The Yoga of Dying: Xuanzang on the Nature of Death
Brewster, Ernest B.
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AbstractThis study reclaims the investigation undertaken by Xuanzang (602-667 C.E.) 玄奘, the translator and peripatetic scholar-monk of the Tang Dynasty, and his translation team, into the nature of dying. It conforms to the chronology of the translation and exegesis of the Buddhist texts, including the ancient Āgamas, the recorded discourses of the Buddha, the Mahāvibhāṣa, the Great Abhidharma Commentary, and the foundational works of the subsequent Abhidharma and Yogācāra scholars, undertaken by Xuanzang, and his coterie of scholars and translators, from 645 to 660 C.E. In his comprehensive analyses and translations of the Indic texts on dying, and in his compilation, Demonstration of Consciousness-only, Xuanzang examines the Buddhist teachings on no-self, karma, and reincarnation. In his analysis of the scriptures, he attempts to reconcile the core commitments to the Buddhist doctrines of karma and reincarnation with the tenet of no-self. With the Buddhist theory of the indriyas, attested in the ancient Āgamas, Xuanzang determines that no enduring or permanent self is lost in dying. The corpus of Abhidharma and Yogācāra Buddhist texts translated by Xuanzang and his coterie describes how, by cultivating the skillful indriyas, the spiritual faculties of sentient life, the karma of a sentient being can be improved, as well as the quality of dying and the afterlife. This study uses a source criticism research methodology to investigate the contributions made by Xuanzang on the subject of dying without a self. It finds that within their exegeses and translations of the Abhidharma and Yogācāra texts, Xuanzang and his collaborators, restore the Buddhist tenets of no-self, karma, and reincarnation, and provide the doctrinal basis for deathbed rituals that are practiced across East Asia today.
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