Four levels of the Twofold Truth in the * East Asian Yogacara School
Professor, Cultural Heritage Department of Hanazono University.
II. Four Interpretations of the Twofold Truth in the Faxiang/Hosso school
III. Logical expression of the ultimate truth
Truth is one of the central subjects not only in philosophy but also in religions. In this paper, I would like to examine the theory of twofold truth, one of the representative theories in the Mahayana Buddhism, especially focusing on the interpretation of Zenju (732-797), an eminent scholar monk of the Japanese Yogacara (Hosso) school in the Nara period.
Based on Ji 8 (632-682) and Woncheuk UM (613-696), Zenju explains four levels of the twofold truth which classifies the twofold truth (the conventional truth and the ultimate truth) under four levels respectively. He states that both verbal conventions and realities are the foundation of the truths
(satya), and those eightfold truth forms a mutually linked system.
- An earlier version of this paper was presented at the workshop “Truth and Meaning in Buddhism,” Center for Advanced Studies, Ludwig-Maximilian-
Universität, Munich, September 12-13, 2016. I would like to thank Dr. Paulus Kaufmann for organizing this fruitful workshop and all the participants for their invaluable feedback. This paper was supported by JSPS Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research No. JP15H03155. The theory of four levels of the twofold truth also plays an important role in hetuvidya or Buddhist logic. Zenju states that the restriction of the proof of vijnaptimatrata, zhengu or “in
the ultimate truth,” corresponds to the first three of four levels of the ultimate truth: the conventional ultimate truth, the ultimate truth based on real principles, and the ultimate truth based on realization. In verbal communication or debate with logical expressions, Zenju allows plural truths corresponding to opponents, including those of religions or thoughts other than Buddhism.
From a relativistic standpoint, there are various truths, although each people or cultural/religious/philosophical tradition claims its own truth according to the situation. Like other philosophical and/or religious traditions, Buddhism has various theories of truth(s). The theory of the twofold truth (Skt. satya-dvaya; Ch. erdi
is one of the Buddhist approaches to truths, which divides many truths into two categories: the ultimate truth (paramdrtha-satya) and conventional truth (samvrti-satya').
There have been many discussions on the twofold truth in Buddhist scriptures. Although Nagarjuna's Mula-madhyamaka-kdrikd (MMK) has been regarded as the representative treatise on the twofold truth, the theory of two truths was not unique to Nagarjuna but shared by his contemporaries, according to Hayashima (2014). In Mahayana Buddhism, it is often said that the ultimate truth cannot be explained verbally. Some Buddhist scholars, however, have claimed that the verbal explanation on the ultimate truth could be regarded as the secondary ultimate truth. For example, Sthiramati, one of the famous Indian Yogacara scholar monks, regarded both the words explaining the ultimate truth and the objects (meanings) as the ultimate truth in his commentary of MMK entitled Dasheng zhongguan shilun
Since the wisdom of the most excellent (*pradhana parama?) Tathagatha is the same as the object (*artha) of the teachings, they are called the ultimate (*paramartha). All others are conventional (* samvrti), since they are not the nature of the truth. This teaching is the most excellent, since [it consists of] the good words and the good objects taught by the Buddha. Therefore [Nagarjuna] wrote the verse [like this]:
I bow my head to the Buddha, whose [teaching is] the greatest among all teachings.3)
There seems to be room for consideration on the relationship between language, meaning, and truth in the theories of the twofold truth. In this paper, focusing on this relationship, I would like to investigate some scholastic classifications of the twofold truth, based especially on Ji X (632-682), one of the disciples of Xuanzang (602-664) who has been regarded as the founder of the Faxiang/Hosso school (an East Asian transmission of Yogacara school), and Zenju (732-797), one of the eminent scholar monks of the Nara and early Heian period in Japan. contemporaries to investigate Nagarjuna's own idea of the twofold truth.
ffiB (T1567, 30, 136b29-c3)
II. Four Interpretations of the Twofold Truth in the Faxiang/Hosso school
1. Erdi yi of Dasheng fayuan yilinzhang
Ji devoted one chapter entitled Erdi yi (the meanings of the twofold truth) to the scholastic interpretation on the twofold truth in his seven volumes of Dasheng fayuan yilinzhang (DFY). The outline of Erdiyi is as follows:
1 Clarification of the Names and the Explanation of the Nature
1- 1 Clarification of the Names æA
1- 1-1 Enumeration
1- 1-2 Interpretation of the names
1- 2 Explanation of the nature
2 Depth and shallowness of the three vehicles ’AAA
2- 1 Distinction of the three vehicles
2- 2 Clarification of the depth and shallowness
2- 2-1 Person
3 Relationships and dialogues
3- 1 Relationships between descriptions of sutras
3- 2 Dialogues
Erdi yi, especially in §3-1, quotes many sutras and treatises as well as the anonymous references of the works of Huiyuan ft® (523-592), such as his commentary of the Nirvana sutra and Dasheng yizhang a massive encyclopedic work of Buddhist terminology, which precedes DFY.
The basic structure of the twofold truth in the Faxiang/Hosso doctrine is defined in §1-1-1. Ji classifies the twofold truth into four levels respectively, mainly based on Yogacarabhumi, Xianyang shengjiao lun and the Nirvana sutra of the Mahayana:
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 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 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 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 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 known as the described ultimate [truth] and the fourth one is the indescribable [truth].6) These eight truths (C1-C4, U1-U4) are structured as in Table 1 and Table 2, according to Woncheuk HIS1! quoted by Zenju's Ho’on gikyo a Japanese commentary of DFY7).
[Woncheuk of] Ximing [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 [words like] “army” or “forest” as the conventional truth [because they are nominal,] and regards [terms like] the [five] aggregates, the [twelve] bases and the
7) Fukaura (1954) interprets the structure of the four-level twofold truth as a hierarchical diagram like the one below (see p. 575):
All dharmas s#ife
Substantial Insubstantial Ml®
Principle 31 Phenomena
Meaning n Expression sè L_ i
Deep fik Shallow
Principle 31 Phenomena W
[eighteen] realms as the ultimate truth [because they are real].
The second is the twofold truth of phenomena and principle, which regards the [five] aggregates etc. as the conventional [truth because they are phenomena,] and regards [the truth of] suffering (duhkha) [of the four noble truths] as the ultimate truth [because they are principles]. The third is the twofold truth of the four noble truths and the ultimate truth, which regards the four noble truths as the conventional [truth] and regards the verbally established thusness 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 the same as this [Woncheuk's explanation].
In this context, the term “ultimate,” which is often used for the translation of paramartha, does not mean ultimateness but superiority, except the ultimate-ultimate truth (U4). Almost truths are Buddhist doctrinal concepts, such as the four noble truths, while the first one, the mundane conventional truth (C1), refers to non-Buddhist concepts of truths including ordinary language usage. (Table 1>
Conventional Truth Ultimate Truth
C1) Mundane conventional truth
e.g. armies, vases etc.
(= ordinary language usage). U1) Conventional ultimate truth
e.g. the five aggregates
(skandha), the twelve bases (ayatana), and the eighteen realms (dhatu). Twofold truth of substantial and insubstantial/Twofold truth of nominal and real C2) Conventional truth based on real principles
e.g. the five aggregates, the twelve bases, and the eighteen realms. U2) Ultimate truth based on real principles
e.g. the four noble truths. Twofold truth of phenomena and principle
C3) Conventional truth based on realization
e.g. the four noble truths. U3) Ultimate truth based on realization
e.g. the verbally established thusness. Shallowness and depth of the twofold truth/Twofold truth of the four noble truths and the ultimate truth
C4) Ultimate conventional truth
e.g. the verbally established U4) Ultimate-ultimate truth
e.g. the verbally Various explanations of the meanings of the twofold
thusness. unestablished thusness. truth/Twofold truth of the verbally established and the unestablished
Conventional Truth Ultimate Truth
C1) Mundane conventional truth
C2) Conventional truth based on real principles U1) Conventional ultimate truth Verbally established truths
C3) Conventional truth based on realization U2) Ultimate truth based on real = principles that are expressed in words
C4) Ultimate conventional truth U3) Ultimate truth based on = realization
U4) Ultimate-ultimate truth Verbally unestablished truth that cannot be expressed in words
Although Tables 1 and 2 are based on a traditional view of the twofold truth: words
and the substances establishing the words, the structures are different. Table 1 shows the inconsistency or gap between words and the substances, while Table 2 demonstrates the words corresponding to the substances. As seen in Table 2, all truths, except the ultimate-ultimate truth (U4), can be expressed by language. The middle three (C2 = U1, C3 = U2 and C4 = U3) show that Buddhist doctrines explained in words have both conventional and ultimate sides.
From the point of view of the relationship between language and meaning, the mundane conventional truth or the nominal truth (C1) is considered as the truth established only by language or verbal convention, while U4 is the truth based only on reality beyond language. The others (C2 = U1, C3 = U2 and C4 =
U3) also depend on realities, but they correspond to words. In other words, the truth in C2 is established by both U1 and U2 (C3 and C4 are also similar). All truths are mutually related, and those except for U4 are based on verbal convention and eventually established by U4. It seems possible to generalize
the structure as follows: Verbally established truth system CN has the entity UN that cannot be explained by the language for CN but can be expressed by that for CN+1. U0 for Ci does not exist. U4 (or, more generally speaking, Uffl) does not have C5 (or Cffi+1) which can express itself verbally.
Moreover, the four-level twofold truths are classified under the three vehicles. Tables 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 have the same structure as Table 2 (For example C2 of Sravaka corresponds to U1 of Sravaka). Many truths can coexist relating to each other in the structure of the twofold truth.
(Apidamo dapiposha lun, T1545, 27, 400a26-27)
Conventional Truth i Sravaka Pratyekabuddha Bodhisattva
conventional truth Verbally established vases, armies, forests, atman, and sattva.
C2) Conventional truth based on real principles The five aggregates
(skandha), the twelve bases (ayatana) and the eighteen realms (dhatu ) that are verbally established. The twelve states of existence (dvadasa- bhavanga) that are verbally established. Verbally established ten skills (the five aggregates, the twelve bases, the eighteen realms, the twelve states of existence etc.).
truth based on
Verbally established four
noble truths. Forward and reverse contemplation of the twelve states of existence that are verbally established. The three natures, the three kinds of absence of nature and the principle of consciousness-only that are verbally established.
conventional truth Verbally established thusness as emptiness of self. Verbally established thusness of the two kinds of emptiness.
Ultimate Truth Sravaka Pratyekabuddha Bodhisattva
ultimate truth The five aggregates, the twelve bases, and the eighteen realms that are verbally established. The twelve states of existence that are verbally established. Verbally established ten skills.
U2) Ultimate truth
based on real
principles Verbally established four
noble truths. Forward and reverse contemplation of the twelve states of existence that are verbally established. The principles of the three natures etc. that are verbally established.
Ultimate Truth Sravaka Pratyekabuddha Bodhisattva
U3) Ultimate truth
realization Verbally established thusness as emptiness of self. — Verbally established thusness of the two kinds of emptiness. U4)
Ultimate-ultimate truth -
Verbally unestablished selflessness as emptiness of self, one true realm of reality discussed without language Verbally unestablished one true realm of reality and selflessness of the two kinds of emptiness.
The relationship between truth and language in the four-level twofold truth seems to be derived from Indian Yogacara tradition. Vasubandhu's Madhaydntavibhdga- bhdsya (MAVBh; Ch. Bian zhongbian lun ^TS^i) also classifies the twofold truth into three types: Coarse truth and subtle truth are the conventional truth and the ultimate truth. How do these [truths] depend on [the three natures as] the fundamental truth? The verse says:
You should understand that the conventional truth is classified into three types:
Nominal explanation (prajnapti), practice (pratipatti), and revelation (udbhavana) depend on the fundamental three [natures] respectively.
The ultimate truth has three [types]:
realization (prapti), and
correct practice (pratipatti).
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
(arthaparamartha) is the thusness (tathata) in the sense that it is the object (artha) of the ultimate (parama) wisdom. Uii) The ultimate truth as realization (praptiparamartha) is the nirvana in the sense that it is the ultimate (parama) goal (artha). Uiii) The ultimate truth as practice
(pratipattiparamarth) is the path (marga) 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 (parinispanna-svabhava) of the fundamental three [natures].10) Quoting this passage, Erdi yi discusses the relationship between the four-level ultimate truths and the three interpretations of MAVBh as follows:
This conventional truth as nominal explanation (Ci) corresponds to the first conventional [truth] (C1), since there is only nominal explanation and no essence in it. The conventional truth as practice (Cii) corresponds to the second and third conventional [truths] (C2, C3), since they are conditioned phenomena and the appearance as alterations of consciousness like the principle of the four noble truths. Since the principle is not different from the
phenomena, they correspond to the nature of arising depending on others (*paratantra-svabhava) and the second and third conventional [truth]. The conventional truth as revelation (Ciii) corresponds to the fourth conventional [truth] (C4), since the teaching of the two kinds of emptiness is revealed in it.
The ultimate truth as object (Ui) corresponds to the fourth ultimate [truth] (U4). The ultimate truth as realization (Uii) corresponds to the third ultimate [truth] (U3), since it appears by realization and is named according to realization. The ultimate truth as practice (Uiii) corresponds to the second ultimate [truth] (U2),
since the principle of the true untainted wisdom is relatively superior. When following the phenomena [of the second ultimate truth, the ultimate truth as practice] corresponds to the first ultimate [truth] (U1).
According to Madhyântavibhâga-tïkâ, Sthiramati's commentary on MAVBh, the term “revelation” [of the conventional truth as revelation corresponding to (Ciii)] means the explanation of the dharma-realm that cannot be explained by words, using words such as tathata (thusness). Therefore, the perfectly accomplished nature (parinispanna-svabhava) also corresponds to the conventional truth as revelation (Ciii), which is not a conventional truth essentially 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.
As seen above, in the context of the four different levels of the twofold truth, the ultimate truth includes the whole concepts of Buddhist doctrines. The Faxiang/Hosso school had studied yinming/inmyo (hetu-vidya), an East Asian transmission of
the Dignaga's (B3|5, c. 400-480) logic and discussed how to handle these ultimate truths in logical expressions.
It is well known that Bhaviveka (flt#, c. 490-570) modified the Dignagan logical system to demonstrate emptiness (sünyata) by means of language. He used the restriction “in the ultimate reality (paramarthatas)” 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 Sarvastivada and the Yogacara. According to the tradition of the Faxiang/Hosso school, Xuanzang also used the restriction to prove the view that nothing exists independently from the consciousness (vijnapti-matrata).
After traveling around India and completing his study, our master [Xuanzang] wanted to return to China. At that time, Siladitya, 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 Yogacara doctrine] all over India.
The king chose those who had wisdom and goodness and called them to the service. He sent non-Buddhists and Hinayana 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 (*paramarthatas), 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).
In his InmyO ronsho mydtdshd Zenju interprets the meaning of “the ultimate reality” in the restriction of the proof of vijnapti-matrata, comparing it with the doctrine of the four-level twofold truths.
In this restriction, there are two purposes: The first is, [based on] the mutual distinctions of the twofold truth, for avoiding the fallacy of [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 ‘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 [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 the special doctrine of the Mahayana and is not the territory of the two vehicles.14)
The first purpose mentioned above is to show that a logical expression with the restriction “in the ultimate reality” is not based on the mundane conventional truth (C1) but on the first three ultimate realities (U1, U2, and U3). The second purpose is, however, to demonstrate a logical expression with the restriction based on U1, U2, and U3 of Bodhisattva as shown in Table 4. Since Zenju believed that Xuanzang tried to demonstrate the logical correctness of vijnapti-matrata to “non-Buddhists and Hmayana Buddhists,” he showed these two purposes in the quotation above. The truths of non-Buddhists correspond to C1 and those of Hmayana Buddhists to U1, U2, and U3 of Sravaka and Pratyekabuddha.
In general, all truths of the four-level twofold truths, except the ultimate-ultimate truth, can be described with logical expressions using the restriction, which limits the context or semantic domain of a discourse. In East Asian Buddhist logic, there are many restriction words15). Ono  states that Indian logic or Buddhist logic has a
thought that one's own proposition is limited by the claim and standpoint of the dialogue counterpart, and the thought seems to be a part of the religious tolerance in India. The thought of limitation is not irrelevant to the coexistence of various truths mentioned in the previous chapter.
So far, we have outlined the four levels of the twofold truth in the East Asian Yogacara school and its practical application in the context of Buddhist logic. It is reasonable to suppose that the system of the twofold truth shows the thought of coexistence of truths especially in the context of a dialogue between people who have different cultural/religious/philosophical traditions, and the thought seems to be based on the religious tolerance in India. The future direction of this study would be the influence of the tolerance on East Asian Yogacara Buddhism, which faced little opposition by non-Buddhists and Hmayana Buddhists unlike in India.
DFY Dasheng fayuan yilinzhang .AdV^L-Wi’1' (T1861).
MAVBh Xuanzang's Chinese translation of Madhyantavibhdga-bhasya of Vasubandhu (T1600).
MMK Mula-madhyamaka-karika of Nagarjuna.
T Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo
15) For details of the restriction terms found in the proof of vijnapti-matraia, see Moro (2015), chapter 2.
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