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Religion Compass 3 (2009): 111, 10.1111/j.1749-8171.2009.00195.

Early Indian Mah  ayana Buddhism I: Recent Scholarship


David Drewes*
University of Manitoba

Abstract

A good deal of important scholarship on early Indian Mah ana Buddhism has been done in ay recent years. Well established theories, such as the theory that the Mah ana arose as a lay reaction ay to the arhat ideal and the theory that it arose from the Mah amghika monastic lineage, have been as rejected, and a number of new theories, perhaps most notably _theories linking Mah ana to forest ay ascetics and to a cult of the book, have been put forward. Part 1 of this article surveys and evaluates these recent developments. Part 2 will present a number of new perspectives for future scholarship.

In recent years, early Indian Mah ana has been an active area in Buddhist studies. Views ay that were widely accepted for most of the 20th century have been left behind and new ones have risen to take their place. Part 1 of this article surveys and evaluates some of the most important recent developments in the eld. Part 2 will present some new perspectives. For most of the 20th century, the two leading theories on early Mah ana were that it ay was a movement developed by lay people and that it developed from the Mah amghika as _ nik aya, or monastic lineage. Both theories have their roots in 19th century speculation. The idea that Mah ana was more open to lay participation than earlier forms of ay Buddhism was rst suggested by V. P. Vasilev in 1857 (Vassilief 1865) and grew popular over the following decades. Also important was the idea that the Mah ana arose as an ay altruistic reaction to the arhat ideal in favor of the putatively more compassionate ideal of the bodhisattva, which was rst presented by T.W. Rhys Davids in 1881 and quickly began to ricochet around the eld. The rst scholar to present an actual lay origin theory was Jean Przyluski, who argued that the Mah ana arose as a lay reaction to the haughty ay spirit, atheistic nihilism, and sterile perfection of Buddhist monastics and their arhat ideal. Unlike monastics, who retreated from the world to seek their own private salvation, Mah anists became bodhisattvas for the good of other beings, even if one must ay remain long in the whirl of reincarnations (1926, 1932, 1934). Przyluskis theory was at root a simple combination of the ideas initially presented by Vasilev and Rhys Davids. Building on Rhys Davids idea that the Mah ana began as an altruistic reaction to the ay arhat ideal, Przyluski linked this reaction to the laity by tying the arhat ideal to Buddhist monastics. Przyluski never cited any evidence to support his hybrid theory, but many scholars, including Etienne Lamotte (19441980, vol. 3, 1954, 1984) and Edward Conze (1951, 1980), found it plausible and it became the dominant theory on the origin of Mah ana in the West for several decades. In recent scholarship Przyluskis theory has ay generally been linked to Lamotte, its original authorship apparently having been forgotten. In the 1950s, the Japanese scholar Akira Hirakawa (1963, 1990) developed a different lay origin theory, according to which the Mah ana developed among groups of lay ay
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people that coalesced primarily around stpa sites. While this theory found little support u in the West, it became highly inuential in Japan. The Mah amghika origin theory also has its roots in the 19th century. It can be found as in the work of_ Hendrik Kern (1896, 19011903), L.A. Waddell (1895), and T.W. Rhys Davids (1896). The Chinese monk Fa-hsien stated that he found a copy of the Mah amghika Vinaya in a Mah ana monastery in his fourth and fth century travels in as ay _ India and the Mah amghikas advocated a docetic Buddhology similar to that found in as _ many Mah ana texts. These facts, probably combined with the fact that both names ay begin with Mah led many scholars to see a historical link. Scholars who advocated a-, this theory often presented it together with a theory of lay orientation or lay origin. For most of the 20th century, scholars treating early Mah ana did little more than ay recycle these two theories, singly or together, often with an admixture of various specu lations, e.g., on the importance of N arjuna and Asvaghosa, the place where Mah ana ag ay .  developed (the most popular suggestions being the Andhra region and the Northwest), and the possibility of foreign, especially Persian, inuence. A vast number of explanations conforming to this pattern were put forth over several decades. No signicant conceptual development occurred in Western scholarship in the eld from the late 1920s to the 1970s. New winds began to blow in the 1970s and 1980s. In his 1975 article The Phrase sa pr@ thiv pradesas caityabhto bhavet in the Vajracchedik Notes on the Cult of the Book in u a: Mah ana, Gregory Schopen argued, contra Hirakawa, that rather than coalescing priay marily around stpa sites, early Mah ana groups rejected stpa worship and developed u ay u new cult sites where they enshrined and worshiped Mah ana stras. He argued that ay u these sites served as institutional bases for various Mah ana groups. This theory quickly ay became inuential and remains so today. Building on Schopens ideas, other scholars argued that the Mah anas use of written texts was necessary for its survival and that ay it enabled the development of some of its new ideas and imagery (Gombrich 1988; McMahan 2002; Norman 1997). Perhaps the single most inuential publication in the eld in recent decades has been Paul Harrisons 1987 Who Gets to Ride in the Great Vehicle? Self-image and Identity Among the Followers of Early Mah ana. In it Harrison presented preliminary results of ay his study of the rst Mah ana stras translated into Chinese, a group of 11 stras transay u u lated during the second century CE, most of which are attributed to the translator Lokaksema, which at the time were the oldest datable Mah ana texts. Harrison pointed ay _ out that while these texts do refer to lay bodhisattvas, they place higher value on monastic practice and sometimes advocate that laypeople become monastics or adopt rigorous religious practices. He also pointed out that these texts provide little support for what were at the time several other commonly held ideas about the Mah ana. Although the ay Mah ana was long depicted as splitting off and forming a new school, or sect, of Buday dhism distinct from the various, so-called H nay ana, nik ayas, Harrison pointed out that his texts provide no strong support for this view, and that they show little desire to establish a new sectarian identity. Although the Mah ana was long imagined to have ay begun with the rejection of arhatship, Harrison pointed out that some of the early translations in fact acknowledge the legitimacy of arhatship as a religious goal and even depict their own teachings as resulting in arhatship or other attainments leading up to it. Although the worship of so-called celestial bodhisattvas such as Avalokitesvara and Manjusr was long depicted as one of the Mah anas central features, Harrison observed ay that none of his texts recommend devotion to such bodhisattvas. Harrison also argued that although scholars have sometimes claimed that Mah ana had a more positive ay
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Early Indian Mah ana Buddhism I ay

attitude toward womens religious practice than earlier forms of Buddhism, his texts show a generally negative attitude toward them. As he memorably put it, from the perspective of his texts, although both men and women can ride in the Great Vehicle, only men are allowed to drive it. The publication of this article spelled the end of the lay origin theory in the West. Harrison did not make an elaborate argument against it, but did not need to. The old theory was no more than an assertion propped up by repetition. As soon as Harrison questioned it, it immediately collapsed. So far as I can recall, only one attempt was made to defend the theory and this was not inuential (Vetter 1994). Although it was never inuential in the West, several Western scholars have presented arguments against Hirakawas theory, pointing out that it is based on a number of faulty presuppositions and is not supported by the available evidence. Several have pointed out that it projects aspects of contemporary Japanese Buddhism, which is oriented primarily toward lay practice, has a married clergy, and does not preserve a lineage of full monastic ordination (upasampad onto ancient India (Harrison 1995; Nattier 2003; Silk 1994b; a), _ Williams 1989). Hubert Durt (1991) has made the parallel observation that the Western lay origin theory depicts the Mah ana as originating in the same manner as Protestantism ay in the West and that it likely involves a projection of French secularism (lacite). The Mah amghika origin theory died a somewhat quieter death. Scholars began takas _ ing bites out of it long ago, arguing that other nik ayas also had a clear inuence on Mah ana thought (e.g., Dutt 1930; Hirakawa 1963; Thomas 1933). More signicantly, ay scholars in recent years have advocated a new basic perspective on the relationship between Mah ana and the various nik ay ayas. For most of the 20th century, scholars depicted the various nik ayas, the Mah amghika, Sarv ada, etc., as collectively repreas astiv _ senting what Mah ana texts derisively call the H nay ay ana, or inferior vehicle. Mah ana ay was generally presented as splitting off from the nik ayas and forming an altogether distinct form, or school, of Buddhism. Beginning in the 1960s, and throughout his career, Heinz Bechert insisted that Indian Mah ana was not distinct from the nik ay ayas and that Mah ana monastics continued to take ordination in them (e.g., 1973). As we saw above, ay Harrison stated similarly in 1987 that the early Chinese translations of Mah ana stras ay u provide little support for the idea of a distinct Mah ana sect. In a chapter in his widely ay cited 1994 doctoral dissertation, revised and published as an article in 2002, Jonathan Silk focused attention on this issue, arguing forcefully that in Indian Buddhism there is no evidence that there was any kind of Buddhist monk other than one associated with a Sectarian [i.e., nik aya] ordination lineage. He also drew attention to the fact that the idea that Mah ana was not institutionally distinct from the nik ay ayas had already been advocated by several leading scholars of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including Junjir Takakusu, Auguste Barth, Louis de La Vallee Poussin, and Jean Przyluski. o Over the past roughly 15 years, the idea that Mah ana was not separate from the ay nik ayas has become widely accepted and most scholars active in the eld have expressed this view. The only notable holdout is Gregory Schopen, who has argued that while some early Mah ana groups were marginalized, embattled segments still institutionally imbeday ded in the dominant mainstream monastic orders others may have been marginal in yet another way: they may have been small, isolated groups living in the forest at odds with and not necessarily welcomed by the mainstream monastic orders (2000). Schopens belief that some Mah anists were at odds with the nik ay ayas seems to be based on his belief that Mah anists developed institutionally distinct book shrines (Drewes 2007). He does not ay cite any other evidence for such Mah anists and there does not seem to be any. As far as I ay am aware, no other Western scholar of Indian Mah ana continues to assert the existence ay
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of Indian Mah ana groups distinct from the nik ay ayas. In a similar vein, several scholars have recently drawn attention to the fact that both Chinese pilgrims and Indian Mah ana texts ay themselves make reference to Mah anists living together in the same monasteries as nonay Mah anists (e.g., Cox 2003; Nattier 2003; Schopen 2000). ay Along with this general shift in opinion, scholars have ceased depicting the Mah ana ay as having a special connection to the Mah amghika. In principle, one could accept that as the Mah ana was not separate from the nik_ and still argue that the Mah amghikas ay ayas as _ played an especially signicant role in its formation. Louis de La Vallee Poussin (1930) in fact once did this. Contemporary scholars, however, have not adopted this approach, probably because it has become clear that there is little evidence of a special linkage. Paul Harrison expresses the current general consensus very well in his 1995 article Searching for the Origins of Mah ana: What Are We Looking For?: ay
One of the things we cannot dois determine the sectarian afliation of the early Mah ana. I ay used to think that this was possible, but now believe it to be hopeless, since it has become accepted that the Mah ana was a pan-Buddhist movement or, better, a loose set of ay movements rather like Pentecostalism or Charismatic Christianity, running across sectarian boundaries.

In 1979 and 1987, Schopen published two articles that drew attention to the important fact that few of the many known Indian Buddhist inscriptions can be linked to the Mah ana. He pointed out that the oldest epigraph that can be linked to the Mah ana is ay ay an inscription on a pedestal which identies the statue that was associated with it, now lost except for its feet, as Amit abha Buddha, and which dates to about 153 CE. Apart from this, the oldest clearly Mah ana epigraph he was able to identify dated from the ay fourth or fth century. Summarizing his ndings, he commented, after its initial appearance in the public domain in the second century [the Mah ana] appears to have ay remained an extremely limited minority movement if it remained at all that attracted absolutely no documented public or popular support for at least two more centuries and concluded:
All of this of course accords badly with the acceptedviewthat the movement we call the Mah ana appeared on the scene somehow fully formedat the beginning of the Common ay Era. Indian epigraphy makes it very clear that the Mah ana as a public movement began ay to invert an old line of T. S. Eliots not with a bang, but a whimper. It suggests that, although there was as we know from Chinese translations a large and early Mah ana literaay ture, there was no early organized, independent, publicly supported movement that it could have belonged to. (1987).

Although a third century inscription from Central Asia discovered after the publication of this article seems to make reference to a king who had set out on the Mah ana and a ay third century letter, also from Central Asia, makes reference to a magistrate who had done the same (Salomon 1999; Walser 2005), Schopens observations remain essentially valid. Apart from inscriptions, several scholars have claimed or argued that certain sculptures dating to the rst centuries of the common era depict well-known Mah ana gay ures, especially Amit abha and Avalokitesvara, but other scholars have rejected all of these identications as incorrect or dubious (Boucher 2008b; Ducor 2004; Fussman 1999; Salomon & Schopen 2002). Another idea which has become popular in recent decades is that the Mah ana ay was not a single movement and that there were many distinct Mah ana groups, each ay associated with a particular stra. The locus classicus for this view is the nal sentence of u

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Schopens 1975 The Phrase sa pr@ thiv pradesas caityabhto bhavet, Since each text placed u itself at the center of its own cult, early Mah ana (from a sociological point of view), ay rather than being an identiable single group, was in the beginning a loose federation of a number of distinct though related cults, all of the same pattern, but each associated with its specic text. Following Schopen, Paul Williams (1989) comments that there was a series of cults, probably based on different stras and their attendant practices, and that u it is likely that [these cults] had little or no direct and regular connection with each other. Jan Nattier (2003) similarly comments that there is no doubt thatthe communities that formed around [Mah ana stras] were multiple, for as Schopen rightly conay u tends each text placed itself at the center of its own cult. Several other scholars have expressed similar views (e.g., Boucher 2008a; Harrison 1995; Nakamura 1987; Ray 1994; Silk 2002). Most of the signicant new conclusions on early Mah ana have been negative in ay nature: Mah ana was not a distinct sect. It did not involve the worship of bodhisattay vas. It was not developed by laypeople. It was not an offshoot of the Mah amghikas. as _ ay It was not a single religious movement. With so many new things that the Mah ana was not, what are we to conclude that it was? The leading theory to arise in recent years is what Paul Harrison calls the forest hypothesis, and denes as the thesis that the Mah anawas the work of hard-core ascetics, members of the forest dwelling ay (aranyav asin) wing of the Buddhist Order (Harrison 2003). The theory was rst pre_ sented separately by Harrison himself and Reginald Ray in the early 1990s. In his 1995 Searching for the Origins of Mah ana, originally presented at a conference in 1992, ay Harrison asserted that the Mah ana stras translated into Chinese by Lokaksema in the ay u _ second century display a strong and positive emphasis on the dhuta-gunas (extra ascetic _ Ray argued in practices) and aranya-v (dwelling in the forest or jungle). Reginald asa his 1994 Buddhist _ Saints in India that forest renunciants have been the primary innovators in the history of Buddhism and that they were responsible for the initial development of Buddhism, the rise of the Mah ana, and the development of Vajray ay ana. In her 2003 A Few Good Men, Jan Nattier argued that the Ugraparipr@ cch Stra represents the a u earliest or most primitive form of Mah ana that we have access to and that it presents ay the bodhisattva path as a supremely difcult enterprise adopted primarily by ascetic, male monastics who typically practiced forest dwelling. Several other scholars have also argued that forest dwelling was an important early Mah ana practice (e.g., Boucher ay 2001, 2008a; Deleanu 2000; Schopen 1995, 1999, 2000, 2003; Williams 2000). The scholarship of recent decades has advanced our understanding of early Mah ana signicantly. Most important of the new developments, I believe, are Haray risons more-or-less single-handed disposal of the old lay origin theory; the clarication by Silk, Bechert, and others that the Mah ana was not institutionally distinct ay from the nik ayas; the attention drawn to the related fact that Mah anists and nonay Mah anists often shared the same monasteries; and the attention drawn primarily by ay Schopen to the fact that there is virtually no archeological, epigraphal, or art historical evidence for the early Mah ana. Harrisons suggestion that early Mah ana stras do ay ay u not advocate the worship of celestial bodhisattvas, that they often approve of or advocate the pursuit of arhatship, and that they are generally subordinative of women now also seem to have become established and seem destined to stand the test of time. The other main ideas that have been put forward, the idea of a Mah ana cult of ay the book and the related idea that the Mah ana was dependent on the use written ay texts, the idea that there were multiple Mah anas, and the forest hypothesis, are each ay problematic.
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The argument that Schopen makes for the existence of Mah ana book shrines is based ay solely on a few enigmatic passages from a few Mah ana stras that say that places where ay u people use these texts in various ways, memorizing them, reciting them, copying them, etc., will become caityabhta. Previous scholars typically took this compound to mean u like a caitya or like a stpa or shrine, but Schopen argues that it in fact means a true u shrine, or even a great shrine, and that the passages refer to special cult sites where early Mah anists venerated stras. He argues additionally that various passages that assert that ay u more merit can be made from the use of stras than from the veneration of stpas and u u relics indicate that the new Mah ana cult sites were set up in competition with the stpa ay u cult. Recent research suggests that the caityabhta passages that serve as the basis of Schou pens argument do in fact merely compare places to shrines and do not make reference to actual cult sites. In addition, it seems that when read contextually, the passages that Schopen interprets as indicative of competition between stra and stpa worship actually u u reect a positive attitude toward stpa worship. Although there were long thought to be u a few cases in which Mah ana stra manuscripts were discovered in South Asian stpas, ay u u it has recently become clear that there have not been any (Drewes 2007). Most notably, it now appears that the Gilgit manuscripts, which were long believed to have been found in a stpa, were in fact found in the ruins of a sort of house (Fussman 2004). Interestu ingly, however, there are a very large number of cases in which non-Mah ana textual ay material has been found in stpas. Overall, no evidence now suggests the existence of u Mah ana stra shrines and it can be safely concluded that they never existed. Although ay u Mah anists certainly venerated texts in written form, the practice seems unlikely to have ay played an especially important role in the movement. Rather than being distinctly or even originally Mah ana, the practice seems to have been pan-Buddhist, or even panay Indian, from an early date. The idea that the survival of the Mah ana was made possible by its use of written ay texts and the idea that it was distinct in being a written tradition are also problematic. The only evidence that has been cited for either is passages advocating worshiping and copying stras. The scholars involved generally ignore the facts that Mah ana stras u ay u advocate mnemic oral aural practices more frequently than they do written ones, make reference to people who have memorized or are in the process of memorizing them, and consistently attach higher prestige to mnemic oral practices than to ones involving written texts. Study of differences in various versions of stras translated into Chinese u has directly shown that these texts were often transmitted orally (e.g., Nattier 2003). It is thus highly unlikely that writing was necessary for the preservation of Mah ana ay stras during the movements formative centuries. There is no evidence that Mah ana u ay stras were initially composed in written form. The recent discovery of a nonu Mah ana Buddhist avad ay ana manuscript radiocarbon dated to a 2r range of 184 146 BCE (Falk 2008) and a non-Mah ana stra manuscript radiocarbon dated to a 2r ay u range of 206 BCE259 CE (Salomon & Allon forthcoming) makes it seem all but certain that written texts were in use before the development of the Mah ana. If the dating ay of these manuscripts holds up, presuming that Buddhist texts were written down for some time before them, it is conceivable that Buddhist manuscripts could have been copied as early as the third century, even in the time of Asoka, before which it is unclear that many Buddhist texts even existed. Overall, there is no evidence that Mah ana textual practices were ever distinct from those of non-Mah anists. Generally ay ay speaking, the categories of written and oral traditions t Indian religions very poorly. A category like the literate orality proposed by Velcheru Narayana Rao (1993) is necessary to make proper sense of them.
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The idea that separate Mah ana communities formed around individual Mah ana ay ay stras also seems incorrect. First, as we have seen, several scholars have drawn attention u to the fact that there is no textual or archeological evidence that early Mah anists ay formed distinct communities at all, which makes it hard to imagine many, even perhaps hundreds, of distinct communities coalescing around individual stras. The one signiu cant fact cited for the existence of multiple Mah ana groups is that Mah ana stras ay ay u tend to advocate divergent doctrinal or philosophical views, but it is not clear why this should be taken as evidence for separate communities. Mah anists accept the authenticay ity of stras with a wide spectrum of divergent perspectives today and clearly did so u from the earliest periods for which we have evidence. We have stra anthologies which u cite literally dozens of Mah ana stras with divergent perspectives, the earliest of which ay u may have been composed in some form as early as the second or third century. Mah ana  ay sastra authors often cite multiple stras as proof texts. Translators of Mah ana u ay stras from Lokaksema in the second century CE on down usually translated multiple u _ stras with divergent perspectives. Finally, many apparently early Mah ana stras themu ay u selves, including the Astas ahasrik Prajn aramit (or Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines), a a ap __ the stra for which we have the oldest rmly datable evidence, advocate the use of u other, unnamed, Mah ana stras besides themselves. Rather than representing the estabay u lished doctrines and practices of distinct communities, various Mah ana stras seem ay u more likely simply to represent the views and imaginations of different Mah ana ay authors. Instead of distinct communities, the varying perspectives of Mah ana stras can ay u better be taken as evidence that the movement encouraged innovation and made room for theoretical diversity. The forest hypothesis provides a picture of the Mah ana that threads the needle of ay some of the other recent ndings in the eld. Both Harrison and Schopen have pointed out that a forest location for the early Mah ana could help to explain the near total ay lack of early Mah ana inscriptions. It also makes it possible to imagine Mah ana as a ay ay distinct form or forms of Buddhism not rigidly distinct from the nik ayas. Despite having ordinations in various nik ayas, being isolated in forests could have led monastics to form new groups. Western thinkers have also long tended to identify forest meditation as true, original Buddhism. It was thus perhaps natural for those interested in the Mah ana ay to imagine it as an intensication of this tendency or as a sort of revival movement. The main problem with the forest hypothesis is that Mah ana stras, the nal court for ay u any theory of the early Mah ana, provide little support for it. Harrison claims that ay Lokaksemas texts place a strong emphasis on forest dwelling, but he does not cite actual _ passages or texts as evidence. So far as I have been able to determine, only two of the dozen or so texts now linked to Lokaksema, the Pratyutpanna and K yapaparivarta, as _ actually advocate forest dwelling. The others either do not mention it, depict is as unnecessary for the pursuit of Buddhahood, or explicitly attempt to discourage it. The Aksobhyavha and larger Sukh vyha stras, for instance, each present very easy pracu avat u u _ tices, such as merely listening to the stra, or thinking of particular Buddhas, that they u claim can enable one to be reborn in special, luxurious pure lands where one will be able to make easy and rapid progress on the bodhisattva path and attain Buddhahood after as little as one lifetime. In the Astas ahasrik the Buddha explicitly says that he does a, not recommend forest dwelling and_ _ explains that it is a dangerous practice recommended by M ara. In another passage, the Astas ahasrik depicts the great bodhisattva a __ Dharmodgata as having skillful means that enable him to maintain his moral purity even though he lives in a palace in the middle of a city and has sex with 6,800,000

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8 David Drewes

u women. The Sramgasam adhi Stra also repeatedly makes the point that avoidance of u sensual pleasures is _not important for bodhisattvas. Reginald Ray and Nattiers versions of the theory are equally problematic. Ray is not an early Mah ana specialist and his argument in support of the Mah ana portion of his ay ay theory is based on only four texts that he cites only in Western language translation, only one of which seems likely to be early (though another is a late anthology that quotes passages from some apparently early texts). He excludes from his study the large majority of even the dozens of Mah ana stras that have been translated into Western languages, ay u many of which are clearly older than most of his texts, and few of which would lend any support to his views. In addition, as Nattier (2003) has already suggested, not all of the texts Ray cites in fact support his views. Although Ray claims that the Ratnagunas_ amcayag a, the one text he cites that seems likely to be early, advocates forest dwelling, ath for example, the very passages he cites from this text to support his claim explicitly discourage it. Nattiers version of the theory is based on a single text, the Ugraparipr@ cch Stra, which a u she depicts as containing the oldest or most primitive known evidence for the Mah ana ay (Nattier 2003). Other recent scholars, however, have not seen the text as necessarily being especially early (Dantinne 1991; Pagel 2006) and there are good reasons to conclude that it was written after some of the other texts translated into Chinese around the same time, e.g., the Astas ahasrik In addition, the Ugra advocates forest dwelling a. __ and monasticism inconsistently. In one passage, the Buddha says that lay people should not criticize monks who violate the precepts, in another he denes forest dwelling metaphorically as dwelling without relying on anything, and in another he permits forest dwelling only to people who have many delusions. In one unusual passage, the householder Ugra is asked why he has decided to remain a layperson and he replies that he has done so to benet others. The Buddha then applauds him and states that it would not be possible to nd Ugras good qualities in a thousand renunciant bodhisattvas. Before Nattier, several scholars in fact took the Ugra as evidence for active lay participation in the Mah ana. Indeed, though this has long been forgotten, it was Vasilevs ay reading of the Ugra that led him to make the rst historical suggestion that the Mah ana was open to increased lay participation (Vassilief 1865), which can clearly be ay shown to be the conceptual progenitor of the whole lay origin theory. In another publication Nattier (2000) argues that the Aksobhyavyha also provides evidence of the u _ importance of harsh and ascetic practice in early Mah ana. She argues that with the ay exception of a passage that states that one may attain rebirth in Aksobhyas pure land, _ Abhirati, by memorizing and reciting the Aksobhyavyha itself, which she regards as u _ as requiring a signicant amount of riganomalous, the text presents rebirth in Abhirati orous training. Nattier, however, overlooks the main passage in the text that describes how to be reborn in Abhirati, which presents no less than twelve distinct methods, most of which are very easy (e.g., forming a desire to be born there, hearing the names of bodhisattvas in Abhirati, practicing mindfulness of the Buddha s). As Naomi Sato (2005) makes clear, most of these easy methods are found already in the oldest Chinese translation of the text. Nattiers general idea that earlier forms of Mah ana advocated difcult, ay j ataka-like practices and that easy means of practice were developed only later has no obvious evidentiary support. Overall, while the scholarship of recent decades has claried a great deal, a number of key problems remain. Part 2 of this article will present new perspectives on some of them.

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Acknowledgements I would like to thank Peter Skilling and Jonathan Silk for making valuable suggestions on a draft of this paper and Richard Salomon for very kindly permitting me to cite one of his forthcoming articles. Short Biography David Drewes is an assistant professor in the Department of Religion at the University of Manitoba. He received his PhD from the University of Virginia in 2006. His research is focused primarily on early Mah ana and early Buddhism. ay Note
* Correspondence address: David Drewes, 328 Fletcher Argue Bldg, Department of Religion, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada R3T5V5. E-mail: dddrewes@gmail.com.

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