DIRI JOURNAL Volume 3
Dhammachai International Research Institute (DIRI) is a research institute that attemptsto trace the roots of the Buddha’s teachings in early Buddhist manuscripts with the aim of finding the earliest and clearest evidence of Buddhist teachings and practices. The study and skill of genuine practice will help us obtain pure knowledge of Buddhism as it has been passed down for the happiness and progress of human beings. This journal will publish articles by members of DIRI as well as relevant papers by other scholars engaged in research into the field of Early Buddhism.
Inspirational Message from the Director by Most. ven. Sudhammo Bhikkhu Chairman of DIRI
On the 101st anniversary of Vijjā Dhammakāya and the 75th anniversary of the birth of Krūbā Dhammajayo, the founder of the Dhamachai International Research Institute of Australia and New Zealand (DIRI), we are proud to announce the publication of Volume 3 of the DIRI Journal (JDIRI) on the 18th May 2019 (Vesak Day). The institute aims to promote and support research into the Buddhism of all historical periods, regions and aspects. Even though many primary sources of Buddhism are hardly accessible to the public, especially those located in remote or restricted areas, we are trying to support and assist the scholars who are working in this field by cooperating with their research projects and by providing our own researchers to accompany them. Also, we hope that DIRI can assist those scholars by promoting their primary source researches on early Buddhism in the public domain.
On behalf of our Institute, I would like to express my appreciation for the efforts of Prof. Richard G. Salomon of the University of Washington and Dr. Mark Allon of the University of Sydney for disclosing the contents of the Gandhari manuscripts to all Buddhists worldwide. I also would like to express my appreciation to Prof. Jens Erland Braarvig, who is deeply involved in the early Buddhist manuscripts of the Schoyen Collection. Many thanks go to Emeritus Prof. Garry W. Trompf of the University of Sydney, for his kind introduction and being the editor of the journal. We are grateful to Associate Prof. Will Sweetman for his kind preface. Many thanks to Dr. Jeff Wilson for his thorough editing work and for his article. Thanks go to Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie, who always kindly supports us in any situation and who has also provided us with an article for this volume. Many thanks to Prof. Olivier de Bernon and Assistant Prof. Arvind Singh who have kindly provided us with their articles. This volume would not have materialized without the help of our advisory board, editorial staff and researchers. Please acknowledge my thanks. I do hope that this volume might contribute to an understanding of the Dhammakāya and other forms of Buddhist knowledge that have been discovered in early Buddhist manuscripts. This journal also serves as my special gift to celebrate the 150th anniversary year of the University of Otago with which we have cooperated in the academic projects of Buddhist studies for more than ten years. Because of this cooperation between the two parties, the course of Master’s degree in Buddhist studies was initiated this year. Please acknowledge my gratitude and appreciation.
Introduction by Emeritus Professor GARRY W. TROMPF
At this point in known human history there is no more important activity for Buddhist scholars and scholars of Buddhism than to be concerned about uncovering neglected, potentially losable texts, and using them for exposing diverse strands within the Buddhist tradition through finely honed textual research. Socio-political change, indeed also instability, in lands which were once powerfully Buddhist (especially India, Afghanistan, China and Tibet) make it harder for old works to be retrieved, and many an interesting palm-leaf book lies wilting in climates adverse to preservation. While we can marvel at what we have available, including a long list of translations into English and other languages (from the time of Friedrich Max Müller’s Sacred Books of the East in the 1880s to the ongoing, now electronically supported efforts of the Pali Text Society), scholarship has tended to favour the bigger fixtures, establishments and Buddhalogical positions to the detriment of smaller ‘treasure houses.’ The Dhammachai International Research Institute (DIRI), under the inspiration and leadership of Luang Por Dhammajayo and Most Venerable Sudham Sudhammo, has done much to rectify the imbalance, especially by scouting for manuals, narrations and doctrinal passages that reveal apparently older techniques of meditation and insight than prevailing in Buddhist teaching today. It surely should be a matter of rejoicing that this probing can help us see the lineage of schools, and how different doctrinal energies and moments of organizational change brought about the very complex socio-religious configuration we have in world Buddhism in our times.
Of course there is no gainsaying the relevance that research into neglected instructions and techniques has for the Dhammachai as a movement dedicated to ‘right meditation’ and with an interest in readapting ancient Yogavacara-looking strands of approach to meditating (not unknown within the Theravada branch of south and southeast Asia). Yet in this journal, as with previous numbers, scholarly concerns override any special partialities. The DIRI has already established itself as a small bastion of solid, disinterested scholarship, and not only by sponsoring high-level critical studies into texts of Buddhist monastic practice. Its agenda more or less coincides with that of Professors Kate Crosby and Catherine Newell (funded by the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies), who suspect mainstream and conservative Theravada Buddhism has been tamed to suit modern Western colonial predilections and left arcane-looking strains of practice out in the cold (even while these two investigators also vigorously support freedom of religious expression for minorities to revive old insights within the Theravada ambit). The problématique may be much older than that and could go back to Buddhaghosa, the Theravada champion who redacted many Commentaries in the fifth century CE. In any case, as a scholar unengaged from these special issues, it remains my pleasure to have been involved with the Dhammachai Institute’s promotion of comparative studies of meditation across all the major world’s religious traditions (by conferences and publications), and in the massive project to publish Royal Thai Inscriptions (3 vols.). And if this particular number of the DIRI Journal, its third volume, does indeed return to that key matter of overlooked texts, downplayed ancient practices, and the evidence for ‘sect-like’ variegation in early Buddhism, it does so with a consistently impressive cast of critical scholars. And it gives me pleasure here to introduce these authors and their contributions.
It is an honour for DIRI that the first article is by Professor Olivier de Bernon, Director of Studies at the French School of the Far East at the PSL Research University, Paris, and an authority on the use of Khmer Buddhist texts used for meditation (especially with his 2000 doctoral thesis on ‘Le manuel des maîtres de kammatthân: Étude et présentation de rituel de méditation dans la tradition du bouddhisme khmer’). Professor Bernon draws our attention to Theravada manuals in the Yogavacara meditation styles already known to world scholarship from the 1890s which can now be looked at beside a variety of other Sinhalese texts on meditation that reveal kammatthân methods very popular in early modern times but discouraged during the nineteenth century. His acknowledgement of the role of Southeast Asian (Indo-Chinese) Buddhism as a factor in preserving this meditative tradition finds Bernon sustaining the fine scholarship of the Sorbonne’s Professor of Southeast Asian Buddhism, François Bizot, who famously scoured isolated Cambodian monasteries in search of manuscripts from lost traditions.
The next chapter is by Ven. Weerachai Lueritthikul (Tejungkuro), who is known for his University of Oslo Masters research on a Gilgit birchbark MS from Pakistan, written in hybrid Sanskrit in the proto-Sharada script and containing narrative material from the Mûlasavâstivâdin Vinaya, one of the Vinaya texts found in 1931 (and the Indian subcontinent’s oldest surviving MSS) having comparability with Vinayavastu of the Tibetan canon. Phra Weerachai’s task in this volume, as he undertakes doctoral work in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Oslo, is to make a preliminary report of two palm-leaf fragments of the Samâdhirarâ Sutra from Bamiyan in Afghanistan, generously donated to DIRI at Dunedin, New Zealand, and, with his expertise over the Gilgit finds and the University of Oslo’s fine Schøyen Collection of Buddhist MSS, to transliterate and translate the fragments for the first time. Reflecting the Kushan world, in the interface between ‘Theravada and Mahayana ambits,’ these texts notably express joyful pleasure in meditation and significantly point to an early diversity in meditative practice. The second part of Phra Weerachai’s presentation are clear ‘real life’ photographs of the donated fragments, in a printed publication for the first time.
Following this comes a valuable survey study by Professor Arvind Kumar Singh, from the Universities of Delhi and Gautam Buddha (Uttar Pradesh, India), well known for his helpful books on the history of Buddhism in South, Southeast and East Asia. The welcome thrust of Professor Singh’s article is the diversity of early Buddhism, which he considers to be divided into various strands of teaching and practice he prefers to describe as ‘sects.’ Honouring this variegation lends itself to the pursuit of knowledge about insights and practices distinct from vinaya (discipline, basic teaching) which eventually became most ‘standardized’ or ‘canonized.’ This chapter is very educative for those who need re-familiarization with such basic denominators as Theravada and Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana, and who seek guidance about major Councils and diverse schools in recoverable Buddhist history.
Next we find an important summary of work by Dr Kitchai Urkasame, fully presented in his 2013 University of Sydney doctoral thesis under the supervisory care of Edward Crangle. Dr Kitchai highlights the importance of preserving deteriorating old palm-leaf works in the Tham (northern Thai) script, surveying the contents of five of them to reveal what they can tell of the widespread Yogavacara meditation practices before the restraints imposed by the ‘Theravadin Dhammayutikanikāya reforms’ of Thailand’s king Rama IV in the mid-nineteenth century. Dr Kitchai discusses various special points found in these texts about Dhammakâya imaged as personified qualities, as a body of wisdom, as protective power, etc. and how all this relates to meditative awakening.
To continue, Dr Elizabeth Guthrie, who lectures in Religion at the University of Otago, New Zealand, and author of New Religious Movements in Cambodia (University of Hawai’i Press, 2004) puts what she frames as the “Dhammakaya genre” (on the basis inter alia of Bizot’s researches) into the context of Southeast Asian kammatthân meditation manuals that focus on eidetic imaging, especially of the “crystal globe.” This draws to mind my own experience of what I called “the fragile pearl of great price,” when as a participant observer, I was gently inducted into Dhammakaya meditation by the most venerable Dr. Sudhammo at Chiang Mai, Thailand. As an historian of ideas and religious life, it is naturally a matter of great fascination to me as to how ancient the cultivation of this indelible inner visioning is and what was its relation to the origins of Buddhism.
Dr Jeff Wilson, DIRI’s Executive Committee Researcher based in Australia, follows aptly with a very probing paper on narrative materials (especially the story of the young princess Cittakumari) in Pali, Lanna (northern Thai) and Khmer meditation manuals (texts already of interest to Bizot and Crosby). We not only encounter the ‘crystal gem’ in the narration, offered by an ethereal being as the means for Cittakumari to overcome death, but Dr Wilson also detects, using his knowledge of Jungian psychoanalysis, universal symbolism about handling of emotional and existential crisis.
To complete the whole series of articles, doctoral candidate at the University of Otago’s Department of Theology and Religion, Woramat Malasart, whose important thesis on the intrinsic connection between ‘Dhammakaya genre’ meditation texts with actual religious practice in Northern Thailand and Cambodia, using interviews with Dhammakaya practitioners and the documentation of the ceremonial installing of the Buddha’s heart into a Buddha image. The latter event involves the usage of a special manual text, photographically published (to finish an issue of DIRI Journal that is, as by precedent, richly illustrated).
I hold up, in an honouring and vote of thankfulness, all those who put their efforts into the contents of this number and commend it to as wide a readership as possible. It is a sign that this journal can establish itself as an embodiment of sound scholarship in Buddhist Studies. Thus: It has been reassuring to have the support of co-editor Dr. Jeff Wilson for this the journal’s third number, and such willing and active cooperation from Coordinator Dr Napiya Saradum and production volunteer Best Apisit Uthakhamkong. Out of respect for each scholar’s preferences, we have accepted some slight differences in citation methods and Endnotes, but otherwise a general uniformity of style and an appropriate logical arrangement of the articles has been sought. This year of this particular number happily coincides with the 150th Anniversary of the University of Otago’s foundation. DIRI, its building nestling at the university’s edges and with linkage to its Religion programme, has good reason to join the celebrations. As a tribute, the journal’s number also marks the birthday of Most Venerable Sudhammo’s master, the Most Venerable Dhammajayo, 75 years old this year and born on the same calendar date as world Earth Day (22nd April).
Prof. Oliver de Bernon
“The Sinhala Textual Tradition of Vidarśanā Pota”
The Sinhalese text edited in 1896 by Rhys Davids under the title of Yogavacara’s Manual belongs to the ancient kammaṭṭhān tradition of meditation from Indochina. Indeed, it begins with the presentation of the five “joys (pīti), the six “pairs” (yugula), the two “well-beings of the body” (kāyasukha), and the five “aspirations and expirations that lead to contemplation” (braḥ ānāpāṇa-dhammajjhāna), the order of which constitute the criterion for the identification of works belonging to the kammaṭṭhān tradition. This text also mentions the “candle ritual” (iṭipandaṃ pūjā) which is analogous to the “rituals of compression” (pidhī saṅkat’) still practised during kammaṭṭhān initiation in Cambodia and Thailand…(read more)
Phra Weerachai Lueritthikul
“Preliminary Report on Two Manuscript Fragments of Samādhirājasūtra From Bāmiyān in the DIRI Collection”
On September, 2017 a manuscript (ms) of the same sort as found in the Bāmiyān area came into DIRI’s1 acquisition, and is well preserved at the institute in New Zealand. This collection is comprised of ten pieces (twenty pages of recto and verso). The writing style differs between these ten fragments and the scripts employed include Gilgit-Bāmiyān Type I, Karoṣṭhī, Kuṣāṇa, Gupta and even pre-Kuṣāṇa, not to mention that of Mathurā which has a very similar handwriting. Some were written on birch bark and some on palm leaf; they require further editing and investigation…(read more)
Prof. Arvind Kumar Singh
“Buddhist Sects in Ancient India: An Examination of their Origins”
Buddhism is one of the oldest religions of the world and is considered as one of the four greatest religions in the world. There are about 500 million people who believe in Buddhism, both Theravāda and Mahāyāna. More and more people in the European and American continents and Australia are showing increasing interest in the Buddhist Teachings and Buddhist Meditation. As Buddhism made progress and spread to different parts of the world, new thoughts and improvisations came to be attached to the existing beliefs and practices from the very early days of Buddhism. One can say that it had already started even during the time of the Buddha. This led to the development and evolution of different Buddhist sects. The Early Buddhist sects are those sects into which the Buddhist monastic Saṃgha initially split, due originally to differences in Vinaya, and later also due to doctrinal and geographical differences and separateness of groups of monks. Surviving sects of Buddhism can be roughly grouped as Theravāda, Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna. Most of the Buddhist sects and sects encourage followers to adhere to certain practices and philosophies. Some of these philosophies and practices are common whereas some are unique to the particular sect…(read more)
Dr Kitchai Urkasame
“Meditations and Personifications in the Yogāvacara Tradition: A Study from Tham Script Palm-leaf Manuscripts”
The term Yogāvacara tradition represents the Theravada Buddhism that was widely practised in the Southeast Asia peninsula before the reformation of Dhammayutikanikāya by King Rama IV of Thailand (reigned 1851-1868). It has attracted only a little academic interest over the last four decades, primarily by François Bizot (Crosby, 2000: 141). To date, translations of the Yogāvacara texts are less than twenty in number. At this rate of publication, it is somewhat worrisome that the primary source materials kept in the form of palm-leaf manuscripts will deteriorate over time and eventually leave no trace of the local traditional Buddhism that can be dated back to the early introduction of Theravada into the region. However, it is observable that each text in itself is only a partial reflection of the Yogāvacara tradition, and the meaning of each is dependent on the content of the other texts. As such, additional study of relevant manuscripts, or even additional versions of English translations of the Yogāvacara texts, could enhance academic understanding of the tradition…(read more)
Dr Elizabeth Guthrie
“A Brief Introduction to the ‘Dhammakāya Genre’ and its Place in the Corpus of Tai-Khmer Meditation Manuals”
I first became aware of the existence of the existence of a “Dhammakāya Genre” of texts during my research for an MA thesis on the Buddhism practiced by Khmer refugees in New Zealand in the late 1980s. I learned that although the Cambodian refugees all identified themselves as ‘Theravāda Buddhist,’ there were significant differences in their religious beliefs and practices that led to misunderstandings and quarrels. I found books written by the French Buddhist scholar and ethnographer François Bizot about traditional Cambodian Buddhism very useful for understanding their religious differences…(read more)
Dr Jeff Wilson
“Narrative Form in the Writing of Meditation Manuals”
The translation of Buddhist manuscripts makes their contents accessible to researchers; it also raises the problem of the interpretation of narrative. Narrative is not just reserved for narrative fiction but is employed in many forms of communication and in particular, for the communication of ideas that fall outside the scope of ‘ordinary’ denominational language. Such an approach is found in the texts of what have been referred to by scholars as ‘mystical’ or ‘esoteric’ branches of Buddhism.1 This paper will argue that the use of narrative form is essential for the instruction of contemplative practitioners…(read more)
” Making the Buddha Present : The Dhammakāya Text Genre in Cambodia and Northern Thailand”
The Dhammakāya text genre has been studied by many Buddhist Studies scholars including Coedès (1956), Reynolds (1977), Bizot (1992), Swearer (2004), Urkasame (2013), Crosby (2016) and Walker (2018), using a variety of approaches, such as textual analysis, historical analysis, ethnography and translation. The texts describe some of the auspicious physical marks of the Buddha and they equate the Buddha’s dhammakāya with the Buddha’s Knowledge (ñāṇa) and qualities/virtues (guṇa). The Dhammakāya text genre can be found in manuscripts from central Thailand, northern Thailand, and Cambodia. The earliest extant version of this genre discovered to date appears in an inscription that can be dated 1549 CE (Urkasame 2013) and which was found in the stūpa of Wat Suea in Phitsanulok. The many versions of this text in manuscript and inscriptional form are evidence of its popularity and may be due to its ritual usage during the consecration of Buddha images and stūpas, something that still occurs in northern Thailand and Cambodia…(read more)