The phrase dharmaparyayo hastagato in mahayana buddhist literature: rethinking the cult of the book in middle period indian mahayana buddhism*.

Author:Apple, James B.

Although a number of past Indologists and scholars of Buddhism have briefly mentioned the relations between Mahayana Buddhists and their books, the most recent scholarly discourse on the "cult of the book" in Mahayana Buddhist formations, as exhibited by the work of Gregory Schopen (1975, 1989, 2005) and David Drewes (2007), has hypothesized that the "cult of the book" occured in relation to shrines (caitya) or that it may not even have occurred at all. As Schopen (2005: 153 n. 118) states, "Clearly one of the things that must be revisited is the 'cult of the book' in early Mahayana literature." However, Schopen characterizes his own early work on this topic (i.e., Schopen 1975) as a " ... piece of juvenilia" (Schopen 2005: 153 n. 118) and has even more recently provided further clarifications related to the topic (Schopen 2009, 2010, 2012). Drewes's article provides a thorough critique of Schopen's early presuppositions, particularly in regard to the idea that Mahayana Buddhists worshipped at institutional book shrines and at spots of earth (prthivipradeth).

I do not wish to dwell on these aspects of Drewes' arguments or Schopen's theories; rather I would like to focus on something that both of these scholars hint at in their footnotes in regard to Mahayana Buddhists and their texts, and that is the embodiment of the text in a person or in the form of a book. In this context, embodiment signifies that Mahayana sutras can be considered as bodies of the Buddha in that they are objects in which the Buddha is present (Wallace 2009: 180). I will argue that followers of discourses that came to be known as "Mahayana siltras" related to their texts as both oral and written embodiments of Buddhahood, that such textual discourses could be embodied in those who recited, heard, or even held them, and that the religious activities that Mahayana Buddhists performed in relation to these discourses, such as memorizing, copyina, and worship, were based on these Indian Buddhist cultural understandings of embodiment. I will claim that Indian Buddhist cultural understandings of textual discourses resulted in individual and group domestic worship of texts, the veneration of copies of satras owned by dharmabharyikas, and the veneration of dharmabhatzakas as Buddhas who embodied the dharma texts that they recited. Moreover, I will argue that textual discourses underwent a gradual process of bibliofication, a process whereby texts increasingly reference themselves as protective objects, a process that is detectable in the layers of accretion found within the comparative analysis of textual exemplars. This process of bibliofication, particularly illustrated in the entrustment (parindana) episodes of Mahayana sutras, will also show that textual discourses had a sacred tactile presence. I will illustrate these factors through one such set of embodying phrases found in self-proclaimed Mahayana texts, that is, dharmaparyayo hastagato, "having the Dharma-discourse in one's hand." Based on the following evidence, and mindful of drawing any far-reaching definitive conclusions (Schopen 2010: 51), I will suggest for constructive consideration that the "cult of the book" was a cult of a certain type of textual culture that was both oral and written, and that, rather than being a stable or local cult phenomena, it was comprised of highly mobile and translocal textual communities who carried their object of veneration with them and kept such objects in domestic locations.(1)

Hastagata is a Sanskrit compound comprised of the term hasta 'hand' and the past participle -gata.2 As noted by Macdonell (1927: 171 n. 4), the past participle -gata is often used at the end of dependent determinatives (tatpuru,sa) in the sense of 'existing in'; e.g., hastagata 'held in the hand'. Although - gata is a passive participle of the root [check] gam 'go' and may be translated as 'gone, passed, went, attained', as Johnson (1847: 161) explains, "gata is occasionally added to certain words without necessarily implying the idea of 'gom' as hastagata." Tubb and Boose (2007: 194, [section] 2.19.4) describe -gata as an idiomatic term at the end of a compound used to mean 'being in or on', where no previous motion is implied," and conveying " a meaning expressed in other constructions by the locative case." Indeed, as indicated in Speyer's Sanskrit Syntax (1886, [section] 197), hastagata is a participle used as the equivalent of a locative, and can be translated as " in one's hand." Franco (2007: 180 n. 67), citing a pramatia subcommentary of the ninth-century author Prayiakaragupta (PVABh 69.4: 22 [Ms. 27a8]), provides an example:

ko hi hastagatam dravyani peidagatni karisyati I para, facchedyatary ko va nakhacchedye sahisyate II If something is in one hand, why should one try to hold it with the foot? if something can be cut with a finger-nail, who would take the trouble to cut it with an axe? The term dharmaparyaya (Pali dhammapariyaya, Tib. chos kyi grangs) receives a long entry in Edgerton (1953, vol. 2, 279-80), and a brief genealogy of renditions provides a variety of translations of the term. Dharmaparyiiya is translated by Burnouf (1852: 714) as "discours religieux," by Hurvitz (1976: 119, 372-73) as "Dharma-circuit," by Zimmermann (2002: 144) as "Dharma discourse," by Nattier (2003: 260, 319-30) as "Dharma-text," by Skilling (2009: 63) as "turn of the teaching," and by von Hinither (2012: 60) as "exposition of the Dharma." The term can refer, according to Schopen " (1989: 135 n. 9), to both " a discourse on the Doctrine " and the text that contains it." As Schopen notes, the term dharmaparyelya in relation to terms of embodiment such as "carrying on one's head" (mardhani dharayeta, Kern and Nanjio 1908-12: 99.2) or "carrying on one's shoulder (arpsena pariharati, Kern and Nanjio 1908-12: 338.4), or, even, in relation to hands (hastagata), leads to an ambiguity as to whether these phrases are figures of speech or actual practices. I will suggest that in the development of textual discourse among Mahayanists such phrases are simultaneously figurative and literal, as both references are possible, depending upon whether the discourse was being orally transmitted or transmitted through writing (Skilling 2009). As I will argue below, Dharma-discourses could oscillate between oral and written forms as they became embodied within individuals.


The initial developments of Mahayana Dharma-discourses as embodied discourses were most likely ora1. (3) A good example of evidence for initial oral embodiment and entrustment is found in the An Xuang and Yan Fotiao version (4) preserved in Chinese translation (T. no. 322, 8. 22b13-24) of the Ugrapariprccha ("The Inquiry of Ugra" ), the Fa jing jing translated around 181 C.E. In section 33A of Nattier's English rendition (2003: 318-19), the Buddha entrusts the dharmapalytiya, or Dharma-text, to A.nanda and states the following (emphasis added):

0 Ananda, as soon as one hears this Dharma-text, one will attain the virtues, the stamina, and the many qualities (dlzarmas) of the bodhisattva, whereas one whose exertion is weak could not do so. Therefore, 0 Ananda, one who wishes to bring forth exertion in himself and incite others to exertion, and who wishes to dwell and establish others, should listen to this Dharma-text. 0 Ananda, I entrust this Dharma-text to you, so that it may be widely taught. Although we will return to the importance of entrustment vignettes below, the idea in this example is that the dharmaparyliya contains qualities of Buddhahood that the reciter and auditor may come to embody. Notably, this early entrustment vignette of the Ugrapariprccha does not mention books or the placing of Dharrna-texts, the dharmaparyiiya, in someone's hands.

On the other hand, there is evidence that early in the history of these Buddhist discourses, subsequently classified as "Mahayana sutras," (6) the text in the form of a book (6) itself had power as an embodiment of Buddhahood. The earliest complete version of the Aslastihasri-kaprajiiiiparamitlistiara, the Daoxingbore jing, translated by Lokaksema in 179 C.E. states:

Furthermore, Kausika, once the prajiiiiparamita has already been copied, even though one cannot study or recite it, if one [just] holds the scriptural roll [of the prajfitiparamitlij, then either people or ghosts will not be able to harm [him]. (7) Vetter (1994: 1267) comments on this early Chinese translation:

T [aisho] . 224 P. 431 c22-432a26, the oldest version of Agarsahasrikiij V 28,10-29,27, is, despite difficulties in details, clear in its structure; clearer than the Sanskrit passage, which is sometimes senselessly enlarged ... [it] ... shows there already existed a written form of the text, but it was not held in high esteem. In p. 431c22-24 it is indicated that there are persons who are not able to study and recite the text orally (and consequently, do not attain the results announced in the preceding passages). Such persons should hold a book containing the Prajiiiiparamita (in their hands?). Drewes (2007: 119 n. 21) states, with regard to the later extant Sanskrit text of this section of the Agasc7hasrika, that "The idea is that all that is necessary to obtain the promised benefits is to have a physical copy of the text, presumably in one's home. One does not need to actually worship the sutra or do anything else with it." As Schopen (2010: 41, 44, 46) repeatedly argues in his most recent work on the topic, the could be a "powerful sacred object that had a "prophylactic function" and "protective presence." In fact, it may be the case that treating the dhannaparyaya as a protective sacred object preceded the development of worshipping the text. Following the philological evidence in the various versions of the Agasdhasriket of these particular sentences, as presented in Karashima's (2011: 65) masterful critical edition of Lokaksema's version, we...

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