The Path of Light, by L.D. Barnett, , at sacred-texts.com
(1) "As is fitting, the book begins with homage to the 'threefold jewel,' or 'three pearls,' i.e. in early Buddhism, the Buddha (Śākya-muni), the Law preached by him (Dharma), and the brotherhood of his monks (Sangha). Hero, agreeably to the doctrines of the Great Vehicle, we have (1) the Buddhas, designated by the title Sugata, 'the well gone,' or 'the well arrived,' i.e. 'they who have left the world of becoming in order to enter Nirvāṇa,' or 'who know the truth,' 'who have departed to return no more,' 'who have cast off all frailty of body, speech, and mind' These definitions aim at establishing from every point of view a fundamental difference between the Buddhas and all other beings. (ii) The sons of the Buddhas, namely (a) the Bodhi-sattvas ('creatures of enlightenment') who have reached a 'stage,' a 'ground,' even though it be the first, in their career as future Buddhas (in opposition to the future Buddhas, Bodhi-sattvas, who have not yet entered upon the career, or are only at the outset of it); (b) all 'the worshipful ones,' i.e. the 'teachers of discipline or doctrine,' etc. We must understand 'all spiritual friends.' (iii) The 'Body of the Law,' i.e. either the sum-total of the Scriptures or 'the Body of the Law of the Buddhas,' in opposition to their bodies as visible upon this earth, and to their bodies us beatified in paradise. This Body is the unrested wisdom which constitutes the essence of all the Buddhas; and the Law preached by the Buddhas is only
the intellectual or verbal expression of this wisdom" (Prof. de la Vallée Poussin).
(2) The "Thought of Enlightenment" (Bodhi-chitta) is to the Mahā-yāna what 'grace' is to Christian theology. Buddhism, in common with the other schools of Indian thought, holds that all living beings are fettered in the beginningless and endless cycle of embodied births, metempsychosis or saṃsāra, in which every instant of present experience is a resultant of former actions. Only the Buddhas, the loving teachers of salvation to mankind, have risen after æons of effort in countless births into the transcendental peace of Nirvāṇa. Hence the great religious duty of the believer is aspiration to become a Buddha for the weal of fellow-creatures. This yearning arises in his heart, by the special grace of the Buddhas, in the form of the Bodhi-chitta, which is finely expressed by our author in his third chapter. By this vow the believer constitutes himself a Bodhi-sattva, "or creature of enlightenment," of the first stage; he has devoted himself to the acquisition of merit by charity and knowledge which shall raise him through higher and higher planes of existence, until he reaches the condition of the celestial Bodhi-sattvas, such as Manjughosha and Avalokiteśvara, who have attained the highest beatification that the finite universe can give, and are only delaying their departure into the infinite stillness of Nirvāṇa in order to continue their works as loving guides and helpers of mankind towards happiness and spiritual sanctification,
(3) The minions of life are the passions and other frailties which keep the soul enchained in the cycle (saṃśāra) of bodily births.
(4) The Musa sapiertum.
(5) See the chapter on the Perfect Long-suffering, below.
(6) Thu Buddhas, here styled Tathāgata, on which see the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society for 1893, p. 103 f. Compare the term Sugata (above, note 1).
(7) This term here denotes the divine Bodhi-sattvas
[paragraph continues] (Avalokiteśvara, Manju-ghosha, etc.). who have reached the higher stages of beatification.
(8) A Buddha-kshetra, or "domain of Buddha," is a system of a thousand millions of worlds, each under the guardianship of a Buddha.
(9) This refers to the Buddha of the present era, Gautama the Śākya, and the places hallowed by his pious deeds in various births previous to his Nirvāṇa.
(10) The Buddha, the Law, and the Congregation.
(11) See above, note 2.
(12) These are the celestial Bodhi-sattvas (see notes 1, 2).
(13) "Stillness" is perhaps the mast suitable term to express the idea, of Nirvāṇa; compare Denssen, Allgemeine Geschichte der Philosophie, bd. 1., abteil. 3, pp. 111 f., 152 f., etc. Nirvāṇa does not signify extinction or annihilation, as is commonly imagined in Europe, but the very reverse, perfect spiritual self-realisation in transcendental being. The metaphor first occurs in the Upanishads, and frequently reappears later in non-Buddhist theology; it denotes moksha, the state in which the individual soul, identifying itself with universal Being, is entirely at rest in itself and in Brahma, in the stillness of infinite thought. The fire of delusion and earthly desire has become extinguished in it by the annihilation of its feel, the false imagination of finite being. Nirvāṇa is thus similar to the yoga, or ecstasy of the Yogic adept, which is technically defined as chitta-vṛitti-nirodha, cessation of the activity of the finite imagination, and it is frequently used in the same connection. Nirvāṇa properly may denote either the blowing-out of a flame, or the burning of a flame undisturbed by wind (compare Bhagavad-gītā, vi, 19). The latter interpretation will suit the oldest passages where the word occurs; but the former is also applicable, and is necessary in some of the later passages. Now the Buddhists denied the existence of a soul, or permanent Self. Logically, therefore, they could not assert the existence of a Nirvāṇa, or transcendental existence of the soul or Self; and theoretically, indeed, the Mādhyamika
school of the Mahā-yāna denied Nirvāṇa, as well As finite being, substituting for the whole the universal "Void," Śūnya, which however is only another name for infinite) Being, the unqualified Transcendental. Buddhist orthodoxy refused to speculate on this antinomy. But in the same way as Buddhism, while denying the Brahmanic conception of the soul, substitutes for it the santāna, or succession of moments of consciousness, which practically differs very little from it, so its conception of Nirvāṇa practically amounted to much the same as the Brahmanic) ideal. See above, p. 19.
(14) The "lucky jar" is a magic vessel in which is found whatever the owner desires; the "wishing-tree" and the "cow of plenty" are part of the furniture of the Hindu paradise, and have similar properties.
(15) Namely, human birth under the dispensation of a Buddha.
(16) Meru is an imaginary mountain in the Hindu cosmology, which forms the centre of the universe, and around which the sun and moon turn.
(17) The ten points of space are the north, south, east, west, north-east, south-east, north-west, south-west, zenith, and nadir.
(18) The remembrance is of the Law of the Buddha and of the teachings of his Church.
(19) The Perfect Charity (Dāna-pāramitā) is not an actual deliverance of the world from poverty (misery due to worldly desire), but an intention for such deliverance; it is a grace of the spirit. Thus purity of the will is the greatest of all virtues, and the foundation of all, Similarly, the Perfect Conduct (Śīla-pāramitā), which is the subject of this chapter, consists essentially in the will to hurt no living creature.
(20) Morality is higher than charity, patience than morality, etc., and the aspirant to Buddhahood must not practise charity at the expense of morality, and so on. But this rule has an exception. The essential principle of the divine Bodhi-sattvas’ conduct is śikshā-saṃvara, "right and holy
conduct," the dyke which holds in their place the "waters of righteousness"; and this principle must never be infringed by the aspirant's action.
(21) The aspirant, having collected alms of food by begging from door to door, will divide it into four parts, one for each of the throe classes here mentioned, and one for himself. The three robes allowed to Buddhist devotees are of yellow rags.
(22) Namely, a person whose compassion is excited merely in connection with friends, enemies, the unfortunate, etc. The aspirant devotes his whole self to the welfare of fellow creatures, but this gift must not be too hastily given. It should be reserved for occasions when it will assist to enlightenment, etc., another aspirant of equal or greater power for good.
(23) The fundamental principle of Hindu medicine, like that of the Greeks, is the existence of three "humours" (dosha, dhātu), namely, wind, gall, and slime, which when in equipoise cause health, and when disturbed produce sickness.
(24) Here comes a polemic against the Sānkhya and the Vedānti schools. The former divide existence into primal Matter and individual souls which by connection with the former assume the functions of finite thought. The Vedāntis believe in a single universal soul or Brahma, essentially indeterminate, which by the operation of the cosmic Illusion (Māyā) differentiates itself into individual finite souls. Buddhism denies the existence of a permanent soul, substituting for it a succession of instants of consciousness.
(25) It may be objected that if all action is a purely mechanical result of previously existent forces, the action of the mind in hatred, etc., is also mechanical, and cannot be checked, and hence the peace and salvation of the spirit are unattainable. But this is not the case, according to our author. Existence is a series of forces proceeding one from the other (the pratītya-samutpāda; but by arresting one of these the individual arrests all subsequent forces as far as he is concerned; and the primary force is ignorance.
(26) If I save myself from hell by refraining from retaliation upon those who wrong me, the merit of this is mine; and their merit, which consists in forcing me to suffer and expiate my guilt from former deeds, is not lessened by this merit of mine.
(27) The objector claims that, while he admits the merits of the person praised, he cannot abide the pleasure which the eulogist feels in praising him. But this is a sin. To every man must be given his just reward, both in this and other worlds; and both the eulogy and the eulogist's joy are part of the reward of the person eulogised.
(28) The presence of a pravrājuka, an ascetic who bas himself withdrawn from the world, causes us to perform the pravrajyā, i.e. to take from him the vows of his ascetic order and become a monk in his company.
(20) Living creatures are a "domain" (kshetra) for the acquisition of merit by the aspirants to enlightenment; for merit is gained by showing love, charity, etc., towards them. The Buddhas or "Conquerors" (Jina) are likewise a "domain"; merit is gained by doing service to them. (Cf. note 7 above.)
(30) Both Buddhas and inferior creatures alike assist the aspirant to win merit and become a Buddha himself. True, the Buddhas are immeasurably good and great, and are always consciously beneficent, while other creatures often are in their intention maleficent, But if we measure the worth of a purpose by its results, noting that wrong-doing is a "blessing in disguise" to the sufferer, we must conclude that the purpose of a Buddha's help is not more valuable to the aspirant than the various motives of other creatures with whom he has dealings.
(31) This refers to the Eastern custom of keeping fish alive in tanks until they are needed for the kitchen.
(32) See p. 76.
(33) This is a polemical reference to the Hīna-yāna school of Buddhism, of which the adepts (Śrāvaka) sought enlightenment and Nirvāṇa for themselves and by themselves.
[paragraph continues] Is not such a course more rapid and sure than that recommended by our author, in which the aspirant to Buddhahood deliberately postpones his Nirvāṇa in order to work for the welfare of the world? Śānti-deva here brushes aside this objection. In his ninth chapter, in a passage omitted in this translation, he attempts to prove that the Hīna-yāna can attain neither Nirvāṇa nor suppression of passion.
(34) The sacred kite on which the god Vishnu rides.
(35) A reference to an ordeal in a well-known legend.
(30) See Dhamma-pada, ch. ii.
(37) Namely, conceptions inspired by sensual love, hatred, or delusion, which agitate the spirit.
(38) To wit, alms of food and the rags from which is made the beggar-monk's robe.
(39) This is a play on words. Bāla signifies (i) a fool, and (ii) the morning sun, the rod glow of which dots not stain the pure whiteness of the new moon.
(40) The bearers of the funeral bier.
(41) At the hour of death he can fix his thought upon the Buddha and the Law, without disturbance from the laments of kinsfolk and friends.
(42) Under the malignant influence of former evil works men fail to use the opportunity of salvation offered by their human birth, and after death are reborn in hell or as lower beings.
(43) The chief of the gods, who dwells in paradise, svarga.
(44) Dhamma-pada, ch. ii.
(45) This refers to the spiritual exercises practised by the Buddhists, as by other Hindu devotees. In order to render the thought immobile and uninfluenced by external sensations, various physical objects are prescribed to he rigidly contemplated by it, which, together with the themes of meditation described above, raise it to a state of still ecstasy, from which it passes either into a blessed rebirth or into final Nirvāṇa.
(46) Namely, the Perfections of charity, morality, etc.
(47) This distinction of "veiled" or conventional reality
[paragraph continues] (samvṛiti-satya) and transcendental reality (paramārthasatya) is shared by the Mādhyamikas with the monistic Vedāntis. The former conceives objects as they appear to the normal intelligence of finite beings; but this mode of conception is false when viewed from the standpoint of transcendental verity, which insists upon the essentially infinite and inconceivable nature of things. Thus in the higher reality nothing can be predicated of anything; all is inconceivable, "void." Our author here launches upon a long discussion, omitted in our translation, in which he argues that the impermanence of finite being, which the Hīna-yāna regards as the highest truth, is, from the transcendental standpoint of his school (the Mādhyamika) mere illusion; that the Vijnāna-vādis, who hold that nothing exists but pure absolute thought, are likewise mistaken; that the Hīna-yāna is insufficient in theory and in practice; that the conception of au ego held by non-Buddhist philosophers is false; that the principles upon which various heretical schools wrongly regard being as based are nonexistent; and that, the only legitimate attitude is that of the Mādhyamikas, with their denial of the validity of the means of knowledge and their doctrine of a conventional reality on the one hand and a higher reality or "void" on the other.
(48) See above, note 4.
(49) She following stanza appears to mean: "In life there are many precipices, and no true reality" (reading atatvam); "there are contradictions, and can be no true reality." But as this meaning is somewhat uncertain, I have omitted it in my translation.
(50) Māra, the embodiment of worldly desire and lust of the flesh.
(51) The tenth chapter, which follows in the original Sanskrit, is omitted in this translation, as its 58 verses contain only prayers for the welfare of all beings for the sake of the merit acquired by our author in composing this work. A quotation is given in the Introduction, p. 26 f.