ON THE ISSUE OF CLASSIFICATION OF BUDDHIST SACRAL FORMULAS

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Abstract


This paper deals with the issue of classification and genre definitions of Buddhist sacral formulas known as dhāraṇī , mantra , hṛdaya , etc. The analysis is based on, first, the exploration of religious-philosophical background of the Buddhist approach to the texts of this kind (often called magical invocations, spells, etc.), second, the study of concrete textual data where such formulas are contained along with their denotations. Dealing with the first aspect, the author reconsiders an early but fruitful interpretation of dhāraṇī provided by V.P. Vasil’yev in the middle of the 19th century and not distinguished enough in the academic literature published in English. Most important for this paper is Vasilyev’s idea on the tight connection between dhāraṇī and the name considered as the essence of an object or a person so that its knowledge makes possible to grasp directly what is signified by the name. This idea, however, requires a certain clarification: the concept of emptiness of all dharmas and their sameness from the standpoint of the Ultimate Truth causes fundamental uncertainty in terminology when various definitions can be applied to the same sacral formulas being nothing but marks of different modes of their apprehension. This phenomenon is explored in the second part of the paper that analyzes concrete textual data extracted from the Tibetan Gzungs bsdus collection compiled by Tāranātha in the early 17th century. In spite of the attempts made by some Buddhist theorists to define criteria for the exact classification of the sacral formulas, the texts of dhāraṇī-sūtras show explicitly that the names of the genres can be loosely mixed and applied simultaneously to the same formulas.


About the authors

A V Zorin

The Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, Russian academy of sciences

Author for correspondence.
Email: kawi@yandex.ru
Dvortsovaya emb., 18, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation, 191186

кандидат филологических наук, старший научный сотрудник Института восточных рукописей РАН

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