new book: Sobisch, three-vow theories

Harunaga Isaacson Isaacson at UNI-HAMBURG.DE
Sun Aug 4 16:07:18 UTC 2002

Dr. Jan-Ulrich Sobisch, who does not currently subscribe to this list,
has asked me to post the following book-announcement. Though it is
self-avowedly a Tibetological work (a revised version of Sobisch'
doctoral dissertation), one of the texts translated in it is by the
Indian pa.n.dita Vibhuuticandra, and in my opinion it is a publication
that should be of considerable interest  to those studying Indian,
especially Indian tantric, Buddhism.

Harunaga Isaacson

Jan-Ulrich Sobisch (2002) Three-Vow Theories in Tibetan Buddhism: A
Comparative Study of Major Traditions from the Twelfth through
Nineteenth Centuries. (Contributions to Tibetan Studies 1). David P.
Jackson (ed.). 596 pp., hardcover. Reichert Verlag, Wiesbaden. EUR 58,-
(3-89500-263-1) (

While the moral views of conventional Buddhism insists on strict
avoidance of evil deeds, in the Mahayana, which puts first the welfare
of others, moral rules may be annulled on occasion. In the Vajrayana
practiced in Tibet, some texts mention even an obligation to transgress
a given moral code. The attempts since the twelfth century to harmonize
the different vows of Pratimoksha, Mahayana, and Vajrayana frequently
led to harsh controversies. Some strategies for solving the conflict
between vows were attempts to derive from the postulated superiority of
Vajrayana either an automatic "upward transformation" of the "lower
vows," or a complete "outshining" of conventional moral codes. Others
explained particulars of the Vajrayana, such as "sexual yoga," as an
exception in the practice of a few, exceedingly accomplished yogis,
while in general passages of the Tantras referring to such practices
were to be interpreted conforming with convention.
        The present study investigates Tibetan theories concerning the
vows in their initial state as well as their subsequent interpretation.
One of its results is the realization that the same term may be used by
different authors in quite different ways and that positions that seem
contrary originate from a differing appraisal of merely some aspects.
The latter, however, appears to be the main cause for the different
attitudes in the practice of Mantra.
        The book contains, apart from an introduction, biographical
notes on all authors whose works were utilized, topical summaries of the

most important works with detailed annotation, a chapter analysing the
history of ideas of some key terms, documentation and translation of
Tibetan texts on 227 pages, and detailed indices. Works of mainly the
following authors are presented: The Indian pandita Vibhuticandra, the
Tibetan masters Go-rams-pa (Sa-skya-pa), sGam-po-pa (bKa'-brgyud-pa),
Karma-'phrin-las-pa and Karma-nges-don (Karma bKa'-brgyud-pa),
Kong-sprul (Ris-med), 'Jig-rten-mgon-po and rDo-rje-shes-rab ('Bri-gung
bKa'-brgyud-pa) as well as mNga'-ris Pan-chen and Lo-chen Dharmashri

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