16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This commentary by Tsong kha pa goes with Maitreya's Abhisamayalamkara, or "Ornament for the Clear Realizations," and its commentaries, Vrtti by Arya Vimuktisena, and Aloka by Haribhadra, also translated by Gareth Sparham. This first volume (of four) of Tsong kha pa's commentary is a large book, and like all this detailed material, is slow reading. Allow plenty of time for studying it. The extensive English to Tibetan glossary (pp. 617-658) is very helpful, since standardized translations of Buddhist terms do not exist.
One gets the clear impression that Tsong kha pa had carefully studied all the commentaries on the Abhisamayalamkara, the several Indian ones translated into Tibetan, and the ones composed in Tibetan. He was concerned to sort out from the many conflicting explanations found in them the correct explanation of Maitreya's terse text. His favored commentator is obviously Haribhadra, whom he almost invariably agrees with. Since Haribhadra followed Arya Vimuktisena, Tsong kha pa usually agrees with him, too. But there are many points not touched by these two commentators, and Tsong kha pa brings in and sorts out the views of the other Indian commentators, and also of some Tibetan commentators who preceded him.
It was important for all these commentators to trace out what part of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra is the source or reference point for each of Maitreya's statements in the Abhisamayalamkara. They normally referred to the version in 25,000 lines, although sometimes to the version in 8,000 lines. Sparham references these to Edward Conze's translations of these two texts. Even though Conze's Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom is a composite translation of the versions in 18,000, in 25,000, and in 100,000 lines, the passages referred to can usually be found in it.
The main concern of all these commentators, of course, was to trace out the path to Buddhahood in great detail in all its stages as outlined by Maitreya in his Abhisamayalamkara. What is realized on each stage will differ for a Listener (Sravaka), for a Pratyeka-buddha, or for a Bodhisattva. But exactly how all these things differ, including even the stages themselves, is not always clear in Maitreya's brief text. So various explanations of what Maitreya meant arose long ago in India, were transmitted to Tibet, and had to be sorted out. This Tsong kha pa did.
This book is one of Tsong kha pa's earliest, written well before the enlightenment experience that altered his course in life. But even here we see a self-assured person who writes with confidence. His great scholarship is already evident, in citing conflicting interpretations from the various commentaries, and pointing out why many of them cannot be correct. It really is an extraordinarily comprehensive commentary on the most widely studied book in Tibet, Maitreya's Abhisamayalamkara, by the man who became the founder of the largest order in Tibet, the Gelugpas.