vimuttimagga- skilling PTS
JPTS_1994_XX skilling vimuttimagga.pdf (4.6 MB)
pts article by skilling
Heterodox Buddhism: The School of Abhayagiri
… a detailed examination of how the Abhayagiri School adopted heterodoxy of other Buddhist traditions.
… The Mahåvihåra and the Abhayagiri both accepted the Påli Tipiaka as authoritative texts, but the Abhayagiri went further step by accepting some non-Theravāda teachings including Vetullavāda or Vaitulyavāda (Mahāyāna) and Vājiriyavāda (Vajrayāna), in marked contrast to the Mahāvihāra ideology.
… I will discuss non-Theravāda influence on ancient Sri Lankan Buddhist literature, and …
… The practice of the Bodhisattva ideal in the early phase of Sri Lankan Buddhism, and its considerable development after the arrival of Mahāyāna Buddhism, are also discussed here. Based on some inscriptions, a new ideal of Bodhisattva practice, the universally applicable bodhicitta, which is completely related to Mahāyāna practice, is explored as a new trend of Abhayagiri Fraternity.
… The foreign relations of the Abhayagiri, with special reference to Tantric Buddhism and the impact of Tantric Buddhism on Sri Lankan paritta chanting and its culture, are also considered at this point.
… The Abhayagiri fraternity was always ready to welcome new ideas, and adjusted its monastic system in accordance with time and socio-religious
needs, whereas the Mahāvihāra considered this as an unwelcome and unacceptable transformation. In other words we can say that the Abhayagiri was radical and innovative whereas the Mahāvihāra was traditional and conservative.
… There is enough evidence to prove that several sectarian Buddhist schools dwelt together at the Abhayagiri in total harmony. As a result of this friendly atmosphere, new concepts and practices penetrated into Sri Lankan Buddhism, and some non Theravāda practices spread throughout the Island. Archaeological findings prove the authenticity of those records and show us how Mahāyāna and Tantric Buddhism played a dynamic and vital role in ancient Sri Lanka.
… The Mahāvihāra treated the Abhayagirivāsīns as heretics, since they presented some views on the Dhammavinaya that were different from the Mahāvihāra point of view.
… I have discussed some new trends introduced by the Abhayagiri fraternity to Sri Lankan Buddhism. Many new practices, rites and rituals were used for the popularity and the development of their own school, and also perhaps for the promotion of a close relationship between the monks and the lay
followers in terms of the stabilization of the Sāsana. The following new trends introduced by the Abhayagiri fraternity to Sri Lankan Buddhism have
been discussed in this chapter …
It is quite obvious that the Mahāvihāra and the Abhayagiri unanimously accepted the Pāli Tipiṭaka as authoritative texts. Yet the latter further
enlarged its ambit by accepting some non-Theravāda teachings, including Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna, showing a completely different attitude from the ideological stance of the Mahāvihāra.
The Visuddhimagga, perhaps the greatest work of Mahāvihāra, was composed after the Vimuttimagga of the Abhayagiri and the former was structured following structure of the latter. An important point we have to
consider here is that the Visuddhimagga is not a work of Mahāvihāra monks, but by Buddhaghosa Thera who came from South India. The Vimuttimagga is attributed to Upatissa Thera who was a member of the Abhayagiri fraternity.
The position of the Vimuttimagga is closer to that of the Vaibhasikas who include all 4 elements in sprastavyayayatana.
A comparison of the Dhammasangani list with that of the Vimuttimagga shows the important difference that the latter adds 3 items : “rupassa jati, vathu rupa and middha.” Although the visuddhma attributes the heresy of middhrup to …some (ekaccanam matena) the tika tells us that this refers to the abhayagirivasins. Thus the inclusion of both middh-rupa in both the Chinese version and the Tibetan extracts of the Vimuttimagga is evidence that that the Vimutimagga contains classifications that were rejected by the Mahavihara but accepted by the Abhayagiri Skilling concludes that the Vimuttimagga probably came from the Abhayagiri sect. He notes p200 "these are not minor points.
The Mahavamsa notes p267 -268 that the Thera Sanghamitta , who dwelt at the Abhayagiri told the king that the Mahavihara teach a wrong doctrine and so the King made a proclamation telling the populace that they could not feed any monk from the Mahavihara. The good monks thus abandoned it. The Thera then had the King destroy the Mahavihara and “carried away the materials of the buildings hence to the Abhagiri and by means of them many buidings that were borne away from the Mahavihara the Abhayagiri became rich in buildings. Holding fast to his evil friend the Thera Sanghmitta and to his servant Sona the King wrought many a deed of wrong…then by the ruthless Thera Sanghamitta the Abhayagiri-vihara was made stately to see” Earlier p264 it notes that an earlier King helped to purify the sasana by suppression of a heresy he seized bhikkhus dwelling in the Abhayagiri…who had turned to the Vetulya doctrine and were like a throng in the doctrine of the Buddha he excommunciated them." It then notes that the thera sanghamitta (from south India) was embittered against the good bhikkus of the Mahavihara and bided his time until the good king died and the next one Jetthatissa died. Then his time was ripe when the younger brother of Jetthatissa (Mahasena ) came to power.
I was about to post a new topic in the lounge about the vimuttimagga. I had always thought it was part of the 6th council list of books, but it is not.
I was going to question if the vimuttimagga should be accepted as Classical Theravada because it is Chinese. Somehow, I heard it was translated back to Pāḷi but i don’t see that in any way.
The above topic is interesting, because while although, it was very similar to the vsm, there seems to be some added elements (literally speaking) to this text.
This was very interesting to read. Perhaps you can expand on this in wikipedia?
Yes, not part of orthodox Theravada Venerable. The discrepancies are possibly not major but still…
I remember that EBT’ers actually like this commentary, but reject the vsm and other commentaries. Probably they just have parami for liking Chinese stuff. Or they just like comparing things.
I had added the English PTS version to the latest release of TPP. I think I might remove it. I have not decided yet.
Thanks for posting about this, @RobertK. I’ve always liked the Vimuttimagga, despite considering it as a secondary, unofficial book. Nonetheless, it holds some good advice on meditation, that dovetails nicely with the Visuddhimagga, which is, naturally, the actual authority.