Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Reflection on the role of Subhuti as the Buddha's sidekick.

Had some more thoughts in the role of Subhuti. Functionally, the personae of Subhuti, enables the presentation of a new aspect of teaching, on which the Buddha has not done himself. In this respect Subhuti becomes the Buddha's sidekick. He is does not approach the Buddha, it is the Buddha who invites Subhuti to assist and contribute using based upon his own experience and understanding. Subhuti, like the Buddha is a disseminator and not recipient of ideas. His keynote address provides an alternative point of view, one which the Buddha has not presented but later develops. Subhuti is providing guidance to would-be-Buddhas, and so his message, more so than that of the Buddha himself, provides a range of topics more relatable to the audience that that of the Buddha. In, brief, whilst the bodhisattvas in the assembly aspire to be like the Buddha. they can more realistically imagine themselves as being like Subhuti.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

What textual evidence of the syntagmatic displacement of Sakra?

Looking at broader patterns in the changing mythology is a simpler process that looking for specific comments within text supportive of such an intent. The former is essentially statistical and deals largely with the shifting of classes, the latter require explicit comments that would substantiate the statistical analysis. Textual analysis, of course, is not a physical science, a text unlike nature be cannot be 'put to the question'. The best that can be expected is the occurrence of passage which would support the interpretations made. Whilst these are not many,  some notable incidences can be found:

1) In the Lalitavistarasutra, the infant bodhisattva is reported as declaring that he will become worshipped by men and gods alike, becoming the recipient of their offerings.

2) The Asta provides Sakra describing how the devas approach him, or in his absence, his throne, the 'seat of his power'. This is in the same manner often described when devotees approach the Buddha or even, amongst many faith communities, still circumambulate around the images of the Buddha and stupas. This absent worship is also typical of the earliest iconography of the Buddha, an empty seat beneath the tree.


Monday, 28 February 2011


In his translations Xuang Cang uses 界 'world' to denote the term 'dhatu' as in 意識界. Ordinarily this would translated into English as 'mind-element' but this is problematic. First of all, it implies that whatever the mind is, is irreducible as it is elementary and possesses some atomistic quality. This is not implied in the Buddha's teaching. Dhatu means 'world', in the sense of the older, non-mathematical use of the term 'sphere' similar associations exist. Indeed, as with the Sanskrit, sphere has a number of meanings and in some ways the uncertainty of meaning acts to facility the insubstantial nature of the dhatus as implies in Buddhist thought. Amongst 'senses' found in the OED we find: '..the visible vault of heaven, in which the celestial bodies appear to have their place.' And, 'a place of abode different from the present earth or world; a heaven.' Clearly implied in such terms as rupadhatu etc.  When describing the features 'Of deities, persons, or things'. We also find: 'A province or domain in which one's activities or
faculties find scope or exercise, or within which they are naturally
confined; range or compass of action or study.' The more abstract the defintion, the more appropriate it becomes for use:  'The whole province, domain, or range of some quality, thing, etc.' and '..of action, activity, operation, etc.'

The notion of concentric spheres also applies, 'One or other of the concentric, transparent, hollow
globes imagined by the older astronomers as revolving round the earth
and respectively carrying with them the several heavenly bodies (moon,
sun, planets, and fixed stars).'  Whilst the skandha model is not concerned with cosmology the creation of the world as lived as a psychological process can be depicted as a set of rings.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

On the origins of the word Mara

After trawling through volumes of dictionaries, glossaries and texts, I've come pretty well to the conclusion of this line of enquiry. I'm sure that specialists in the field of Proto-Indo European culture would be able to extend the study further but this, I guess if for another day. So, what are my conclusions:
  1. Whilst the Māra as found within Buddhist mythology can be demonstrated to by a modification of the Indra/Namuci myth, the origins of the term are derived from other sources.
  2. The Buddha's initial quest was to find the deathless condition, i.e. amṛta. He overcome death in the form of Māra. but he does not eradicate Māra. The Buddha does not become Māra-mārāka, 'the killer of death'.
  3. Māra does not come as pain, old age, sickness and death itself but as a plaguing spirit which seeks to 'rub-away' at the emotional stability of the Buddha.
  4. There are other roots from which a word Māra could plausibly be obtained: i.e. mṛd and not mṛt.
  5. Māra does not seek to destroy the Buddha or cut short his life, but to 'hinder' or 'thwart' the revelation of his teaching.
  6. Māra appears in the hypogogic sate of mind between full awakening and sleep. Māra, is then, a mare.
  7. Māra originates from within some pre-existing Proto-Indo European mythplex which is still reflected in extant European languages but becomes apotheosized in Buddhist subculture as Māra Deputra. Within Indo-Iranian mythology, the role of Māra is absorbed into Yakṣa mythplex whose origins are most likely founded within the mythologies of pre-aryan indigenous peoples.


Saturday, 25 September 2010

A new semester begins...

The summer is over and I return to work towards the completion of my thesis. Over the summer I've done a number of things:

  1. re-read the Chinese text and my translation.
  2. made corrections/amendments based upon information obtained from Karashima's glossary.
  3. resolved ambiguities in the reading of the text.
  4. resolved a number of topics which were unclear including 12 ascetic practices. the rishi, the division of the bodhisattva path.
  5. completed a chapter-by-chapter summary of the text.
  6. examined the text for key questions which underpin the specific development of the narrative of the text
  7. explored the topic of threshold experiences between altered states of consciousness.
  8. read-up how research in such altered states contribute to our understanding of prehistoric culture
  9. broadened the examination for evidence that might indicate how the Mara mytheme has origins in proto-indo-european culture. The evidence for this relies heavily upon comparative phonology, mythology and reconstructed phonology. This cannot rely upon Jungian ideas of the Archetype as, in general, the mythologies he considered are closely related.
  10. reviewed Maleksara's view of the nature of Mara, metaphor vs psychological reality.
  11. found an interesting reference to a parallel to Mara, but not developed in Jaina commentaries.
  12. began to structure the list questions into a chapter
  13. reflecting on how the prototype descriptions of the bodhisattva path can be contribute to the discussion of the text.
  14. exploring the notion that the traditional etymology of the word Mara be reconsidered in the light of comparative linguistics and mythologies which describe of evil spirits approaching during sleep. The significant issue here is that the English word 'mare' denotes such a dream-spirit and in the earliest texts that contribute to the current Mara mythplex typically denotes and approach at the sleep threshold. (ie during night, raining and victim in a possible semi-samadhi/sleep condition.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Chapter 30 Finished!

Today is a good day. It means that after all these years a full review of my working translation has been completed! This means that I can put the text aside for now and work solidly on my thesis. I can tell that some of the terms used need reviewing in the light of Karashima's glossary but this does not alter the narrative rendering. Unlike Karashima whose work is largely philological in that it he largely seeks to match Chinese words with Indic counterparts and lists word usage which might be considered representative of the period in which the Daoxing was produced. He is not concerned with the narrative content. I've sought to produce a working English rendering of a Chinese text, not a deconstruction and in the hope of reconstructing a lost Indic original. The future revisions that I would look at modifying are those relating to binomes, ie. two ideas placed together to create a new, third notion, eg 看见 would ordinarily be translated as 'have seen', whereas I would have reduced this to 'look and saw'.

I've also had a dabble at the formatting of the TOC and, at long last, can see how the formatting options are set for the content styles.

Other issues today, include recieving an Email from Chuck Muller, the maintainer of the DDBT, for clarification of some propsed entries. Also, the PDF of my translation crashed PDFStudio and makes Acrobat think twice returning an error on what I now believe to be some of the highlighting or comments that I've created. I'll remove the highlights and lets see what happens!