Especially during the lifetime of Sri Rajneesh, a Hindu guru, the word sanyassa, resp. sanyassin frequently occured in western circles where one tried to follow one or other of the Indian dharmic systems.

In the true sense of the word, someone who sees him or herself free from wordly context, free from conventions, free from rules, is called a sanyassin. This appelation solely regards the followers of the Hindu dharma. In Buddhism this total freedom of it all merely occurs in tantric practices, and in that case the person is not a sanyassin but a tantri.




February 7, 2019

Although the Indian Government stipulated several years ago  that the word “caste” ought to be abolished, Government offices and the Indian media frequently use the word when speaking of a particular group of inhabitants.

Nevertheless the word “caste” has no exact pendant in Sanskrit. Instead we find the words “varna” and “jati”. “Varna” (colour) refers to the occupation of the person or persons: the segment of society that are potters or porters etc., and “jati” (birth) denotes a community, i.e. where one is born and the codes of conduct that are followed by this segment of society.


Cause and effect

Creation, says Hinduïsm, is the result of a cause. That is, the highest Hindu god, by the name of Krishna, Brahman, or any other name, causes himself, or itself, to manifest in different forms. Hence Hinduïsm speaks of “result-cause“. We first see the result, and on the basis of this we infer that which caused the result: result being the manifest, and cause is he who manifests. This in contrast to the Abrahamic assumption of cause (= God) and result or effect (= the universe).

In classical Sanskrit “result-cause”, in the Vedic-Hinduistic sense is given as phalam, result, or parināma, and
adihetu, first cause, or adikārana, first cause, i.e. the divine mind.

In contrast to this Buddhism rejects the notion of causation or creation in the absolute sense of the word, whether it be in the Hinduistic sense or the Abrahamic. There is no causation-creation of the universe, no causation-creation of beings. There is an ongoing cycle of matter and time in which cycle no ultimate cause, creation, or creator can or needs to be be discerned.
Here the component hetu, as in the Sanskrit adihetu where it carries the meaning of first cause, is considered a relative designation as in the Pāli-word hetu-paccaya: cause and condition(ing) when describing the cyclical wheel of life where one link causes another to act or react. (Pratyaya in Hybrid Sanskrit)
So also the Pāli-word vipāka, product / effect, needs to be understood in the ethical sense of the word, and not as an absolute. (Vipaksa in Hybrid Sanskrit) It stands for the product of karma-producing actions, and not as the effect of ultimate causation or creation.

Ksanti / khanti

The illustration given has the Sanskrit word ksanti in classical Chinese script. Chinese Buddhism knows three forms of ksanti: ksanti that endures hatred, ksanti that endures physical hardship, and ksanti in pursuit of the Buddhist goal. We find this threefold ksanti in Soothill and Hodous’ “Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms” and they, as other Western translators, give “pursuing the Buddhist goal” as “pursuing the religious goal”. That’s how they were raised; beside religion you had the void.

Tolerance, says a 20th/21rst Cent. Indian writer, ought to be understood in its Latin form as tolerating the unavoidable, tolerating the perhaps even unwanted other.
Of course we find the word tolerance in health and medical circles as tolerance or intolerance to this or that medicine. In that case a purely physical process is meant, not a moral appreciation of the to be tolerated.

All three dictionaries, Soothill and Hodous (Chinese), Monier-Williams (classical Sanskrit), and Pāli Text Society (Pāli) mention the word “tolerance” when describing or translating the word ksanti (Sanskrit) or khanti (Pāli) — among other possible translations, that is.

The word tolerance however, does not apply. “Patient endurance” is a more common translation of ksanti/khanti but even this is not entirely satisfactory.

It is in Franklin Edgerton’s dictionary “Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit” that we find a fully satisfactory translation by the hand of the late Louis Finot, chronicler of the Societé Asiatique. Finot cites the Rāstrapālapariprcchā (RP 34,13-14) when giving the

“nāham … tesām … ānulomikām api ksāntim vadāmi, kutah punar buddhajnānam” as “I do not attribute to them even the intellectual receptivity that conforms (to continued religious development), still less Buddha-knowledge.”

In other words “patient endurance” is a satisfactory translation of the word ksanti/khanti, “receptivity” is even better. It presupposes a hearer who is prepared to listen with an open mind without preconceptions; i.e. s/he is receptive.
Even E. Buswell Jr. (trained in Korean Buddhism) and D.S. Lopez (trained in Himalayan philosophy) received ksanti from their masters as “Not to be overwhelmed by the profound nature of reality but instead to be receptive or acquiescent to it.”
Therefore, Mahāhāyanism throughout the Indian, Himalayan and Korean lands seems to be of the same opinion when it comes to the intrinsic meaning of ksanti. Moreover, they do not disagree with the Theravādan khanti as “patient endurance”.

Hinduïsm, that is, modern Hinduïsm sees (Skr.) ksanti in the yogic-meditative practice as the ability to abstraction.

Demise of Badri Ratna Bajracharya

The Kathmandu Post reported on October 17, 2016 the demise of “Buddhist scholar Pandit Badri Ratna Bajracharya”. The old teacher died at the age of 84. Pandit Bajr-ācharya belonged to the Newar community of Nepal and passed his knowledge on to young people who wished to become vajr-ācarya in this (hybrid) Buddhist tradition. Among his students were some youth, says the text below, who belonged to the other ethnicity the Sakya (who as an ethnicity do not perform the vajrācarya rituals).

The publication “Revisiting Rituals in a Changing Tibetan World” (Brill, Leiden, 2012, p. 235) has a few words on the deceased:

“In 1979 Badri Ratna Bajracharya (who is the most active and widely respected vajrācārya of present-day Newar Buddhism and since fall 2008 also the head of the Dharmodaya-sabha, a body uniting the principal Buddhist traditions present in the Valley) founded the Vajrācarya-adhyayana-mandala in Kathmandu in order to train vajrācārya youths (a few studens were also Sākyas). This innovative programme was hugely popular and in 1990 led to the institutionalisation at the Mahendra Sanskrit University of a course on bauddha-karmakānanda with its own textbook designed by Badri Ratna Bajracharya (… 1992). In the first year alone there were — according to Astamuni Bajracarya  — 135 students enrolled in the elementary course. These numbers were obviously not sustainable, and nowadays (2012) the courses are no longer taught in this way, but have reverted to their original format and are taught informally at the home of Badri Ratna. Even so, there have been by now, in the words of Naresh Man Bajracarya, a prominent disciple of Badri Ratna, “hundreds” of students who have learnt at least the basics of vajrācarya rituals from the latter.”

Being yoked and emptiness

Both David J. Kalupahana (Mūlamadhyamakakārikā of Nāgārjuna, Delhi 1991) and Joseph Walser (Nāgārjuna in Context, New York 2005 – don’t waste your money on it) consider Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakārikā to be an implicit reaction on the Pali Scripture the Kaccāyanagottasutta.
The monk Kaccāyana is mentioned in the Mūla, hence the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā has him as addressee, they said. Could be. Let’s not go too far into it and not add to the wild speculations of especially Mr. Walser.

One of the verses in the Mūla, Ch. 24, 14, seems to render Nāgārjuna’s thinking on emptiness most clearly, and at the same time most intricate. David Kalupahana, the only one who bothered to give us the transliteration of the Sanscrit verses (a posthumus thank you to Mr. Kalupahana), made his own translation. Mr. Walser used M. Sprung’s 1967 version (Lucid Exposition of the Middle Way: The Essential Chapters from the Prasannapada of Candrakirti, p.235. London 1967).

Both translations differ in the rendering of the words “yujyate” and “sūnyatā/ sūnyam”.

Here are the two lines:

Sarvam ca yujyate tasya sūnyatā yasya yujyate,
sarvam na yujyate tasya sūnyam yasya na yujyate.

David J. Kalupahana translated them with:

“Everything is pertinent for whom emptiness is proper. Everything is not pertinent for whom the empty is not proper.”

M.Sprung offered the translation:

“All things make sense (yujyate) for him for whom the absence of being (sunyatā) makes sense. Nothing makes sense for him for whom the absence of being does not make sense.”

Yujyate – derived from the stem yuj. We see here how one translator used “(being) pertinent”, and the other choose “make (making) sense”.

In Sanskrit the stem “yuj” is applied in many ways, such as in -yujya: to yoke, to fix, to charge, to concentrate, to join, etc.
In Pali things seem to be a lot simpler. We come across “anuyoga” [Sk. Anu + yuj] which stands for application, devotion to, execution, and practice of.

To a Buddhist mind the word sūnyatā appears to be a lot less complicated. The Pali interpretation is indeed “absence of self” (atta), by Mr. Sprung understood as “absence of being”.
The Mahāyāna Sanscritic interpretation of sūnyatā goes beyond the discussion of the self and implies the ultimate ens-lessness of beings and things, the lack of enduring essence in whatever there might be in the universe.

So we might be tempted to amalgamate both translations of the two lines and conclude that, as “yuj” is intrically linked with the meditative mind that is totally absorbed in the subject, the text ought to be understood as

“As long as your (meditative) mind is totally yoked (yuj-) to (the concept of) utter lack of essence (sunya-) in everything, the ens-less makes sense.
But so long as your (non-meditative) mind is not totally yoked (yuj-) to (the concept of) of utter lack of essence (sunya-), the (abstract concept of) ens-less does not make sense, does not speak to you.”