The Saddharma-pundarïka is one of the nine Dharmas which are known by the titles of— 1. Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita; 2. Ganda-vyüha; 3. Dagabhümïgvara; 4. Samadhi-raja; 5. Lankavatara; 6. Saddharma-pundarïka; 7. Tathagata-guhyaka; 8. Lalita-vistara; 9. Suvarna-prabhasa.
These nine works, to which divine worship is offered, embrace (to use the words of the first investigator of Nepalese Buddhism) 1 «in the first, an abstract of the philosophy of Buddhism 2 ; in the seventh, a treatise on the esoterie doctrines; and in the seven remaining ones, a full illustration of every point of the ordinary doctrine and discipline, taught in the easy and effective way of example and anecdote, interspersed with occasional instances of dogmatic instruction. With the exception of the first, these works are therefore of a narrative kind; but interwoven with much occasional speculative matter.»
As to the form, it would seem that all the Dharmas may rank as narrative works, which, however, does not exclude in some of them a total difference in style of composition and character. The Lalita-vistara e.g. has the movement of a real epic, the Saddharma-pundarïka has not. The latter bears the character of a dramatic performance, an undeveloped mystery play, in which the chief interlocutor, not the only one, is (^akyamuni, the Lord. Itconsists of a series of dialogues, brightened by the magie effects of a would-be supernatural scenery. The phantasmagorical parts of thewhole are as clearly intended to impress us with the idea of the might and glory of the Buddha, as his speeches are to set forth his all-surpassing wisdom. Some affinity of its technical arrangement with that of the regular Indian drama is visible in the prologue or Nidana, where Manjugrï at the end prepares the spectators and auditors—both are the same—for the beginning of the grand drama, by telling them that the Lord is about to awake from his mystic slumber and to display his infinite wisdom and power.
In the book itself we find it termed a Sütra or Sütranta of the class called
1 B. H. Hodgson, Essays on the Languages, Literature, and Religion of Nepal and Tibet (1874), p. 13; of. p. 49.
3 As the Perfect Prajfia is she who has produced all Tathügatas, the mother of all Bodhisattvas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Disciples (see Covvell and Eggeling, Catajogue of Buddhist Sanskrit Manuscripts, Journal Royal Asiatic Society, New Series, VIII, 1876, p. 3), we must infer that the work is chiefly intended to set forth the principia rerum. It begins with chaos (pradhana or prajna); and hence its place at the commencement of the list. We may, perhaps, best designate it as an abstract of mystic natural or materialistic philosophy.