Mahayana commentaries to the sutras

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Stephen18
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Mahayana commentaries to the sutras

Post by Stephen18 » Tue Jun 25, 2019 3:53 pm

Are the commentaries to the Mahayana sutras called "shastras"? If not, what are they (the shastras)?

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FromTheEarth
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Re: Mahayana commentaries to the sutras

Post by FromTheEarth » Tue Jun 25, 2019 6:26 pm

In the Chinese tradition, we commonly divide the commentaries into two kinds: (1) those purported to explain specific sutras, sometimes on a sentence-to-sentence basis, and, (2) those that establish a doctrinal-philosophical system or a thesis regarding some topics without much focus on specific sutras.

When you come to the Sanskrit terms, it is messier. You have many terms for different genres that can all be put into the third pitaka: shastra, abhidharma, upadesha, matrka, etc. Abhidharma (we have Mahayana Abhidharmas, yeah!!) completely fall under the second category I mentioned above. Matrka are basically summaries based on my understanding. Upadesha could refer to a category of sutras but is also used by Vasubandhu to title his commentaries on specific sutras. But upadesha could also involve the second kind of works I mentioned above. Overall, I doubt using any of these Sanskrit terms to include all sorts of commentaries would do justice to the genre differences, even though shastra seems to be the best candidate: it seems that based on how shastra is normally understood, at least Vasubandhu's Type-1 commentaries are not proper shastras.
I am not even an amateur philologist so please kindly correct me if there is any mistake. Thanks!!

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