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Buddhist Insight

by Alex Wayman, George Elder and George Elder

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The present volume selcts twenty-four of Prof. Wayman's published research papers around the topic of Buddhist Insight, and includes only strong, well developed papers consistent with the topic. Students of Buddhism and general Indian religion will find here a rich offering of genuine research with the best of sources and Wayman's own thoughtful presentations and original organization of the information. The papers begin with "Buddha as Savior" among the latest and end with the earliest in this volume, "Twenty one Praises of Tara.The Hindu and Buddhist Studies illustrate Wayman's comparative approach by showing both sides in their strong independence, and sensitively revealing their relation.

In this volume the reader will find conveniently collected twenty-four essays by the great Buddhologist, Alex Wayman, for many years Professor of Sanskrit at Columbia University. While Wayman is particularly well known for his ground-breaking investigations of the Buddhist Tantra, the articles in this collection, published in various journals between 1959 and 1980, deal with non-tantric Buddhism. Edited by George Elder, a former student of Wayman's and now Professor at Hunter College, the volume is divided into five parts: Buddhist Practice, Buddhist Doctrine, Interpretative Studies of Buddhism, Texts of the Asanga School, and Hindu and Buddhist Studies. In his introduction Elder attempts to situate the present volume as a non-tantric counterpart to Wayman's previous collection of articles entitled The Buddhist Tantras: Light on Indo-Tibetan Esotericism, but it must be said that while that volume is given an underlying unity by its single thematic focus, the present volume offers no such unity. It is, quite simply, a miscellaneous collection of scholarly articles on various aspects of Buddhism directed seemingly at fellow specialists. Nevertheless, editor Elder is to be commended for drawing together these articles, some published in rather obscure journals and difficult-to-get commemoration volumes, for the convenience of the reader. The pieces as a whole bear witness to the relentless scholarly pursuit of knowledge about Buddhism, as well as to a commitment to understand and interpret Buddhism on its own terms. Included here are a number of famous pieces ("No Time, Great Time, and Profane Time in Buddhism, ") as well as peculiarly idiosyncratic ones ("Secret of the Heart Sutra.") Throughout, the interested reader will marvel at the range of erudition and philological precision Wayman displays as he handles Sanskrit, Pali, and Tibetan Buddhist texts with equal ease. Wayman addresses himself to a variety of themes here: Buddhist soteriology, monasticism, art history, meditational practice, and doctrinal argumentation. Despite an occasionally abrupt and even quirky style, Wayman writes with great force. He presents a thesis, engages himself in the polemic at hand with vigor, and declares his thesis established. Nevertheless, it is easy to lose one's way in the thicket of philological and technical detail that populate these pieces, especially as the import of these details is not always made clear. Moreover, many of the articles seem purely descriptive, content to review large amounts of information on a particular topic, but often seemingly lacking in a discernable theoretical or methodological focus.

While it is not possible to comment in detail on every article, in what follows certain essays will be selected for brief commentary. Part I, on "Buddhist Practice," offers four articles: (1) "Buddha as Savior, " (2) "Ancient Buddhist Monasticism," (3) "Aspects of Meditation in Theravada and Mahasaka," and (4) "The Bodhisattva Practice according to the Lato Rim Chen Mo." These articles number among the best in the collection. In particular, the article on Buddhist meditation presents us with a closely reasoned and comparative account of the progress made by the meditator through the four levels of dhyana and the four formless attainments. Also excellent is the piece on Buddhist monasticism, which describes in detail aspects of the ordination and daily life of monks according to a number of vinaya-s, and includes an examination of the major and minor offenses and the resulting punishments.

Part II, "Buddhist Doctrine," occupies the largest section of the book and contains eight articles: (5) "The Sixteen Aspects of the Four Noble Truths and Their Opposites," (6) "The Mirror as a Pan-Buddhist Metaphor-Simile," (7) "The Buddhist Theory of Vision," (8) "Dependent Origination--The Indo-Tibetan Tradition," (9) "Nescience and Insight According to Asanga's Yogacarabhumi," (10) "The Twenty Reifying Views (Sakkayaditthi)," (11) "Who Understands the Four Alternatives of the Buddhist Texts?" and (12) "The Intermediate-State Dispute in Buddhism." In these articles Wayman displays his passion for the intricate details of the Buddhist Dharma. The article on pratityasamutpada, in particular, is a tour de force of explication concerning what is perhaps the "deepest" doctrine of Buddhism. The articles on the Reifying views and the Catuskoti are both masterpieces of compression and exposition and will repay careful scrutiny.

Part III contains articles under the rubric of "Interpretative Studies of Buddhism" entitled: (13) "No Time, Great Time, and Profane Time in Buddhism," (14) "The Role of Art among the Buddhist Religieux," and (15) "Secret of the Heart Sutra." The first of these is an extended meditation, heavily influenced by Eliadean categories, on the nature of time. The last piece is a curious and, in many ways, rather successful exercise which sets itself the task of compoing "an Asian-type commentary" on the famous Perfection of Wisdom text. Entitling his commentary "Explaining the Difficulties," Wayman attempts to construct an explanatory gloss that will initiate the reader into the mysteries of this celebrated and concise Sutra.

Part IV of the book is given over to "Texts of the Asanga School" and contains: (16) "The Sacittika and Acittika Bhumi, Text and Translation, " (17) "Asanga's Treatise, the Paramartha Gatha," and (18) "Asanga's Treatise on the Three Instructions of Buddhism." Each of these essays reproduces a transliterated Sanskrit text accompanied by a translation, sometimes interspersed with Wayman's own remarks. The first of these deals with the stages of meditational accomplishment known as "with thought" and "without thought," each of which is examined from a number of points of view. The second text contains an early version of Yogacara philosophy, while the last deals with the three categories of Buddhist training: Morality, Meditation, and Wisdom.

The last section of the book is entitled "Hindu and Buddhist Studies" and contains articles dealing with (19) "Two Traditions of India--Truth and Silence, " (20) "The Hindu-Buddhist Rite of Truth--An Interpretation, " (21) "Significance of Dreams in India and Tibet," (22) "The Significance of Mantras, from the Veda down to Buddhist Tantric Practice," (23) "The Goddess Sarasvati--from India to Tibet, " and (24) "The Twenty-one Praises of Tara, a Syncretism of Saivism and Buddhism." These are among the most interesting and suggestive pieces in the collection, perhaps because we here find Wayman ranging rather more freely and interpretively over his materials. The first essay claims to uncover two related though quite different traditions centering respectively on the muni-s, those who have taken a vow of silence, and those who speak out the truth, satya. This typology allows Wayman to make interesting distinctions between, for example, the teachings of the Brhadaranyaka and Chandogya Upanisad-s. An equally suggestive and wide-ranging article examines various typologies of dreams, as well as their classification and interpretation. The longest and perhaps most intriguing investigation in this section, on mantra-s, takes Wayman back into the area of Tantric studies in which he is so adept. The book is made easier to handle by the inclusion of a rather long and detailed index. In short, this is a collection which all interested scholars will want to add to their libraries and which may be used profitably by graduate students, and even perhaps by instructors of undergraduate classes on Buddhism who might wish to expose their students to the best in Buddhological research.

About the Author:

Alex Wayman, presently Professor of Sanskrit, Columbia University, New York, is in the forefront of Western Buddhist scholarship by his series of books in Buddhism. He has authored a hundred articles that came out originally in journals or honorary-type volumes in various countries. A number of his essays on Tantra were collected in a volume, the Buddhist Tantras. He has the title professor Emeritus of Sanskrit, effective July 1991. Among his awards are the honorary D.Litt at Nalanda University, India.





Detailed Product Info:

Title: Buddhist Insight
Author(s): Alex Wayman, George Elder, George Elder
ISBN: 8120806751
Year of Publication: 1990
Bibliographic Information: viii + 470p. Index, Notes
Format: Hard Cover
Language: English
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