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Four level of the Twofold Truth in the Japanese Yogācāra School

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Four level of the Twofold Truth in the Japanese Yogācāra School

Shigeki Moro (Hanazono University)


1. Introduction

From a relativistic standpoint, there are various truths, although each people or cultural/religious/philosophical tradition claims its own truth according to the situation. The theory of the twofold truth (satya-dvaya; erdi/nitai 二諦) is one of the Buddhist approaches to truths, which divides many truths into two categories: the ultimate truth 勝義諦 (paramārtha-satya) and conventional truth 世俗諦 (saṃvṛti-satya). Although Nāgārjuna’s Mūla-madhyamaka-kārikā (MMK) has been regarded as the representative treatise of the twofold truth, the theory of two truths was not unique to Nāgārjuna but shared by his contemporaries, according to Hayashima (2014) .


In the Mahāyāna Buddhism, it is often said that the ultimate truth cannot be explained verbally. On the other hand, a part of Buddhist scholars claims that the verbal explanation of the ultimate truth can be regarded as the secondary ultimate truth. For example, Sthiramati, one of the famous Indian Yogācāra scholars, regards both the words explaining the ultimate truth and the objects (meanings) as the ultimate truth in his commentary of MMK entitled Dacheng-zhongguan-shilun 大乘中觀釋論:

若彼勝上如來之智、如所説義、故名勝義。餘皆世俗、不實性故。此説最上、謂佛所説善文善義。是故頌言我稽首禮佛 諸説中第一

Since the wisdom of the most excellent (*pradhāna parama?) Tathāgatha is the same as the object (*artha) of the teachings, they are called as the ultimate (*paramārtha). All others are conventional (*saṃvṛti), since they are not the nature of the truth. This teaching is the most excellent, since [it consist of] the good words and the good objects taught by the Buddha,.

Therefore [[[Nāgārjuna]]] writes the verse [like this]:

I bow my head to the Buddha, whose [[[teaching]] is] the greatest among all teachings. (T1567, 30, 136b29-c3)

In this paper, I would like to investigate some scholastic classifications of the twofold truth and the relationship between truth and language based especially on Ji (632-682) , one of the disciples of Xuanzang 玄奘 (602-664) who is regarded as the founder of the Faxiang/Hossō 法相 school, and Zenju 善珠 (732-797), one of the eminent scholar monks in Nara 奈良 and early Heian 平安 period in Japan. 2. Four Interpretations of the Twofold Truth in the Faxiang/Hossō school

2.1. Erdi-yi of Dasheng-fayuan-yilinzhang

Ji devoted one chapter entitled Erdi-yi 二諦義 (the meanings of the twofold truth)3 to the scholastic interpretation on the twofold truth in his seven volumes of Dasheng-fayuan-yilinzhang 大乘法苑義林章 (DFY). The outline of Erdi-yi is as follows:


1 Clarification of the Names and the Explanation of the Nature 顯名辨體
1-1 Clarification of the Names 顯名
1-1-1 Enumeration 列名
1-1-2 Interpretation of the names 釋名
1-2 Explanation of the nature 辨體
2 Depth and shallowness of the three vehicles 三乘淺深
2-1 Distinction of the three vehicles 辨三乘
2-2 Clarification of the depth and shallowness 顯淺深
2-2-1 Person 人淺深
2-2-2 Dharma 法淺深
3 Relationships and dialogues 相攝問答
3-1 Relationships between descriptions of sutras 諸教相攝
3-2 Dialogues 問答分別

Erdi-yi, especially in §3-1, quotes many sutras and treatises as well as the anonymous references of the works of Huiyuan 慧遠 (523–592), such as his commentary of the Nirvāna sutra and Dasheng yizhang 大乘義章, a massive encyclopedic work of Buddhist terminology like DFY.


2.2. Structure of the four-level twofold truths


The basic structure of the twofold truth in the Faxiang/Hossō doctrine is defined in §1-1-1. Ji classifies the twofold truth into four levels respectively, mainly based on Yogācārabhūmi, Xianyang-shengjiao-lun 顯揚聖教論 and the Nirvāna sutra of the Mahāyāna:

列別名者、今明二諦、有無體異、事理義殊、淺深不同、詮旨各別。故於二諦各有四重、亦名名事二諦・事理二諦・淺深二諦・詮旨二諦。世俗諦四名者、一世間世俗諦、亦名有名無實諦。二道理世俗諦、亦名隨事差別諦。三證得世俗諦、亦名方便安立諦。四勝義世俗諦、亦名假名非安立諦。(…) 勝義諦四名者、一世間勝義諦、亦名體用顯現諦。二道理勝義諦、亦名因果差別諦。三證得勝義諦、亦名依門顯實諦。四勝義勝義諦、亦名廢詮談旨諦。前之三種名安立勝義、第四一種非安立勝義。

For the enumeration of the synonyms (§1-1-1), now I clarify the difference of the natures in the twofold truth between substantial and insubstantial, the distinction of the meanings [of the twofold truth] between phenomena and principle, the shallowness and depth [of the twofold truth] and the various explanations of the meanings [of the twofold truth]. Therefore there are the four levels of the twofold truth, which are called as the twofold truth of name and phenomena, the twofold truth of phenomena and principle, the shallow and deep twofold truth and the twofold truth for explanation of the meanings.

The four names of the conventional truth are: C1) the mundane conventional truth, which is also called as the nominal truth, C2) the conventional truth based on real principles, which is also known as the truth based on the classification of phenomena, C3) the conventional truth based on realization, which is also called as the described truth for convenience sake and C4) the ultimate conventional truth, which is also known as the conventionally designated indescribable truth. (…)


The four names of the ultimate truth are: U1) the conventional ultimate truth, which is also called the truth of the representation of essence and function, U2) the ultimate truth based on real principles, which is also known as the truth based on the classification of cause and effect, U3) the ultimate truth based on realization, which is also called as the truth of representing reality based on the teaching [of emptiness] and U4) the ultimate-ultimate truth, which is also known as the truth of discussing the principle through abolishing language.

The former three are called as the described ultimate [[[truth]]] and the fourth one is the indescribable [[[truth]]]. (Erdi-yi, T1861, 45, 287b26-c11) These eight truths are structured like Table 1 and Table 2, according to Woncheuk 圓測 quoted by Zenju’s Hō’on-gikyō

法苑義鏡, a Japanese commentary of DFY5. 西明解云、二諦相對有其四重。一假實二諦、謂軍林等爲世俗諦、蘊處界等爲勝義諦。 二事理二諦、謂蘊等名世俗、苦等爲勝義。三四諦勝義二諦、謂苦等四諦以爲俗諦、安立眞如爲勝義諦。四安立非安立二諦、謂安立眞如以爲俗諦、非安立眞如爲勝義諦。


[Woncheuk o(義亦同此。 )f] Ximing 西明 temple explained that the mutual distinctions of the twofold truth had four levels. The first is the twofold truth of the nominal and the real, which regards armies and forests as the conventional truth, and regards the [five] aggregates, the [twelve] bases and the [eighteen] realms as the ultimate truth.

The second is the twofold truth of phenomena and principle, which regards the aggregates etc. as the conventional [[[truth]]], and regards [the truth of] suffering (duḥkha) [of the four noble truths] as the ultimate truth.

The third is the twofold truth of the four noble truths and the ultimate truth, which regards the the four noble truths as the conventional [[[truth]]], and regards the verbally established thusness 安立眞如 as the ultimate truth. The fourth is the twofold truth of the verbally established and the unestablished, which regards the verbally established thusness as the conventional [[[truth]]], and regards the unestablished thusness as the ultimate truth.

[Ji’s] meaning is same as this [Woncheuk’s explanation]. (Hō’on-gikyō, T2317, 71, 178c20-26) In this context, the term ‘ultimate,’ which is often used for the translation of paramārtha, does not mean ultimateness but superiority, except the ultimate-ultimate truth (U4). Almost truths are Buddhist

5 Fukaura (1954) interprets the structure of the four-level twofold truth as the hierarchical diagram like below (see p. 575): All dharmas 諸法 ┌─────┴─────┐

Substantial 有體 Insubstantial 無體 ┌─────┴─────┐ │ Principle Phenomena │ ┌───┴────┐ │ D eep 深 Shallow 浅 │ │ │ │ │ │

U4 C4 = U3 C3 = U2 C2 = U1 C1 │ │ │ │ Meaning 旨 Expression 詮 │ │ └──┬──┘ │ │

Deep 深 Shallow 浅 │ └──────┬────┘ │

Principle Phenomena └──────┬────┘ Substantial 有體


doctrinal concepts, such as the four noble truths, while the last one, the mundane conventional truth (C1), is non-Buddhist concepts of truths including ordinary language usage.

Conventional Truth Ultimate Truth

C1) Mundane conventional truth

e.g. armies, vases etc. (= ordinary U1) Conventional ultimate truth

e.g. the five aggregates (skandha), Twofold truth of substantial and insubstantial / Twofold truth of nominal and real

Table 1

language usage). the twelve bases (āyatana) and the

eighteen realms (dhātu).

C2) Conventional truth U2) Ultimate truth based Twofold truth of phenomena and based on real principles on real principles principle

e.g. the five aggregates, the twelve bases and the eighteen realms. e.g. the four noble truths.

C3) Conventional truth U3) Ultimate truth based Shallowness and depth of the based on realization on realization twofold truth / Twofold truth of e.g. the four noble truths. the four noble truths and the

e.g. the verbally established ultimate truth thusness.

C4) Ultimate conventional U4) Ultimate-ultimate Various explanations of the

truth truth meanings of the twofold truth /

e.g. the verbally established e.g. the verbally unestablished Twofold truth of the verbally

thusness. thusness. established and the unestablished

Table 2

Conventional Truth Ultimate Truth

C1) Mundane conventional truth C2) Conventional truth based on real principles = U1) Conventional ultimate truth

C3) Conventional truth based on realization = U2) Ultimate truth based on real principles

C4) Ultimate conventional truth = U3) Ultimate truth based on realization

Verbally established truths that are expressed in words

U4) Ultimate-ultimate truth → Verbally

unestablished truth that cannot be expressed in words


As seen in Table 2, it is reasonable to think that the actual structure consists of five levels. All truths except the ultimate-ultimate truth (U4) can be expressed by language. The middle three (C2 = U1, C3 = U2, C4 = U3) show that Buddhist doctrines explained in words have both conventional and ultimate sides. The four-level twofold truths are classified under the three vehicles. Table 3 and 4 based on the description of Erdi-yi (T1861, 45, 287b26-c11) show the content of each truth. Although most of the contents are different between vehicles, the truths in each vehicle has the same structure as Table 2.

Conventional Truth Śrāvaka Pratyekabuddha Bodhisattva

Mundane conventional truth 所安立瓶・軍・林等、我・有情等

Verbally established vases, armies, forests, ātman and sattva. → →

Table 3

2) Conventional truth based on real principles

3) Conventional 所安立蘊・處・界


The five aggregates (skandha), the twelve bases (āyatana) and the eighteen realms (dhātu) that are verbally established. 所安立十二有支 The twelve states of existence (dvādaśa- bhavāṅga) that are verbally established. 所安立十善巧 Verbally established ten skills (the five aggregates, the twelve bases, the eighteen realms, the twelve states of existence etc.).


所安立四聖諦理 所安立十二有支順逆 所安立三性・三無性・

truth based on Verbally established four 觀察 唯識妙理

realization noble truths. Forward and reverse The three natures, the

4) Ultimate conventional truth 所安立生空眞如

Verbally established thusness as emptiness of self. → 所安立二空眞如

Verbally established thusness of the two kinds of emptiness.


Table 4

Ultimate Truth Śrāvaka Pratyekabuddha Bodhisattva

1) Conventional ultimate truth 所安立蘊・處・界

The five aggregates, the twelve bases and the eighteen realms that are verbally established. 所安立十二有支

The twelve states of existence that are verbally established. 所安立十善巧

Verbally established ten skills.

2) Ultimate truth based on real principles 所安立四聖諦理

Verbally established four noble truths. 所安立十二有支順逆觀察

Forward and reverse contemplation of the twelve states of existence that are verbally established. 所安立三性等理

The principles of the three natures etc. that are verbally established.

3) Ultimate truth based on realization 所安立生空眞如

Verbally established thusness as emptiness of self. → 所安立二空眞如

Verbally established thusness of the two kinds of emptiness.

4) Ultimate-ultimate truth 非安立生空無我、廢詮談旨一眞法界

Verbally unestablished selflessness as emptiness of self, one true realm of reality discussed without language → 非安立二空無我一眞 法界

Verbally established one true realm of reality and selflessness of the two kinds of emptiness. contemplation of the three kinds of absence twelve states of of nature and the existence that are principle of verbally established.

consciousness-only that are verbally established.  

2.3. The four-level twofold truth and Madhyāntavibhāga


The relationship between truth and language in the four-level twofold truth seems to be derived from Indian Yogācāra tradition. Vasubandhu’s Madhyāntavibhāga-bhāṣya (MAVBh; 辯中邊論) also classifies the twofold truth into three types:


麁細眞實、謂世俗勝義諦。云何此依根本眞實。頌曰應知世俗諦 差別有三種謂假行顯了 如次依本三勝義諦亦三 謂義得正行 (…) 論曰、世俗諦有三種。一假世俗。二行世俗。三顯了世俗。此三世俗如其次第、依三根本眞實建立。勝義諦亦三種。一義勝義、謂眞如勝智之境名勝義故。二得勝義、謂涅槃、此是勝果亦義利故。三正行勝義、謂聖道、以勝法為義故。此三勝義、應知但依三根本中圓成實立。

Coarse truth and subtle truth are the conventional truth and the ultimate truth. How do these [[[truths]]] depend on [the three nature as] the fundamental truth?

The verse says:


You should understand that the conventional truth is classified into three types:


Nominal explanation (prajñapti), practice (pratipatti) and revelation (udbhāvanā) depend on the fundamental three [natures] respectively.


The ultimate truth has three [types]:

object (artha), realization (prāpti) and correct practice (pratipatti). (…)


Comment: The conventional truth has three types: Ci) The conventional truth as nominal explanation, Cii) the conventional truth as practice, and Ciii) the conventional truth as revelation. These three conventional truths are established depending on the fundamental three truths respectively.

The ultimate truth also has three types: Ui) The ultimate truth as object (arthaparamārtha) is the thusness (tathatā) in the sense that it is the object (artha) of the ultimate (parama) wisdom. Uii) The ultimate truth as realization (prāptiparamārtha) is the nirvāṇa in the sense that it is the ultimate (parama) goal (artha). Uiii) The ultimate truth as practice (pratipattiparamārth) is the path (mārga) in the sense that it has the ultimate (parama) target (artha). You should understand that these three ultimate [[[truths]]] are established depending only on the perfectly accomplished nature (pariniṣpanna-svabhāva) of the fundamental three [natures]. (T1600, 31, 469b23-c6)


Quoting this passage, Erdi-yi discusses the relationship between the four-level ultimate truths and the three interpretations of MAVBh as follows:


此假世俗第一俗攝、唯有假名都無體故。此行世俗第二第三世俗所攝、有爲事故、心上變似四諦相理。理不離事故、依他攝、第二第三世俗攝也。顯了世俗第四俗攝、依二空門所顯了故。(…)


Ci) This conventional truth as nominal explanation corresponds to the first conventional [[[truth]]] (C1), since there is only nominal explanation and no essence in it. Cii) The conventional truth as practice corresponds to the second and third conventional [[[truth]]] (C2, C3), since they are conditioned phenomena and the appearance as alterations of consciousness like the

principle of the four noble truth. Since the principle is not different from the phenomena, they correspond to the nature of arising depending on others (*paratantra-svabhāva) and the second and third conventional [[[truth]]]. Ciii) The conventional truth as revelation corresponds to the fourth conventional [[[truth]]] (C4), since the teaching of the two kinds of emptiness is revealed in it. (…)


其義勝義第四眞攝。此得勝義第三眞攝、因證顯故約得辨故。此行勝義第二眞攝、無漏眞智理稍勝故。若隨其事第一眞攝。


Ui) The ultimate truth as object corresponds to the fourth ultimate [[[truth]]] (U4). Uii) The ultimate truth as realization corresponds to the third ultimate [[[truth]]] (U3), since it is appeared by realization and it is named according to realization. Uiii) The ultimate truth as practice corresponds to the second ultimate [[[truth]]] (U2), since the principle of the true untainted wisdom is relatively superior. When following to the phenomena [of the second second ultimate truth, the ultimate truth as practice] corresponds to the first ultimate [[[truth]]] (U1). (T1861, 45, 292b20-28)

According to Madhyāntavibhāga-ṭīkā (MAVṬ), Sthiramati’s commentary on MAVBh, the term ‘revelation’ [of the conventional truth as revelation corresponds (Ciii)] means the explanation of the dharma-realm that cannot be explain by words, using words such as tathatā (thusness). Therefore the perfectly accomplished nature (pariniṣpanna-svabhāva) also corresponds to the conventional truth as revelation (Ciii), which is not a conventional truth essentially6.

It is reasonable to think that these discussions are similar to the structure of C4, U3 and U4 of Table 2, since C4 and U3 mean the verbally established thusness, while U4 is said to be the verbally unestablished thusness.


3. Logical expression of the ultimate truth


As we seen above, in the context of the four different categories/layers/levels of the ultimate truths, the ultimate truth includes the whole concepts of Buddhist doctrine. The Faxiang/Hossō school had studied yinming/inmyō (hetu-vidyā), an East Asian transmission of the Dignāga’s (陳那, c. 400-480) logic, and discussed how to handle these ultimate truths in logical expressions.


It is well-known that Bhāviveka (清弁, c. 490-570) modified the Dignāgean logical system to demonstrate emptiness (śūnyatā) by means of language. He used the restriction ‘in the ultimate reality (paramārthatas)’ to distinguish a logical expression from conventional usage of language and common sense. The restriction is not his specialty but can be found in the treatises of the Sarvāstivāda and the Yogācāra. The tradition of the Faxiang/Hossō school says that Xuanzang also used the restriction to prove the view that nothing is exist independently from the consciousness (vijñapti-mātratā)7 8.

In his Inmyō-ronsho-myōtōshō 因明論疏明燈鈔, Zenju interprets the meaning of the ultimate reality in the restriction of Xuanzang’s proof, comparing with the doctrine of the four-level twofold truths.


此簡別中、總有二義。一者二諦相對、簡別非學世間之過。依勝義者、即眞前三、合名勝義。(…) 此三勝義、非是非學世間所知。故以簡之。(…) 第二三乘相對、簡別學者世間之過。三乘各有二諦之中、指菩薩乘二諦、眞四重中、第二道


6 See also Hayashima (2011).


7 且如大師、周遊西域、學滿將還。時戒日王、王五印度、爲設十八日無遮大會、令大師立義遍諸天竺。簡選賢良、皆集會所、遣外道小乘、競申論詰。大師立量、時人無敢對揚者。大師立唯識比量云、眞故極成色不離於眼識宗自許初三攝眼所不攝故因 猶如眼識喩


After traveling around India and completing his study, our master [[[Xuanzang]]] wanted to return to China. At that time, Śīlāditya, who was the king of all India, held a large and uninterrupted Buddhist service that lasted for eighteen days and asked our master to demonstrate [the Yogācāra doctrine] all over India. The king chose those who have wisdom and goodness, called them to the service. He sent non-Buddhists and Hīnayāna Buddhists to dispute with Xuanzang. Our master had made the following inference and no one could make an argument against it:

In the ultimate reality, generally accepted forms are not apart from visual consciousness (proposition). Because, based on the theory which we accept, they are categorized in the first three [of the eighteen realms] and not included in the general eyes (reason). Like as the visual consciousness (example). (Yinming-ruzhenglilun-shu 因明入正理論疏, T1840, 44, 115b21-27) 8 Moro (2015) discussed some historical problems of the tradition of Xuanzang’s proof.


理勝義諦、名爲大乘殊勝義、非是二乘之境界。


In this restriction, there are two purposes:


The first is, [based on] the mutual distinctions of the twofold truth, for avoiding the fallacy of [[[Wikipedia:contradiction|contradiction]] to] common sense (*loka-viruddha) of non-Buddhists. ‘Based on the ultimate reality’ means that the first three of the [four-level] ultimate realities are called as ‘the ultimate reality.’ Since these three ultimate truths cannot be understood by the common sense of non-Buddhists, it is excluded [from the domain of discourse by the restriction].

The second is, [based on] the mutual distinctions of the three vehicles, for avoiding the fallacy of [[[Wikipedia:contradiction|contradiction]] to] common sense of Buddhists. Each of the three vehicles has the twofold truth; Regarding the four-level ultimate [[[truths]]] of the Bodhisattva vehicle , the second ‘ultimate truth based on real principles’ is called as the special doctrine of the Mahāyāna, and is not the territory of the two vehicles. (T2270, 68, 315b7-c1) Since Zenju believed that Xuanzang tried to demonstrate the logical correctness of vijñapti-mātratā to “non-Buddhists and Hīnayāna Buddhists,” he showed the second meaning in the quotation above.


In general, all truths of the four-level twofold truths, except the ultimate-ultimate truth, can be described with logical expression using the restriction, which limits the context or semantic domain of a discourse.


References


Fukaura, Seibun (1 954) Yuishikigaku kenkyu gekan: Kyōgiron 唯識学研究 下巻: 教義論 [A Study of the Yogācāra Buddhism, Vol. 2: the Doctrine]. Kyoto: Nagata bunshō dō.

Hayashima, Satoshi (2011) “Prajñāpradīpa to Madhyāntavibhāga-bhāṣya ni okeru shōgi kaishaku Prajñāpradīpa と Madhyāntavibhāga-bhāṣya における勝義解釈 [The

Interpretation of the Absolute Truth in the Prajñāpradīpa and the Madhyāntavibhāga-bhāṣya].” Ryukoku University the bulletin of the Graduate School of Letters,

Hayashima, Satoshi (2014) “Konpon-chūron-ju dai XXIV shō ‘Kan-shitai-hon’ ni okeru nitaisetsu

kaishaku 『根本中論頌』第 XXIV 章「観四諦品」における二諦説解釈

[The Interpretation of the Two Truths in Chapter XXIV of the

Mūlamadhyamakakārikā.” Journal of Indian and Buddhist Studies, 63-1.


Moro, Shigeki (2015) Ronri to rekishi: Higashi ajia bukkyō ronrigaku no seiritsu to tenkai 論理と歴史:

東アジア佛教論理學の形成と展開 [[[Logic]] and History: Formation and

Expansion of Buddhist Logic in East Asia]. Kyoto: Nakanishiya shuppan.



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