The Essence of Scholasticism is a meditation manual, leading to arhatship. It is the Gandharan cultural area, i.e. Bactria. Brobably composed in the first century BCE, it was commented on and elaborated in several sastras, the best known being the Abhidharmakosabhasya of the fifth century.
The Essence and the Astagrantha are the basic treatises of the non-Vailbhasika sarvastivadins, i.e. of the sautrantikas, of the Gandharan cultural area. These texts were translated in China in the fourth century by Samghadeva from Jibin, i.e. the Gandharan area. The mahasamghikas and prajna-yoga reacted against such literature and practices of jnanyoga. Vijnanavada developed from this kind of Buddhism to vijnana-yoga, taking in the earlier prajna-yoga reaction. Samghadeva is also linked with the introduction of pudgalavada in China.
The work of Samghadeva is of crucial importance for Buddhism in East Asia. The Essence contains a completely new introduction taking into account the new insight since 1975, when the first English study appeared in Brussels.
About the Author:
Charles Willemen, M.A. in Classics (Latin and Greek), M.A. and Ph.D. in Oriental Studies, all in Belgium, where he has been a full professor since 1977. he is lifelong member of the Belgian Royal Academy of Sciences, and has been visiting professor in Nalanda. Benares, Santineketan, Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Calgary. He has written extensively about the spread of Buddhism from India to East Asia, both in books and in such periodicals as the Indian International Journal of Buddhist Studies, etc.