01 November 2013

The 'Act of Truth' in Relation to the Heart Sutra

I've now mentioned the saccakiriyā (Skt. *satyakriyā) or 'act of truth' several times in relation to the Heart Sutra and its protective function. The text itself claims that the efficacy of prajñāpāramitā comes from samyaktva and amithyātva; i.e., from truth and non-falseness or from rightness and non-wrongness. It has long been my intention to write something on the saccakiriyā for this blog, because I think it sheds important light on the ancient Buddhist worldview that is hidden from modern Buddhists of all stripes. In this essay I'll provide an outline of the saccakiriyā and try to show how it might inform the Heart Sutra, in particular, and Buddhist sūtras, in general.

There have been a number of articles on saccakiriyā over the years, though mostly they are quite old now. They cover the subject in some breadth and depth, but I have never been entirely satisfied with their account of the saccakiriyā because, on the one hand, the key authors describe the saccakiriyā as 'Hindu' when they mostly use Buddhist sources; and, on the other hand, they try hard to link it with Vedic attitudes to truth without finally acknowledging that the saccakiriyā is primarily a Buddhist phenomenon that has no Vedic counterpart.

The Power of Truth

In his 声字実相義 Shō ji jissō gi [= The Meanings of Sound, Word, and Reality], Kūkai quotes  a passage from the Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā that, for him, shows that the speech of the Buddha, i.e., mantra, has five characteristics: "it is true, real, tells things as they are, does not deceive, and is consistent"(Hakeda 241). The Chinese version, produced by Kumārajīva (T 8.235) in 403 CE, reads:
Rúlái shì zhēn yǔ zhě, shí yǔ zhě, rú yǔ zhě, bù kuáng yǔ zhě, bù yì yǔ zhě.
The Tathāgata is a speaker of reality, a speaker of truth, a speaker of things as they are, an honest speaker, and not a deceitful speaker.
The passage in Vaidya's Sanskrit is more or less identical (Vaidya 1961: 81. Section 14f):
bhūtavādī subhūte tathāgataḥ, satyavādī tathāvādī ananyathāvādī tathāgataḥ, na vitathavādī tathāgataḥ ||
Subhūti, the Tathāgata is a speaker of reality, a speaker of truth, a speaker of things as they are, an honest speaker, and not a misleading speaker.
Here 語 means 'speech' (Skt vāda) and 語者 means 'a speaker' and corresponds to Sanskrit vādin. A vādin (masculine nominative singular: vādī) is someone who speaks a particular way, a professor, or someone who holds a particular view or ideology. We find the same term at the end of sectarian names like Theravādin (the ideology of the elders) or Sarvāstivādin (the ideology of ultimate existence).

Combined with this we firstly have 真 zhēn and 實 shí which were discussed in a previous essay in relation to samyaktvāmithyātvāt and yathabhūta-jñānadarśana. They mean 'real' and 'true', respectively and here correspond to bhūta and satya, respectively. Next comes 如 , where 如  corresponds to tathā, 'thus', which is related to tathātā, 'thusness'. The word tathā is a compound of tad (the stem form of the neuter third-person pronoun 'it, that') with the modal suffix -thā and as a particle means 'so, thus, accordingly'. Note the same Chinese character appears in the epithet 如來 rúlái, i.e., tathāgata. Then 不誑 bù kuáng. The basic meaning of 誑 kuáng is deceit, and 不 is, like Sanskrit a-, a negative particle, so 不誑 means 'not deceitful' or 'honest', corresponding to ananyathā (i.e. an-anya-thā 'non-other-wise' from anya 'other'). Lastly 不異 bù yì where 異  means 'different, weird, other' [as in other than true] and 不異 corresponds to na vitatha which derives from vi + tathā (and thus means 'not-not-thus' i.e. na vitathā = tathā).

The five qualities are: bhūta (real), satya (true), tathā (thus), ananyathā (un-false), na vitatha (not incorrect). It's debatable whether there is any real distinction here as these terms are all synonyms. Buddhist texts initially seem to list synonyms for emphasis, only to have later exegetes tease out distinct meanings for each synonym.

We again see here the distinction between truth and non-falsehood: both qualities are important to Buddhists. Of course, what is true is, ipso facto, not false, but Buddhists value both sides of the equation.  This distinction was made in an earlier essay contrasting satya and mṛṣā discussed alongside samyaktva and mithāyatva. Here what is false is not-true (vi-tathā) or other than true (anya-thā), and what is true (bhūta, satya, tathā ) is also not-false (na anyathā) and not-not-true (na vitathā).

This is how Kūkai understood the efficacy of mantra. Mantra is potent because it is the direct speech of the Dharmakāya, which is truth itself. Indeed, the Chinese/Japanese translation of mantra is 真言 (Jap. shin gon; Chin. zhēn yán) 'true words' which in Sanskrit would be bhūtavācana. However, there is a general principle here as well. Buddhavācana is powerful because it contains the speech (vācana) of the Buddha which is always true (bhūtasatyatathā, etc). Words in Buddhist texts are considered by Buddhists to be true in the sense that they align with the nature of reality (though here I would substitute "experience" for "reality"), and this is what the term samyañc (Pāli sammā) is getting at. Thus we say samyag-dṛṣti means 'right-view'. A view that is samyañc conforms to the way things are (or how experience is), and seeing clearly how things are causes us to alter our behaviour to 'go with' (samyañc) instead of 'going against' (mithyā) this vision. In the first instance, it may well involve getting your facts 'right', but right-view reorients the viewer; it changes our gestalt, and our relationship to sensory experience and to the experience of selfhood. The difference might be likened to a sailor in a storm who is being buffeted by huge waves and turns their boat to head into waves. Side-on, the waves constantly threat to roll the boat over, from the rear they threaten to 'poop' the boat (i.e., over-flow the rear of the boat and cause it to founder) but, heading into the waves a small, but well-designed, boat can survive even the huge waves of a storm on the open ocean.

Thus, reciting a Buddhist scripture is always a multi-layered experience for a believer. At one level they simply rehearse the teachings in order to learn and remember them. At another level, the words begin to guide their gaze towards the nature of experience and, perhaps, help to gain glimpses of that nature. On yet another level, they participate in the true nature of experience, because they enunciate the truth of the nature of all experiences (which importantly includes the experience of selfhood). Such words are Holy, a word which comes from Old English and means 'healthy, whole, inviolable'. It was adopted as a translation of Biblical Latin sanctus, hence the connection also to 'sacred'. The saccakiriyā is a special case of this Holiness.

The Truth Act or Saccakiriyā

In brief, the textual examples saccakiriyā (an extensive list of examples is found in Burlingham, 1917) involve stating aloud something which is is true about oneself (usually a virtue that one possesses or exemplifies) and making a request on the basis of this truth that something in the world changes. The change that is accomplished is almost always secular, or in Buddhist terms is not aimed at the goal of awakening. The saccakiriyā typically aims at using truth to gain mastery over nature and/or one's fate.

Most authorities follow Burlingame (1917) in placing the locus classicus in the Milindapañha (See Horner 1963: Vol.1, p.166ff). This post-canonical text has the most extensive explanation of the way a saccakiriyā functions and what can be achieved by it (the list includes rain-making, extinguishing fires, and detoxifying poison). In the Milindapañha, Nāgasena uses a variety of traditional stories to illustrate the workings for the King. For example, the Jātaka story of King Sivi, who gives his eyes to a beggar but is presented with divine eyes (dibbacakkhu) by Indra as a reward for his selflessness. Nāgasena says:
Yathā, mahārāja, ye keci sattā saccamanugāyanti 'mahāmegho pavassatū'ti, tesaṃ saha saccamanugītena mahāmegho pavassati, api nu kho, mahārāja, atthi ākāse vassahetu sannicito 'yena hetunā mahāmegho pavassatī'ti? 'Na hi, bhante, saccaṃ yeva tattha hetu bhavati mahato meghassa pavassanāyā'ti. 'Evameva kho, mahārāja, natthi tassa pakatihetu, saccaṃ yevettha vatthu bhavati dibbacakkhussa uppādāyāti.' 
Just as, your Majesty, some adept* recites a truth [then says] 'let the clouds shed their rain' and by that recital the clouds shed their rain. So, Majesty, is there a cause for rain already existent in the sky that causes the rain? No, Bhante, the truth itself is the cause for the cloud shedding its rain. Just so, Majesty, there is no ordinary cause (pakatihetu) for that, the truth itself (saccam yeva) is the ground (vatthu)... 
*CST has sattā but the PTS edition has siddha which fits the context better. Cf Horner (1963: 168 n.3).
There are saccakiriyā's in the Nikāyas and, of all of them, I think Aṅgulimāla deserves close attention. Aṅgulimāla is a wonderfully ambivalent figure. The mass-murderer who becomes an arahant. The arahant who is confronted by his own unripened evil karma. And, in this aspect of his narrative, the speaker of truth who has to carefully consider just what is true in order to help someone in distress.

Returning one day from his alms round, Aṅgulimāla sees a women having a difficult childbirth (itthiṃ mūḷhagabbhaṃ vighātagabbhaṃ. MN ii.102). On reporting this to the Buddha, he is instructed to  go back to her and say:
'yatohaṃ, bhagini, jātiyā jāto nābhijānāmi sañcicca pāṇaṃ jīvitā voropetā, tena saccena sotthi te hotu, sotthi gabbhassā'ti 
"Noble woman, since my birth I am not aware of ever having intentionally deprived a living being of life; by this truth may you and your baby be well."
Apparently, the Buddha has forgotten that he is speaking to a mass murderer and Aṅgulimāla has to point out that he has indeed harmed many beings. The Buddha amends the statement to:
'yatohaṃ, bhagini, ariyāya jātiyā jāto, nābhijānāmi sañcicca pāṇaṃ jīvitā voropetā, tena saccena sotthi te hotu, sotthi gabbhassā'ti.
"Noble woman, since my aryan birth I am not aware of ever having intentionally deprived a living being of life, by this truth may you and your baby be well."
Authorities are divided on whether 'from my noble birth' (ariyāya jātiyā) represents Aṅgulimāla's ordination or becoming an arahant, though I think the latter must be intended. In any case, he goes to the woman and says this, and all was well with the woman and her birth/fetus was well. (Atha khvāssā itthiyā sotthi ahosi, sotthi gabbhassa). The word 'well' is Pāli sotthi, equivalent to Sanskrit svasti (compare the svastika symbol) which comes from the phrase su asti 'it is good'. Svasti refers to good luck, fortune or auspices. It is fundamentally a superstitious concept. It is concerned with maṅgala or luck, and the people who relied on such means were sometimes referred to by the Buddha as maṅgalikā 'superstitious' (e.g., Cullavagga, Vin V.129, 140). Of course, it is said that bhikkhus ought not to be maṅgalikā, but the story of Aṅgulimāla shows the Buddha encouraging Aṅgulimāla to use magic to create good fortune. On the other hand, we can see Buddhists attempting to redefine the concept of maṅgala in terms of the values and abstract ideals of Buddhism in the Mahāmaṅgala Sutta of the Suttanipāta (Sn 258-269). So, at best, the early Buddhist texts are ambivalent about magic, sometimes seeming to want to suppress or downplay it, sometimes trying to redefine it, and other times openly embracing it. It is significant that in the Buddhist parts of Sri Lanka, the Aṅgulimāla will be chanted for mothers in childbirth for their protection. The protective function of suttas is an important aspect of the history of Buddhist ideas.

As we know, many Mahāyāna Sūtras spend considerable time saying that reciting or copying the sūtra brings practically infinite benefits to the pious. Indeed, in some cases, there is so much of this extolling of reciting and copying that it seems as though this is the whole message of the text - just copy the words saying "copy me" and you will be protected from misfortune (like a bizarre chain letter). Some also contain more explicit references to saccakiriya, though in slightly different terms (see below). 

The key words that make a saccakiriyā are 'by this truth' (tena saccena) or 'by this truth-speaking' (etena saccavajjena). This is accompanied by a verb in the imperative, a command essentially. The saccakiriyā is used for a variety of recorded purposes including: healing, rescuing, overcoming obstacles, and protection. It is a also apparently used for showing off, as when Binudmatī, a prostitute, demonstrates to Asoka that she can use a saccakiriyā to make the river Ganges flow backwards in the Milindapañha. Her saccakiriyā depends on her even-handedness with those who pay for her services. She acknowledges no differences in those who can afford her price. There is a subtext here which seems to have been lost on previous commentators. Failing to make social distinctions based on class is an implicit criticism of the hierarchical social order of the Vedics. Like the Buddha himself, Bindumatī does not acknowledge the hierarchy imposed on India by Brahmins. And it is precisely in rejecting caste that Bindumatī, portrayed as a rather lowly and despised figure, aligns herself with reality and gains the power to make the Ganges flow backwards. The miracle is dependent on the Buddhist rejection of caste, and the fact of Bindumatī's being a prostitute is probably a rhetoric slap in the face to Brahmins.

The Perfection of Wisdom tradition also contains truth acts. For example, in the Aṣṭasāhasrikā (Skt. Vaidya 1960: 189-190; trans Conze 1973: 228-9) and the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtras (Skt. Kimura 5:3; trans. Conze 1975: 433), the bodhisattva is able to use the saccakiriya to test a prediction (vyākṛta) to Buddhahood delivered to him in a dream. If he takes a stand on the truth (satyādhiṣṭhāna) and is able to, for example, extinguish a fire in a town by speaking the truth truthfully (tena satyena satyavacanena), then he can be sure of eventual Buddhahood. If, however, the fire continues to consume the town then he must have some residual karma (karmopacitaṃ) blocking his progress. The bodhisattva is also able to exorcise ghosts in the same way (this episode follows on from the previous one in both Aṣṭa and Pañcavimśati). This is one of many continuities with pre-sectarian Buddhist thought that is found in Prajñāpāramitā texts. (For other Mahāyāna references and relationship to mantra see Chisho).

Studies of the Saccakiriyā

Burlingame had already identified that many of the saccakiriyās in his catalogue relied on virtue for their efficacy. The saccakiriyā often relies on truthfully stating that one possesses a virtue, as in the case of Aṅgulimāla. However, he struggles to fit all of his examples into this framework. Bindumatī, for example, is deliberately portrayed as lacking in virtues (she is a thief, a cheat, etc.), though from a Buddhist point of view rejecting caste distinctions is a virtue! Burlingame also notes one or two non-Buddhist sources: one in the Mahābhārata and one in the Rāmayāna where stories cross over Jātaka stories. Had Burlingame distinguished Buddhism from Hinduism, he might have pondered how a story could appear in both traditions and explored the provenance. However, he did not. Given that the great majority of saccakiriyā are Buddhist, the most likely scenario is that they are a Buddhist form that was carried over into the Epics along with a few other fragments of Buddhist narrative. 

Unfortunately, the next scholar to take a major interest in saccakiriyā, W. Norman Brown (1940), also crudely conflates Buddhism and Hinduism. His main idea is that saccakiriyā can be understood as an extension of the Vedic focus on ṛta (cosmic order) and satya (truth) which are at times almost synonymous. This argument is hampered by his failure to find a single credible example of a saccakiriyā of the Buddhist type in the Ṛgveda. The Sanskrit equivalent of Pāli word saccakiriyā, i.e., satyakṛiyā, is not found in any Sanskrit text. If the idea is Vedic then, as he says, it must be "well concealed" (42). However, note that even in Buddhist Sanskrit texts the key word becomes satyādhiṣṭhāna. Brown's main contribution is to highlight common features which had escaped Burlingame, thus giving a common basis for all saccakiriyā. To do this, he invokes the idea of socio-religious duty (dharma) which is so central to Hinduism. Here, we have cause for dissatisfaction, since dharma as "duty" is never particularly important in Buddhism. Virtue (sīla), purity (suddha) and merit (puññā) are all far the more important concepts with respect to obligations imposed by the religious life. Brown's citation of a passage of the Bhagavadgīta which states that "it's better to do one's own duty badly than to do the duty of another well" is completely at odds with the spirit and the letter of Buddhism. Technically, Buddhist monks walk away from class (varṇa) and caste (jāti) and all the associated notions of duty when they are ordained (cf comments on Bindumatī above). Brown takes two more bites at the saccakiriyā apple in 1968 and 1972, but he never manages to distinguish Buddhism from Hinduism and thus does not explain saccakiriyā in Buddhist terms, even though the vast majority of his texts are Buddhist. 

However, Brown's error contains some truth and points us in the right direction. According to any social code of conduct, Aṅgulimāla's mass murder is reprehensible. And when he joined the saṅgha he repudiated his dharma in the sense of social duty in the Vedic or Brahmanical use of the term. He cannot be said to meet Brown's criteria of fulfilling his duty in any sense. But in becoming an arahant he has aligned (samyañc) himself with dharma in the Buddhist sense. Thus, Aṅgulimāla's ability to use a saccakiriyā only makes sense within a Buddhist framework and specifically does not make sense in a Hindu or Brahmanical framework. 

George Thompson (1998) takes up the theme of saccakiriyā in light of Pragmatics (an application of Philosophical Pragmatism to language). Thompson goes as far as to say that the saccakiriyā is "a central Vedic institution" (125) despite still failing to find a single straightforward example of a saccakiriyā in a Vedic text. Thompson's approach to Brown's analysis is hampered because he only cites the last of Brown's three articles on this subject; the importance of the first article cited above is thus lost. Thompson's analysis of saccakiriyā is in the Pragmatic terms of J. L. Austin and his interpreter John Searle. There are certainly arguments for this approach. As a performative or "illocutionary" speech act, the saccakiriyā is at least taken seriously by Thompson. However, his approach remains reductive and never really comes to grip with the magical aspect of saccakiriyā. Though the Pragmatic approach is more interesting than, say, the Semantic approach of the late Frits Staal, in the end it does not give us insights into the Indian Buddhist mind. We may come to understand saccakiriyā in Pragmatic terms, but the people who composed the texts did not think in these terms, so it does not shed light on the emic understanding of saccakiriyā, i.e., on the worldview of ancient Buddhists who used magic (On emic/etic see this explanation).

Of course, my own application of Glucklich's work to understanding Buddhist magic, and mantra in particular, suffers, to some extent, from the etic/emic problem. Glucklich's framework is etic. However, as I hope I have shown, the crucial concept of interdependence is also part of the Buddhist worldview and, thus, Glucklich's approach enables us to build bridges that make for understanding in emic terms without a commitment to the emic worldview. 

Thompson, like many recent scholars of Buddhist mantra (e.g., Lopez 1990), makes reference to the series of essays presented in a volume called Mantra, edited by Harvey Alper (1989). There is no doubt that the essays in this book are fascinating, and they open up new ways of thinking about the Vedic approach to mantra, especially by employing Pragmatic paradigms (though Staal is highly critical of the Pragmatic approach in his contribution to the volume). If they mention Buddhist mantra, they do so only in passing, and Buddhist mantra seems to be a different topic, which employs an entirely different paradigm. So we not only have the problem of an approach which is determinedly etic, but also one which ignores Buddhism as a distinct tradition. The same applies to Jan Gonda's oft cited 1963 classic The Indian Mantra. It is a highly useful and insightful study of mantra in the Vedic/Hindu context that almost entirely leaves Buddhist mantra aside. So little effort has gone into the study of Buddhist mantra on Buddhist terms that there is precious little research to refer to. In my opinion, the best guide to Buddhist mantra is the works of Kūkai, translated by Yoshito Hakeda in Kūkai: Major Works. Referring to this book, we can see that the understanding of mantra in the Buddhist milieu went in entirely different directions from the Vedic/Hindu milieu. A thorough study of Buddhist mantra in Buddhist terms is an urgent desideratum for Buddhist studies. My own book Visible Mantra only scratches the surface.

This is an all too brief overview of this often overlooked magical tradition within Buddhism. I think this framework of truth-magic is integral to understanding the value and power of the Heart Sutra and, especially, the dhāraṇī within the sūtra. As almost every work which discusses the Heart Sutra will remind the reader, this text is chanted daily in monasteries, temples and shrine-rooms across the Mahāyāna Buddhist world. But none of these sources really gets to grips with why this is so. That magic might play a part is obscured by modern bias: we don't want to see the magical side of Buddhism.

The text is also studied and commentaries continue to be produced from a variety of worldviews and viewpoints. One of the things that fascinates me is that the Sanskrit text has been established for so long and yet has received so little critical attention. Nattier makes some comments, almost apostrophes, regarding the Sanskrit, but the most popular Mahāyāna Buddhist text has not been studied in anything like enough depth. Recent important contributions From Lopez, Nattier and Silk have made little impact in the world of Buddhist practice.

Saccakiriyā as Magic

One last task remains, which is to tie the saccakiriyā in with Glucklich's views on magic. In Indic languages the root sat means both true and real. Thus, to say that an utterance is satya (Pāli sacca) 'truth', is also to state that it is reality and not merely as a reference, but reality itself. Similarly, for words like bhūta and tathā. In ancient India one knew that the eyes were not always trustworthy, so the ears were the gateway to reality: hence, Buddhists are śravakāḥ 'hearers' and the learned are  described as 'śrutavat' 'possessing what was heard'. Hence, also, the sūtras begin evaṁ maya śrutam... "I heard it this way". In the Buddhist worldview I'm describing (spanning the Pāli nikāyas, Milindapaña and the main Sanskrit Prajñapāramitā texts), words that conform (samyañc) to reality have the power to invoke real-world changes. The underlying metaphysic here is that what is real on one level is real on every level and there are connections (bandhu) between levels (despite my earlier comments, this worldview comes from the Vedic milieu). In Glucklich's terms, if we have lost the sense of interconnectedness that is vital to our well being, then we can restore it by partaking in some aspect of the real on another level. Because of universal interconnectedness, we can access macro or cosmic interconnectedness via micro or local interconnectedness, with the right attitude. In this view reciting a sūtra, dhāraṇī or mantra does precisely that.

In the saccakiriyā one states a truth or reality or, in fact, one states that one is, oneself, in harmony (samyañc) with truth (satya), in order to restore order external to oneself. And this has often been the main use of the Heart Sutra. Legend tells us that Xuanzang, for example, recited the text to ward off evil spirits while crossing the Gobi desert. Certainly, a feature of Mahāyāna Buddhism in East Asia has been the belief that chanting sutras is a valid response to misfortune, whether personal or national. Japan was (and still is) highly vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunami, typhoons, floods, and fires (in towns built from wood). One early Japanese Emperor effectively bankrupted the Japanese economy in a frenzy of temple building and the sponsoring of monks to chant texts in his response to repeated calamity.

Chanting texts for protection seems to date from very early in Buddhist history. The paritta ceremony is mentioned in the Milindapañha and continues down to the present, and most Mahāyāna texts promise protection to anyone who propagates them. And, interestingly, this has a direct parallel in the medieval monasteries of Christian Europe. The cycles of daily prayers were central to the existence of the monks, and these were kept up to try to ensure the wellbeing of king and country.

The saccakiriyā allows one individual who is samyañc (in tune) with respect to the nature of experience, to restore samyañc for another who is mithyā (at odds) with respect to the nature of experience.
I think Brown and Thompson are right in detecting a relationship with Vedic metaphysics here, but the form of expressing that ability to exploit samyañc when a protagonist says etena saccavajjena... hotu 'by [the power of] this truth-speaking... may [something]  be!' to change reality is simply not found in Vedic contexts. The saccakiriyā allows one individual who is samyañc (in tune) with respect to the nature of experience, to restore samyañc for another who is mithyā (at odds) with respect to the nature of experience. This is what Aṅgulimālā does, for example. In many Jātaka stories featuring a saccakiriyā, the restoration of samyañc often allows a protagonist to complete their task in the face of some obstacle. Thus, the saccakiriyā throws light on the importance of the distinction between samyañc and mithyā, which is at the heart of the Eightfold path. And note that, though the eightfold path as a substantial existing entity is denied in the Heart Sutra, the quality of samyaktva/amithyātva is affirmed. As far as I can tell, no one uses a saccakiriyā in order to break out of saṃsāra. The magic is primarily a secular cultural phenomenon which has been incorporated into the Buddhist mix because it is part of the milieu in which Buddhist writers lived. The parallel is modern Buddhist writers incorporating the attitudes and jargon of psychotherapy into their descriptions and expositions. However, in the Prajñāpārmitā literature the bodhisattva can use the saccakiriyā to test their progress towards bodhi.

We might also see this principle at work in other contexts. When we practice transferring our merit (pariṇāmanā), for example. The more we are samyañc, the more merit (puṇya) we have. And, being samyañc, we are able to have a positive influence. Giving our merit away only makes us more samyañc. Similarly, to the extent that our kalyāna-mitras are samyañc, they influence us to be less mithyā.


So this is the saccakiriyā or truth act. In some ways this is an obscure branch of Buddhist lore that may seem to have little relevance to modern Buddhism. Though plenty of Buddhists are credulous about magic in a broader context, it is generally excised from modern accounts of Buddhism so that superstition and magic are never seen as central to modern Buddhism. So we should not be surprised to find no mention of it in popular introductions to Buddhism or in the curriculums of modern Buddhist schools. However, it might interest my fellow Triratna practitioners to know that, though we never speak openly of it, we regularly recite a saccakiriyā in our version of the Tiratana Vandana (also widely used in the Theravāda)

N'atthi me saraṇaṃ aññaṁ
Buddho me saraṇaṃ varaṁ
Etena saccavajjena
Hotu me jayamaṅgalaṁ
There is no other refuge for me.
The Buddha is the best refuge for me.
By this truth-speaking,
May I have victory and good fortune! 


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    Brown, W. Norman. (1940) 'The Basis for the Hindu Act of Truth.' The Review of Religion, V. 36-45.
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          Burlingame, Eugene Watson. (1917) 'The Act of Truth (Saccakiriya): A Hindu Spell and its Employment as a Psychic Motif in Hindu Fiction.' Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 28: 429-467.
          Chisho Mamoru Namai. On Mantranaya [sic]. http://ibc.ac.th/faqing/node/46 
          Conze, Edward (1973). The Perfection of Wisdom in 8000 Lines and its Verse Summary. San Francisco: City Lights.
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