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Proto-Mahayana Features in the Agama Sutras?


#41

The list I was looking at had:

For kings:

  1. Stealing from a place of worship or the saṃgha, or inciting others to do so.

  2. Forcing others to give up the Dharma and creating obstacles for the teachings.

  3. Forcing monastics to give up their monastic robes and abusing them.

  4. Committing any of the five heinous deeds.

  5. Advocating the philosophy of the non-existence of causality.

For ministers:

  1. Stealing from a place of worship or the saṃgha.

  2. Destroying a village, district, or town.

  3. Forcing others to give up the Dharma and creating obstacles for the teachings.

  4. Harming monastics by taking away their robes, punishing, or even killing them.

  5. Committing any of the five heinous deeds.

For śrāvakas:

  1. Killing.

  2. Taking what is not given.

  3. Impure conduct.

  4. Lying.

  5. Harming a buddha.

For beginner bodhisattvas:

  1. Teaching the profound Dharma of emptiness to spiritually immature people.

  2. Discouraging people from practicing the Mahāyāna path.

  3. Discouraging people from practicing the vinaya of individual liberation.

  4. Disparaging the śrāvaka path, saying it obstructs one from attaining enlightenment and from eradicating the afflictions.

  5. Praising oneself and lying out of jealousy and for the sake of gain and honor.

  6. Deceiving others, claiming one has realized the profound teachings on emptiness when one has not.

  7. Causing fines to be imposed on monastics and offering the bribes received to the kṣatriyas.

  8. Causing monastics to abandon their contemplative training and diverting offerings intended for contemplative monastics to benefit monastics engaged in mere recitation practice.

But this seems to be a minority list. The actual text I was thinking of, Śikṣāsamuccaya, has this ordering of the root downfalls:

(1)To steal the Triple Jewel’s possessions
Is said to be a downfall of complete defeat.
(2)The second downfall is to spurn the saddharma ,
So the sage has said.
(3)The third is to assault the monks or to take their saffron robes-
Even from the ones who spoil their discipline,
To sentence them to jail, to kill
Or cause them to abandon their monastic state.
(4)The fourth is to commit the five sins of instant retribution.
(5)The fifth is to espouse wrong views.
(6)The sixth is to destroy a homestead and the rest:
All these are fundamental downfalls, so the sage has said.
(7)Then to set forth emptiness
To those whose minds are yet untrained;
(8)To turn those entering the path to buddhahood
Away from their complete enlightenment;
(9)To cause the ones who tread the path of pratimokṣa
To leave it for the great vehicle;
(10)To hold, and to lead others to believe,
That on the path of small vehicle learning
Craving and the like cannot be overcome;

(11) To praise oneself for sake of fame and wealth
[etc.]

(Venerable Khenchen Kunzang Pelden, jam dbyangs bla ma’i zhal lung bdud rtsi’i thig pa , 141-2, commentary on Ven Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryavatara, quoting Śikṣāsamuccaya LXI paraphrasing the Āryākāśa­garbha­nāmamahā­yānasūtra)

So this has it at 10, where I thought it was originally.


#42

Yeah, I caught that myself and fixed it. 猶 by itself often means “yet/still.”

Thanks,

Charlie


#43

I see but this appears the lists different from the lay people The Bodhisattva Vow / Precepts which consists of 6 major vows and 28 minor vows .


#44

Thanks. I will amend the above and make a note of your corrections and @Gene’s.


#45

As far as I know, the second list contained the root downfalls of the beginner bodhisattva. What list are you referring to? I think we are talking about the same thing, but there may be a misunderstanding.

The way I’ve been introduced to this list is such that it applied equally to lay and ordained peoples. To cite a text, instead of personal instruction, this is also how Ven Khenchen Kunzang Pelden’s exegesis of them is as well.


#46

Anyone who has vowed to attain enlightenment for the sake of all beings is a bodhisattva. Even in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, where precept-keeping is not required, one attains Buddhahood in the Pure Land and immediately returns to this world in service to all beings.


#47

The Pali canon is an ocean of wisdom. I came to this conclusion several years ago, after reading In the Buddha’s Words by Bhikkhu Bodhi. The Chinese canon is an ocean of wisdom as well. One is not superior to the other.


#48

If we were to look as neutrally as possible at the early Buddhist texts available to us, could one take seriously the proto-Mahayana elements of the Chinese agamas as more than later accretions? According to this article, the doctrine of multiple contemporaneous buddhas is found in many places of the Chinese agamas, and the concept of store-consciousness can be found too: Agama - Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia


#49

I guess it’s a matter of terminology and when I say this I say this in reference specifically to those Ekottarāgama scriptures above and those like them. Why does the 菩薩摩訶薩, the púsà móhēsà, the bodhisattva mahāsattva, only appear in a handful of alleged śrāvaka scriptures and is the norm in bodhisattva literature? Why doesn’t the Buddha mention bodhisattva (mahāsattva) practitioners in any other of his historical literature?

Bodhisattva is one thing, it is a term from EBTs, it is a feature of śrāvaka Buddhism particularly when that śrāvaka Buddhism is in Sanskrit. But “mahāsattva” is a bhūmika term, that is to say it references bodhisattva bhūmayaḥ, the “ten (or so) stages,” particularly the avaivartika bhūmayaḥ or “irreversible stages.” Beings at this set of stages, 7-10 in the Buddhāvataṁsaka (Flower Garland) tradition of daśabhūmika/10-stager mysticism, are all degrees of Buddhas. This is consonant with the presentation in Abhisamayālaṁkāra. This mahāsattva/móhēsà is a reference to Mahāyānika “people of the path” literature, the rest of which is demonstrably newer than this material in the Ekottarāgama.

Daśabhūmika literature is welded to the six perfections as a practice framework. Take even for instance a short common text like the Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya.

觀自在菩薩行深般若波羅蜜多時,照見五蘊皆空,度一切苦厄。
The Lord Who Gazes Down, the Bodhisattva, when practicing deeply the wisdom-perfection, perceives that all five aggregates are empty and is saved from all suffering and distress.
(T251.848c7 based on translation here)

Kannon is moving deep within the prajñāpāramitā at the sixth bodhisattvabhūmi, the abhimukhībhūmi or the stage of the manifest. She is headed towards the seventh bhūmi, the dūraṁgamābhūmi or the “Stage Gone Afar.” In short, according to various diverse schemata like those in the Buddhāvataṁsaka Mahāyānika and Abhisamayālaṁkāra Tantric traditions, she is “becoming a mahāsattva.” This stage that is “Gone Afar” is the first of the irreversible stages, the avaivartikāḥ bhūmayaḥ, enlightenment. That terminology should be familiar with anyone who knows this sūtra or even it’s ending mantra: gate gate pāragate pārasaṁgate bodhi svāhā, “gone, gone, all gone, all entirely gone, bodhi svāhā,” which Ven Thích Nhất Hạnh will translate as "“Gone, Gone, Gone beyond Gone utterly beyond. Oh, what an Awakening.” She is “going/gone afar” indeed. The prajñāpāramitā is practiced, perfected, at the close of the 6th bhūmi.

This transition from the 6th to 7th bhūmi is nothing short of awakening itself, as demonstrated by the rest of that scripture. The sixth perfection closes off the progress to awakening, and the Heart Sūtra is an apocryphal account of Āryāvalokiteśvara’s enlightenment.

So is it more likely the entirety of X body of literature is as old as Y, flying in the face of all other consensus about Y, or that X-ist editors have interpreted the scriptures of Y in translation or editing?

Like I said before, terminology. Notice above, T251.848c7, the Heart Sūtra. The Sanskrit is well-known.

āryāvalokiteśvaro bodhisattvo gambhīrāṁ prajñāpāramitā caryāṁ caramāṇo vyavalokayati sma: pañcaskandhās tāṁś ca svābhava śūnyān paśyati sma.

Now, if we are able, we can look at various other Chinese translations. We will see they are quite divergent, some incorporating an entire “Thus have I heard, the Buddha dwelt at […]” and these ones include, generally, invented dialogue between the Buddha and Avalokiteśvara, or instead have the Buddha speaking about Avalokiteśvara’s experience in the depths of the wisdom-perfection. Sometimes Mañjuśrī’s along for the ride too. I can isolate one of these latter textual parallels, one that clearly preserves a redaction of the sentence we have been discussing, here:

觀自在菩薩摩訶薩行深般若波羅蜜多時,觀察照見五蘊體性悉皆是空。
As Avalokiteśvara bodhisattva mahāsattva practiced deep the prajñāpāramitā, she looked and saw the five aggregates, that of self-nature they all were empty.
(T255.850b23)

Now of the various highly divergent Heart Sūtra traditions of translations, this has one of the closest textual parallels but we still see something there: 觀自在菩薩摩訶薩, Guānzìzài púsà móhēsà, Avalokiteśvara bodhisattva mahāsattva. In fact, you can see this fuller epithet used in all of the divergent latter traditions of the Heart Sūtra extant in the Taishō Canon.

This brings is back to the EBT from above:

若菩薩摩訶薩得止已,便能降伏魔怨;
If the bodhisattva mahāsattva has attained śamatha already, he is immediately able subdue Māra, the enemy;
(EA20.7, T125.600a29)

We have seen translators insert 摩訶薩, móhēsà, into texts like T255.850b23 where there exists no equivalent Sanskrit with āryāvalokiteśvaro bodhisattvo mahāsattvo gambhīrāṃ prajñāpāramitā. Indeed according to various daśabhūmika schemata this sūtra depicts the becoming to be of a mahāsattva.

If translators can clumsily and arbitrarily insert “mahāsattva” into a Mahāyānika text when it goes from Indic to Sinitic, as it were, why couldn’t they just as easily have done this here in this translation?

Unless I’m wrong in the above. Does anyone know the earliest appearance of mahāsattva? Is it ever in EBTs other than this one?


#50

A quick search of CBETA shows that appears only 4 times in the four Chinese Agama collections, twice in the Ekottarika and Samyukta each. In the Samyukta, I think they may be in the Avadana material that scholars believe were added to replace a couple fascicles lost along the way. It does also appear quite a few times in a Sung dynasty translation of the Seven Buddhas Sutra (= DN.14)–quite a bit later in history than the four Agamas during the 900s CE. That’s an example of how we can see texts and ideas evolve historically in Chinese translation.

By contrast, it’s found more commonly in Jataka and Avadana collections translated during the same period as the four Agamas. Dharmaraksa’s Compassionate Flower Sutra (T152), for example, has the transliteration over 80 times. The other versions are the same for that text–the term is common. Not all of the Avadanas are like that, though. The Abhisniskramana (T190), which is a major Buddha biography text, doesn’t use the term (at least not the transliteration). It’s probably that different traditions in India adopted it sooner than others.


#51

Well, when I look at it as neutrally as possible, I don’t really think of it as proto-Mahayana. It’s bodhisattva theory that was adopted into the mainstream of the oral tradition in India. It’s pretty clear that different sects of Buddhism accepted that the Buddha was one of many and that buddhas arise because of bodhisattvas doing what he did. The whole thing is basically a theory of the dependent origination of buddhas.

In many texts depicting other contemporaneous buddhas, they are placed in distant world-systems other than our own, probably to get around the rule of only one buddha to a world. It would be interested to know when that concept began. It’s very sci-fi to me (which I like)!

The store consciousness, as a Yogacara concept, isn’t in the Agamas, but there were passages that Asanga cited as precedent for developing the concept. There’s a voluminous section of Agama citations supporting his ideas in the Yogacara-bhumi, for example.


#52

Absolutely. I mentioned the Heart Sūtra above and following the textual evolution and diverse manuscript history of this dhāraṇī turned sūtra is a fascinating adventure in the organic growth, evolution, and production of Buddhist literature in historical Buddhist cultures.

For those who don’t know, the Heart Sūtra is most likely a distillation of prajñāpāramitā material, a readers digest of a large body of literature, produced I think sometime after 500 CE. It quotes the prajñāpāramitā literature, apparently, by means of a particular Chinese translation of the work attributed to Ven Nāgārjuna. I believe the work is Mahāprajñāpāramitopadeśa but I am not sure. Several academics have been participating in this fascinating shared inquiry into the roots of this scripture, the most famous of which I believe is Jan Nattier who published this article, which got the ball rolling, so to speak, in this direction.

I’ll edit this post to include some fascinating links on the above inquiry when I have time in a few. Describing the Heart Sūtra text as a prajñāpāramitā “digest text” is actually from Jayarava’s series of articles on the subject matter.

Edit: here is the original article by Jan Nattier

I have disagreements with this author and many of the things he says, but here is a series of extended meditations on the issue brought to fore by Nattier and taken up by Jayarava Attwood.

This is him dipping his toe into the matter:

And this is him with his final (AFAIK) thesis on the matter, that he claims he can pinpoint the exact moment of the creation of a Sanskrit back-translation into Sanskrit from Chinese during the Tang dynasty based on comparative linguistic analysis of the Sanskrit and Chinese as well as by tracing certain tantric anachronisms in the Sanskrit text. There is a lot of valuable information, for certain, but I can’t help but cautious of the absolute language employed by Attwood. This is purely an insubstantial and personal opinion, but it seems to me the man figures he’s got everything perfectly figured out. Nattier’s articles are much less ambitious, but much less extreme and have a cautiousness which I prefer.



Here is another follow-up from Attwood (I think it is earlier than his Tang Dynasty Forgery piece) and IMO it is better written that a lot of the stuff from the blog above: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316988744_'Epithets_of_the_Mantra'_in_the_Heart_Sutra

He also published an work on the above explorations: The Buddhas of the Three Times and the Chinese Origins of the Heart Sutra in the Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies . 15, 9-27, published 2018.

And, to be thorough, here is a rebuttal to the above work arguing against a Chinese apocryphal origin for this Mahāyānika scripture: (PDF) Issues Surrounding the Prajñāpāramitā-hṛdaya: Doubts Concerning Jan Nattier’s Theory of a Composition by Xuanzang | ISHII Kosei - Academia.edu

This paper also argues for a Sanskritic origin for the sūtra: (PDF) The Heart Sūtra in Chinese Yogācāra: Some Comparative Comments on the Heart Sūtra Commentaries of Wŏnch'ŭk and K'uei-chi | Dan Lusthaus - Academia.edu

Another fascinating work that studies the differences between the various recensions of the Heart Sūtra is Kaz Kanahashi’s The Heart Sutra: A comprehensive guide to the classic of Mahayana Buddhism. Is it not nearly as expensive as more heavy academic works but is also considerably lighter a read.


#53

Yes, I recall when this was taken up by many scholar and practitioners a few years back (hmm, maybe over ten years now?). I’m sympathetic to the questions about the text’s origin because I personally think the possibilities of what can happen over the course of hundreds of years is something we minimize. It’s possible someone who knew Sanskrit superficially in East Asia did try their hand at creating a Sanskrit text from Chinese to chant. Then someone carried it to India. And then it was carried back and translated to Chinese. Etc.

At the same time, there are multiple versions in Chinese as well, not just this one that was most popular. My overall conclusion is :man_shrugging:


#54

I decided to sit down and make a list of Agama sutras that mention bodhisattvas outside of the context of jataka stories or the Buddha before he achieved enlightenment. If the term refers to the Buddha himself as a bodhisattva, I don’t count it, but I’ve made note of passages that would have been of interest to later bodhisattva theory.

I had known that the Ekottarika was the Agama with more Mahayanistic material in it, but I was a little surprised when I looked at it in more detail. It isn’t “proto-Mahayana,” it accepts the Mahayana and even uses the term.

The Dirgha-agama: One sutra.

DA.1 (DN.14): The term is used to refer to the seven past Buddhas when describing how they come to become buddhas in a similar way as Gautama did.

The Madhyama Agama: None.

However, MA.66 presents the concept of the future buddha Maitreya and then depicts a bhiksu named Maitreya coming forward from the assembly and talking to the Buddha about it. The Buddha tells him he’ll become that buddha in the distant future. It’s interesting that this Sarvastivada text carefully avoids mentioning any bodhisattvas. Was it a sort of compromise?

The Samyukta Agama: None that are not referring to the Buddha. There’s a summary of the Buddha’s story from birth to enlightenment in No. 604, which is actually the King Asoka Avadana from the Divyāvadāna collection.

The Ekottarika Agama: The introduction + 18 sutras.

  1. In the introduction, Maitreya is said to have come down from Tusita with a measureless number of bodhisattvas. It goes on to reference bodhisattvas fixing their minds on the Mahayana. The six paramitas are listed out. This seems explicitly Mahayana since the term itself is mentioned.
  2. EA.10.5. The Buddha tells a householder that his gift was made “with the bodhisattva’s thought.”
  3. EA.10.8. The Buddha recalls that when he was sitting under the bodhi-tree, other bodhisattvas had assembled there.
  4. EA.20.2 An avadana story is told about a Tathagata from the distant past. It’s found in the Divyāvadāna. When this Tathagata was still a bodhisattva, he’s referred to as such in a conversation.
  5. EA.20.6. Bodhisattva Maitreya is mentioned, and he’ll become a buddha in the future.
  6. EA.20.7. Tathagatas of the past have all sat under the bodhi-tree as bodhisattvas. The text refers to them as bodhisattva-mahasattvas when they defeat Mara’s army.
  7. EA.20.10. There’s two ways of gaining great fortune: Taking care of your parents and giving a gift to a bodhisattva with one more birth to go.
  8. EA.24.5. This is a text that begins right after the Buddha achieved awakening. It’s analogous to material in the Pali Vinaya’s Mahavagga. There’s a passage in which the Buddha says he’s going to teach ordinary people the bodhisattva practice.
  9. EA.27.5. Bodhisattva Maitreya comes and has a discourse with the Buddha. This is close to a full-blown Mahayana sutra. It references the six paramitas. The term bodhisattva-mahasattva occurs again here.
  10. EA.35.2. There are five things required for a buddha to appear in the world. Making the bodhisattva resolve is one of them.
  11. EA.36.5. This is another reference to making the bodhisattva resolve as one of the five requirements for a buddha to appear in the world.
  12. EA.38.7. The Buddha tells a story about Mount Grdhrakuta being once named the Sage’s Mountain because there was always a bodhisattva with spiritual powers, an arhat, or some other sage living on it.
  13. EA.42.3. There’s a list of increasing spiritual power. The non-backslider (avaivartika), bodhisattva with one more birth, and bodhisattva sitting under the bodhi-tree are at the end.
  14. EA.42.5. There are eight reasons for an earthquake. Three of them are when a bodhisattva descends from Tusita, when he’s conceived in his mother’s womb, and when he leaves home to seek enlightenment.
  15. EA.42.6. Bodhisattva Maitreya is mentioned as a future buddha.
  16. EA.48.3. Buddhas in the past, future, and present have differing numbers of disciple and bodhisattva followers. Bodhisattva Maitreya is mentioned later with the story of how he’ll descend from Tusita and become a future buddha.
  17. EA.48.5. The Buddha describes to a householder the way a bodhisattva makes a gift of dana.
  18. EA.52.6. The Buddha talks with Sīha senāpati (according to Taisho this is the Pali equiv.). He congratulates him for understanding how a bodhisattva makes a gift.

#55

Why don’t we just call this one the early Mahāyāna āgama? :upside_down_face:

I joke, but only semi-seriously. That is a serious concentration of bodhisattvayāna material compared to the others. Do we know what separates this āgama in its translation and transmission circumstances apart from the others?

The scripture collection is still in the vast majority EBT śrāvaka discourses and only in the minority Mahāyānika, hence why I can only say the first sentence above in jest, but this does make me want to look at more Sanskritic Ekottarāgama scriptures. I presume they are fragmentary, if they exist. Was there an Ekottarāgama in the Gilgit finds? I used to know this but I can’t remember for the life of me. I know they found a Sanskrit or Prākrit Dīrghāgama but I can’t remember if they had an Ekottarāgama too from that site.


#56

I’m not up to speed yet on the scholarship about its origins or scholarly theorizing about it. Fo Guang Dictionary says there are a few Sanskrit fragments that exist, and there’s also a few alternate translations in Chinese as well. Apparently, scholars believe the Ekottarika was probably translated by Zhu Fonian, so it would have been the same time period as the other Agama translations. Whichever sect it belonged to, they had clearly integrated Mahayana thought. These texts I’ve summarized are only 4% of the whole collection. Many of the sutras in it that correspond to the Madhyama actually look older, or at least simpler. It’s quite a mystery.


#57

Are the findings in EA containing Mahayana ideas/terms also found in the corresponding Pali counterparts, such as AN?

If also being sound there, then AN and the relevant Pali texts can be call the early Mahayana Nikaya texts as well.


#58

No, not that I know of. The Chinese Ekottarika appears to be an “anomaly.” Presumably, though, it was part of a larger canon with similar material that’s lost.


#59

Apologies for combining unrelated posts in a matter that makes them appear related. My intention was to draw a parallel rather than create a parallel between two segments of texts.

Further than the Heart Sūtra, we can illustrate an archetype of the “organic growth, evolution, and production of Buddhist literature in historical Buddhist cultures” from the textual evolution of the Āryasaddharmapuṇḍarīkanāmamahayānasūtra, the Miàofǎ Liánhuá Jīng, 妙法蓮華經 (T262). This will be a lengthly interlude to an unambiguously Mahāyānika non-EBT, however I hope the relevance can be seen here to the organic processes involved with the evolution of Buddhist literature. Seishi Karashima published an article, in which he argued, quite elegantly and persuasively IMO, that the Stūpasaṁdarśanaparivarta, the 11th division of the sūtra, contains a depiction of a Gāndhārī or Central Asian stūpa particularly. I lack the credentials in Indian and Central Asian art history to be able to critically agree or disagree with Karashima’s findings.

This detail aside, pertinent to the above thread is a comparison between Lotus Sūtra parallels that Karashima engages with in the course of presenting his thesis for a Gandhāran origin for several divisions of the LS, much the same way that we here might look at EBT parallels between recensions of different schools.

The LS exists in multiple Sanskrit, Chinese, & Prākrit recensions, all of which differ to different degrees. The multiple Sanskrit recensions make direct comparison much more possible than when comparing parallels between Sinitic and Indic languages. Karashima presents this account of the Stūpasaṁdarśāna (the beholding of the stūpa) miracle in the LS and he compares two diverse manuscripts, one Nepalese and one Kashgari. Of these two, the Kashgari represents the more innovative tradition, leading the way towards the recensions that eventually find themselves in Chinese. In order to replicate how Karashima presents these two recensions, I will render the additions of the Kashgari manuscript in bolded italics.

Then, in front of the Lord, arose a stūpa, consisting of seven precious substances, from a spot on the Earth. In the middle of the Lord’s assembly, the stūpa of five hundred yojanas (ca. 3,500 km) in height and of proportionate circumference, arose and stood up in the sky. It was aglitter, very beautiful, shining in various ways, nicely decorated with five hundreds of thousands of terraces with railings attached with flower ornaments, adorned with many hundreds of thousands of garlands of jewels, hung with hundreds of thousands of pieces of cloth and bells, with hundreds of thousands of ringing bells, emitting the fragrance of mangosteen and sandalwood, whose scent filled the whole world. The stūpa’s rows of spires, made of seven precious substances — namely, gold, silver, lapis lazuli, sapphire, emerald, red coral, and chrysoberyl, rose as high as the divine palaces of the Four Great Kings. The gods of the thirty-three heaven scattered, bestrewed and spread divine māndārava and great māndārava flowers on that stūpa. The gods of the thirty-three heaven let fall a great rain of divine flowers, thus scattered, bestrewed and spread them on that stūpa. In addition to them, hundreds of thousands of gods, nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kinnaras, mahoragas, human beings and non-human beings worshipped, honoured, respected, revered and paid homage to that stūpa with all sorts of flowers, all kinds of incense, all kinds of garlands, hundreds of thousands of ointments, powders, cloth, umbrellas, flags, banners, streamers, and by the playing of hundreds of billions of musical instruments..

From the jewelled stūpa, then, the following voice issued forth: "Excellent, excellent, O Lord Śākyamuni! You have well expounded this religious discourse of the Lotus of the True Dharma. So it is, O Lord!; so it is, O Sugata! It is excellent, excellent, O Lord Śākyamuni, that you show and expound this religious discourse which is a compendium for bodhisattvas, an elucidation of the equality of great wisdom and which all buddhas embrace. So it is, O Lord!; so it is, O Lord Śākyamuni, as you have explained. You have expounded well this religious discourse and I came here to listen to this religious discourse.

Then, having seen that great jewelled stūpa which, having emerged from the ground, was standing in the sky, in the atmosphere, the fourfold assembly became thrilled, became delighted, filled with joy, delight and happiness, and then, they all stood up from their seats, held out their joined hands and remained standing while looking up at the stūpa.
(adapted from Karashima 471-472, linked above)

Looking at this, we can cast our eye further on the Heart Sūtra parallels above, where 摩訶薩/mahāsattva is ambiguously inserted into Guānzìzài’s title (T251 vs T255 et al.). Then, we can look further to the Ekottarāgama scripture with:

The manuscript history of the LS shows a dynamic editorial process that shocks modern sensibilities of how one interfaces with religious texts. Notice the great amount of meta-narrative concerning the LS directly that is added in the innovative Kashgari tradition (“It is excellent, excellent, O Lord Śākyamuni, that you show and expound this religious discourse which is a compendium for bodhisattvas…” [etc.]). It seems to perhaps have been a pious activity of the translators, copiers, and editors, to insert — perhaps this was thought of as merit-producing? — praise of the scripture they were dealing with, but that is sheer speculation on my part.

We also see dramatic inflations of hyperbolic numbers, the Kashgari adds (hundred of) thousands to the already large enumerations. Seeing this process in action, it is easy to see how Mahāyāna eventually developed the tradition of citing impossibly gigantic numbers (like asaṁkhyeya, 10140) as a literary device.

All this in my mind, makes it more likely that the presence of 摩訶薩/mahāsattva in Ekottarāgama scriptures is an insertion, but that is just an interpretation of the above.


#60

Mahasattva seems to have been an honorific for bodhisattvas early on. In the DZDL (T1509.94a), the technical dasabhumi definition doesn’t occur. Mahasattva is described as an epithet for someone who does great things or has great aspirations. Given that some texts place it after bodhisattva most of time, it’s possible Chu Fonian added it spuriously out of habit in 20.7 and 27.5. It’s in 27.5 several times, and that sutra looks like a Mahayana sutra copied into the Agama. Maitreya shows up asking about what a bodhisattva-mahasattva practices to achieve enlightenment.

As an aside, it’s of interest that the DZDL reports (T1509.58a) that MA.66 is the only place Maitreya is given the assurance of buddhahood in the Agamas, and that the Buddha didn’t teach bodhisattva practices in them. It’s the first reason given for the Buddha teaching the Prajnaparamita Sutra. Whoever wrote the DZDL (presumably a Central Asian) wasn’t aware of Chu Fonian’s version of the Ekottarika.

Chinese sources report that he also translated a Madhyama Agama, but it was lost a few centuries later. Would be interesting to read if it was discovered somewhere in China someday.

Charlie