Индия-Тибет: текст и феномены культуры
Buddhist Legends about Debates as Conveyed by Hsüan Tsang: Regular Patterns of Plot Construction
The paper focuses attention on a series of legendary narratives about debates of Buddhists with “heretics” contained in the travels of the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Hsüan Tsang (7th c.). At first acquaintance with these narratives, what strikes one most is the fixed character of their construction, based on stereotyped motifs of a mythological nature, and the virtual absence of historical testimony about their protagonists that are eminent figures of Buddhism (Aśvaghoṣa, Nāgārjuna, Guṇamati), who appear, in this case, merely as characters playing predetermined, stereotyped parts in the plot. The participants in a debate are the two contending parties, represented, on the one hand, by a famous Buddhist and, on the other, most frequently by a Brahman, as well as the king, acting as the arbiter determining the winner. The contest that takes place is designated by the term 論 lun, which, in this case, has the meaning “debate”, related to other meanings of the term, manifesting themselves in other contexts: “the Abhidharma”, as well as “a śāstra, a treatise on the Abhidharma”; thus, “a debate” is defined as “speculations on the Abhidharma”, “discussion of the Abhidharma”. The accompanying terminology is also related to this concept. The stereotyped outcome for the debate narratives is the physical destruction of the Brahman that has dared to dispute with the Buddhist. Such a construction of the “defeat of the opponent in a debate” plot is of the same type as the usual “subjugation” plots characteristic of Buddhist mythology. Another distinctive motif is the “substitution of a younger one”, typical of “single combat” narratives in folklore. The characteristic arrangement of the characters in these stories that includes the king is not confirmed by the data provided by Hsüan Tsang himself, who, in Chapter II, relates the actual procedure of conducting a debate. The observable “mythological” nature of the debate narratives is indicative of the trends that characterised the formation of the local Buddhist monastery tradition, which is probably the one transmitted by Hsüan Tsang. Bringing to light the regular patterns of the construction of such plots allows to reveal the techniques of introducing various characters, among whom there are quite a few historical figures, into these stories and, since the stories were incorporated in a certain way into the overall picture of the Buddhist legendary tradition, to approach an understanding of the global structure of the latter.