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methods A center for Buddhist studies
Introduction The Svayambhū Purāna is one of the oldest texts of Newar Buddhism. As the title suggests, its main purpose is to glorify the sacred Buddhist shrines of the Kathmandu Valley, and the Svayambhū Mahācaitya in particular. It seems that the Svayambhū Purāna (hereafter SvP) was created by Newar Buddhists in order to integrate the teachings of the Mahāyāna with the older avadana stories. The text has been handed down to us mostly in Sanskrit and partly in Newari versions. Most of the Newari manuscripts contain the ten chapter version of the story. A study of the sources of the SvP and the way in which they are adapted shows the sophistication of Newar Buddhist Sanskrit writings during the 14th and 15th centuries. In the aftermath of the collapse of Indian Buddhism, Newar Buddhists had to adapt and localize the great tradition, which was now bereft of its pilgrimage sites, its great universities, its oceanic trade routes, and its political patronage.1 When Buddhism lost most of its material foundation in India, the valley of Nepal became a safe haven for the continued practice of Sanskrit-based Buddhism. It is now accepted that a number of Newar Buddhist texts, such as the SvP, Gun_ākarandavyuha, Vrihat Jatakamala and so on,2 were written to consolidate the vanishing tradition. The SvP gives the origin myth of the Kathmandu Valley and its selfexisting divine light (svayambhū jyotirūpa). The Kathmandu Valley is said to have been a sacred place for practicing Buddhism from the very beginning, long before the appearance of the historical Buddha Śākyamuni. After the light of Svayambhū appeared, it became the center of Newar Buddhist devotions. The earliest version of the Svayambhū myth focuses only on the importance of this divine light, but later versions give prominence to Dharmadhātu Vāgīśvara (Mañjuśrī).
See William B. Douglas, ‘Literary sources of the Gun_ākarandavyuha’, paper presented at Nepal Mandal Seminar, Kathmandu, 1998. 2  These include the Svayambhū Purāna in its various versions, the Bhadrakalpavadana (recently discussed in a 1998 Oxford dissertation by Joel Tatelman) and the Sŗngabheri Avadana.
The shortest version of the SvP, containing 280 verses, begins like a typical buddhavacana Sūtra (Evam maya srutam…). The tradition of this Svayambhū Purāna was handed down from Buddha Śākyamuni to Maitreya, and continued as follows: Maitreya→ Bhikshu Upagupta→ King Aśoka→ Bhikshu Jayaśrī→ Jinaśrī Raj Bodhisattva.
ii. Versions A survey of the Svayambhū Purāna literature carried out by Horst Brinkhaus reveals that there are as many as four different recensions of this text. The shortest recension with eight paricchedas has two versions, one in prose and one in verse. Their contents are, however, similar in nature. In his article ‘Textual history of the Svayambhū Purāna’,3 Horst Brinkhaus classiﬁes them as follows: Recension I (eight paricchedas) Version I.A Sanskrit Version in prose–410 ślokas–Gosrnga parvata svayambhūcaitya bhattarakoddesa Version I.B Sanskrit version in verse–280 verses–Svayambhū caityabhattarakoddesa Rescension II (eight adhyayas) Version II.A Sanskrit version in verse–4100 verses–Gosrnga parvata svayambhūcaitya bhattarakoddesa Version II B Sanskrit version in verse–4600 verses–Gosrnga parvata svayambhūcaityabhattaroddesa or Vrhat svayambhū purāna Recension III (ten adhyayas) Version III.A Sanskrit version in verse–1750 verses–Svayambhūcaitya samutpattikathā Version III B Newari version in prose–Svayambhū utpattikathā Rescension IV (twelve adhyayas) Sanskrit recension partly in verse, partly in prose–3600 slokas– Svayambhūva Mahāpurāna RescensionV : ( Eleven adhyayas) We also ﬁnd another Sanskrit version in 5380 verses,4 apparently overlooked in Horst Brinkhaus’ survey, which would be the largest recension. It has 11 chapters in two separate sections. iii. Date of composition It is quite difficult to determine an exact date of composition for the Svayambhū Purāna and its various recensions, given the present state of research. So far there is no consensus on the date of the SvP. The text belongs to a genre of literature known as anonymous literature, that is,
3  4 
Gerard Tofﬁn (ed.), Nepal: Past and Present, p.63. In the personal collection of late Mr. Gajaraja Bajrācārya, entitled Vrhat Svayambhū purāna.
literature which has grown over the course of long periods of time. Works of this type can only be dated with great difﬁculty. Alexander Rospatt suggests5 that the Svayambhū myth was developed and popularized in the wake of the raid of Nepal by Shams-ud-Din in NS 470 (1349 CE) when the situation for introducing new elements into Buddhism may have particularly favorable. It is known that the title Svayambhū purāna was absent in the earliest rescension. The oldest name was given as Svayambhūcaitya bhattarakoddesa, and it was later named Gosrnga parvat svayambhūcaitya bhattarakoddesa, etc. It was generally known only as the Svayambhū utpattikathā. Only the 2nd and 4th recensions6 mention the word ‘purāna’ (viz. Vrhat svayambhū purāna or Svayambhū purāna). Horst Brinkhaus observes that the Nepal-German Manuscript Preservation Project alone has ﬁlmed more than a hundred manuscripts, and there are more still in the Kathmandu Valley. According to the ﬁndings of Kamal Prakash Malla, the oldest manuscript is dated 1558 CE. Hubert Decleer is of the opinion that shortest version is the oldest and the extended version was created later, with some modiﬁcations and inclusions. The title Purāna or Mahāpurāna might have been introduced later to compete with the increased Hindu dominance of the 15th and 16th centuries. In my own humble opinion the shortest version (280 verses) can be regarded as the original version of SvP. Over a long course of time later versions were created, like the Atthakathās of the Pali sūtras. They can be considered as commentaries on the original text, because in the later versions the main thread of the original version is consistently retained, with few exceptions. In particular, the unabridged thread of the account of the Svayambhū jyotirūpa’s origin,7 the draining of the lake by Mañjuśrī, the visit of the past seven Buddhas, the origin of the eight vitaraga sites, the twelve tīrthas, Dharmaśrīmitra’s meeting with Mañjuśrī, Śāntaśrī’s activities on formation of Svayambhū caitya and so forth are consistently retained in later versions, with increasing detail.
See Alexander Rospatt's article, ‘Conﬂicting Conceptions of the Śriśrīśrī Svayambhūcaitya as a Holy Shrine’, paper delivered at Nepal Mandala Seminar, 1998, Kathmandu, p.5.
In the same manner, Matsunami (*) distributes the many transcriptions of the SvP into four groups: 1) Vrhat-Svayambhū purāna, 2) Mahāt(vrhat)-Svayambhū purāna, 3) MadhyamaSvayambhū purāna, 4) [the smallest].
Version.IIIA, ch.1;Version IIB, ch.1; Mitra's version I, ch.1; also in Vrhat Svāyambhū. Purāna ch.1, II part.
Importance of the SVP text in the Nepalese Buddhist cultural life a.
Svayambhu, the Adibuddha, the embodiment of Buddha nature as the and a new system of Buddhist trinity source of dharmapractice
The SvP offers a new model of Buddhist practice for lay people who live the lifestyle of an Adikarmika Bodhisattva, as advocated by Ācārya Anupamavajra as long ago as the 11th century. It is a devotional work rather than a historical treatise, which has countless important details about the formation of Newar Buddhism. In this sense it is a wholly authentic source. In their version of the three refuges, Newar Buddhists adopted the Adi– Buddha (or Buddha Nature/Five Buddhas) as the representative of the Buddha jewel. The Nine Scriptures (navagrantha) became the Dharma jewel, to be recited at the eight vitaraga sites. And the Eight Great Bodhisattvas located in these sites became the Sangha jewel. In particular, the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara was the supreme jewel of the Sangha of Bodhisattvas. As a result, the practice of Uposadha vrāta became one of the most important ‘monastic’ rites for lay Buddhists.
Uposadhavrata practice of Avalokiteshvara
The SvP frequently describes the beneﬁts of Uposadha vrāta, and the image of Amoghpash Lokeshvara, the patron deity of this rite, can be seen everywhere in Nepalese Bahās and Bahis.
Recitation of Namasangiti Text
This has been one of the most favourite devotional practice among Newar Buddhist. The subject matter of this text basically focuses on the five wisdoms of the enlightened state of Perfect Buddhahood.
d. e. f.
Pilgrimage of Svayambhu stupa, Manjusri, Vipashvi stupa, Namobuddhastupa, Astavitaraga site, Guhyeshvari shrine and so forth
Bathing in the Twelve Tirtha site
The Cult of Manjusri Stories of Manjusri are found across the Mahayana Buddhist world. In Nepal, a distinctive tradition of Manjusri stories is preserved within the several texts collectively known as the Svayambhu Purana. The legends of Bodhisattva Manjusri—according to Svayambhu Purana—date back to prehistorical period, an epoch previous to the present Iron Age. It is impossible, on the basis of these sources, to write an account of some historical figure from whom the stories of Manjusri might be derived.
However, according to the Svayambhu Purana the Bodhisattva Manjusri came from China where he is traditionally said to live on the Five-Peaked mountain, Wu-ta’i shan i.e Panch sirsa parvat. He came to the Kathmandu valley during the time of Buddha Krakuchchanda in order to drain the Nagahrad Lake and thus make the Kathmandu valley a habitable land. In the same cycle of stories, we encounter the Buddhist pandit Dharmasrimitra. He was a teacher at the great monastic university Vikramashila, in India. In order to learn the secret meaning of twelve letters or mantras within the Manjusrinamasangiti, he set out for Nepal to ask for Manjusri’s own teaching. We may presume the dates of the 9th century for Vikramashila Monastery, because it was in the time of King Dharmapala that Vikramashila monastery was built under the direction of Master Haribhadra, a great commentator of Prajnaparamita texts. King Dharmapala appears to have endowed the monastery with support for a faculty of 108 panditas, one of whom would have been Dharmasrimitra. Vikramashila closed as a result of political instability in the later 12th and early 13th centuries, and never reopened. From this we may deduce that the cult of Manjusri at Svayambhu was already well established by the time of Dharmasrimitra, sometime between the 9th and 12th centuries. The growth of Manjushri legends in Svayambhu Purana from 13th and15th centuries may reflect the fact that Nepal was cut off from its southern neighbor, India, traditionally the
source of Nepalese Buddhism, and looked instead to northeastern Asia. It was during this period that the relation between Nepal and China was at its height. What, then, can we say about Manjushri as an historical figure? Manjushri was one of the great eight bodhisattvas renowned for his wisdom. According to Buddhist tradition these high ranking bodhisattvas have already attained enlightenment or Buddhahood, yet for the sake of all sentient beings, they utilize skillful means to manifest as disciples of Buddha Shakyamuni. Manjusri’s in the Shakyamuni Buddha’s assembly is mentioned in number of Prajnaparamita Sutras. High-ranking Bodhisattvas have capacity to manifest in any form or human or non-human. We might speculate that Manjusri manifested as a Buddhist master named Manju Deva Acharya in northern India, Central Asia or China, who came to the Kathmandu valley around 9th or 10th century. It would be improper to think that a great bodhisattva such as Avalokiteshvara or Manjushri was a historical figure who was born in this earth and passed away in the manner of the Buddha Shakyamuni. Just as the Dalai Lama of Tibet is considered as emanation of Avalokiteshvara, there are said to have been many emanations of Bodhisattva Manjusri. Among the Tibetan schools, Sakya Pandita, Tsong Khapa and Long Chen Rab jam pa are regarded as emanations of Manjusri. These are all historical persons who have well defined biographies. Manjudeva of Wutai Shan may also have been an historical figure regarded as an emanation of Manjusri. Within the Nepalese (or ‘Newar’) Buddhist lineages, Jamuna Gubhaju (17th century?) of Patan is traditionally said to have been an incarnation of Manjushri, and was therefore also called Manjudeva.
Integration of Saiva and Buddhist tradition in the Svayambhu Purana Whether this integrated system appeared as a systematic Hinduization process or Newar Buddhist's strategy for survival of their tradition is open for discussion.
The development of the SvP text shows how Hinduization took place. In the sixth chapter of the present text we read: The mind of those who offer
prayers to the Eight Vitaragas while bathing in the Vāgmatī will be pure. They will be prosperous. They will be ﬁt for entering Śivaloka [the realm of Śiva] after enjoying worldly pleasures. Those who wash the vitaraga of Svayambhū with ghee will be entitled to Śivaloka. Those who wash it with honey will have access to Brahmamandira [the temple of Brahma]. Those who wash it with curds will have access to Vaishnavaloka [the realm of Vishnu]. Those who anoint it with scent, milk, and cool liquids will attain Gandharvaloka [the realm of heavenly musicians] and Candraloka [the realm of Moon]. (Decleer, p.183)*
Mr. Hubert Decleer adds: “in this instance, a Buddhist text has clearly been tampered with, bowdlerized beyond recognition, so that however ancient the earliest dated manuscript may be, this version just cannot be the original.
As such, the text can be used to understand how Newars have conceived their own form of Buddhism.“On this point, Horst Brinkhaus speaks of a systematic ‘inclusivism’ by means of which the forces of Hindu orthodoxy tried to absorb and appropriate, with the necessary twists, any ‘Sanskritisation’. Mr. Decleer, on the other hand, suggests an alternative cause of this inclusivism. He says that this integrative style was adopted as auto-defensive measure from within the Buddhist camp. It is said that when Śankar Ācārya, in the course of pillaging Buddhist scriptures, confronted a Buddhist text containing the name of Ganesh or Mahādeva, that text was spared from destruction.”* My own humble opinion is that Newar Buddhists must have prepared a series of survival strategies or policies of amalgamation – technically speaking, skill in means (upāyakausalya) – for the survival of their own form of Buddhism. The solution was quite different from those chosen in other Buddhist countries. The veneration of Svayambhū, Mañjuśrī/Sarasvati, Guhyeśvari/Parvati, and the eight vitaragas/eight sites of lingeśvaras was a powerful syncretic strategy on the part of Newar Buddhists. Besides, they never abandoned such basic Buddhist practices as the triple refuge and the various vrātas (namely, the uposadha vrāta as well as the Bodhivrāta), as the text relates. The lifestyle of an “Adikarmic Bodhisattva” (who performs basic rituals such as vrāta) provides a strong basis for the retention of Vajrayānic traditions in a situation where monasticism is declining. Mr. Decleer observes that “eventually, the Vajrayāna became a closed system, accessible only to high caste Buddhists.” Vajrācāryas became the parallel of Brahmanic priests. However, Dr. John K. Locke points out that caste-based Vajrayāna practices, although untenable from a strictly Buddhist viewpoint, worked well for centuries in a Hindu setting, preventing them from vanishing altogether. Whereas in India and other countries, the rejection of syncretic approaches to Hinduism, along with the pressure of Hindu or Afghan fundamentalism, led to the complete disappearance of Mahāyāna Buddhism.
“In Southeast Asia, the Śiva-Buddhist syncretism, as witnessed in Java and Bali, resulted in only Śaivism surviving, with only a few Buddhist names and symbols remaining. On the other hand, Southeast Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Myanmar abandoned the Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna altogether in favor of an exclusively Theravāda tradition, which places major emphasis on the Vinaya. By contrast, Newar Buddhism survived relatively intact, preserving secret Mantra, even maintaining the language and the styles of the Sanskritic world.”*
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