The present book collects research papers by Bhikkhu Analayo with translations of Ekottarika-agama discourses and comparative studies of their Pali parallels, together with three appendices on the terms Mahayana, H?nayana, and Theravada. Several papers study aspects of the Ekottarika-agama as a collection distinct from other Nikaya and Agama collections. In addition, topics taken up in the course of this book are seclusion, the lion's roar, the wheel-turning king, Paccekabuddhas, and the four noble truths, as well as depictions of accomplished nuns and their significance.
Debates about the school affiliation of the Ekottarika-agama, doubts about the identity of the translator, criticisms of the quality and consistency of the translation - these and other problems have placed the Ekottarika in an insecure position vis-a-vis the other Agamas translated into Chinese. Apparent "Mahayana influences" or "interpolations" have led to uncertainties about the status of the extant Ekottarika-agama (Taisho 125) as the genuine Agama of any of the early Indian schools.
These and many other questions about the Ekottarika-agama are adroitly addressed by Bhikkhu Analayo in the essays brought together in this volume. The author draws on original texts - not only in Chinese but also in Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Pali - side by side with current research to present balanced and original assessments that enable us to step beyond the impasses of earlier ideas.Three appendices carefully examine the troubled terms Mahayana, Hinayana, and Theravada, opening fresh perspectives. An enhanced understanding of the role of these terms in the development of Buddhist thought and practice allows a clearer picture of the "Mahayana elements" of the Ekottarika-agama to emerge.
Each essay in this collection is structured around a translation or translations of texts from the Ekottarika-agama, comparing these discourses with their counterparts in Pali. The translations add to those from the other Agamas already published by the author, and to the pioneering annotated translations of Ekottarikaagama discourses into French and English by Thich Huyen-Vi and Bhikkhu Pasadika. Together with his ongoing publication of sections of the Chinese Samyukta-agama, they make portions of the Chinese Agamas accessible to modern English-speaking readers for the first time.
The topics include Paccekabuddhas (p. 215ff and 249ff), the "foremost nuns" who were disciples of Sakyamuni (p. 301ff), and the distinctive physical marks that identify a Buddha. The texts chosen for comparison and translation are drawn not only from the four main Pali Nikayas, but also from other collections like the Therigatha, the Apadana, and the Pannasa-jataka-a florilegium that itself demonstrates Buddhism's intricate inter-textuality.
Analayo's researches clarify those of his predecessors. His examination of the problem of the use of the adjective "noble" for the four truths lends support to the previous suggestions of K.R. Norman and others (p. 239ff). Like those undertaken from the time of Etienne Lamotte (1903-1983), if not earlier, his essays reveal that the very idea of a "counterpart" or "parallel" can be problematic, and they call for flexibility in comparative research. In the case of the Ekottarika-agama, Bhikkhu Analayo discusses instances in which passages or partial texts from different sources have been merged to create new texts. He identifies this process as "discourse merger", and concludes that in a few cases such mergers would have taken place in the written medium, presumably in China, after the Indic original had reached China by oral transmission.
Bhikkhu Analayo is a leading figure in a new wave of research into and translation of the early Buddhist textual traditions, in particular the Chinese Agamas, in relation to the Pali Nikayas. His broad sweep is characterized by a lack of dogmatism and a remarkable attention to detail; it covers not only the "primary Agamas" but also the "separate translations" which are too often neglected.
Analayo's meticulous studies fill in the gaps to give a broader picture of the evolution of early Buddhist thought that provides a surer basis for deeper understandings. They demonstrate that the practice of comparing available sources without pride or preju dice is the most appropriate methodology for Buddhist studies, and I hope that this methodology will become the rule.
The excursions into the Ekottarika-agama presented in this volume bring this Agama out of the cold and advance our understanding not only of the Agama traditions but of the Pali and other Buddhist scriptures. These fascinating essays plumb the breadth and the depth of the Buddhadharma to breathe new life into the field of Buddhist studies.
28 October, 2015