The AA is studied by all lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, and is one of five principal works studied in the geshe curriculum of the major Gelugpa monasteries.
Its commentaries are probably the most extensive and influential source of certain doctrines, such as the Ten Grounds bhumi , the Five Paths marga , and the Four Buddha-Bodies kaya. Alexander Berzin has suggested that the text's prominence in the Tibetan tradition, but not elsewhere, may be due to the existence of the aforementioned commentary by Haribhadra, who was the disciple of Shantarakshita an influential early Indian Buddhist missionary to Tibet.
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Tsongkhapa 's writings name the AA as the root text of the lamrim tradition founded by Atisha. Geshe Georges Dreyfus reports that.
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As to whether we are speaking of one realization, or of eight, Sparham offers the following explanation by rGyal tshab rJe , a 14thth century Tibetan commentator:. Elaborating on the metaphor, Geshe Jampa Gyatso distinguishes between a "natural ornament" the beautiful woman, the Perfection of Wisdom , "beautifying ornament" her jewelry, the eight categories and seventy topics , "clarifying ornament" the mirror, the AA , and "joyful ornament" the joy of the beholder or AA devotee.
Nyingma and Sakya writers agree that the AA contains Madhyamaka teachings, without necessarily endorsing the subdivisions proposed by Gelugpas. The AA is divided into eight categories, which correspond to the first eight chapters of the work the ninth being a summary , and with one technical exception in chapter eight [ 20 ] to the eight "realizations" said to be necessary for full enlightenment. Conze remarks that these eight are "not attested elsewhere.
These eight categories naturally fall into three groups, as shown below. The seventy topics here enumerated but not shown are their subdivisions. Obermiller traces this list to a manual attributed to 'Jam dbyangs Bzhad pa , who also created the various definitions and category-boundaries familiar to Tibetan debaters. Unless otherwise indicated, the English terms below follow Sparham's translation which revises Conze's. The first three categories represent the objects or goals of practice, whose attainment leads to peace for the four classes of Buddhist practitioner.
Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas , in order to discern the truths of anitya impermanence , anatman selflessness , and dukha suffering , must acquire knowledge of the fundamental constituents of reality vastu --namely the skandhas , ayatanas , and dhatus which are the subjects of Abhidharma. This is the "all-knowledge" of chapter three. A bodhisattva, in order to benefit all sentient beings, must additionally cognize the various possible paths by which others may progress, so that he may, for example, teach in different ways in accordance with their various situations and capacities.
This is the "knowledge of paths" of chapter two. According to the Mahayana understanding, only a fully-enlightened Buddha has eliminated obstacles to omniscience jneyavaranaheya as well as obstacles to liberation kleshavaranaheya.
The AA begins with this as the most impressive of the three, and the ultimate goal of the Mahayana practitioner. Categories four through seven in this order represent progressive stages of spiritual practice en route to enlightenment. Conze calls them four "understandings"; Obermiller, "practical methods"; Toh, "applications"; and Berzin who notes the close connection to "yoga," ngal sbyor , "applied realizations.
Tibetan tradition lays special emphasis on chapter four, perhaps because it is the longest and most complex, and therefore best suited to commentary and debate. Haribhadra's commentary is noteworthy for teaching the existence of four such bodies, rather than the more traditional three cf. Other writers interpret this last term as a synonym for Dharmakaya, or else as symbolizing the unity of the three. Tibetan tradition identifies in Obermiller's words " forms of the Bodhisattva's yoga as realizing respectively the aspects of the 3 forms of Omniscience.
Obermiller adds that "All these studies are conducted in the form of lectures which are accompanied by controversies between the different groups of students according to the method of 'sequence and reason' thal-phyir. The subject of "Twenty Sangha" vimsatiprabhedasamgha, dge 'dun nyi shu aims at schematizing the various spiritual levels through which one might pass on the way to enlightenment. Here "Sangha" refers not so much to actual monks and nuns the term's most common meaning , but to an idealized, gradated schema of all the types of accomplished Buddhist.
The AA explains that it is the latter sense of "Sangha" which constitutes the object of Buddhist Refuge , and in an especially cryptic verse, offers the following subdivision into twenty types:. What does this mean? The solitary nature of the rhinoceros made that animal a traditional symbol for pratyekabuddhas "solitary Buddhas".
Beyond that, the list is quite difficult to decipher. The basic project seems to have been inspired by an earlier typology of four Stream-Enterer , Once-Returner , Non-Returner , Arhat , which may be expanded to eight by distinguishing between approachers to zhugs pa , or abiders at 'bras gnas , each level. Unfortunately the list of twenty does not correspond very well with this earlier one.
Furthermore, Tibetan exegetical tradition estimates the actual number of types of Sangha including combinations and subdivisions to approach the tens of thousands. See Apple's monograph on the subject. Tibetan tradition accepts the common Mahayana view that Sakyamuni Buddha the historical Buddha taught various kinds of teachings that do not seem to agree—hence the various discrepancies between nikaya Buddhism and the Mahayana scriptures—and following the Sandhinirmocana Sutra , hold that the Buddha taught three grand cycles called " Turnings of the Wheel of Dharma.
The sutra seems to assume the third cycle to consist of the "highest" teachings. However, Tibetan tradition generally sides with Madhyamaka, and therefore must read the sutra in this light. The issue becomes more pressing in view of the fact that Tibetan Buddhist doctrine in fact combines elements from all three cycles, and is therefore faced with the task of defending its authorities while simultaneously minimizing contradictions between them.
Sparham writes that. The AA was extremely influential in Tibet, resulting in the production of numerous commentaries. The first were those of "Ngok Lotsawa" or "Ngok the Translator" Rngog Lo tsa ba Bal ldan Shes rab, — : Mngon rtogs rgyan gyi don bsdus pa a summary , Shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa'i man ngag mngon par rtogs pa'i rgyan gi tik chung a "small" commentary , and an line Prajnaparamita summary called Yum brgyad stong pa'i 'grel pa'i don bsdus possibly a sub-commentary to Haribhadra's Short Commentary. Sakya commentators on the AA include 'Go rams pa bsod nams seng ge four commentaries , Shakya Chogden, Shes ba Kun rig seven commentaries and treatises , [ 31 ] and G.
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The latter's work is King of Wish-Fulfilling Jewels Mngon rtogs rgyan 'grel pa rin chen bsam 'phel dbang rgyal , in eight volumes. Tsongkhapa 's teacher Don grub Rin chen encouraged him to study the five texts of Maitreya, especially the AA. His disciple Gyaltsab rGyal tshab Dar ma Rin chen also wrote an AA subcommentary, called Ornament of the Essence mngon rtongs rgyan gyi grel pa dor gsal rnam bshad snying po'i rgyan. The AA seems not to have been translated into Chinese until the s.
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Fazun had studied in the geshe program of the Drepung 'Bras spungs college grwa tshang of Loseling Blo gsal gling , near Lhasa , and possibly even obtained the degree. While Obermiller approached the AA from the perspective of "Monism," which he associated with Vedanta, his studies in the Buryat Mongolian monastery of Dgah ldan dar rgyas gling Chilutai exposed him to a more traditional hermeneutic framework. Along with a translation of the AA or the three-fifths of it which he finished , he also provided a summary of Haribhadra's commentary for each section.
Edward Conze , who was active from the s to the s, devoted his career to PP translations and commentaries, his AA translation being an early example.
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An especially significant work was his translation of the PP Sutra in 25,lines, which he organized according to the AA topics. This required a certain amount of creative editing on his part—for example, his translation does not strictly follow the 25,line AA, but incorporates text from other PP Sutras. Like Obermiller, Conze's writings betray a certain German idealistic influence, hence his references to "Union with the Absolute. During the s, several Western scholars with experience as Buddhist monks living among the Tibetan exile community in Dharamsala, who had participated in traditional geshe studies, published articles and books related to the AA.
Analysis of the Abhisamayalamkara. Asian Humanities Press: Canon Publications : Originally published in Acta Orientalia 11 —33 , pp. Sri Satguru Publications, Sparham, Gareth translator. Abhisamayalamkara with Vrtti and Aloka in four volumes. Jain Publishing Company, vol.
Sparham, Gareth editor. Golden Garland of Eloquence, vols. Jain Publishing Company. Translation of an AA commentary by Tsongkhapa. Thrangu Rinpoche. Sri Satguru Publications: Delhi, A short oral commentary by a leading Karma Kagyu lama. Toh Sze Gee translator. Privately circulated, will eventually be made available for sale as a text file. Home Contact Privacy. Bibliography Apple , James B. Robert Bloch - Writings On Bloch Roger Zelazny - Bibliographies Bertrand Russell - Selected Bibliography A selected bibliography of Russell's books in English, sorted by year of first publication An additional three volumes catalogue just his bibliography