Mataphysics and Mysticism in Mahayana Buddhism (An Analytical Study of the Ratnagotravibhago Mahayanottaratantra Sastram) (An Old and Rare Book)

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Item Code: NAD770
Publisher: Sri Satguru Publications
Author: C.D.Sebastian
Language: English
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 8170308267
Pages: 338
Other Details 9.0 inch X 6.0 inch
Weight 530 gm
Book Description
About The Book

Canonical and classical Mahayana literature falls into two classes viz., Prajiuiparamita and the Tathagatagarbha classes. The Ratnagotravibhago Mahayanottara- tantra Sastra, popularly known as the Uttaratantra, is the foremost example of the Tathagata-garbha literature. In this volume the author makes an exegetical and analytic study of the same text, and brings out the metaphysical and mystical bearings of Mahayana Buddhism. The teaching of the Uttaratantra is a perfect blend of philosophy, religion, spiritual discipline, mysticism and metaphysics - a blend which is characteristic of Buddhism. Tathagata-garbha is an important Mahayana principle, which ex-• plains that all living beings possess the essence of Buddha-hood (Sarva- sattvas-tathatagata- garbhiil:z). Tathagata-garbha theory is a teaching that gives great optimism for all living beings in the pursuit of Bodhi (Enlightenment) or Buddhatva (Buddhahood). This theory enshrines in it a sublime concept that all the sentient beings are potential Buddhas or all will attain Buddha-hood: Owing to the presence of Tathagata-garbha in all, one perceives the equality of oneself with others, and works for the wellbeing of all living beings, as one's entire life motif. According to A. K. Chatterjee, an outstanding authority on Yogacara Idealism, the author "brings out beautifully the implication of the notion of the Tathagatagarbha" in this volume.

About the Author

C. D. Sebastian is an Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. He holds his M.A. (double Gold Medalist) and Ph. D. degrees in Indian Philosophy and Religion from the Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India. He has published on many aspects of Buddhism and Indian philosophy, and has an abiding interest in Comparative Philosophy and Religion.


Asanga's Uttaratantra is one of the classics of Mahayana philosophy and religion, and Dr. C. D. Sebastian's study is a welcome addition to the ever- growing literature on Mahayana. The text, as the author points out, belongs 'to the Tathagatagarbha genre. Canonical and classical Mahayana literature falls into two classes’ viz., Prajnaparamita and the Tathagatagarbha classes. This distinction is essentially rooted in the doctrine of Two Truths admitted in the Mahayana, viz., Paramartha and Samvrti. Paramartha vor the ultimate truth is that of sunyata, and it is with this that the Prajnaparamita literature is in general concerned. Samvrti is empirical truth; the phenomenal world, including human beings, cannot just be dismissed as void, since this constitutes our existential predicament. Here the Tathagata comes to the fore, accessible to man since the latter is essentially one (Tathagatagarbha) with Him. This predicament and how it is to be resolved is dealt with the other class of canonical literature, viz., the Tathagatagarbha class. The author locates his text in this second class. We hear of a canonical Tathagatagarbha Sutra, but we know little about it. Uttaratantra is perhaps the first classical text belonging to the Tathagatagarbha tradition.

The author raises another interesting speculative problem as to whether the text is to .be classified as a Madhyamika or a Yogacara work. Tradition has it that it is written from the Madhyamika point of view, and the text bears ample testimony to that effect. But the' author is careful to note that certain core concepts utilised in it, like that of the alayavijnana and its withdrawa(paravrtti) are characteristically of Yogacara vintage. And this is as it ought to be, since Asanga is one of the founders of the Yogacara schools. The author suggests that the text represents a stage in the evolution of the Mahayana where the doctrinal divergences had not yet crystallised into dogmas. The Yogacara ideas were already in the air, if the dubious authenticity of Lankavatara Surra be conceded. This i~ correct also in a deeper metaphysical sense, also suggested by the author. The Yogacara system is born as a reinterpretation of the central Madhyamika notion of sunyata, placing it on a more positive basis (yacchunyam tad asat yena sunyam tat sat). So far as the spiritual pilgrimage to that ultimate destination is con- cerned, all the Mahayana schools make common cause with the Madhyamika.

As to the details discussed in the text, and elucidated by the author, there are seven topics or 'points', which are all denominated by the common term 'vajra '. This should not be construed as foreshadowing the later developments, which we know as Vajrayana. 'Vajra' here simply means the different milestones in man's spiritual journey, and which is so hard that it can pierce through and tear asunder the veil of ignorance, the root cause of man's bondage. 'Tantra' too, occurring as a part of the name of the text, is not to be confused with the class of texts, which later came to be collectively called 'Tantras'.

The author brings out beautifully the implication of the notion of the Tathagatagarbha. Since every human being partakes of the essence of Tathagatahood, he is not helplessly alone in his plight, but has to consider all others, not as strangers, but as fellow-travellers in order to realise his own potentiality to the full. Being essentially of a common divine nature, man is weaned away from his self-centredness, and 'Sees entire humanity marching toward the final goal, viz., realisation of complete Buddhahood. Egoity is vanquished once for all.

The book is both exegetical and analytic, and as such is not intended for the layman. It should appeal however to the discerning reader, having some background information about the great Mahayana philosophy. I unhesitatingly commend the book to the connoisseur and the savant. I have myself read the book with great pleasure and profit.


Tatnagata-garbha is an important Mahayana principle, which explains that all living beings possess the essence of Buddha-hood (Sarva-sattvas-tathatagata- garbhah). Tathagata-garbha theory is a teaching that gives great optimism for all living beings in the pursuit of Bodhi (Enlightenment) or Buddhatva (Buddha-hood), This theory enshrines in it a sublime concept that all the sentient beings are potential Buddhas or all will attain Buddha-hood. Owing to the presence of Tathagata-garbha in all, one perceives the equality of oneself with others, and works for the wellbeing of all living beings, as one's entire life motif (The Uttaratantra 1: 167).

The Ratnagotravibhago Mahayanottaratantra Sastra, popularly known as the Uttaratantra, being the foremost example of the Taihagata-garbha literature, has been chosen for an analytical study. In this text one finds seven vajra points, namely, Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, Tathagata- garbha, Bodhi, Guna and Tathagata's Krtya-kriya, dis- cussed. They are called vaj ra points or adamantine subjects because they cannot be pierced (known) by the ordinary knowledge, but could be intuited philosophically. They are a teaching device in the text that acts like a vajra, a thunderbolt, to destroy the ignorance of the living beings, so that they will realise Tathagatagarbha. Though there are seven vajra points discussed, Tathagata-garbha is central to the text. The teaching of the Uttaratantra is a perfect blend of philosophy, religion; spiritual discipline, mysticism and. metaphysics - a blend which is characteristic of Buddhism. Thus, the text has got a very distinguished place in the entire corpus of Buddhism. A humble attempt has been made in the following pages to make an analytical study of the same text for one's own benefit and the benefit of others. The text itself states that it was composed for self-purification, motive for oneself; and helping others, motive for others (The Uttaratantra 5: 16).

This present work is a revised version of my Ph. D. thesis submitted in 2003 at the Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India. It runs into eight chapters. Chapter one is a general introduction. This chapter places the Uttaratantra in the vast horizon of philosophical history and corpus of Buddhism. Chapter two introduces the text analyzed in this study, namely, the Ratnagotravibhago- Mahayanottaratantra Sastra. Chapters from three to seven deal with the subject matter of the text, where an analytical study is carried out. The last chapter entitled 'Metaphysics and Mysticism in the Uttaratantra' is the conclusion where I have tried to place my findings after having undertaken this analytical study on the text.

I would like to .express my sincere gratitude and pay my respects to my loving Guruji the revered Professor A. K. Chatterjee, Head (Retired), Department of Philosophy & Religion, Banaras Hindu University, an authority on Buddhism in our present times. I am genuinely grateful to him for the erudite 'Foreword' for this volume. He has been a constant source of inspiration and guiding light throughout my study on the Uttaratantra. He has taken keen interest and great pain to go through every line of my thesis and given me invaluable corrections. He has cleared many of my misconceptions. Whatever drawback is found in the book is only due to my ignorance and limitations. As I am very much indebted to him in many ways, I seek his blessings again. I dedicate this humble work of mine to him, a great luminary in the contemporary Indian Philosophy.

This work has been carried out under the supervision of Dr. Deobrat Chaube, Reader in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, Banaras Hindu University. He has been very kind in accepting me as Research Scholar under him, and has guided me at each and every step of my research. I seek his blessings as I bow before him now at the completion of my research work. I express my deep sense of gratitude to him for his timely suggestions, guidance, love, care and support.

I owe whatever little I know of Buddhism, to my revered Professor Abhimanyu Singh who initiated me to the vast ocean of wisdom of Buddhism at the Postgraduate level in the Banaras Hindu University. It was he who suggested to me the Uttararantra for an analytical study with special emphasis on metaphysics and mysticism. He has always been there to give clarifications to my queries, clear my doubts and enlighten me in the subtle nuances of Buddhism, Mahayana in particular. He has been a kalyana-mitra in the real spirit, a teacher and good friend, ever since I came in contact with him. I will ever remain grateful to him.

I am greatly indebted to His Excellency Mar Sebastian Vadakel, Professor Sebastian Thuruthel, Dr. T. Parayady, Dr. K. Ammanaihukunnel and Professor Sebastian Karoternprel, sdb of Urban University, Rome. I am very much indebted to all my other teachers in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, Banaras Hindu University; Among them are Professor R. R. Pandey, now Vice- Chancellor of Deen Dayal Upadhyay University, Gorakhpur, Professor D. A. Gangadhar, the then Head of the Department, Professor S. Vijayakumar, U. C. Dubey. Professor A. K. Rai, Dr. Munni K. Agrawal, Professor Urmila Chaturvedi, Dr. Kripa Shankar Ojha, Dr. K. P. Mishra and Professor Mukul Raj Mehta.

I am greatly indebted to Professor Chinmoy Goswami of University of Hyderabad and Professor Ineke Van Put of Universite Catholique de Louvain, my Ph. D. Examiners. Professor Goswami meticulously went through my work and made valid suggestions, critical remarks and corrections, which enabled me to rectify some of the major drawbacks in this work. I thank Professor Charles Willemen of University of Calgary for his guidance and encouragement. A grateful heart is here before the learned scholar Professor K.D. Tripathi, Professor Krishna Kanta Sharma and Dr. (Mrs) Alaka H. Agera for having taught me Sanskrit. I am grateful to Professor Kamal Sheel and Dr. Aditi Jha of the Department of Foreign Languages, Banaras Hindu University, for teaching me Chinese. I pay my homage and respect to Professor K. N. Mishra of happy memory whose lectures on Buddhism and Com- parative Religion I always cherish. He was so kind to me and I deeply regret his untimely demise.

With lots of love I come before my parents, brother and sisters who taught me in the beginning of my life to love and learn. 'With love and gratitude I remember those individuals who are like my parents, guardians, friends and well-wishers. Among them are Mrs. Gita Chatterjee, Professor P. Vattapara, Professor P. Mudathotty, Professor J. Kariathil, Professor J. Athikalam, and Rev. T. Dharmendra, Dr. Shail Akash, Rev. Vimal Arockiam. Dr. J. X. Muthupackaim SJ, Ms. Shipra Chatteljee, Rev. Dilraj Dungdung, Professor Sisir Basu, Rev. J. Dhyan and J. Sagar. I am appreciative of and indebted to the Research Scholars George P. M., Tomy Augustine, and Shaji Nicholas OFM, who are my dear friends and companions. My sincere thanks are due to all my seniors and juniors in the Department of Philosophy and Religion. Banaras Hindu University, as I have received so much of love and concern from all of them.

I thank my alma mater, Banaras Hindu University. Varanasi, India, for awarding me Research Scholarship for my Ph.D. studies.

My sincere thanks are due to Mr. Sunil Gupta of Sri SatgurPublications, a division of Indian Books Centre. Delhi, for publishing this volume in 'Bibliotheca IndoBuddhica Series'.

I am grateful to Professor P. R. Bhat, Head of the Department, and all my colleagues, especially Dr. Ranjan K. Panda and Dr. Vikram Singh Sirola, of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. I I T Bombay, whose encouragement and support enabled me to publish this work.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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