The Saddharma-pundarîka is one of the nine Dharmas which are known by the titles of—1. Ashtasahasrikâ Pragñâpâramitâ; 2. Ganda-vyûha; 3. Dasabhûmîsvara; 4. Samâdhi-râga; 5. Lankâvatâra; 6. Saddharma-pundarîka; 7. Tathâgata-guhyaka; 8. Lalita-vistara; 9. Suvarna-prabhâsa.
These nine works, to which divine worship is offered, embrace (to use the words of the first investigator of Nepalese Buddhism) 'in the first, an abstract of the philosophy of Buddhism; in the seventh, a treatise on the esoteric 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-pundarîka has not. The latter bears the character of a dramatic performance, an undeveloped mystery play, in which the chief interlocutor, not the only
- B. H. Hodgson, Essays on the Language, Literature, and Religion of Nepál and Tibet, p. 13; cf. p. 49.
- As the Perfect Pragñâ is she who has produced all Tathâgatas, the mother of all Bodhisattvas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Disciples (see Cowell and Eggeling, Catalogue of Buddhist Sanskrit Manuscripts, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, New Series, VIII, p. 3), we must infer that the work is chiefly intended to set forth the principia rerum. It begins with chaos (pradhâna or pragñâ); 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.