advancing upon the path “by engaging in ten practices associated with the Dharma” (daśasu dharmacariteṣu vartanāt), but the Chinese translation of the Adornment enumerates a list that parallels the one found as items 903-914 in the Mahāvyutpatti. The Sanskrit terms quoted in parentheses in the main text above correspond to this list. For the fuller translation and a discussion of this passage in the Adornment, see Jamspal et al., Universal Vehicle Discourse Literature, 333 and n. 37; for the relevant passage from the Mahāvyutpatti, see Yumiko Ishihama and Yoichi Fukuda, eds., A New Critical Edition of the Mahāvyutpatti (Tokyo: Toyo Bunko, 1989), 48-49. Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating 267 acquire wisdom arising from learning, reasoning, and cultivation.54 While the passage does not elaborate on which practices are contained in this list of ten, it does explicitly connect them with the three types of wisdom. The ten practices thus seem to

be an elaboration upon the list of three types of wisdom—the list

of ten can itself include the three—or the latter is a distillation of the former. While the True Meaning nowhere clearly enumerates a straightforward list of ten practices associated with the Dharma, we find two key passages in the scripture, each containing a related list of practices. Some of them are found in the list cited above, others not. One passage includes “copying” (yi ger ’dri ba), “memorizing” (yi ger bris nas ’chang ba), “speaking” (klog pa), “distributing” (yang dag par ’gyed pa), “worshipping” (mchod pa), “explaining” (lung nod pa), “repeating” (’don par yang byed), and “reciting” (kha ton du byed). The other includes several of the same practices, but adds, significantly, both “reasoning” (sems pa) and “cultivation” (bsgom pa).55 Neither adds up to ten, nor are they explicitly called “practices associated with the Dharma,” but we can see in these lists the gradual formation of list-based definitions of practices broadly comparable with what Hadot finds in Philo, and more specifically connected with what we can find in the Adornment and the Treasury. In the Treasury,

Vasubandhu does not mention ten practices associated with the Dharma, but he does use the term carita in the sense of conduct, 54  True Meaning, chapter 9, paragraph 9: pha rol tu phyin pa dang ldan pa’i dam pa’i chos bstan pa | byang chub sems dpa’i sde snod la thog ma kho nar shin tu mos pa (adhimukti?) dang | de’i ’og tu chos spyad pa bcu po (daśadharma- carita?) dag gis thos pa dang | bsams pa dang | bsgoms pa las byung ba’i shes rab bsgrub pa dang (Lamotte, L’explication, 131-132). For Lamotte’s French translation, see 243; alternate English translation in Powers, Wisdom, 239. This scripture is no longer extant in its original Sanskrit, but we can be reasonably confident about many (but not all) of the key Sanskrit terms underlying the Tibetan translation. 55  For the first list: Lamotte, L’explication, 76, 200; Powers, Wisdom, 119. For the second: Lamotte, L’explication, 86, 207; Powers, Wisdom, 141.

Buddhist Spiritual Practices268 behavior, and even practice.56 At one point, he speaks about the “practice of the path” (mārgābhyāsa), and elsewhere uses abhyāsa in the sense of “repeated practice” or “implementation.”57 But Vasubandhu comes closest in the Treasury to providing an overarching conception of the practice of wisdom when he discusses wisdom and its three types, learning (śruta), reasoning (cintā), and cultivation (bhāvanā), which, he says, are “born from practice” (prayogajā). Three Types of Wisdom Vasubandhu first mentions the three types of wisdom in the opening section of the Treasury while discussing the nature and purpose of abhidharma, and more specifically when indicating how abhidharma in its conventional sense of theoretical discourse (and the genre of literature containing such discourse) can lead to abhidharma in its ultimate sense: pure wisdom. He waits until the beginning of chapter six on the path (mārga) to define the three types of wisdom and explain the connections between them. This suggests

that Vasubandhu conceives a close connection between them and the structure of the path. Importantly, however, they do not provide an exhaustive description of the path. Vasubandhu prefaces his explanation of the three types of wisdom with the following statement: 56  Treasury, chapter 1, verse 26cd and commentary: living beings perform 80,000 different behaviors (carita) the cure for which the Buddha has taught 80,000 different collocations of the Dharma (dharmaskandha) (Pradhan, 17; Śāstrī, 58). See also chapter 6, verse 38b and commentary, which contrasts the practice of calming meditation (śamathacarita) with practice of insight meditation (vipaśyanācarita) (Pradhan, 360; Śāstrī, 747). Chapter 4, verse 66 and commentary speak of good conduct (sucarita) and bad conduct (duścarita) in reference to the ten types of good and bad action (Pradhan, 237-238; Śāstī,

532533). This final usage of carita is the most common in the Treasury and may be traced to broad, earlier usage in the Buddhist discourses. 57  Chapter 5, verse 5a and commentary, where it is said that “four negative states are said to be removed by cultivation (bhāvanā), namely passion, hatred, pride and ignorance, because one who has first seen the truths would then abandon these states by practicing the path (mārgābhyāsa)” (catvāro bhāvanāheyāḥ | tadyathā rāgaḥ pratigho mānovidyā ca | dṛṣṭasatyasya paścāt mārgābhyāsena prahāṇāt) (Pradhan, 280; Śāstī, 602). Here we also find an instance of seeing the truths as preparation for practicing the path of cultivation, for more on which see the next two sections of this essay.

Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating 269 “Someone who desires to see the truths must first of all practice moral restraint ( śīla).”58 Vasubandhu emphasizes that moral restraint remains a prerequisite for someone to achieve success in acquiring wisdom through any of the three types of practice. In this way, the three practices of wisdom fit into a broader path structure founded upon a specific set of practical rules and guidelines for behavior. These rules are listed in the Buddhist prātimokṣa and discussed at length in the Vinaya literature and elsewhere, including ritual manuals, handbooks, and stories. They are simply assumed here en masse. On this point, Vasubandu’s statement brings his vision of the path into basic alignment with the path scheme found in the Pāli manuals, which structure the path as a sequence or hierarchy of moral restraint (sīla), meditative concentration (samādhi), and wisdom (paññā = prajñā).59 The True Meaning also gives this threefold scheme as a way of organizing five of the six perfections.60 We should recognize here that conceiving the Buddhist path as a way of life founded upon practical rules and guidelines for behavior gives the path a clear ethical, social, and institutional dimension.


As Sara McClintock and Steven Collins both argue in their essays

in this volume—both of them echoing concerns voiced by Vincent Eltschinger—we cannot simply ignore the social and institutional contexts in which Buddhist philosophical discourses were articulated, 58  Chapter 6, verse 5ab and commentary: satyāni hi [emended; Pradhan, Śāstrī: ha ] draṣṭukāma ādita eva śīlaṃ pālayati (Pradhan, 334; Śāstrī, 861). 59  The Visuddhimagga, for instance, is structured along this threefold scheme, the canonical basis for which is probably the Mahāparinibbāna-sutta, where it provides the structure and content of the Buddha’s “comprehensive discourse,” given to various congregations of monks on numerous occasions throughout the sutta. See Rhys Davids and Carpenter, Dīgha-nikāya, vol. 2, 81, 84 and following. The following translation modifies Walshe, Long Discourses, 234: “And then the Blessed One, while staying at Vultures’ Peak, gave a comprehensive discourse: ‘This is moral restraint; this is meditative concentration; this is wisdom. Meditative concentration, when imbued with moral restraint, brings great fruit and profit. Wisdom, when imbued with meditative concentration, brings great fruit and profit. The mind imbued with wisdom becomes completely free from afflictive states, that is, from the afflictive states of passion, becoming, false belief and ignorance’.” See also Peter Masefield, trans., The Itivuttaka (Oxford: Pali Text Society, 2000), 51, and the references in Lamotte, History, 42. 60  Lamotte, L’explication, 131, 243; Powers, Wisdom, 237.

Buddhist Spiritual Practices270 simply because such contexts are difficult for us to determine or we lack the historical evidence to make firm conclusions.61 Drawing on Hadot, we can say further that philosophical discourses aim to support, enact, and justify, rationally, particular choices of lifestyle, which always reflect particular social and institutional contexts. When Vasubandhu thus makes moral restraint the basis for the practice of wisdom, he seems to recognize this implicitly. This may explain why he describes the formation of specific types of persons (or ideal persons) alongside his discussion of the structure of the path in chapter six of the Treasury. The normative and

systematic coherence that is the aim of the text reflects idealized structures of the ethical, social, and institutional contexts it assumes. Vasubandhu thus begins his explanation of the three types of wisdom by placing them in a clearly sequential relationship founded upon moral restraint. He states, “One who is stable in moral conduct and possesses the wisdom derived from learning and reasoning becomes capable of practicing cultivation.”62 Thus, only a particular type of individual who has achieved stability in moral conduct, such as the (ideal) monk or nun, becomes eligible to practice wisdom through learning, reasoning, and cultivation. “For,” Vasubandhu adds in his commentary on the above, “one who desires to see the four noble truths must first of all observe moral restraint.” Vasubandhu continues his commentary by describing the sequence or hierarchy

of practices as follows: Then, after attaining moral stability, one receives the teachings that accord with seeing the truth, or one listens to their meaning. After learning them, one thinks about them. After coming to understand that they are not false, one becomes capable of practicing cultivation. Taken together, one produces the wisdom that arises through reasoning depend- ing on the wisdom that arises through learning, 61  James Apple also seeks to address this concern directly in his essay in the present volume, and it is worth noting as well that Atiśa, on whom Apple focuses in his essay, also uses the three types of wisdom as a means of framing practices on the path. See page 130 and following. 62  Treasury, chapter 6, verse 5ab: vṛttasthaḥ śrutacintāvān bhāvanāyāṃ prayujyate (Pradhan, 334; Śāstrī, 700).

Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating 271 and one produces the wisdom that arises through cultivation depending on the wisdom that arises through reasoning.63 In this passage Vasubandhu affirms the sequence of the three types of wisdom and their dependence upon one another. Each

proceeds in reliance upon the previous one; all of them depend upon the foundation of moral restraint; and their goal is seeing the truths. In this way, Vasubandhu’s explanation differs from the one given by Buddhaghosa in the Visuddhimagga, but it aligns with what we find in the Adornment and the True Meaning.64 One of two main passages in the Adornment on the three types of wisdom concerns the teachings (dharma) as an object of investigation. Just as Vasubandhu explains above in the Treasury, the Adornment states that the three types of wisdom take the teachings as their object. Although the goal is seeing the truth directly or non-conceptually, the Adornment explains that one must begin the process by learning the teachings discursively and conceptually: The basis for experiencing the teachings can be achieved through the three types of wisdom

(jñāna),65 63  The whole passage in the commentary on chapter 6, verse 5ab, reads: satyāni hi draṣṭukāma ādita eva śīlaṃ pālayati | tataḥ satyadarśanasyānulomaṃ śrutam udgṛhṇāti arthaṃ vā śṛṇoti | śrutvā cintayati | aviparītaṃ cintayitvā bhāvanāyāṃ prayujyate | samādhau tasya śrutamayīṃ prajñāṃ niśritya cintāmayī jāyate | cintāmayīṃ niśritya bhāvanāmayī jāyate (Pradhan, 334; Śāstrī, 700). 64  The following translation modifies Ñāṇamoḷi, Path of Purification, 438: “As regards the triads, wisdom acquired without learning from someone else is wisdom consisting in what is reasoned because it is produced by one’s own reasoning. Wisdom acquired by learning from someone else is wisdom consisting in what is learned, because it is produced by learning. Wisdom that has reached absorption, having been somehow produced by cultivation, is wisdom consisting in

cultivation;” Warren and Kosambi, Visuddhimagga, 371: Tikesu paṭhamattike, parato asutvā paṭiladdhapaññā attano cintāvasena nipphannattā cintāmayā; parato sutvā paṭiladdhapaññā sutavasena nipphannattā sutamayā; yathā tathā vā bhāvanāvasena nipphanā appanāpattā paññā bhāvanāmayā. An interesting elaboration on the wisdom arising from reasoning follows this passage. 65  The Adornment uses jñāna here instead of prajñā, but the two terms are virtually synonyms in a variety of contexts, as they are, more or less, in the Treasury, as well. On the notion of jñāna in the Treasury, see particularly chapter seven. The Pāli path materials also tend to identify ñāna (jñāna) with Buddhist Spiritual Practices272 learning, and so forth; first, by generating confidence with respect to the stated meaning through investigation by means of the conceptualizations of the mind; second, by realizing that objects arise through conceptualization; third, by focusing the mind on the conceptual as such. The achievement of

these three bases for experience relies upon the teachings, as previously explained.66 The commentary on this passage describes how the practice of the three types of wisdom moves from a conceptual and discursive understanding of the nature of reality, based on the teachings, to one that is ostensibly beyond the duality of language and reality: If one perceives that the object appears solely through mental conceptualization, and that there is nothing other than mental conceptualization . . . [then], by focusing the mind upon the conceptual, one should know the basis for experiencing the teachings with the wisdom born of cultivation, because no duality is then perceived . . . 67 The commentary’s explanation here might wed the practice of wisdom to the discovery of a particular metaphysical position: The mind produces external objects. Objects are nothing

but mind. If so, the Vaibhāṣika system outlined in the Treasury would not endorse the Adornment’s metaphysical position, but the two sources still agree on the sequence of the three types of wisdom, and that they begin by paññā (prajñā). See, for instance, Bhikkhu Bodhi, trans., Abhidhammattha Sangaha: A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma (Seattle: Pariyatti, 2000), 90. If they are to be distinguished, then jñāna can be seen as the outcome of prajñā. 66  Adornment, chapter 11, verses 6-7: manojalpairyathoktārtha-pra- sannasya pradhāraṇāt | arthakhyānasya jalpācca nāmni sthānācca cetasaḥ || dharmālambanalābhaḥ syāt tribhir jñānaiḥ śrutādibhiḥ |trividhālambanalābhaśca pūrvoktastatsamāśritaḥ (Lévi, 55-56). For an alternate English translation, see Jamspal, Discourse Literature, 116-117. 67  Yadi manojalpādevāyamarthaḥ khyātīti paśyati nānyanmanojalpād . . . cittasya nāmni sthānāt bhāvanāmayena jñānena tallābho veditavyo dvayānupalambhād . . . (Lévi, 56). See Jamspal, Discourse Literature, 117.


Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating 273 taking the discursive (the teachings) and conceptual (their meanings) as their primary objects. The True Meaning largely concurs as well. In its own explanation of the differences between the three types of wisdom, it has the Buddha say to Maitreya: With the wisdom arising from learning, Bodhisattvas rely upon words. They treat the words literally, and do not grasp their intent. They do not realize them directly. They conform to liberation, but they perceive objects that do not conform to liberation. Maitreya, with the wisdom arising from reasoning, they still rely upon words, but do not treat them literally. They grasp their intent and realize them

directly. They highly conform to liberation, but still perceive objects that do not conform to liberation. Maitreya, with the wisdom arising from cultivation, bodhisattvas rely upon words and they do not rely upon words. They treat them literally and do not treat them literally. They grasp their intent. They perceive them directly through images arising in meditative concentration that accord with the objects to be known. They completely conform to liberation, and perceive objects that also conform to liberation.68 68  True Meaning, chapter 8, paragraph 24: byang chub sems dpa’ thos pa las byung ba’i shes rab kyis ni tshig ’bru la gnas pa | sgra ji bzhin pa | dgongs pa med pa | mngon du ma gyur pa | sgra ji bzhin pa | rjes su ’thun pa | rnam par thar par byed pa ma yin pa’i don so so yang dag par rig par byed do | byams pa bsams pa las byung ba’i shes rab kyis ni tshig ’bru la gnas pa kho na ma yin la | sgra ji bzhin ma yin pa | dgongs pa can | mngon du gyur pa | rnams par thar par byed pa ma yin pa’i don so so yang dag par rig par byed do | byams pa byang chub sems dpa’ bsgoms pa las byung ba’i shes rab kyis ni tshig ’bru la gnas pa dang | tshig ’bru la gnas pa ma ying pa dang | sgra ji bzhin pa dang | sgra ji bzhin ma yin pa dang | dgongs pa can dang | shes bya’i dngos po dang cha ’thun pa’i ting nge ’dzin par thar pa’i rjes su ches shin tu ’thun pa | rnam par thar par byed pa’i don kyang so sor yang dag par rig par byed do (Lamotte, L’explication, 105). For Lamotte’s French translation: 222-223. For an alternate English translation: Powers, Wisdom, 183-184.


Buddhist Spiritual Practices274 In this passage, we can see how the practice of the three types of wisdom begins with the discursive and the conceptual. As before, learning here seems to involve rote learning, learning the teachings by heart, but also accepting a favored interpretation of their literal meaning. Reasoning would focus upon the discursive and conceptual, but involves moving past the literal or accepted interpretation to see intended meanings underlying the teachings. One begins to realize them directly, but remains grounded in the discursive and conceptual, and that explains why the practitioner does not yet perceive objects conducive to liberation. The practice of cultivation involves a greater degree of separation from the discursive and the conceptual, and thus the practitioner comes to see the truth directly and perceive objects that are conducive to liberation. The Vaibhāṣika explanation of the three types of wisdom, which Vasubandhu gives in the Treasury, largely resembles what we find in the True Meaning and the Adornment. However, Vasubandhu also offers a different explanation of the three types of wisdom and their relationship, which he seems to prefer, and this can tell us something about the singular importance he attaches to rational practices and their place on the path to pure wisdom. Vasubandhu introduces the second half of verse five,

chapter six, by asking, “And what is the nature of these three types of wisdom?” The half-verse then provides the answer: “The three types of wisdom born from learning, reasoning, and cultivating, respectively, take words, words and their objects, and the objects alone as their respective bases.” Vasubandhu elaborates upon this answer in his commentary: They say that the wisdom born from learning takes words as its conceptual basis. The wisdom born of reasoning takes both words and objects as its basis. Sometimes it grasps the object with the word; sometimes it grasps the word with the object. The wisdom born of cultivation takes only objects as its basis, since it focuses upon the object without relying on its name.69 69  Treasury, chapter 6, verse 5cd and commentary: kiṃ punarāsāṃ prajñānāṃ lakṣaṇam | nāmobhayārthaviṣayā śrutamayyādikā dhiyaḥ | nāmālambanā kila Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating 275 This explanation echoes the Adornment and the True Meaning

insofar as all three seek to differentiate the three types of wisdom, at least in part, by positing a distinction between words and the objects to which they refer.70 Yet, Vasubandu does not seem to prefer this explanation in the Treasury, because he again tags it with the word, kila, “so they say.” Vasubandhu cites an analogy to support this explanation that he attributes to the Vaibhāṣikas: “To cross a river, those who haven’t learned how to swim must keep hold of the raft; those who have learned how to swim a little may sometimes release the raft and hold onto it at other times; those who have learned well how to swim may cross without the raft.”71 Following the analogy, words are like rafts that help us cross the river of samsāra, but if relied upon exclusively, they won’t enable us to learn how to swim across the river. For that we must use the raft correctly, that is, we must let go of it from time to time and swim on our own. As clear as it may seem, the problem Vasubandhu sees

with this Vaibhāṣika explanation is that the wisdom arising from reasoning has no obvious place in the scheme. Wisdom arising from learning takes words as its basis; wisdom arising from cultivation takes objects. According to Vasubandhu, wisdom arising from reasoning is left without any distinctive basis or purpose. 72

śrutamayī prajñā | nāmārthālambanā cintāmayī | kadācidvyañjanenārtham ākarṣati kadācidarthena vyañjanaṃ | arthālambanaiva bhāvanāmayī | sā hi vyañjananirapekṣā arthe pravartate (Pradhan, 334-335; Śāstrī, 700). La Vallée Poussin, Kośa, vol. 4, 143, identifies this passage as a paraphrase of the Mahāvibhāṣaśāstra, now extant only in Chinese translation. 70  This alignment is perhaps vitiated to some extent by the distinction drawn in the True Meaning between literal and intended meaning, but at the same time we should remember that the same word, artha, is used in the sense of both object and meaning. 71  Treasury, commentary on chapter 6, verse 5cd: tadyathā ’mbhasi plotum aśikṣitaḥ plavann eva muñcati | kiyacchikṣitaḥ kadācit muñcet kadācid ālambate | susikṣitaḥ plavan nirapekṣastaratītyeṣa dṛṣṭāntaḥ iti vaibhāṣikāḥ (Pradhan, 335; Śāstrī, 700). La Vallée Poussin, Kośa, vol. 4, 143, also identifies this passage as a citation from the Mahāvibhāṣaśāstra. For an English translation of La Vallée Poussin’s annotated French translation, along with a bit more information drawn from other sources, see Sangpo, Kośa, vol. 3, 1893, 2047 and notes 76-83. 72  Treasury, continuing commentary on chapter 6, verse 5cd: asyāṃ tu kalpanāyāṃ cintāmayī prajñā na siddhyatītyapare | yā hi nāmālambanā śrutamayī Buddhist Spiritual Practices276 Therefore, Vasubandhu proposes a different explanation. He says, Wisdom arising from learning provides certainty (niścaya) born from the testimony of an authoritative person (āpta), which is a valid means of knowledge. Wisdom arising from reasoning provides certainty born from rational analysis (yuktinidhyāna). Wisdom arising from cultivation provides certainty born from meditative concentration.73 Several points are noteworthy about this explanation. First of all,

Vasubandhu identifies rational analysis as the unique means

through which one attains the wisdom born from reasoning. So, “reasoning” (or thinking or reflection) ( cintā) simply means “rational analysis” ( yuktinidhyāna).74 In this respect, Vasubandhu’s explanation agrees with the second main passage in the Adornment’s discussion of the three types of wisdom, where it is also said that the wisdom born of reasoning arises from “rational analysis” (yuktinidhyāna).75 However, whereas Vasubandhu also makes certainty, an epistemological concept, the key outcome for each of the three types of wisdom, the Adornment identifies a separate outcome for each of the three practices: “Learning the teaching generates devotion ( bhakti), that is, a strong conviction ( adhimukti) and confidence (saṃpratyaya) in the teaching. Reasoning about the teaching brings joy (tuṣṭi) at learning one’s potential prāpnoti yā ’rthālambanā bhāvanāmayīti | idam tu lakṣaṇaṃ nāniravidyaṃ vidyate | (Pradhan, 335; Śāstrī, 700). 73  The commentary on chapter 6, verse 5, continues: āptavacana- prāmāṇyajātaniścayā śrutamayī yuktinidhyānajā cintāmayī samādhijā bhāvanāmayīti hetau . . . (Pradhan, 335; Śāstrī, 701). 74 Thus, in regard to cintā here, we can see the broader problem of recognizing the semantic range of certain words, which spans from ordinary, non-technical usages, determined mainly by context, to more decontextualized and technical usages. We find this same problem when interpreting and translating terms with both ordinary and technical senses, such as prajñā, abhijñā, jñāna, dharma, abhidharma, and many more.  75  Eltschinger, “Studies,” 554, where he notes this point among several pieces of evidence he gives for the influence of “Yogācāra literature” upon Vasubandhu’s interpretation of the wisdom born of reasoning.

Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating 277 for attainment. Cultivating the teaching produces understanding (buddhi) of the true nature of reality.”76 In the Treasury, Vasubandhu’s explanation of the three types of wisdom instead places the emphasis on epistemic certainty, and in doing so carves out an independent role for rational intellec

tual practices on the path to awakening. Vasubandhu also appears to conceive an interdependent relationship between learning the teachings of the Buddha, the most authoritative person, and reasoning about them in a systematic, rational fashion. I would suggest that Vasubandhu conceives the practice of abhidharma, including the dialectical exchanges he provides in his commentary on the Treasury, as the proper model for and embodiment of rational investigation or reasoning. The practice of abhidharma would seem to correspond most closely to the practice of wisdom born from reasoning, which could not be performed in isolation from the practice of wisdom born from learning

the teachings, just as the Abhidharma, for Vasubandhu, remains dependent upon the Dharma, that is, the teachings of the Buddha.77 In this way, Vasubandhu not only defends the Buddha’s teachings as the final word, but also makes space for the proper exercise of reason. However, attaining abhidharma in its ultimate sense of pure wisdom would still seem to require the practice of wisdom born from cultivating, through meditative concentration, a direct, unmediated, non-discursive knowledge of the true nature of reality. It remains for us to consider once more how Vasubandhu perceives the relationship between learning, reasoning, and cultivating, focusing now on the latter two types and locating 76  Adornment, chapter 12, verses 14-15 and commentary: ādimadhya- paryavasānakalyāṇo yathākramaṃ śrutacintābhāvanābhir bhaktituṣṭibuddhi- hetutvāt | tatra bhaktiradhimuktiḥ sampratyayaḥ tuṣṭiḥ prāmodyaṃ yuktinidhyānācchakyaprāptitām viditvā | buddhiḥ samāhitacittasya yathā- bhūtajñānaṃ (Lévi, 81-82.) See also Jamspal, Discourse Literature, 159-160. In this respect, the Adornment may disagree with the True Meaning, which identifies the development of strong conviction (adhimukti) as a prerequisite for the practice of

the three types of wisdom, and not one of its outcomes. See passage in note 55 above. 77  For this reason, I do not think it is entirely appropriate, at least from Vasubandhu’s perspective, to describe the wisdom born of learning as “servile” (Eltschinger, “Studies,” 555). Buddhist Spiritual Practices278 them on a continuum of practices from the discursive to the non- discursive and from the non-rational to the rational to the non-rational. Wisdom and the Continuum of Practice Among the many assumptions embedded in our contemporary discourse is the idea that “practice” differs, somehow basically, from “theory.” By these terms, we usually mean something rather vague: “doing” something, rather than “thinking” or “talking” or “writing” about it. And the assertion that thinking and writing are also forms of activity does little to reduce the primacy of practice over theory. A number of scholars of South Asian intellectual systems have

challenged this primacy by showing that intellectuals of classical

South Asia saw the issue rather differently. Sheldon Pollock has written, for example: “The relationship of śāstra (“theory”) to prayoga (“practical activity”) in Sanskritic culture is shown to be diametrically opposed to that usually found in the West. Theory is held always and necessarily to precede and govern practice; there is no dialectical interaction between them.”78 While Pollock suggests that Indian thinkers placed theory above practice, other scholars have tried to show how “spiritual practices” like meditation may have engendered specific Buddhist philosophical reflections.79 In both cases, however, a rather sharp distinction still emerges between theoretical discourse and practical activity. Pierre Hadot challenges this distinction when he asks readers of ancient philosophy to understand philo- sophical discourse as a type of practice on a continuum of so-called “spiritual exercises.” 78  Sheldon Pollock, “The Theory of Practice and the Practice of Theory in Indian Intellectual History,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 105.3 (1985): 499. See also Charles Hallisey, “In Defense of Rather Fragile and Local Achievement: Reflections on the Work of Gurulugomi,” in Frank E. Reynolds and David Tracy, eds., Religion and Practical Reason: New Essays in the Comparative Philosophy of Religions (New York: SUNY Press, 1994), 121-160. 79  A classic example is Lambert Schmithausen, “On the Problem of the Relation of Spiritual Practice and Philosophical Theory in Buddhism,” in German Scholars on India, vol. 2 (Delhi: Nachiketa Publications, 1976), 235-250.

Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating 279 Vasubandhu may well conceive of “theory” and “practice” in ways we might find familiar, using a variety of terms (śāstra, abhidharma, yukti, cintā // prayoga, carita, abhyāsa, bhāvanā, mārga), which stake out particular ground along the divide within the respective semantic fields approximated by our terms. He nonetheless places “thinking” (cintā) and “cultivation” (bhāvanā) along a continuum of different practices rather than in strict opposition. While they are distinctive forms of practice, they build upon one another and work together to instill wisdom in the practitioner. Classifying reasoning as theory and cultivation as practice, and then opposing them as we are apt to do, can lead to misunderstanding their nature and scope. As is typical among Indian Buddhist writers of his ilk, Vasubandhu classifies as “cultivation” many meditative practices that are discursive or conceptual in nature or at least begin as discursive or conceptual practices. Thus, theoretical reflection shifts to meditative cultivation more gradually than we might assume.In order to understand the distinctive features of these different types of practice, however, we must take into account at least two other sets of distinctions found in the Treasury. Vasubandhu makes a sharper distinction between the mundane (laukika-) and the transcendent paths ( lokottara-mārga), and between the three existential realms ( lokadhātu), namely the realms of desire, pure form, and formlessness. 80 The former distinguishes between different levels or stages of the path, which the Vaibhāṣika system divides into the five successive paths of accumulation, preparation (prayoga), vision (darśana), cultivation (bhāvanā), and completion or no more


learning. This path system cuts across the three existential realms, which are largely distinguished by the presence or absence of material form, as well as the presence or absence of discursivity and other mental or emotional states said to accompany the mind at different levels of meditative concentration. 80  The three realms of existence and their natures are treated in detail in chapter 3 of the Treasury. See La Vallée Poussin, Kośa, vol. 3, 1 and following. For an accessible overview of the traditional Buddhist view of the cosmos that largely accords with what we find in the Treasury, see Rupert Gethin, The Foundations of Buddhism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 112-132. Buddhist Spiritual Practices280 So, for example, practices done upon the paths of accumulation and preparation involve direct engagement with the material and discursive realm of desire, including the body, mind, thoughts, feelings, and habits. Learning and reasoning are thus classified as mundane, as are the basic acts of moral restraint. So, too, are various meditative practices, which are classified as cultivation, such as mindfulness of breathing, meditation on the horrible, mindfulness of the body, and the three other applications of mindfulness. All these practices are mundane in that they still involve some degree of discursivity, or conceptuality, or an engagement with the material world.81 They are distinguished from more advanced practices one undertakes upon the world-transcending paths of vision, cultivation, and completion. These practices correspond to the realms of pure form and formlessness, which Vasubandhu largely reserves for mental states wherein the mind has attained a level

of concentration that precludes discursivity and engagement with the realm of the senses. 82 For instance, the realm of pure form

includes four basic states or levels of meditative concentration ( dhyāna), only the first of which retains some degree of conscious application of thought ( vitarka-vicāra), even though the practitioner has already also attained one-pointedness of mind. As the practitioner reaches progressively higher levels of meditative concentration, however, conscious application of thought subsides, and eventually so, too, do feelings of joy and ease, and the practitioner comes to rest in what might be described as a state of pure, non- discursive awareness.83 81  See the Treasury, chapter two, verse 52 and commentary, where Vasubandhu explains how particular practices on one level of the path can act as causes for subsequent practices done at a higher level of the path. 82  Griffiths, “Indian Buddhist Meditation,” 54-60, provides a brief and lucid description of these stages of the path based on reading the sixth chapter of Vasubandhu’s Treasury. Another useful overview is given in Gethin, Foundations, 194-198. 83  In the Treasury, chapter 8, verses 7-8 and commentary, Vasubandhu defines the four dhyānas, or states of meditative concentration in the realm of pure form, and the factors that accompany them. See Pradhan, 438; Śāstrī, 888; La Vallée Poussin, Kośa, vol. 5, 147-149.

Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating 281 From this we can see that cultivation is a complex category that includes both preparatory and more advanced practices, discursive practices as well as ones that seem not to involve discur sive thought, and practices that may be classified as either mundane or world-transcending. Vasubandhu will make this explicit in the first verse of chapter six on the path, where he explains that the path of cultivation is twofold: mundane or world-transcending. 84 This distinction parallels the one he makes between impure and pure, which we saw him apply to wisdom in chapter one, at the very beginning of the Treasury. These distinctions rely less upon a clear opposition between theory and practice, and instead mark stages of an individual’s progressive development of insight (vipaśyanā). Through practicing wisdom, that is, through

learning it, reasoning about it, and cultivating it—first discursively or conceptually, and then gradually less so— an individual progressively transforms him or herself, thoughts, motivations, habits, body, and mind, and comes to see what the Buddha is said to have seen: reality as it truly is. In order to bring about this transformative vision in accordance with the truth, Vasubandhu seems to prioritize meditative exercises involving what Paul Griffiths has usefully described as “observational analysis:” “close observation of the practitioner’s psychophysical processes . . . or . . . the repeated contemplation and internalization of key items of Buddhist doctrine.”85 Griffiths identifies the cultivation of mindfulness (smṛti) as the paradigm for this practice, and indeed, mindfulness plays a central role in Vasubandhu’s description of the path leading to the cultivation of insight. However, we must be careful to clarify precisely what Vasubandhu means by mindfulness, given the term’s prevalence in contemporary parlance.86 Just as we saw above 84  Treasury, chapter 6, verse 1c and commentary: dvividho bhāvanāmārgo laukiko lokottaraś ca (Pradhan, 327; Śāstrī, 685). 85  Griffiths, “Indian Buddhist Meditation,” 44. 86  For some help navigating the complexities of the term, both in its contemporary usages and with respect to the Buddhist tradition, see Georges Dreyfus, “Is mindfulness present-centered and non-judgmental? A discussion of the cognitive dimensions of mindfulness,” Contemporary Buddhism 12 (2011), 41-54; Rupert Gethin, “On some definitions of mindfulness,” Contemporary Buddhism 12 (2011), 263-279; and the general overview found in Antoine Lutz, Amishi P. Jha, Buddhist Spiritual Practices282 for prajñā, mindfulness is listed in the Treasury as one of the ten basic mental factors said to accompany any mental state. Vasubandhu initially defines it as “not losing the mental object,” which suggests that mindfulness is the basic mental factor by which the mind holds onto its mental object or maintains its focus upon the object.87 But if mindfulness is a basic factor of attention, present in any mental state, why must we cultivate it? While mindfulness may be a basic mental factor, the four applications of mindfulness gradually sharpen the practitioner’s focus and prepare the ground for seeing the truths. Here, again, we need to consider the distinction between the mundane and the world

transcending, the impure and the pure. Vasubandhu distinguishes between mindfulness that is “contaminated” by exposure to the

material world of sense objects, and a “purified state of mindfulness” that remains present in a state of meditation even when discursivity has subsided.88 The practice of cultivating mindfulness thus also straddles this divide, which Vasubandhu seems to want to bridge once again with the concept of wisdom or discernment, conceived as a clear vision of reality, divided into its component factors. In chapter six of the Treasury, while discussing the four “applications of mindfulness” (smṛtyupasthāna), Vasubandhu

asks, “What is their essence?” And he immediately answers, “It is wisdom (prajñā),” and more specifically, “it is the wisdom born from learning, reasoning, and cultivation.” John D. Dunne, and Clifford D. Saron, “Investigating the Phenomenological Matrix of Mindfulness-Related Practices From a Neurocognitive Perspective,” American Psychologist 70.7 (2015), 632-658. 87  Treasury, chapter 2, verse 24, and commentary: smṛtir ālambanāsampramoṣa (Pradhan, 54; Śāstrī, 148). 88  Treasury, chapter 2, commentary on verse 26, which mentions the concept of “contaminated mindfulness” (kliṣṭa smṛti) (Pradhan, 56; Śāstrī, 152; La Vallée Poussin, Kośa, vol. 1, 162). For the presence of “purified mindfulness” (smṛtipariśuddhi) in the fourth dhyāna or level of meditative concentration, see Treasury, chapter 8, verse 7-8 and commentary (Pradhan, 438; Śāstrī, 888; La Vallée Poussin, Kośa, vol. 5, 147-149). I take this dis- tinction more or less to parallel the one Jaini recognizes in the Treasury be- tween “discernment” (prajñā) and “poor discernment” (kuprajñā) (= opinion,” dṛṣti) (“Prajñā and dṛṣṭi,” 404-409). Also noteworthy for our purposes is Jaini’s understanding that, for the Vaibhāṣika Abhidharma system, the

cultivation of “correct opinion” (samyagdṛṣṭi) plays a key role on the path of cultivation (409). Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating 283 Therefore, Vasubandhu asserts, the four applications of mindfulness are themselves threefold insofar as they arise through the practices of learning, reasoning, and cultivation.89 By identifying wisdom as their common basis, Vasubandhu suggests how the discursive practices of learning the Dharma and reasoning about it might belong on a continuum of practices alongside the cultivation of mindfulness. A few lines later he directly addresses the question of how we know that wisdom is the essence of the four applications of mindfulness. Vasubandhu first cites the Buddha’s word, the proper object of the practice of learning: “observing (anupaśyanā) the body in the body is an application of mindfulness.” He then interprets the passage by identifying the act of observation with the exercise of wisdom or discernment: “for, indeed, wisdom/discernment makes one who possesses it into an observer.” After giving an alternative Vaibhāṣika


explanation with which he disagrees, Vasubandhu asserts that mindfulness is reducible to wisdom, because it becomes established through the exercise of wisdom.90 The argument seems to be based on causality, as it often is in the Treasury.91 Vasubandhu reduces multiple concepts (smṛti, anupaśyanā, vipaśyanā) to a common causal basis, grounded in the basic categories of the Abhidharma system. In this way, Vasubandhu employs learning and reasoning to attain “certainty” (niścaya) about the nature of mindfulness, but 89  Treasury, chapter 6, verse 15a and commentary: atha smṛtyupasthānānāṃ kaḥ svabhāvaḥ . . . tatra svabhāvasmṛtyupasthānam | prajñā | kīdṛśī prajñā | śrutādimayī | śrutamayī cintāmayī bhāvanāmayī ca | trividhāni smṛtypasthānāni śrutacintābhāvanāmayāni | (Pradhan, 341-342; Śāstrī, 709). The Adornment also links the practice of mindfulness to the

three types of wisdom, claiming that mindfulness practice is grounded upon the wisdom born from hearing, reflection and cultivation. See chapter 18, verses 43- 44 and commentary: niśrayāt . . . bodhisattvānāṃ smṛtyupasthānabhāvanā viśiṣyate | katham āśrayato mahāyāne śrutacintābhāvanāmayīṃ prajñā māśritya (Lévi, 140). The Adornment further connects the three practices of wisdom to meditative cultivation in chapter 8, verse 7, and chapter 11, verse 9. 90  Treasury, chapter 6, commentary on verse 15b: kāye kāyānupaśyanā smṛtyupasthānam iti vacanāt | kā punar anupaśyanā | prajñā | tayā hi tadvān anupaśyaḥ kriyate . . . smṛtiranayopatiṣṭhata iti smṛtyupasthānaṃ prajñā yathādṛṣṭasyābhilapanāt | (Pradhan, 342; Śāstrī, 710-711). 91  See note 41 above and also Gold, Paving, especially chapters 2 and 3.

Buddhist Spiritual Practices284 such certitude would still seem to be quite different from what one achieves by actually cultivating the four applications of mindfulness. Cultivating wisdom transforms a person’s cognitive faculties and perception to accord with learned and reasoned Buddhist doctrines. As Vasubandhu says, After repeatedly practicing the applications of mindfulness in this way, taking the body and the other three applications as the cognitive basis, one becomes established in the application of mindfulness to the dharmas, which is the cognitive basis for all of them, and one sees that they are impermanent, unsatisfying, empty, and without self.92 Vasubandhu describes how the practitioner cultivates mindfulness by repeatedly applying the specific body of learned and reasoned discourse, embodied in the teaching of the four applications of mindfulness, to the world of one’s subjective experiences. This

practice seemingly then provides a different kind of confirmation or certainty that the basic teachings do, in fact, apply to one’s experience. As mentioned above, the Treasury is structured around the four noble truths, and the four truths are rehearsed at the beginning of Vasubandhu’s discussion of the path. In his presentation of the path, the crucial pivot from the mundane path of preparation to the world-transcending path of cultivation occurs upon the path of vision, which is itself classified as entirely pure and world-transcending. Although called a path, it is more aptly conceived as a singular experience of insight into the true nature of reality, that is, the four noble truths in their various aspects. In order to produce this moment of insight (or series of moments), the practitioner progressively cultivates the four applications of mindfulness to produce the four “pathways to penetrating insight” (nirvedhabhāgīya), four higher but still preliminary meditative states that precede the experience of the path of vision, and which Vasubandhu also identifies with wisdom.93 92  Treasury, chapter 6, verse 16: evaṃ kāyādyālambanāni smṛtyupasthānāny abhyasya | sa dharmasmṛtyupasthāne samastālambane

sthitaḥ | anityaduḥkhataḥ śūnyānātmatas tān vipaśyati || (Pradhan, 343; Śāstrī, 712). 93  Treasury, chapter 6, the framing commentary around verse 19c, as well as verse 20b. Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating 285 Following the path of vision comes the transcendent part of the path of cultivation whereupon the practitioner works to consolidate the vision of the truths. In his discussion of the four noble truths at the beginning of chapter six, Vasubandhu includes a striking image, which seems to throw into sharp relief this relationship between grasping the teach- ings intellectually and preliminarily, and then slowly training to see them experientially in a brief moment of clarity, before gradually coming to view oneself and the world around one completely through the lens they provide. He compares the practitioner on the transcendent path of cultivation to a horse running freely over ground it has already seen.94 Seeing the ground, of course, symbolizes seeing the truths, the path of vision, but a horse knows the ground quite differently from simply seeing or knowing it intellectually or by following a map. The horse knows by having gone over the ground already, just as the path of seeing is the culmination of a gradual process of development, based on repetition and not just representation. In fact, the word “seen,” dṛṣṭa, is itself quite close to dṛḍha, “firm, stable,” though no commentators attest to this as an alternate reading. Nonetheless, the preliminary practices could well be said to build a stable ground for the advanced practice of cultivation, symbolized by the image of


running without difficulty. This metaphor thus aptly conveys the way various physical and mental exercises—including memorization techniques, rational practices, and other discursive exercises, working together with the cultivation of mindfulness and other types of cultivation, all set upon on a continuum of practices—prepare one to internalize a particular vision of reality, thus transforming “an individual’s entire psyche” (tout le psychisme de l’individu), as Hadot might say.95 94  Treasury, chapter 6, commentary on verse 2: dṛṣṭabhūminiḥ- saṅgāśvadhāvanavat (Pradhan, 328; Śāstrī, 687). Pradhan reports the manuscript reading as -dhānavat, while Śāstrī emends to –prasaraṇavat on the basis of Yaśomitra’s commentary, but Yaśomitra also gives -dhāvanavat as an alternate reading. My appreciation goes to Sonam Kachru for first drawing

my attention to this metaphor, and for encouraging remarks on a prior draft of this essay. 95  See note 11 above. Buddhist Spiritual Practices286 Conclusion By reading his Treasury of Abhidharma, studied in close com- parison with the Adornment to the Mahāyāna Scriptures and the Scripture Revealing the True Meaning, I have sought to show how, for Vasubandhu, three main types of activity (learning, reasoning, and cultivation) exemplify the practice of wisdom. By employing this typology, Vasubandhu finds a place on the Buddhist path for the rational, intellectual practice of abhidharma (in its conventional sense), a practice he models in his own treatise and its commentary. The Treasury itself embodies the discursive practices of learning and reasoning, a point Vasubandhu makes in the opening verses of the


work and applies in his discussion of the four applications of mindfulness, but the work also points beyond itself to a broader set of embodied practices of self-cultivation. And just as Pierre Hadot has urged modern readers to understand the practice of wisdom as the central motivation of ancient philosophy, the comparative exercise undertaken here has sought to reveal Vasubandhu’s portrayal of the practice of wisdom as the central motivating concern of the Buddhist path. This exercise has focused less on comparing a specific concept of wisdom articulated by the Stoics, for instance, with that of the Buddhists, but instead on how a specific Buddhist philosopher characterizes wisdom and frames its practice. In response to the question of how one can practice wisdom, Vasubandhu identifies a threefold set of practices, all of them grounded upon habituating oneself to a specific mode of life, and including not only techniques of rote learning and self-cultivation, but also rational practices, including the practice of abhidharma. Thus, like Hadot with his notion of “spiritual exercises,” Vasubandhu challenges the reader to understand these different practices of wisdom on a continuum of development, resisting the urge to draw sharp oppositions between rule-based behavior, rote learning, theoretical reflection, and both “discursive” and “non- discursive” practices of self-cultivation. A sharper distinction is drawn between mundane and world-transcending practices. The Buddhist practices of wisdom seek to liberate the practitioner in some fundamental way from a world characterized by suffering, and this may seem to diverge from

Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating 287 certain Hellenistic notions of philosophy as therapy, at least as Hadot portrays them.96 Some of this divergence may end up being more rhetorical than real, however. The Buddhist path is also framed in terms of acquiring knowledge (omniscience, even, and I would add other attainments: power, wellness, and so on). Regarding knowledge, the intellectual practice of knowing the Buddhist truths, of seeing the true nature of reality, is placed within the practical context of discovering or coming to realize for oneself the reality of what one has learned to be true. This practice of wisdom thus remains con nected to an all-encompassing truth thought to have a transformative effect upon the practitioner. Knowledge is liberating and liberation entails knowledge. Vasubandhu’s particular discussion of the practice of wisdom emphasizes the epistemic outcome of all three types of practice. They all bring certitude (niścaya), he says. His explanation thus contrasts with the Adornment, which speaks of devotion or conviction, joy, and understanding as the respective outcomes of the three practices of wisdom, but it may agree with the True Meaning, which places


conviction as a necessary precondition for the practice of wisdom. This divergence opens another avenue for comparison with Hadot, who argues that ancient philosophers saw the philosophical way of life and its attendant practices as necessarily preceded by an existential choice of life.97 If Buddhist philosophers also recognized an existential commitment as a prerequisite for practicing the Buddhist path, how is such a commitment itself to be learned or cultivated? Vasubandhu’s focus on certitude as the basic outcome of practicing wisdom aligns with the rationalist reading of him pursued here. If we accept that the three practices serve an epistemic function, we still should ask what epistemic weight they carry, both 96  For example, the lists Hadot cites from Philo are included under the heading of spiritual exercises Hadot classifies as “learning to live.” Hadot, Exercises spirituels, 15-29; Way of Life, 82-89. Thus, we may want to ask whether the Buddhist practices under consideration are intended to help us live or escape from the realm of death and rebirth (or both). We would also want to consider the divergence concerning the meditation on death discussed in several chapters in this volume, especially Tomlinson’s. 97  Hadot, Ancient Philosophy, 3, 102; La philosophie antique, 17, 161.

Buddhist Spiritual Practices288 individually and collectively. How and when does conviction become certitude, and certitude become knowledge? Here the tension emerges again between self-cultivation and acquiring knowledge. In this respect, Tom Tillemans has identified two traditional Buddhist positions on the question of the relationship between philosophical reasoning and meditative cultivation, represented by the “continuity thesis” and the “independence thesis.”98 His prototypical exemplars of these two positions are Kamalaśīla and Heshang, respectively. So, philologically, the essay has shown that Vasubandhu belongs on the early end of a span of Indian Buddhist philosophers, including Dharmakīrti and Kamalaśīla, who sought to emphasize the epistemic continuity between the rational and non-rational practices of reasoning and cultivation. As we saw, Vasubandhu’s concern was to stake out ground for the practice of reasoning, and meditative cultivation would then seem to confirm the insights reached through learning and reasoning. In regard to the continuity thesis, however, Tillemans has argued that meditative cultivation would not make a significant epistemic contribution over and above

philosophical reasoning. Meditation would simply confirm the truth of what reasoning has already shown to be true. On such a position, Tillemans acknowledges, meditative cultivation could well bring about the transformation of the individual, but he argues that one is still faced with the problem of autosuggestion when the insights of meditative cultivation simply confirm learned and reasoned discourse, and vice versa.99 Philosophically, then, this essay has illumined an active tension embedded in the relationship between self-cultivation and acquiring knowledge. If philosophy aims at knowledge, what would be its direct impact on our lives? If, on the other hand, philosophy

aims at therapy, why must it remain focused upon truth? How should we understand the relationship between the production of knowledge and self-transformation? And how does an awareness that we embody, rationalize, or justify our own social 98  Tom J. F. Tillemans, “Yogic Perception, Meditation, and Enlightenment: The Epistemological Issues in a Key Debate between Madhyamaka and Chan,” in How do Mādhyamikas Think? (Boston: Wisdom, 2016), especially 189-194. Thanks to Davey Tomlinson and Luis Gómez for drawing my attention to this article. 99  Tillemans, “Yogic Perception,” 190-191 and notes 21-24.

Learning, Reasoning, Cultivating 289 and institutional embeddedness with our own rational and non- rational practices change our relationship to knowledge? These remain living questions to which Vasubandhu may or may not have the answers, but Charles Hallisey has suggested that the comparative philosophical exercise “creates dispositions within us to

preserve, and if necessary to defend, the rather fragile and local achievements it presumes to examine.”100 In this respect, our comparative exercise has remained focused on learning how to read Vasubandhu, but if philosophy does aim “to understand how things . . . hang together,” as Wilfrid Sellars famously put it,101 then there is value in understanding a different analogy for how various practices hang together to form a specific way of life. And if we expand our notions of philosophy and philosophical exercises to encompass an even wider range of topics and exercises, we can also see the tension between acquiring knowledge and personal transformation reflected in our contemporary systems of education, where we commonly require learning “the truth of this or that,” circumscribed bodies of knowledge about ourselves and the world, like anatomy or physiology, without always encouraging reflection on how the various elements of education shape us into particular types of people. As we learn to discern better the relationship between the intellectual practices and other types of practices we undertake in our lives, including both non-rational and non-discursive ones, we provide ourselves new tools with which to think about our own relationship to knowledge.





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