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The Wheel and the Dragon
Author Cheetham, Eric
Source The Middle Way: Journal of the Buddhist Society
Volumev.79 n.1
Pages20 - 26
PublisherThe Buddhist Society
Publisher Url
LocationLondon, England, UK [倫敦, 英格蘭, 英國]
Content type期刊論文=Journal Article
AbstractPart II Kumarajiva's Core Teachings
It was shown Part I that Kumarajiva's main influence in the early fifth century CE was by means of his lectures. This was especially the case with his presentation of the Mahapraj[n]aparamita Upadesa.(FN1) His words were taken down verbatim, and they have been preserved for us in Professor Lamotte's French version of this text. The summaries here of Kumarajiva's teaching topics are taken from this huge compendium of doctrine.

A particularly clear item is about the 'person', or the pudgala. Kumarajiva quotes his own recollection of Abhidharma, i.e. pre-Mahayana, teaching on this subject, and the quotation is from the Upadesa 1, page 43:

By the combination of the Five Skandhas there is an 'individual' (pudgala). These Five Skandhas are not separate from the pudgala and the pudgala is not separate from the Five Skandhas. One cannot say that the Five Skandhas are the pudgala nor that apart from the Five Skandhas there is a pudgala.

Of course Kumarajiva goes on to declare that these are mundane points of view (Upadesa(FN1), pp. 40-45). In the absolute sense (paramartha) all this is empty and unreal because a pudgala's dharma constituents have no own marks (see discussion of sunyata below on sunyata).

This is a concise statement of the mundane fact of a 'person', which the Buddha himself acknowledged; and, like everything else, this pudgala/skandha is impermanent and has no enduring essence. Also, because in the Mahayana deep teaching it is impermanent, it is a nonentity, ephemeral, without real existence, i.e. empty. This is the absolute point of view, but it should be noted that each of Kumarajiva's four points of view has an 'order of reality' in that each is a product of causes and conditions.

One of Kumarajiva's core teachings concerns the Six Perfections (paramitas). His main exposition of each of them takes up hundreds of pages of Volume 2 of the Upadesa. Much of this is summarized with extracts in this author's forthcoming book The Great Way: The Bodhisattva Process. Here only a brief extract can be given to indicate the importance attached to this subject. After restating some of his early descriptions of each of the paramitas in Volume 2, Kumarajiva concludes: 'By the power of wisdom one can perfect the Six Paramitas, and then one gains the inconceivable, immense bodhi of the Buddha. One realizes omniscience (sarvaj[n]ana) and in consequence the high qualities of the sravakas, the pratyekabuddhas and of worldly people'. He goes on to say that the bodhisattva therefore manifests his powers in order to awaken beings to establish themselves in the Six Perfections (Upadesa 2 p. 1968).

In Volume 4 of the Upadesa, Kumarajiva devotes more than one hundred pages to all the various emptinesses (18 in all). Clearly, only a fraction of this discussion can be given here. Fortunately, each variety of sunyata is complete in itself, so Numbers 7 and 8 of the 18 will demonstrate the meaning in general. Numbers 7 and 8 concern all the dharma elements, i.e. the basic constituents of every kind of existence. Concerning them, Kumarajiva says (Upadesa 4, pp. 2077-2078):

The conditioned dharmas (samskrta dharmas) are dharmas arising from the complex of causes and conditions (hetupratyaya), viz. the Five Skandhas, the Twelve Bases of Consciousness (ayatana) and the Eighteen Dhatu. Here the conditioned dharmas are empty, for two reasons: 1) They have neither me (atman) or mine (atniya) and because eternity and unchangeability is lacking in them. 2) The conditioned dharmas are empty of the characteristics of conditioned dharmas [ie. they do not actually arise or pass away]: neither arising nor stopping they do not exist (for they are ungraspable).

This is re-enforced by a further quote from the Upadesa p. 2080:

Others may say that the Five Skandhas are eternal. Even if the first skandha (body and form) suffers transformation, other skandhas such
ISSN00263214 (P)
Created date2009.09.30
Modified date2020.11.04

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