The present study aims to investigate an instance of the reception of Paramārtha's 眞諦(499-569) translation of Vasubandhu's Mahāyānasa- ṃgrahabhāṣya 攝大乘論釋 in the North under the Sui, taking as source material two texts unearthed at Dunhuang, namely, the Da yi zhang 大義章 by Dharma Master Ji 及法師 (Peking 8392, hong 洪 53, BD00453 verso) and She lun zhang, Fascicle 1 『攝論章』 卷第一 (Stein 2048; Taishō 2808).
In brief, the content of each section is as follows.
1. Dharma Master Ji's Da yi zhang is a text thought to belong to the genre of compendia of the essentials of various Buddhist doctrines. The first line of the manuscript gives the name of its author as “Dharma Master Ji” (及法師撰). The precise details of its year of composition and so forth are unknown, but the Da yi zhang criticises the positions of “certain persons”, and wording matching that of these foils can be found in texts thought to have been composed at the end of the Northern Dynasties through to the early Sui, such as Jingying Huiyuan's 淨影慧遠 (523-592) Dasheng yi zhang 大乘義章 and the She dasheng lun chao 攝大乘論抄 (provisional title; Moriya collection copy + Stein 2254). For this reason, the Da yi zhang is thought to be a text composed in roughly the same period. The She lun zhang Fascicle 1 is a commentary in zhang 章 format to Paramārtha's translation of the Mahāyānasaṃgrahabhāṣya. Its author is unknown, but it bears an editorial note stating that it was copied at Biancai Temple 辯才寺 in Chang'an 長安 in Renshou 1 仁壽元年 of the Sui dynasty (601 C.E.), and it is thus thought to be an accurate record of Mahāyānasaṃgraha (“Shelun”) studies in Chang'an under the Sui.
2. The first section 章 at the opening of these two documents, entitled “On the Three Jewels” 三寶義, is almost verbatim the same in each.
However, if we compare the organisation of each text as a whole, the She lun zhang is more finely divided into small sections than the Da yi zhang, and its logical structure is therefore clearer. Further, in terms of the thought of the text, we notice particularly that in the explanation of the notion that “the Three Jewels are essentially one” 一體三寶, the She lun zhang alone features doctrines based upon the Mahāyānasaṃgraha. By contrast, extant portions of the Da yi zhang do not contain a single citation from the Mahāyānasaṃgraha. It is therefore safe to posit that the Da yi zhang is a text from a stage at which the Mahāyānasaṃgraha was not yet known, and that the section “On the Three Jewels” of the She lun zhang was composed as a section of the zhang-style commentary on the Mahāyānasaṃgraha by modification of the “On the Three Jewels” section of the Da yi zhang. In this process, the author basically relied on the Da yi zhang, but tinkered piecemeal with parts of the organisation, and in places added elements from the Mahāyānasaṃgraha.
3. The She lun zhang was copied at Biancai Temple, which was constructed for Zhining 智凝 (ca. 565 – ca. 612), an influential Shelun scholar in Chang'an under the Sui. The biography of Zhining in the Xu gaoseng zhuan 續高僧傳 features, as a figure with whom Zhining had close relations, a Dharma Master Mingji 明及法師. We thus suppose that it is probable that the “Dharma Master Ji” who authored the Da yi zhang was this same Mingji (? – after 598). Analysis of accounts in the Xu gaoseng zhuan shows that Mingji was originally a Northern Dynasties scholar of the *Daśabhūmika-sūtra-śastra 十地經論 or “Dilun”. It is unknown with whom he studied, but he subsequently took up the study of the Mahāyānasaṃgraha (“Shelun”), and was active in Sui Chang'an. We can surmise that the Da yi zhang is a text composed at a stage when Mingji had not yet studied the Mahāyānasaṃgraha, and the “On the Three Jewels” section of the She lun zhang was a revision of that work, whether by Mingji himself or some other person. The relationship of dependence and development that can thus be observed between the “On the Three Jewels” sections of the Da yi zhang and the She lun zhang can therefore be regarded as an exceptionally clear example of the reception of the Mahāyānasaṃgraha by scholars of the North in that period, and of the methods by which they worked.