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Inexpressibility and Buddhist Teaching with Reference to the Ultimate of the Yogācāra Buddhism

Ahn, Sungdoo 1

1서울대학교

ABSTRACT

The present paper has the aim at dealing with the problematic whether the mahāyānic interpretation of the ultimate can be traced back to Buddha's fundamental idea on reality. It is well-known that Buddha, asked by the Brahma to teach for the living beings, refused at first to teach his experience of the Enlightenment, because it was too difficult and profound to deliver it in language. After trice request of Brahma, Buddha finally resolved to teach for the sake of living beings. Whether it be true or not, this story shows clearly that Buddha calls attention to the tension between the inexpressibility of his Enlightenment and the Teachings, which have to be expressed by means of concepts and language. The point of departure of the present paper is intimately connected with this tension observable in Buddha's attitude, and to examine whether the definition of the ultimate as inexpressible (anabhilāpya) in the mahāyāna texts can be joined with this tension. As a starting point I base myself on Vetter's analysis of ‘Dhammacakka-ppavattanasutta’, traditionally ascribed as the first sermon of Buddha, and ‘Anattalakkhanasutta’, the second discourse in Vinaya. Vetter sees these two texts respectively representing the ‘dhyāna-meditation’ and ‘discriminating insight’. Though it was generally accepted in the philological studies that the two methods were quite different in form and content from each other, I take it for granted that the two methods should be regarded from Buddha’s perspective as leading to the same goal, ie., the extinction of craving. Otherwise, it would be difficult to understand why Buddha chose one method after another, if these two have totally different contents and functions. Then, there must be a linkage connecting these two with each other. What I suggest as a kind of linking point is the function of normal consciousness. The state of normal consciousness is characterized by the subject-object duality. However, in the concentration, this duality is overcome; what is more decisive in the Buddhist meditation is that one is aware of his being in that state through the ‘mindfulness’ (smṛti). This method seems to be in contrast with the realization of non-self through discriminating insight in that these two methods base themselves on different approaches to reality. However, the analysis of 18 elements shows clearly that it rests also on the realization that our normal state is constituted by the subject-object dichotomy. In this sense, one can name the method “negative-intellectualist currents” using the phraseology of Schmithausen. These two methods, which were clearly differentiated and separately practised in the following Abhidharma period, came to be integrated into one whole process in the Yogācāra Buddhism. For me, the clue for the ‘new’ attempt may be found in the well-known, but few known with regard to the contents, phrase of ‘śamatha-vipaśyanā-yuganaddha’, which was relatively well explained in some passages of Śrāvakabhūmi. In addition, I suggest the transition from the simple compassion to the ‘Great Compassion’ in Mahāyāna Buddhism could be explained within the tension mentioned before.

Citation status

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