Chi-tsang's Sheng-man pao-k'u: The true dharma

doctrine and the bodhisattva ideal
By Aaron K. Koseki
Philosophy East and West
Volume 34, no.1
January, 1984
p. 67-83
(C) by University of Hawaii Press


p. 67 INTRODUCTION Chi-tsang (A.D. 549-623) stands out as one of the most eminent San-lun(1) scholars in Chinese Buddhism during the Sui and early T'ang dynasties (circa 581-623) of Chinese history. Among his exegetical writings,(2) the Sheng-man pao-k'u(a) is, as its title indicates, a commentary on the Gunabhadra (394-468) translation of the `Sriimaalaadevii-si^mhanaada-suutra (The treatise on the lion's roar of Queen `Sriimaalaa).(3) several concepts are discussed in this commentary, including `Sriimaalaa's "bodhisattva vows," the "true dharma," "Ekayaana," "Tathaagatagarba," and so forth, and what unites these seemingly disparate concepts is the presence of two themes found woven through the various exegetical passages of the commentary. The first of these themes concerns the Buddhist concept of wisdom (praj~naa), variously explained as the "wisdom of nonduality" or the "nonduality of the middle path." The second theme concerns bodhisattva practice and the implications of the Mahayana Buddhist doctrine of universal enlightenment, the Tathaagatagarba or buddha-nature (buddhadhaatu). The relationship between these two themes, one dealing with religious awareness and the other pertaining to religious expression, is the central topic of this study. To illustrate this relationship we will focus on Chi-tsang's interpretation of the "true dharma" (saddharma), a concept which has to do with the dialectical relationship between nonduality and duality, between equality and diversity, and so forth. As understood in the San-lun context, the concept provides an important example of the merging of the Praj~naapaaramitaa doctrine of nonduality and the bodhisattva's ethic and practice of nondiscrimination. For Chi-tsang, the true dharma and its ethic were ultimately two aspects of a single methodology: The true dharma as wisdom was the practice of nondiscrimination and nondiscrimination was the true dharma. Although in what follows we are primarily interested in an analysis of the term and its implications from a San-lun perspective, a second major concern of this essay will be to examine its association with a bodhisattva ideal, and in particular, its pertinence to `Sriimaalaa's role as a "female" bodhisattva. The question of `Sriimaalaa's femininity is important, not only because it contributed to the popularity of the sutra in some circles in China, but also because, as one scholar of the sutra has noted, "This text is a unique development within the Buddhist tradition because of its egalitarian view concerning women, portraying, on the one hand, the dignity and wisdom of a laywoman and her concern for all beings, and on the other, the role of a woman as philosopher and teacher."(4) However, in describing Chi-tsang's view of `Sriimaalaa and her Dharma, it is not the aim of this study to describe and justify her religious role in Buddhism in sociological or anthropological terms. Rather, our task will be to examine how the San-lun p. 68 perspective of nonduality was applied and sustained in both the theoretical and practical interpretation of the `Sriimaalaadevii-suutra. In analyzing this relationship, we may proceed in two steps, First, we will examine Chi-tsang's interpretation of `Sriimaalaa's Dharma and identify certain attitudes and assumptions in Chi-tsang's commentary that establish and support his view that nonduality and the true dharma doctrine are doctrinally related and mutually illuminating. Second, we will then examine Chi-tsang's conception of the bodhisattva ideal, generated by those assumptions, in terms of `Sriimaalaa's role in the religious life. By exploring the meaning inherent in this ideal structure of method and realization, we shall see that Chi-tsang was neither concerned with the meaning of men or women in religious situations, nor interested in the depiction of a female religious consciousness which was somehow intrinsically different from a supposed masculine religious consciousness. Rather, as we hope to show, Chi-tsang was primarily interested in the description of a bodhisattva's (nondual) perspective of mankind's world. `SRIIMAALAA'S DHARMA: A SAN-LUN PERSPECTIVE How to conceive of the true significance of the Dharma expounded by `Sriimaalaa is the dominant theme discussed throughout the Sheng-man pao-k'u. In reading `Sriimaalaa's major discourse on the true dharma, namely, her vows to "embrace the true dharma" (she cheng-fa(b) ; saddharma-parigraha) and to "comprehend it,"(5) Chi-tsang was aware that the term referred to the Mahayana Dharma and that other concepts in the sutra like Tathaagatagarba and Ekayaana were synonymous with this fundamental teaching. But while these concepts and other passages of the sutra were subjected to an exhaustive line-by-line exegesis, Chi-tsang's explicit reason for composing the commentary was to apply the San-lun middle path perspective to terms and concepts found in the text. In so doing Chi-tsang essentially reduced the entire text of fifteen chapters to the single theme of praj~naa, and the key to this reduction concerns the nature and practical implications of the term "true dharma." which took the form of both "principle" (li(c)) and right social action.(6) True Dharma--Its Essence and Function According to the research done by Hirai Shun'ei,(7) the term "true dharma" has had a continuous history of development and interpretation since the AAgamas. These sources generally agree that the term refers to the body of teaching explained by the Buddha,(8) and apart from minor changes in vocabulary, the substitution of certain technical terms for others, there is very little difference in the Mahayana interpretation of the term. Texts like the Ta-chih-tu-lun(d), for example, continue to present the traditional definition of true dharma as a "store of teaching" and as a general "path of practice" leading to enlightenment.(9) However, based on his research on Chi-tsang's Commentary on the Middle Treatise (Chung-kuan lun-shu(e)), Hirai notices that Chi-tsang divided the meaning p. 69 of Dharma itself into two general categories: a "principle meaning" (li) and a "functional meaning" (i-yung(f) ).(10) The key sections of Chi-tsang's definition are as follows: Principle: If we speak of the Dharma in terms of its principle, then it simply means the "one true dharma." For example, it is said that "the nature of the true dharma is forever separate...." Again, it is said that "all individuals without obstruction depart sa.msaara by the one path.... Function: If we speak of its functional meaning, then there are three categories. First, Dharma is called "law(g)," that is, the Dharma is the principle-teaching of the Buddha. Second, Dharma is called "self-essence(h)," and again, this is found throughout the teachings, namely, form, mind and so forth. Third, the object- support of consciousness(1) is called Dharma. Form is the object of the eye and touch is the object of the body. Now, this object-support of consciousness is also called Dharma.(11) What is significant in this definition of Dharma is that this pattern of an identity between the "principle-dharma" and the "functional-dharmas" also defines Chi-tsang's interpretation of `Sriimaalaa's Dharma: The three functional meanings of "law," "form and mind," and "object-support"(12) are all functions (yung(j)) of the true dharma, and in turn, from the standpoint of t'i(k), any dharma is the very essence of this single "principle-dharma.'' Since both aspects are involved and implied in the designation, "Dharma," Chi-tsang in this way opens up many new possibilities for the discussion of `Sriimaalaa's teaching. What is especially significant in the first passage is his reference to the "one true dharma," for here Chi-tsang shows that his definition of this concept is taken, in fact, from the Avata^msaka-suutra.(13) This primary definition of true dharma may also be seen in the Pao-k'u: The Avata^msaka-suutra says. "The nature of the true dharma is forever separate from all verbalization. Expression and nonexpression are entirely the nature of calmness and extinction." Know that within and without are profoundly united, and that the object and subject are both still. I do not know how to describe it, but if compelled, I simply call it the knowledge of the true dharma.(14) This explanation of `Sriimaalaa's wisdom is identical with Chi-tsang's previous definition of an ineffable and verbally transcendent "principle-dharma." "Expression" and "nonexpression," too, are terms which refer to discrimination by language and to conceptual and perceptual distinctions that assume absolute characteristics. This shift in meaning from the true dharma as simply a teaching to the true dharma as an ineffable principle is, of course, anticipated by the introduction of the emptiness doctrine, and the attitude expressed by the phrase, "I do not know how to describe it," is significant for his own Praj~naaparamitaa perspective of the wisdom of nonduality. Accordingly, if we compare this definition with that of the earlier textual definitions, we can notice that. although both are arguing that the true dharma is a universal truth, Chi-tsang's position is in reality more radical. His arguments differ inasmuch as he is sensitive to the tendency in verbal designations to impose a substantial quality onto that aspect p. 70 of reality called the true dharma. His position does not, in fact, limit the true dharma to a particular concept but extends it by associating it with the wisdom of nonduality. This is the kind of distinction which Chi-tsang's definition of Dharma tried to elude or overcome, and to substantiate his position further, Chi-tsang would elsewhere articulate three arguments concerning the nature of this wisdom: (1) The essence of praj~naa transcends subject and object distinctions; (2) the essence of praj~naa transcends conceptualization; and (3) the essence of praj~naa trancends verbalization.(15) Ideally, any conventional affirmation that might suggest an absolute, in the form of a self-substantiating reality, is avoided, and in each case he has chosen arguments which are similar to the middle path doctrine which could not be expressed through conventional language but required a proper intuitive perspective.(16) Although we are given a description of the true dharma as a synonym for the intuitive insight of wisdom, it would be misleading to characterize the San-lun view of `Sriimaala's Dharma as utterly transcendent and incomprehensible. In his treatment of the term Dharma, it is noteworthy that Chi-tsang posits a duality of meaning: On the one hand, he holds to the traditional meaning of wisdom which signifies the cutting off of intellectual entanglements; yet he also attempts to give a new significance to true dharma as a reality present in the empirical order. In other words, if we reexamine the meaning of true dharma in the context of his definition of Dharma itself (that is, "principle and functional meanings"), then, on the surface his final lament noted above can be taken as a comment that language in the end is grievously inadequate to describe what `Sriimaalaa has comprehended. However, the intent here is not to present or suggest a totally independent reality, and the attitude implied in his statement is far more subtle than regarding it as a simple lament. Only overtly is Chi-tsang regretting the limits of verbalization and conceptualization, for on another level he has already worked out a theoretical structure in which the functional aspects of the true dharma could provide an intuitive sense of the idea behind the word and of the world it described. When verbal guides like the true dharma teaching are not regarded as representing some independent reality, they can function as a practical force in one's cessation of attachment, While this is no easy task, for the conventional use of words tends to posit some kind of value in the mental constructs that are used, the dual meaning of Dharma provided Chi-tsang with the context to discuss the inexpressible principle. More important, it enabled him to explore the meaning of true dharma on the phenomenal level. It is at this point that the three "functional meanings" of Dharma are crucial. Although terms like "law," "self-essence," and "object-support" are found in both non-Buddhist and Abhidharma teachings and are traditional definitions of the term Dharma, there are distinct changes in Chi-tsang's definition of their traditional meanings. One important change that requires further elucidation is his use of the "three functional meanings" as a combined synonym for "all the dharmas." This concerns the third meaning of dharmas as "object-support" p. 71 (vi.saya), Chi-tsang's definition of dharmadhaatu ("realm of nonduality"). In general, his definition of "object-support" borrows the traditional Abhidharma concepts of the "twelve-aayatana-s" and the "eighteen-dhaatu-s," but, as Hirai and others have pointed out," unlike the definition given in the Abhidharma-ko`sa,(17) dharmadhaatu is not restricted to the three skandha of sensation (vedaana), mental conception (sa.mj~na), and volition (sam.skaara), nor is it limited to "unmanifested form" (avij~naptiruupa) and "unconditioned dharma" (asa.msk.rtadharma). Instead, the basis for his interpretation follows the Ta-chih-tu-lun where the "object-support of consciousness" is defined as "all the dharmas": "Because the object-support of consciousness includes all the dharmas of the previous seventeen dhaatu, it is called dharmadhaatu."(18) From the standpoint of the emptiness and interdependency of all things, this definition of "object-support" is broader than the traditional meaning of Dharma because it refers to the comprehensive nature of the middle path. Accordingly, when Chi-tsang speaks of all conceptual, verbal, and conditioned and unconditioned dharmas of the dharmadhaatu, he is referring to the functional aspect of the true dharma as a truth dynamically present in life. This means that `Sriimaalaa's Dharma was examined from the standpoint of the Sinitic paradigm of "essence and function" with the motif of interdependency. Because of essential identity, the true dharma is a quality possessed by "all the dharmas" (praj~naa) , and because of functional identity, any dharma can serve as the basis for the comprehension of that essential quality despite the fact that the nature of its essence (emptiness) is such that it does not readily lend itself to any ordinary designation. Both aspects are simultaneously asserted by the single expression, true dharma, and further, both aspects are involved and implied in the designation of "all the dharmas" as the "one true dharma." In this functional explanation of the true dharma as a synonym for the totality of being, Chi-tsang's position has moved quite far from the single dimension of ineffability. What is significant about this is that the canonical view asserting the ineffable quality of the true dharma expressed only one dimension of wisdom and did not adequately express his concurrent view of its soteriological reality. However, because the "one true dharma" and "all the dharmas" are seen as participants in a process of interdependency, the intent here is not to present the true dharma or the middle path as a noumenal goal, but to describe the identity between two orders. The result of this interpretation is a more balanced view between what is inconceivable and inexpressible and those aspects of phenomenal dharmas limited to verbalization (that is, "law," "teaching") and provisional existence ("all the dharmas") . Chi-tsang stresses this particular identity for its obvious value in exhibiting the implications of the wisdom of nonduality, and in `Sriimaalaa's discourse on the true dharma he saw an attempt to portray a situation in which the tendency to impose illusory significance to parts of human experience ceases when informed by this wisdom. The religious awareness of the true dharma, however, was neither a destructive tool which cleared the way for a p. 72 constructive formulation of truth nor the substitution of a higher and unchanging reality that followed the dissolution of all verbal and conceptual formulations. Quite the contrary; the whole of Chi-tsang's arguments are directed toward the development of a proper perspective regarding the true dharma as a necessary participant in the reality it expressed. Middle Path--`Suunya (k'ung(1) ) and A`suunya (pu-k'ung(m)) How the true dharma functioned as a soteriological reality can also be seen in its association with another theme expressed in the `Sriimaalaadevii-suutra, the Tathaagatagarba.(19) In the wake of the Praj~naapaaramitaa literature and the Maadhyamika treatises, this association was especially important for Chi-tsang because it represented to him a clarification of the emptiness (praj~naa) doctrine found in the two earlier teachings. While this is not the place to comment on all the finer details of Chi-tsang's Tathaagatagarba thought,(20) his most significant contribution to the discussion of `Sriimaalaa's Dharma is the analysis of the two dimensions of the Tathaagatagarba, empty (`suunya) and not-empty (a`suunya).(21) The basis for his discussion was the notion that the potential of all beings to become buddhas was somehow hidden by the myriad of defilements of desire, hatred, and ignorance. While this idea is expressed in various metaphors in Tathaagatagarba literature, in the `Sriimaalaadevii-suutra the notion of "kle`sa-covering" (kle`sako`sa) is presented as follows: O World-honored One, there are two kinds of wisdom with respect to emptiness and the Tathagatagarba... The Tathaagatagarba is said to be "empty" insofar as it is removed from, freed of, and distinct from the kle`sa-covering. It is said to be "not-empty insofar as it is not removed from, not freed of, and not distinct from the innumerable Buddha-dharmas, which are more numerous than the sands of the Ganges river.(22) How this passage was understood by Chi-tsang may be seen in the following statements where he comments on the meaning of "two kinds of wisdom": 1. The doctrine of the middle path is identical with the Tathaagatagarba which is empty and not-empty. 2. Because we seek to explain praj~naa, we speak of the Buddha-nature. Praj~naa is identical with the wisdom of the middle path, and the wisdom of the middle path causes sentient beings to part forever from the dual views of being and nonbeing. It causes them to understand that, within sa.msaara, the absence of the seeming and illusory self arrests the view of being and that the existence of the Tathaagatagarba arrests the view of nonbeing. This is the essential meaning of Buddha-dharmas.(23) What is significant in these passages, aside from the relative ease with which he associates middle path, Tathaagatagarba, and Buddha-nature, is the peculiar use of the term emptiness (`suunyataa) in reference to the wisdom of the middle path. Although in other Mahayana works, particularly the Praj~naapaaramitaa canon and the Maadhyamika treatises, all dharmas whatsoever, both conditioned and unconditioned (sam.sk.rta and asam.sk.rta) alike, are said to be "empty of own- p. 73 being," texts like the `Sriimaalaadevii-suutra make a point of singling out that Buddha-dharmas are not-empty. Moreover, Hirai's study on a`suunya points out that the concept of not-empty found in the traditional San-lun sources is solely used as a synonym for own-being (svabhaava).(24) Consequently, it appears that the use of the term "`suunya" in the Tathaagatagarba literature differs some from the use of the term in the primary San-lun sources. One reason for this is that "not-empty" was traditionally understood in its textual or literal meaning as an antonym for pratiityasamutpaada.(25) On such principles it would follow that a`suunya was a self-substantiating reality and could be rejected as the false view of own-being, a departure from the traditional middle path doctrine of neither being nor nonbeing. While Chi-tsang knew of the traditional meaning of a`suunya, the difference between the Praj~naapaaramitaa and buddha-nature perspectives on praj~naa is characteristic of the different emphases between traditional San-lun sources and texts like the `Sriimaalaadevii-suutra, which affirm the phenomenal reality of the Tathaagatagarba.(26) For despite the fact that Chi-tsang was aware of the error of hypostatizing emptiness (that is, praj~naa, too, is empty of own-being), in his conflation and harmonization of these two approaches, the middle path of `suunya and a`suunya means, in its particular and concrete sense, praj~naa as it functions in the empirical order. His association of Tathaagatagarba, praj~naa, and a`suunya is therefore neither a question of misunderstanding the doctrine of emptiness, that is, attributing to praj~naa some substantial reality, nor is it simply a question of "what remains in emptiness?" (avasi.s.ta). Rather, from a middle path perspective the concept of a`suunya questions the understanding of `Sriimaalaa's Dharma, for example, as a rarefied realm of total extinction and asserts its functional value in the phenomenal order by affirming the capability of all beings to pursue the one Buddha-vehicle, that is, Ekayaana, another major theme of the sutra. In Chi-tsang's case such an understanding of praj~naa in and of the phenomenal order led, for example, to the following statement: In Mahayana it is understood that, from the beginning, ignorance is non-arising (anutpattika-dharma-k.saanti). At this time one sees the two kinds of emptiness: first, the emptiness of being which means that ignorance is ungraspable; and second, perceiving the undefiled and final purity of Buddha-nature is also called emptiness. This, too, is identical with the two meanings of seeing `suunya and a`suunya. For if seeing the two kinds of emptiness is called seeing emptiness, then seeing the profound existence of the Buddha-nature is called seeing a`suunya.(27) While it might appear that the traditional meaning of praj~naa has been distorted, the phrase, "profound existence of the Buddha-nature" (fo-hsing miao-yu(n)) is neither a definition of middle path as a "positive mean" nor a valorization of the phenomenal order in a Taoistic sense. It is rather an assertion of the practical value of the middle path of nonduality (praj~naa) . While both the Praj~naapaaramitaa and Tathaagatagarba positions demonstrate the same handling of the question of nonduality, to substantiate his position of its functional meaning inherent in the phenomenal order, Chi-tsang referred to sutras empha- p. 74 sizing the a`suunya aspect of praj~naa. While this conception of nonduality is not a significant departure from the traditional meaning of emptiness found in the Praj~naapaaramitaa canon, it is, as Hirai argues, an understanding of praj~naa interpreted via texts like the `Sriimaalaadevii-suutra.(28) Such an understanding is coincident with the duality of meaning posited by Chi-tsang's definition of Dharma itself. That is, although the "principle" of the true dharma could not be characterized or captured by ordinary locutions and conceptualizations, Chi-tsang nevertheless spoke of functional and provisional dharmas (that is, "all the dharmas") as equal participants in a nexus of interdependency. This structure implicit in the meaning of Dharma defines his interpretation of the `suunya and a`suunya aspects of praj~naa (Tathaagatagarba) which, like `Sriimaalaa's true dharma, provides the rationale for a nondualistic mode of living and thinking. THE DYNAMICS OF THE TRUE DHARMA: PRAJ~NAA AND UPAAYA To understand further what the true dharma meant to Chi-tsang in terms of `Sriimaalaa's bodhisattva career, it is necessary to see how the middle path described in terms of empty and not-empty was understood to provide the substance of the practical life. The utility of this doctrine was expressed in the following passage: The Tathaagata's knowledge of the Tathaagatagarba is called the "knowledge of the store." The knowledge which understands the store transcends all attachment and is therefore called the knowledge of emptiness.... To know the meaning of what is stored (so-tsang(o)) is called the knowledge of not-empty, and to know the meaning of storer (neng-tsang(p)) is called the knowledge of emptiness... Therefore, the Nirvaa.na-suutra says, "The Dharma of the middle path is called Buddha." When one realizes the two knowledges of empty and not-empty, one comprehends the middle path.(29) What is significant here is that, when transferred from the area of theory or method to that of religious practice, the same understanding of nonduality is sustained. The only change is the introduction of the "two knowledges" (erh-chih(q)), the knowledge of emptiness and the knowledge of not-empty, which represent praj~naa and upaaya, respectively. Since various aspects of this concept were reported on an earlier occasion,(30) here I would simply point out the implications that the "two knowledges" have regarding the direction of `Sriimaalaa's bodhisattva career. Within the framework of the bodhisattva's ten stages of practice (da`sabhuumi), a concept found in various Mahayana sutras, praj~naa and upaaya are the essential components of a San-lun model of practice. Praj~naa, the "perfection of wisdom," is associated with the sixth stage and indicates the end of intellectual entanglements (prapa~na), that is, the end of the illusory view which imposes the character of own-being onto provisional and interdependent reality. Ideally, however, praj~naa serves as a guide for upaaya which defines the direction of Mahayana practice ("skill-in-means") and gives substantive meaning to the perspective of wisdom (emptiness). Guided and informed by praj~naa, upaaya signifies the application and demonstration of the perspective of praj~naa as a`suunya. Together, both p. 75 praj~naa and upaaya, or the knowledge of the "empty and not-empty" aspects of the Tathaagatagarba, represent the comprehension of the middle path. Since `Sriimaalaa's discourse on the true dharma is intimately connected with her knowledge of `suunya and a`suunya, the San-lun concept of the "two knowledges" also pertains to her position on the bodhisattva path. Although nothing explicitly is said about this matter in the sutra, Chi-tsang seems to have accepted the common view that `Sriimaalaa was an eighth stage bodhisattva who possessed a "dharma-body" (dharmakaaya) as opposed to a physical or material body.(31) While there is no detailed explanation about the actual content of `Sriimaalaa's practice in the Sheng-man pao-k'u, what her preeminent status as a bodhisattva meant to Chi-tsang may be better understood if we examine her progression through the da`sabhuumi in light of the following "model" of bodhisattva practice.(32) The four "levels" outlined below are Chi-tsang's view of the gradual manifestation of the knowledge of the middle path which parallels `Sriimaalaa's comprehension of the true dharma: 1. To contrast the pre-bhuumi stages, the stage of common worldlings, the first stage is called "sagely" because it is here that one initially realizes the nonarising of dharmas. 2. Nonarising is shallow from the initial stage to the sixth stage; the seventh stage is called the equality of meditation and wisdom: meditation is the still mirroring of praj~naa and wisdom is the moving illumination of upaaya, 3. While nonarising is realized in the seventh stage, effort is still necessary; in the eighth stage, effort is no longer required and this is the realization of nonarising. 4. Although the eighth stage is effortless, it is still not the end, and the final comprehension of nonarising occurs in the Buddha-stage.(33) In this description of the bodhisattva path, Chi-tsang has essentially restructured the ten bodhisattva stages into four major categories. While the specific terminology of these stages is not used, the progression from the first stage to the final stage is couched in terms of the perfection of praj~naa and upaaya. This perspective that the dharmas are unarisen (anutpattika-dharma-k.saanti), and hence interdependent, is coincident with `Sriimaalaa's knowledge of the Tathaagatagarba as "empty" and "not-empty." While it is clear that the sources for Chi-tsang's understanding of the bodhisattva career reveal some of the same intentions and methods which are found in his interpretation of the true dharma itself, the meditative employment of praj~naa and upaaya gives substantive meaning to this doctrinal concept. In the context of the "two knowledges" of `suunya and a`suunya, then, `Sriimaalaa's sutra, her entire discourse on the true dharma, becomes theoretically explicable as a growth or maturation of the bodhisattva condition in terms of the "wisdom of the middle path." THE BODHISATTVA IDEAL: `SRIIMAALAA'S BODHISATTVA ROLE If we now try to tie together our understanding of the true dharma and consider the suggestions arising out of its methodology, we can formulate some p. 76 tentative judgments about Chi-tsang's view of the Mahayana ideal, the bodhisattva, and `Sriimaalaa's relationship to that ideal. First, if the image of `Sriimaalaa as a compassionate and sensitive individual contributed to the popularity of the sutra among the Chinese in general, then in Chi-tsang's case in particular, the depiction of her struggle to comprehend and employ the true dharma was especially useful to him for its value in exhibiting the implications of the Praj~naapaaramitaa theme of nonduality and equality. In general, brief comments concerning `Sriimaalaa's eminent status within the social life are found throughout his commentary, and the most that Chi-tsang would offer is the following portrayal of her as: A queen who sought to be the ideal of motherhood in the world and the standard of virtue among the women in the palace. She first leads them in worldly affairs and later guides them in entering the wisdom of the Buddha. Thus, among the five births, she had a superior birth.(34) Although this passage gives a positive view of `Sriimaalaa, there are a number of statements in Chi-tsang's commentary which indicate that a woman's status in both the social and religious life was indeed "low." For example, in response to the question of why `Sriimaalaa bowed before the Buddha, he answered: "Within sa.msaara `Sriimaalaa has again received a female form, and this is the lowest level of the common Worlding." (35) Again, Chi-tsang apparently knew that King Prasenajit was dissatisfied with his queen for having given birth to a daughter, and in commenting on this, Chi-tsang noted: "Again, the female form is defiled, and moreover, it has the five obstacles and the three burdens."(36) These "obstacles" refer, of course, to the traditional view that women could neither achieve Buddhahood nor become a Brahma god-king, the god `Sakra, King Maara, or a sage-king turning the Wheel of the Dharma.(37) Similarly, the "burdens" of a woman meant that she was subject to her parents (father), husband, and son throughout her life. In light of such statements, some students of the `Sriimaalaadevii-suutra have noted that, despite the noble ideas of equality and nondiscrimination, Chinese commentators like Chi-tsang were somewhat "conservative" and were still very hesitant to accord `Sriimaalaa a preeminent position in the religious life precisely because she was a woman.(38) Moreover, it has also been suggested that Chi-tsang understood `Sriimaalaa to be a male in female form.(39) What is implied by this perception of `Sriimaalaa, an interpretation which follows traditional Chinese commentaries on the sutra, is an attempt to assess her status in the religious life relative to that of other individuals on the Da`sabhuumi. That is to say, such a transformation of male into female form (or vice versa) could only occur in the eighth bhuumi, the stage of nonregression.(40) Anyone reading his commentary would readily agree with the observation that Chi-tsang does indeed make a number of ambiguous statements concerning `Sriimaalaa's status. However, we need to suspend judgment on two matters: first, if "transformation" plays any part in this sutra at all, and second, whether Chi-tsang is describing `Sriimaalaa in her status as a "common worldling," a sattva, or in p. 77 her role as a bodhisattva. First, Chi-tsang apparently accepted the idea that "transformation," that is, physiological changes, could occur in the eighth stage, and this may be seen in his Commentary on the Lotus Sutra (Fa-hua hsuan-lun(r)) where he discusses in some detail the Naaga-king Saagara's daughter who achieved enlightenment by "instantly" turning herself into a man.(41) Nothing of this sort explicitly occurs in the `Sriimaalaadevii-suutra, and, as Nancy Shuster noted: In the `Sriimaalaadevii-suutra no one challenges the queen's femaleness, yet she performs her act of truth in order to remove the doubts of any of her hearers who might think her incapable of carrying out her vows. But there is no equivocation in the Sriimaalaa's attitude toward women. Although the text repeats patterns found in older texts on women, Queen `Sriimaalaa is frankly accepted as a true teacher of the Dharma. Her understanding is never tested in debate. She is simply presented as a woman wise through the Buddha's guidance and inspiration....(42) Although a change of sex is irrelevant in the context of her sutra, one passage in Chi-tsang's commentary might give the impression that a transformation has already occurred: Now, the path is not travelled alone, but depends on individuals to broaden it. Accordingly, the essence of the Mahaasattva of the Dharma-body is entrusted to a female form who conceals her traces in the palace. Blending with the light and becoming one with the mundane, she sought to broaden the influence of her teaching and thus appeared in the form of a queen....(43) In the above allusion to the tao-tzu of the Taoist sage who "becomes one with the dust,"(44) Chi-tsang presents the standard view of the Mahayana bodhisattva who, by embracing the Buddha-Dharma, observing morality, and cultivating right attitudes and conduct toward others, is committed to all sentient existence. The above passage, however, is problematical depending on one's interpretation of Mahaasattva. While this term seems to give the impression that `Sriimaalaa is, in reality, a male, a closer reading of Chi-tsang's commentary indicates that Mahaasattva is defined specifically in terms of praj~naa, that is, the dual aspects of `suunya and a`suunya.(45) In this context, it has nothing to do with the status of common worldlings, and pertains to individuals who not only comprehend the dual paths of praj~naa and upaaya discussed above, but are also capable of expounding Buddhist values and truths. The alternative view -- `Sriimaalaa is a male -- is still a possibility, and in light of certain contradictory statements made by Chi-tsang the problem of completing a description of `Sriimaalaa as a sattva is not an easy one to resolve. While there is some evidence to suggest that Chi-tsang was hesitant to grant to `Sriimaalaa a real "female identity," and even though it could be determined that, as a woman, `Sriimaalaa's status in the social life is "low," there are still important questions about her role in the religious life as a bodhisattva left unanswered. And it is at this point that we should be reminded that, if status and role are two separate problems, then a "more complete integration of women within our understanding of our world(s) is not well served by constructing a counter system from the feminine point of view."(46) If, in the Buddhist context in p. 78 general, the problem of status versus role may be compared to the distinction between suttva and bodhisattva, then in Chi-tsang's case in particular, it should be noted that specific statements about the meaning women specifically bear in religious situations are absent. The absence of such statements, that is, the construction of a separate system of "feminine religious awareness" for `Sriimaalaa, is quite instructive, for it shows the way Chi-tsang thought about Buddhist values. Because one of the consistent themes in Chi-tsang's writings is the explication of the method and relization of wisdom, his emphasis is not on sattvas per se. Instead, for Chi-tsang the world of the bodhisattva was the primary world of Buddhist values which, as Schuster states, "is to assert that for those commited to the bodhisattva career distinctions on the basis of sex no longer have any meaning. When one consciously sets out on the bodhisattva path, one abandons identification with traditional roles of either sex.'(47) If this is generally the case in Chi-tsang's other writings, it seems that the question of `Sriimaalaa's status as a "common worldling" cannot really be answered adequately until the question of her role as a bodhisattva is better understood. If we return to Chi-tsang's discussion concerning `Sriimaalaa's position in the da`sabhuumi, and once more consider the textual sources for his acceptance of the view that she was an eighth stage bodhisattva, two texts, the Vimalakiirti-suutra and the Ta-chih-tu-lun, reflect the kind of thinking upon which he based his view of the bodhisattva ideal. For example, after summarizing a group of arguments that had earlier been advanced as verification of her eighth bhuumi position, Chi-tsang wrote: Again, she [that is, `Sriimaalaa] is like the goddess in the Vimalakiirti-suutra who changed her body. In the past many stated that she was a dharma-body of the eighth stage, and now, the popular theory about `Sriimaalaa is no less than this. Therefore, we know that she is a dharma-body of the eighth stage.(48) By citing the Vimalakiirti-suutra Chi-tsang acknowledges the fact that `Sriimaalaa is like the devii who, in her verbal confrontation with `Saariputra, transforms her body into a male figure and then returns it to its earlier state.(49) In the Ching-ming hsuan-lun(s) , a commentary on the Vimalakiirti, Chi-tsang comments on this transformation as well as the conventions of "men" and "women" as follows: Since the goddess has listened to the Mahayana doctrine for twelve years, she realizes that there are neither men nor women, and hence, nothing has been transformed. If men and women are not like an illusion, they have fixed characteristics, and thus, there could be no transformation. But because there can be transformation, there are no fixed characteristics, and therefore, we know that [men and women] are like an illusion....(50) Again, in commenting on the fallacy of imposing a partial truth onto the dynamic character of the middle path, he writes: Because of karma, kle`sa, and the power of illusion, the "true character" (shih-hsiang(t)) of reality is transformed and changed; thus, a woman is not a woman. "That dharmas are also like this" means that, because of ultimate truth nothing p. 79 is present, and because of worldly truth nothing is absent. Because nothing is present, [dharmas] are not-existent, and because nothing is absent, they are not-inexistent. This is none other than the middle path doctrine.(51) Given the premise of the true dharma doctrine of nonduality, praj~naa, the "principle-dharma, " delineations of immutable and abstract differences between men and women, beyond the physiological, are not found in Chi-tsang's writings. Based on his understanding of an Ekayaana ideal (Tathaagatagarba or Buddha-nature) open to all, Chi-tsang is not concerned with the meaning of men or women in religious situations, but with the depiction of the praj~naa perspective, a "bodhisattva mahaasattva's" perspective of mankind's world. A similar view is also found in the Ta-chih-tu-lun, the text which influenced Chi-tsang's view of bodhisattva practice. Although this text is simply cited as a textual verification that the bodhisattva of the eighth stage has a dharma-body, one passage from the Ta-chih-tu-lun is worth citing in full because it undermines the traditional view of the "five obstacles." After explaining that "good sons and daughters" are called "bodhisattva mahaasattvas" because of their quest to comprehend praj~naa, the Ta-chih-tu-lun explains: In the sutras it is said that women have five obstacles. Upon hearing this their minds regress and because they cannot give rise to the thought of enlightenment, those who expound the Dharma do not explain it to women. For this reason, the Buddha said: "Good sons and daughters, even women can become Buddhas, and it is not necessary for them to transform themselves."(52) The attitude depicted here should be seen as a kind of middle path reponse to the traditional view of a male-oriented religious ideal, and although this particular passage is not cited in Chi-tsang's commentary, it is again instructive in showing the type of thinking which contributed to his understanding of the bodhisattva ideal. In both the Ta-chih-tu-lun and in his Vimalakiirti commentary, ephemeral distinctions are rejected and the middle path doctrine is stressed. Granting the fact that the position of individuals in this context is being discussed at the ideal level, from the middle path perspective of the true dharma, for example, it would have been absurd to contend that there was a radically and intrinsically different religious awareness for both men and women. Writing solely from the standpoint of the bodhisattva's "knowledge of the true dharma," Chi-tsang was not concerned with the question of women who had to be fitted into a male scheme of things. Notwithstanding the somewhat disconcerting and contradictory statements made about `Sriimaalaa's status, Chi-tsang's Sheng-man pao-k'u is best understood in terms of his single-minded exploration and explication of the theme of wisdom. `Sriimaalaa's discourse on the true dharma, therefore, should be understood in terms of his efforts to define a single structure of method and realization. Even within the framework of the gradual manifestation of praj~naa and upaaya discussed above, the use of the term "stage" (or "levels") of insight into the true dharma is chosen purposefully to avoid any suggestion of an amalgam of distinct "seg- p. 80 ments" (or "types") of understanding, Moreover, since wisdom and the demonstration of wisdom (upaaya) are the sole properties of the bodhisattva condition, they are seen as part of a single and universal (that is, continuous) reality of growth and maturity ranging from the stage of the common worlding to the Buddha-stage. Apart from this context, any selective attempt to deal with `Sriimaalaa as a sattva requires some abstract standard of what the position of women should be in relation to men, and given the fact that there are conflicting notions about what constitutes a "high" position or a "subservient" position, one is thus forced to deal with `Sriimaalaa's status only in terms of the ambiguities of the human condition. If, however, it is understood that she has already transcended the level of the common worldling by virtue of her "tenth vow,"(53) `Sriimaalaa is, in effect, already operating within the bodhisattva (praj~naa) context of `suunya and a`suunya. To be sure, in her role as a bodhisattva `Sriimaalaa functions(54) within the same world of distinctions and hierarchies, but because Chi-tsang does not contend that there is a separate "feminine religious awareness," the question of `Sriimaalaa's "female identity" was not a pressing issue for him regarding the bodhisattva ideal. This ideal, it should be noted, does not mean that sexual distinctions are totally abrogated. In middle path terms, `Sriimaalaa's identity is at once female and neither male nor female. That is to say, if we understand that the middle path context of praj~naa does not deny the provisional and phenomenal reality of men or women, then it is precisely in this context that we may appreciate `Sriimaalaa's "struggle" to attain the Mahayana goal of liberation by comprehending and employing the true dharma. NOTES 1. The present essay is related to one other: Aaron K. Koseki, "The Concept of Practice in Sanlun Thought: Chi-tsang and the 'Concurrent Insight' of the Two truths," Philosophy East and West 31, no. 4 (October 1981), pp. 449-466. I also wish to express my gratitude to Professor Hirai Shun'ei of Komazawa University for his invaluable help and guidance in the preparation of this essay, which is principally indebted to an article of his on the concept of true dharma entitled, "Jisso to shobo-- Kichizo ni okeru ho no kannen to taikei," Bukkyo ni okeru ho no kenkyuu [Hirakawa Commemorative Volume] (Tokyo: Shunjuusha, 1975), pp. 333-354. 2. For the most part his exegetical commentaries are on such major Mahayana sources as the Lotus Suutra (four commentaries), the Vimalakiirtinirdesa (four commentaries), the Avata^msaka-suutra (one commentary), the Amitayuurdhyana-suutra (one commentary), the Sukaavativyuuha-suutra (one commentary), and the Nirvaa.na-suutra (two commentaries). For a complete list of his other works, see Hirai Shun'ei, Chugoku hannya shiso-shi kenkyuu (Tokyo: Shunjuusha, 1976), pp. 355-356. 3. There are at present two translations of the `Sriimaalaadevii-suutra available in English: Alex and Hideko Wayman, The Lion's Roar of Queen `Sriimaalaa: A Buddhist Scripture on the Tathaagatagarba Theory (New York: Columbia University, 1974), and Diana Paul, "A Prolegomena to the `Sriimaalaadevii-suutra and the Tathaagatagarba Theory: The Role of Women in Buddhism" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1974). Paul's study also appears in the American Academy of Religion's dissertation series under the revised title, The Buddhist Feminine Ideal: Queen `Sriimaalaa and the Tathaagatagarba. 4. Paul, "Prolegomena," p. 1. p. 81 5. There are two vows which became the basis for Chi-tsang's interpretation of true dharma in the `Sriimaalaa. The first concerns `Sriimaalaa's "tenth ordinational vow" ("From now until I am enlightened, I will embrace the true dharma and never forget it.") and the second pertains to the first of her "three great vows" ("By my virtuous deeds, and in all my births, I will realize the knowledge of the true dharma."). See, for example, Paul, "Prolegomena," pp. 194-95, 199 for a translation of these vows. For the text, see Taisho daizokyo (hereafter cited as T): 217c, 218a. 6. Excerpts preserved in Chi-tsang's commentary indicate that earlier Chinese commentators of the sutra associated true dharma with specific concepts like "the six paaramitaa," "tathataa," "eternality," "Ekayaana," etc. For Chi-tsang, however, `Sriimaalaa's vow to "embrace the true dharma," the definition given to bodhisattva practice in her sutra, was not limited to a question concerning a given set of concepts, but included a definition concering the nature of reality. The true dharma, then, was meant to be more than the series of metaphors symbolically describing it (that is, "great cloud," "great earthstore," etc.). Though sensitive to these potentially instructive series of abstract symbols, including the feminine symbol of the Tathaagatagarba as a "womb of enlightenment," Chi-tsang was concerned explicitly with the question of discovering and fully applying the essence of `Sriimaalaa's Dharma as a source of inner change as well as moral interpersonal action. 7. "Jisso to shobo," pp. 333-335. 8. Ibid. Later works like the Abhidharma-ko`sa, for example, explain: "The essence of the Buddha's true dharma is twofold: first, the teachings, and second, realization. The teaching refers to the suutra, the vinaya, and the abhidharma. Realization means the individual teachings of the Three Vehicles." (Cf. T 29: 152b.) Hirai also notices a similar definition given in the Mahaavibhaasaa-`saastra (T20: 917c) where the true dharma is divided into the "worldly truth dharma," the body of literature (suutraa, vinaya, and abhidharma), and the "supreme true dharma," namely, the path of the Arhant. 9. See, for example, T 25: 222c: "There are two kinds of Dharma. First, what was explained by the Buddha, namely, the canon (tripi.taka) and the 84,000 discourses; second, the meaning of the Dharma, namely, `siila, samaadhi, and praj~naa, the Eightfold Path, as well as the fruit of liberation, nirvaa.na, etc." 10. "Jisso to shobo," p. 333. 11. T 42:124a--b. 12. Hirai ("Jisso to shobo," pp. 334-336) points out that "law," for example, refers to the earlier meaning of true dharma as the Buddha's "teaching." "Self-essence," namely, "form, mind, and neither form nor mind," refers to the Sarvastivaada scheme of the "five categories of seventy-five dharmas," that is, the sa.msk.rta-dharmas rejected by the Middle Treatise from the standpoint of "empty-by-nature." The meaning of "object-support" is discussed in the body of the essay here following. 13. See, for example, T9: 615a. 14. T37:26c. 15. Cf. Ta-ch'eng hsuan-lun, T45:17a. 16. One of the characteristic features of the San-lun definition of true dharma is that it is often used as an expression of, or in conjunction with, the term, "true mark of dharmas" (emptiness). The meditative employment of this term is discussed in my article, "The Concept of Practice," pp. 458-464. 17. Hirai, "Jisso to shobo," pp. 335-356. For the traditional definition of dharmadhaatu, see T29: 4a. See. also, Takasaki Jikido, "Dharmataa, Dharmadhaatu, Dharmakaaya, and Buddhadhaatu-- Structure of Ultimate Reality in Mahayana Buddhism," Indogaku bukkyogaku kenkyuu 14, no. 2 (March 1966): 903-919. Here, and in his other writings, Takasaki suggests that, as one of the "eighteen dhaatu," dharmadhaatu in its limited sense refers to objects which belong to the ruupadhaatu (form, smell, etc.); in a broader sense, however, the dharmadhaatu includes things of an ideational nature which become the objects of mind. Chi-tsang clearly follows the broader meaning of the term in the sense that all things are included in this realm of subject-object nonduality. 18.Cf. T25: 138b and 202b. 19.See Paul, "Prolegomena," p. 153, regarding the association between "embracing the true dharma" and the Tathaagatagarba, which is made for the first time in the `Sriimaalaadevii-suutra. 20.His comments on this concept may be found throughout the commentary, but the most specific statements regarding Tathaagatagarba may be seen on T37:82c. Here. given the premise of p. 82 the middle path, Chi-tsang sees the Tathaagatagarba as a nexus in which both the dharmakaaya and the conditioned world of sentient beings are equal participants in the process of pratiityasamutpaada. The dharmakaaya, though retaining its ultimate nature, is understood to be essentially identical with the forms of the conditioned world, and in this conflation of the one with the other, the middle path (that is, Tathaagatagarba) means, in its particular and concrete sense, the realm of sentient beings. 21. T12:221a. 22. Translation by Paul ("Prolegomena," p. 248), with minor revisions. Cf. T12:221a. 23. T37:72c--73c, 67b. 24. Chuugoku hannya, pp. 642-650. 25. Ibid., p. 642. 26. As far as the topic of Buddha-nature (or Tathaagatagarba) is concerned, by far the most influential of the Mahayana sutras on Chi-tsang's thought is the Mahaaparinirvaa.na-suutra. In this sutra's chapter on the "Bodhisattva Lion's Roar" (T12: 767cff.) , Chi-tsang saw the explicit rationale for identifying the Buddha-nature--the "first principle of emptiness"--with the middle path of nonduality. 27. Chung-kuan lun-shu; T42:160c-161a. 28. Chuugoku hannya, pp. 320-321. 29. T37:73a, 73c. 30. Koseki, "The Concept of Practice," pp. 455-458. 31. T37:3a. Arguments for her eighth stage position are taken from several texts, including: The Kumaarajiiva/Seng-chao commentary on the Vimalakiirti-suutra, the Ta-chih-tu-lun, the Da`sabhuumika, the Nirvaa.na-suutra, and the commentary on the Lotus Suutra, the Ta-chih-tu-lun, the Da`sabhuumika, the Nirvaa.na-suutra, and the commentary on the Lotus Suutra, the Fa-hua lun (Upade`sa), attributed to Vasubandhu. The problem surrounding the definition of her bodhisattva stage in East Asian Buddhism is discussed by Paul, "Prolegomena," pp. 137-141. 32. This model and its relation to the "two knowledges" is discussed by Hirai in Chuugoku hannya, pp 555-581 How this structure of bodhisattva practice applies to the two truths theory is discussed in Koseki, The Concept of Practice," pp. 33. T45:66c. These "levels," `Sriimaalaa's "knowledge of the true dharma," pertain to her "acquisition" of the middle path perspective regarding sarvaj~naa and sarvathaj~naana.. See Hirai, Chuugoku hannya, pp. 584, 607-609, regarding this meditational perspective and its application to the San-lun view of nonduality. 34. T37:3a. 35. Ibid., 12a. 36. Ibid., 3a. 37. In the AAgma texts, see, for example. T1:607b. and T2:757c. 38. See, for example, Paul, "Prolegomena," pp. 31-32. 39. Ibid., pp. 139-140. See also Hirakawa Akira's study, Shoki daijo bukkyo no kenkyuu (Tokyo: Shunjuusha. 1977), pp. 243-282, for an historical discussion of the image of women in Buddhism. Hirakawa discusses in some length and detail the similarities and differences in the image of women in both Hinayana and Mahayana texts and describes how the notion of "physiological transformation" was a Mahayana response (or compromise) to the traditional view of a male religious ideal. 40. For an excellent study on the theme of "changing the female body," see Nancy Schuster, "Changing the Female Body: Wise Women and the Bodhisattva Career in some Mahaaratnakuu.tasuutras," Journal of the International Association for Buddhist Studies 4, no. 1 (1981):24-69. 41. T 34: 529b-c. For the story of the eight-year old daughter of the Dragon king Saagara who transforms her body into a man in order to attain Buddhahood, see Leon Hurvitz's recent translation of the Lotus Suutra: Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma (New York: Columbia University, 1976) , pp. 199-201. See, also, Schuster's analysis of the story, "Changing the Female Body," pp. 42-44. 42. Schuster, "Changing the Female Body," pp. 48-49. 43. T37:2b. 44. Chapter 56. See, for example, the translation by D. C. Lau, Lao Tzu: Tao-te ching (Penguin Books, 1963), p. 117. 45. T 37:25b, where he discusses the concept solely as an operational term for empty and not- p. 83 empty. Also see his commentary on the Lotus Suutra (Fa-hua i-su), T34:461a, for a similar definition of the term. 46. Cited from Rita Gross, "Methodological Remarks on the Study of Women in Religion: Review, Criticism, and Redefinition, " in Women and Religion (Scholars Press, 1974), p. 157. 47. Schuster, "Changing the Female Body," p. 55. 48. T37:3a. 49. As is well known, the incident involves `Saariputra's imperfect understanding of reality in that he discriminates male from female and assumes that the two are real and distinct. The story reflects the `sraavaka attitude that women could not be a source for expounding the Dharma, and the goddess' change of sex proceeds from that point. See chapter 7 ("Examining Sentient Beings") of the sutra and Schuster's ("Changing the Female Body," pp. 41-42) analysis of the incident. 50. T38:919c. 51. Ibid., 920a. 52. T25:459a. 53. See note 5. This vow essentially pertains to Mahayana values, namely, the true dharma as one's origin and foundation. That is, by ignoring the true dharma, one essentially abandoned the Mahayana path, and by abandoning the Mahayana, one ignored the bodhisattva's practice of the various paaramitaa. At the lowest level of regression, one would no longer be committed to the Mahayana or to the true dharma and would, in short, be unable to transcend the level of a common, ignorant worlding. 54. Given the duality of meaning posited by Chi-tsang's definition of true dharma ("principle and function"), and within the context of the two dimensions of the Tathaagatagarba, praj~naa and upaaya are understood to be complementary, that is, "praj~naa is the essence of upaaya and upaaya is the function of praj~naa." `Sriimaalaa's sutra, then, is conceived of as a "means" of expounding the Buddha-Dharma, an upaaya (a`suunya) function of the true dharma (`suunya). --------------------------------------- a 勝鬘寶窟 b 攝正法 c 理 d 大智度論 e 中觀論疏 f 義用 g 軌則 h 自體 i 意識所緣 j 用 k 體 l 空 m 不空 n 佛性妙有 o 所藏 p 能藏 q 二智 r 法華玄論 s 淨名玄論 t 實相