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On the <i>Dharmabhāṇaka</i>

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Other Title
  • 説法師(dharmabhāṇaka)考
  • 説法師(dharmabhanaka)考
  • セッポウシ(dharmabhanaka)コウ

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Abstract

<p>The importance of the dharmabhāṇaka has long been recognized, but there are many aspects that remain unclear, such as whether or not there were renunciants, their relationship with lay believers and bodhisattvas, and their role. In this paper, I accordingly examine the dharmabhāṇaka as described in Mahāyāna sutras and their position from a fresh perspective.</p><p>Basically, the dhammakathika as a monk can be seen in both so-called mainstream schools and the Mahāyāna, but the term dharmabhāṇaka is found in the Mahāyāna and only in sutras. However, the term dharmakathika is occasionally found, for example, in the “Pañcabhikṣuśatavyākaraṇa-parivarta” of the Saddharmapuṇḍarīka-sūtra (4 instances), while dhārmakathika appears once in the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā. In these cases, they are titles applied to specific disciples such as Pūrṇa and Subhūti. In other words, in Mahāyāna sutras the term dharmabhāṇaka was in broad general use, while dharmakathika was no more than a vestige of early Buddhism.</p><p>The dharmabhāṇaka replaced the dharmakathika in Mahāyāna sutras, and he would have had the following characteristics:</p><p>(1) While inheriting the attributes of the renunciant dhammakathika, the dharmabhāṇaka became a new promoter of Buddhist beliefs.</p><p>(2) The dharmabhāṇaka was closely linked to the caitya worship of the early Mahāyāna, with the place where he preached the Dharma becoming a sacred caitya, and the dharmabhāṇaka who preached the Dharma was worshipped in the same way that the Buddha was.</p><p>(3) The dharmabhāṇaka was protected by gods such as Śakra and the four lokapālas. When preaching the Dharma, he was confirmed unimpeded wisdom and dhāraṇīs by them, and also granted eloquence (pratibhāna) to facilitate his preaching of the Dharma.</p><p>(4) In almost all sutras the dharmabhāṇaka is deemed to be a monk, but in the system of ten stages of practice it is said that the practitioner leaves home to become a renunciant in the fifth stage and then becomes a dharmabhāṇaka.</p><p>(5) In the Mahāyāna, no distinction is made between the renunciant and the layman in the case of bodhisattvas and kulaputras. Both the bodhisattva dharmabhāṇaka and those listening to his sermon call each other kulaputra, and there are no distinctions of rank in this term.</p><p>(6) The dharmabhāṇaka is usually a monk or a renunciant. But there is the possibility that he may not have been a formally ordained monk and may have resided not in a monastery but in the forest or the wilderness.</p><p>In light of above, one cannot gainsay the possibility that the dharmabhāṇaka may have been involved in the creation of new Mahāyāna sutras.</p>

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