A Distant Mirror Articulating Indic Ideas in Sixth and Seventh Century Chinese Buddhism
A Distant Mirror
Michael Radich and Chen-kuo Lin
The title of this book, A Distant Mirror, ultimately refers back to Barbara Tuchman’s work of the same title on the history of fourteenth-century Europe (Tuchman, 1978). Tuchman uses this evocative phrase to convey her claim that the fourteenth century can be read as reflecting the twentieth century, and thus, more broadly, to evoke the idea that the study of history can be a kind of study, by reflection, of ourselves. However, although we gratefully acknowledge our debt to Tuchman for the phrase, we do not intend it to have this connotation. We are alluding to a more proximate model. In her A Few Good Men, Jan Nattier borrows Tuchman’s phrase to refer to the problem of investigating the contents of Indian Buddhism through Chinese (and Tibetan) translations of Buddhist texts. In borrowing the title from Nattier in turn, then, we intend both to generalise the problematic Nattier points to, and to problematise it further. Nattier herself does not discuss the problem of views on Indian Buddhism that might be obtained through other dimensions of the Chinese tradition, including topics investigated in the present volume, such as: the independent creative thought of Chinese Buddhist thinkers; or the possibility that Chinese reports might be accurately based upon information obtained through extra-textual channels like oral reports. However, we do use the phrase in this considerably extended sense. We intend our title to encapsulate a methodological intuition, which we believe runs as a common thread through almost all of the studies collected here – that scholars should
seriously consider the possibility that a wider set of features of the Chinese tradition, treated carefully, might serve us as a “distant mirror”, accurately displaying features common to Buddhism in India and elsewhere outside China.
In other words, the studies in this volume typically set out to explore, in some detailed case, the possibility that even where Chinese Buddhism appears in some respect or degree to depart from what we know of its Indian counterparts, Chinese developments might still in some ways inform us about “genuine” Buddhism (to use a dangerous turn of phrase), rather than representing mere distortions of, or departures from, an Indian gold standard. The counterpart and foil to this view, of course, is a simplistic understanding of Chinese Buddhism as a product of so-called “sinification”, or “making Chinese”, which, at a hypothetical extreme (which may not be fully realized in any actual scholarship), sees Indian Buddhism as a norm; any difference between Chinese and Indian Buddhism is read as a failure in China to approximate that Indian norm, often under the pressure of distinctive presuppositions, ideas and tendencies endemic to and characteristic of Chinese culture as a whole. Of course, this is no simple matter, and we do not mean to deny that Buddhism did indeed change greatly in the complex transition from its Indian (and other) points of origin into China. Indeed, the real challenge for any full consideration of the overall formation and character of Chinese Buddhism (an ambitious project we do not pretend to essay here) would be to balance the treatment of Chinese Buddhism as “a distant mirror” with the problematic encapsulated by the notion of “sinification” in its broad sense. Fortuitously, in fact, this opposite interpretation of Chinese developments and evidence has also been expressed through another variation on the conceit of the mirror. To borrow a phrase from a forceful argument by Gregory Schopen (without implying that this is entirely what Schopen meant), we must also consider the possibility that rather than furnishing us with a clear if distant “mirror” for Buddhism in India (and at large), Chinese evidence gives us a view “through a Chinese looking-glass”. By this apt and wry allusion to Lewis Carroll (Carroll, 1871), Schopen suggests the troubling possibility that Chinese evidence might present us with mere caricatures, bordering on the satirical, of the Indian Buddhism it represents, and perhaps, that only a fool would mistake this image for sober reality.
In the article in which he speaks of the “Chinese looking-glass”, Schopen makes a very strong point, and we certainly would not deny his conclusions or ignore his prudent warning. Chinese evidence must be used with great care if it is to lead us to any reliable conclusions about Indian Buddhism; and historically, the field has sometimes gone astray through simplistic, insufficiently rigorous use of Chinese evidence. The studies in the present collection, however, tend to focus on, and work to correct, an equally salient, opposite type of methodological error. At the same time that Chinese evidence has sometimes been regarded as too directly reflecting Indian developments, on other occasions, scholars can too hastily conclude (and have concluded) that developments in China must be unique and parochial, and thereby overlook ways that Chinese evidence might reflect, even if distantly and indirectly, important features of Buddhism that also held beyond Chinese borders. The studies gathered here attempt in various ways to correct this bias. Perhaps the most significant sense in which the present studies treat Chinese evidence as capable of teaching us new things about Indian systems is in considering the ideas of Chinese authors and thinkers as independent or alternate developments, equally valid, of ideas and systems
also known in India. Various contributors explore this approach in different ways. For example, Chen-kuo Lin’s study employs the novel strategy of putting Jingying Huiyuan and Dignāga side by side, as two roughly contemporaneous Buddhist thinkers, inheriting and working out different consequences from a similar body of material (with due allowance, in the case of Huiyuan, for differences of both selection and nuance conditioned by the process of translation from Indic sources). Both the Indian and the Chinese thinker alike are regarded as creative individuals, working out different possible responses to a common inherited problematic. On this approach, the Chinese alternative, instead of merely “failing to be Indian”, can be seen, rather, as representing alternate possibilities implicit within the common stock of Buddhist tradition – as exploring a “path not taken” in India, perhaps. In the reflected light of this approach, we might even appreciate anew the creative energy of the Indian tradition itself, instead of misperceiving it as plotting the only possible line of development from its historical roots and premises.
Similarly, Shinya Moriyama examines Xuanzang and Kuiji’s theories of the fallacy known as viruddhāvyabhicārin, as instances of alternative lines of development from the same premises as the Indian system. That is to say, he too treats the Chinese thinkers as having pursued lines of development possible in the system of Dignāga, but different from those pursued by Dharmakīrti, which became authoritative in the Indo-Tibetan tradition. A slightly different tack is taken by Jakub Zamorski. Zamorski refrains from treating unparalleled Chinese ideas about Buddhist logic as products of “sinification”, suggesting that such interpretations might “reveal the inherent limitations of the system [[[Wikipedia:Chinese|Chinese]] scholars] were working within, rather than their own misunderstandings of this system”. Following Chmielewski and Harbsmeier, Zamorski argues that in fact, in some respects, Chinese syntax harboured the potential to clarify some logical issues, so that it did not necessarily function as a constraint on the understanding of Chinese thinkers. He concludes that “Chinese commentators were capable of clarifying some ambiguous aspects of the Indian ‘science of reasons’ (hetuvidyā).” Several other studies demur from the models used by theorists of “sinification” in treating Chinese authors and thinkers as making deliberate and self-aware choices about the doctrinal directions they took, in ways that potentially cast light on the issues already inherent in their Indic source materials. For example, Yoke Meei Choong shows that Chinese scholiast monks were quite capable of picking and choosing among the sources available to them with acute critical acumen, and artfully spinning those sources in the service of their own doctrinal agendas. Choong carefully studies the intricate complexities of interpretation in a few short passages from the Vajracchedikā, in both Indian texts (mainly preserved in Chinese translation), and further Chinese commentaries. A picture emerges of Chinese authors not as dupes to Chinese cultural presuppositions, misunderstanding Indic sources, but rather, as equal and sophisticated contributors to an ongoing, pan-Buddhist discussion about the most consequential questions in large doctrinal systems, engaging with debates that were already conducted in similar terms between the Prajñāpāramitā literature itself and Yogācāra authors in India.
Similarly, Hans-Rudolf Kantor’s study takes Chinese Buddhist thinkers seriously as qualified and incisive contributors to the elucidation of fundamental doctrinal questions, focusing on what Kantor regards as a fundamental Buddhist problematic – the relation between reality and delusion, awakened and non-awakened mind – which cuts across large Mahāyāna doctrinal currents. At the outset of his study, Kantor explicitly brackets out all questions of whether or not Chinese texts and thinkers represented continuations or transformations of Indic positions. Rather, he approaches the texts on the assumption that they may be able to teach us profound lessons about Mahāyāna Buddhism – not “Indian” or “Chinese” Mahāyāna, but just Mahāyāna, pure and simple. Quite possibly, the results of Kantor’s approach speak for themselves. Following his medieval Chinese authors, Kantor argues that from a soteriological perspective, the Mahāyāna “ultimate” (whether we call it śūnyatā, nirvāṇa, tathatā, or a number of other names) is thoroughly interwoven with and interdependent upon the relative/conventional (saṃsāra, ignorance, falsehood etc.), just as much as the reverse is also true. Insight into this interdependence has the power to transform the mundane world into an avenue, rather than a barrier, to liberation. Given that the notion of the dependence of the conditioned world upon the unconditioned, let alone the reverse, is sometimes presented as a typically “sinified” position, Kantor’s argument potentially has a more general significance, implying that inflections upon common Buddhist problematics that have been regarded as typically Chinese do not demonstrate that Chinese thinkers were prevented by their own cultural limits from accurately understanding Indian Buddhist systems. Rather, they may represent new and genuine insights into actual dimensions of those problematics, which may have been brought out less clearly by the treatments they received in other parts of the Buddhist world.
Zhihua Yao studies the Yogācāra understanding of emptiness. Yao takes this understanding to be more balanced than the interpretations of the Madhyamaka, which he claims can justly be characterized as “nihilistic”. Although Yao himself does not address it from this angle, the problem he studies touches upon what some scholars have sometimes characterized as a basic distinction or difference in emphasis between Indian and Chinese Buddhism – where Indian Buddhism tends to be more apophatic, Chinese Buddhism tends to be more kataphatic. However, like other scholars in this volume, Yao tends to treat the positions in his Chinese source texts as authentic Indian positions, or coherent organic developments of Indian positions, even though the evidence for those positions happens to be preserved in Chinese. The case of the Foxing lun/*Buddhadhātu-śāstra presents this problem particularly sharply (and the text is quite central to Yao’s argument, representing, for Yao, the best development of the position he wants to characterise as typically Yogācāra). As Yao himself mentions, some scholars have regarded this text as a Chinese composition. Yao, however, chooses to adhere to the traditional ascription of the text to Vasubandhu. He thereby demonstrates the kind of difference that is made by such apparently technical questions of ascription, in considering matters related to common claims about the types of doctrine that most typically characterise “sinified” Buddhism.
Some of the present studies also scrutinise Chinese texts in light of the possibility that they might record information transmitted orally to Chinese authors. This possibility should arguably be considered more often, even in cases where Chinese texts record ideas or positions for which we have no extant Indic evidence. For example, Jakub Zamorski discusses the possibility that works by Xuanzang’s disciples could reflect information about the Dignāgan system of Buddhist logic transmitted in this manner. Indeed, Shoryu Katsura shows that Kuiji did in fact have a better knowledge of Dignāga’s apoha theory than previously thought. In this case, then, ideas outside translated texts must have made their way into the Chinese tradition (i.e. the works of Kuiji) via oral transmission by a known route – the teaching of Xuanzang. Similarly, Junjie Chu’s study of *avakāśadānāśraya shows that ideas of Indic provenance very probably did underlie discussions in the Cheng weishi lun (成唯識論) and Kuiji (but at the same time, that Kuiji’s discussion of *krāntāśraya also shows that not all this information is necessarily reliable).
One of the original impulses behind this project was to do justice to the true diversity and heterogeneity of Buddhist thinking in China during the sixth and seventh centuries. We have therefore used the device of tracing the reception and transformation of Indian elements more as a heuristic. We do not pretend thereby that this theme is somehow more central to the overall course of Buddhism in that period than other rubrics that might equally have been chosen. The original project plan provisionally divided the problem into three main strands, and the ultimate shape of this volume, we believe, can still be understood quite well in terms of those strands: (1) Buddhist logic and epistemology in China; (2) Buddhist developments in China and Korea falling under the broad head of “Yogācāra” (this category naturally overlaps somewhat with the first); and (3) other Indian elements in Chinese Buddhist systems. The selection of scholars for the project naturally also ensured that the center of gravity would be in Buddhist ideas, doctrines and texts. Beyond these common threads, however, the focus on the heterogeneity and complexity of the materials has meant that we have not striven to superimpose an artificial uniformity or unity on contributions to the project. For example, just as we have tried to avoid the pitfalls of a simplistic “sinification” paradigm, as explained above, we have equally tried to avoid sifting through the period for putative “origins of the schools” of Chinese Buddhism. We have preferred to think that often, equally valuable historical lessons can be learned by examining “roads not taken” in the long-term historical trends of East Asian Buddhism as a whole; or by scrutinizing those respects in which Chinese Buddhism approaches its Indic predecessors and parallels most closely, rather than focusing exclusively on what is ostensibly most distinctive to China. Thus, without laying artificial claim to excessive thematic unison, the remainder of this introduction will introduce the papers in the volume in précis, and then allow the individual authors and papers to speak for themselves.
Logic and epistemology
Funayama Toru analyzes the term xianliang (現量) as a translation for Sanskrit pratyakṣa (“direct perception”). This translation is best known as that used by Xuanzang (玄奘, 600/602-664), but Xuanzang was not the first person to use this term. Xianliang is, strictly speaking, not a literal translation of pratyakṣa, and this opens up larger questions about how and why such Buddhist concepts might have changed in the transition to China. Funayama studies the historical situation both before and after Xuanzang’s adoption of the term, with special attention to some Chinese interpretations of xianliang in the post-Xuanzang period. After Xuanzang, as Funayama shows, Chinese scholar-monks analyzed the term xianliang using such terms of Sanskrit grammatical analysis as “tatpuruṣa compound” (yishi shi 依士釋) and “karmadhāraya compound” (chiye shi 持業
釋). However, these interpretations differed significantly from those usual in Sanskrit. Funayama argues on this basis that during the Tang and the Ming, Chinese scholars began to develop distinctive Chinese interpretations of the term, but that it is beside the point to ask whether such Chinese interpretations make sense from a Sanskrit point of view; we are better to consider these Chinese interpretations from the perspective of the Chinese language, in which light they look extremely attractive. Thus, Funayama contends, it is almost meaningless to say that Chinese understandings of xianliang are “mistakes”. They are better regarded as a new type of development, and it is in this sense that we might productively think about the “sinification of Buddhist concepts”. Chen-kuo Lin presents a textual and doctrinal study of Jingying Huiyuan’s 淨影慧遠 (523-592) Essay on the Three Means of Valid Cognition (San liang zhi yi 三量智義). Lin contends that we can fully understand the soteriological project at this early stage of Chinese Buddhist logico- epistemology only in light of links between epistemology and meditation. Unlike Dignāga, who attempted to lay down logic and epistemology as the universal foundation for all Indian philosophical systems, Buddhist and non-Buddhist, Huiyuan rather attempts to demonstrate that epistemology is relative to the various stages of intellectual and spiritual cultivation. Everything, including cognition, is condition-dependent: as the path of mental cultivation progresses, perception differs from beginner to advanced practitioner; and so too for inference; and for authoritative teaching (Huiyuan’s three pramāṇas). Thus, for Huiyuan, pramāṇas are indeed instruments to soteriological ends, and cannot be taken as autonomous domains and universal disciplines. For Lin, this means that Huiyuan is faithful to the authentic intent of Indian Buddhist epistemology. Lin also discusses a striking peculiarity in Huiyuan’s theory of knowledge, namely, his use of a pair of sinitic notions, “principle” (li 理) and “phenomenon/phenomena” (shi 事), to develop the pre-Dignāgan theory of pramāṇa. Huiyuan uses li to refer to the “universal” (sāmānyalakṣaṇa) and shi to refer to the “particular” (svalakṣaṇa), adopting these ontological concepts to stand in for the Indic notions of paramārtha and saṃvṛti. Huiyuan’s application of this hermeneutics of li and shi to the epistemological enterprise might appear to constitute a classic proof-case for the theory of sinification: Huiyuan might easily be regarded as simply looking at Indic materials through a sinitic lens. However, Lin concludes that a better interpretation might understand that Huiyuan’s interpretation operates dialectically, that is to say, such transformations as it might affect in the Indian concepts at issue also redound to reframe the semantics of li and shi in the terms of an Indian Buddhist epistemological context. Shoryu Katsura discusses little-studied materials reflecting Chinese understandings of Dignāga’s (Chenna 陳那 ca. 480-530) apoha theory (i.e. his theory of meaning). Given that Yijing’s (義淨, 635-713) translation of Dignāga’s masterwork, the Pramāṇasamuccaya (Ji liang lun 集量論) and its accompanying Svavṛtti, did not survive, it has been easy for modern scholars to assume that classical Chinese Buddhist scholars did not know apoha theory. However, Kuiji (窺基, 632-682), Xuanzang’s direct disciple, refers to apoha in his Cheng weishi lun shuji (成唯識論述
記). Katsura shows that Kuiji knows that there are two means of valid cognition (liang 量): perception (xianliang 現量), taking as its object the particular characteristic (zixiang 自相); and inference (biliang 比量), taking the general characteristic (gongxiang 共相). Further, Kuiji defines the general characteristic as “exclusion of others” (zheyu 遮餘), and says that both types of conceptual cognition, namely, inference and verbal cognition, take this general characteristic as object by “exclusion of others”. This makes the exclusion of others the nature and function of conceptual cognition in general. Moreover, only this general characteristic can be expressed verbally; the particular characteristic (the object itself) is beyond the reach of conceptual cognition, and cannot be expressed by verbal designation (yanshuo 言説). However, in an interesting development, Kuiji holds that even the general characteristic cannot ultimately be expressed by any verbal designation. Katsura observes that this idea might not have been endorsed by Dignāga and other Indian Buddhist logicians, but points out a similar development in the late work of Jñānaśrīmitra. Finally, Katsura shows that another possible new development in Kuiji is his understanding that the distinction between particular and universal is relative, just as in the hierarchy of the Vaiśeṣika categories. This understanding, again, might not have been endorsed by Dignāga, for whom only universal characteristics are relative to each other and constitute a hierarchy. Shinya Moriyama examines Kuiji’s (窺基) commentary on Śaṅkarasvāmin’s Nyāyapraveśa(ka), which had the greatest impact on the later development of Chinese and Japanese hetuvidyā. Moriyama examines Kuiji’s peculiar interpretations of the topic of the antinomic reason (viruddhāvyabhicārin). This is a type of fallacy that takes the unique position of fulfilling the triple characteristics of a valid reason (trairūpya, 因三
相); what makes it invalid, rather than its internal structure, is the fact that it contradicts other presuppositions in the declared position of its proponent. Moriyama argues that contrary to expectation, Kuiji understands very well the background of this category in the vāda-tradition of debate, and correctly sees its practical significance in various debates among Buddhist insiders, such as debates on “non-manifested matter” (avijñaptirūpa) between a Sarvāstivādin and a Mahāyāna Buddhist. However, Moriyama also shows that on the whole, Kuiji’s interpretation of the category seems to reflect a complex mix of insight, original thought, and misunderstanding of Indian ideas; and in particular, that Kuiji seems in fact to construct a new set of rules for debate, which seem to be motivated in part by the particular exigencies of a proof given by Xuanzang for consciousness-only. Thus, this example in Kuiji’s thought shows that the dynamics at work in the production of distinctive East Asian interpretations of Buddhist ideas can be complex, and irreducible to simplistic models. Jakub Zamorski analyzes a chapter in the history of the so-called “science of reasons” (hetuvidyā, yinming 因明) with significance for the comparative study of logic. Both of the Indian hetuvidyā treatises translated into Chinese by Xuanzang in the seventh century contain examples of fallacious statements which are untenable on logical grounds alone, and therefore unacceptable as topics of debate, regardless of the philosophical affiliation of the disputant and opponent. Zamorski argues that all Chinese (and other East Asian) commentators regarded these two sentences as examples of one and the same fallacy, which they followed the Nyāyapraveśa in labeling “opposition to one’s own words” (svavacanaviruddha). Primarily through the analysis of three Tang commentaries, Zamorski argues that Chinese authors achieved genuine original contributions to the issue of self-refutation, of significance to the history of logic even in a broad historical perspective reaching beyond China; but at the same time, that the arguments of these authors also reveal some peculiarities of a “sinified” understanding of the hetuvidyā system.
Ching Keng’s paper challenges the prevalent assumption that the Awakening of Faith was composed under the influence of the Dilun School. Keng aims to show that in the representative works of Huiyuan, arguably the most important Dilun master, we do not find the essential doctrinal feature of the Awakening of Faith, namely, the compromise or even the total obliteration of the distinction between unconditioned (asaṃskṛta) and conditioned (saṃskṛta) dharmas. Keng observes that almost all available studies of Huiyuan focus on a small piece entitled “Bashi yi” (八識義, “On the Meaning of the Eight Consciousnesses”), which shows strong influence from the Awakening of Faith; but that other works of Huiyuan outline a very different conceptual scheme. Taking these other works as representing Huiyuan’s earlier thought, and therefore Dilun thought, Keng argues that the hallmark of Huiyuan’s thought is a dualist scheme, in which the inherently pure aspect is unambiguously unconditioned, with no blending with conditioned dharmas; this inherently pure aspect can adjust to falsity (suiwang 隨妄) and give rise to misconception, but without compromising its unconditioned nature. Upon this basis, Keng contends that the compromise between unconditioned and conditioned in the Awakening of Faith should be regarded as an innovation, rather than a direct outgrowth from Dilun thought. An important broader implication of Keng’s argument is that Huiyuan’s thought, Dilun thought, and even the thought of the Laṅkāvatāra-sūtra has been anachronistically misinterpreted through the later, typically Chinese lens of the Awakening of Faith. This suggests the sobering possibility that typically “sinitic” (or even “sinified”) developments became so pervasive in the later East Asian tradition that their stamp may still lie heavy upon parts of modern Buddhology itself, and that we might therefore overlook both evidence and products of “sinifying” processes, and even the actual features of Indic materials.
Charles Muller presents a full annotated translation of Jingying Huiyuan’s (淨影慧遠, 523–592) Erzhang yi (二障義, “System of the Two Hindrances”), accompanied by a lengthy introduction to the major issues surrounding the two hindrances, and the role played by Huiyuan in defining their future course. Muller situates this work in a broad current in Buddhism, especially its meditative forms, whereby it pays unique attention, among religious traditions, to the psychological aspect of human problems, and distinguishes to an unusual degree between the categories of emotional and cognitive in the analysis of such problems. Muller argues that the general patterns of this distinction are discernible in early Buddhism, and become clearer in Abhidharmic scholasticism; but that it is only with the maturation of the Mahāyāna that afflictive and cognitive obstacles to liberation are formally organized under the rubrics of the two hindrances – the afflictive hindrances (kleśa-āvaraṇa 煩惱障, 煩惱惑) and the cognitive hindrances (jñeya-āvaraṇa; 智障, 智惑, 所知障). Against some discussion in modern scholarship that has tended to cast the pair as a fundamentally Yogācāra construction, Muller contends that a significant portion of their development – at least in East Asia – occurred in the works of Dilun or Tathāgatagarbha scholars. This is exemplified by Huiyuan’s essay, which subsequently deeply informed later work on the hindrances by the Silla scholiast Wonhyo (元曉, 617– 686), and even the interpretations of the Chinese Weishi school by such figures as Kuiji (窺基, 632–682).
Junjie Chu presents a close analysis of a passage in Xuanzang’s Cheng weishi lun discussing the term kaidaoyi (開導依). The text presents three different opinions concerning the interpretation of this special term. Chu’s main aim is to examine the meaning of the two elements in the term, namely kaidao and yi, with reference to their possible origins in both Abhidharma and Yogācāra Indian sources. He argues that kaidaoyi reflects an alternate name for the concept of the samanantarapratyaya, viz. *avakāśadānāśraya (widely used both Abhidharma and Yogācāra), referring to the awareness that has passed away in the immediate antecedent moment, called “mind”, which has the function of giving way so that the subsequent awareness can arise. This shows that kaidaoyi cannot be a translation of the Sanskrit word *krāntāśraya, as Kuiji’s phonetic transcription jielanduo (羯爛多) suggests. Chu also studies the information given in the Cheng weishi lun about controversies between three different interpretations of the function and nature of this *avakāśadānāśraya. In so doing, he shows that the Chinese texts of Xuanzang and his disciples preserve important information that can cast fresh light on key terms in Indian systems. Zhihua Yao’s paper sets out from the observation that due to the prevalent influence of Madhyamaka philosophy, the paradigm of the two truths has become a convenient way to characterize the Buddhist approach to reality. Yao argues that this two-tiered paradigm contributed to a great extent to a view of the world as fundamentally illusory, to which the majority of Mādhyamikas subscribe. He contrasts this with the Yogācāra theory of the three natures, which he contends was intended to improve on this two-tiered paradigm, and restore a more robust and holistic worldview. To this end, Yao examines scattered sources from Maitreyanātha, Asaṅga, and Vasubandhu, and seeks to analyze their criticisms of the Madhyamaka version of the two truths on the basis of the Yogācāra theory of the three natures. Yao’s study thus aims to correct misconceptions concerning the Buddhist approach to reality among contemporary scholars, who he argues have fallen under the influence of Madhyamaka; and to champion a Yogācāra perspective that he regards as more plausible and fruitful. Other Indian ideas
Hans-Rudolf Kantor presents a philosophical and comparative analysis of various constructivist approaches to the problem of “mind and consciousness” (xinshi 心識), developed by sixth-century Chinese Buddhists in debates based on the Indian Mahāyāna scriptures and treatises available to them. The paper falls into two parts. First, Kantor discusses a selection of influential Chinese Madhyamaka, Yogācāra, and Tathāgatagarbha sources translated from Sanskrit between the fifth and seventh centuries. Kantor then focuses on the varying interpretations of the ideas in those sources propounded by Chinese Dilun, Tiantai, and Huayan masters. For Kantor, all the Mahāyāna texts he discusses stress that “mind and consciousness” must be discussed on the basis of the insight that “truth and falsehood are inseparable”, as they pertain to the way we relate to and exist in our world. In other words, Kantor contends, all these discussions feature in common a key coincidence of epistemological and ontological issues, even as each presents a different view on the nature of “mind and consciousness”. Chien-hsing Ho studies Jizang’s (吉藏, 549−623) Chinese Madhyamaka philosophy of ontic indeterminacy. On this view, all things are empty of determinate form or nature: given any thing x, no linguistic item can truly and conclusively be applied to x, in the sense of positing in it some determinate form or nature. This ontic indeterminacy is closely connected with Jizang’s notion of the Way (dao 道) – also termed the correct Way (zhengdao 正道) or the Real (shixiang 實相) – which Ho sees as indicating a kind of ineffable principle of reality. However, even as he thus propounds a “Way”, which in other hands refers to a kind of metaphysical ultimate, Jizang also equates the Way with nonacquisition, as a conscious state of freedom from any attachment or conception whatsoever. Ho therefore considers the question: Does Jizang’s notion of the Way indicate some metaphysical principle or reality? Or is it actually a skillful expedient designed to lead us to the consummate state of complete spiritual freedom? Ho argues that Jizang does not clearly posit any nonempty metaphysical reality or principle. Jizang does speak of the Way as nonempty (as well as empty), but Ho interprets this as aiming to highlight the claim that the Way cannot be determined as empty, or reduced to emptiness. Nonetheless, for Ho, Jizang’s Way is not any reality metaphysically higher than the myriad things (wanwu 萬物); it is nothing more than the ineffable, indeterminable, nondual quiescence wherein both oneself and (the myriad) external things are conceptually undifferentiated. In light of Jizang’s debt to Sengzhao (僧肇, 374?−414), Ho argues that this Way qua quiescence is only revealed in nonconceptual experience, which entails a state of forgetting speech and cessation of thought (yan wang lü jue 言忘慮絕), and harbors within itself the myriad things in their undifferentiated state. The Way is thus beyond conceptual determination and attachment, and so accessible only to a mind of nonacquisition (wude 無得); it is therefore realized only when one’s mind ceases to approach things in a spirit of acquisition (youde 有得).
Yoke Meei Choong studies various interpretations of the “parable of the raft” in an early canonical sūtra of the Majjhima-nikāya (and parallel Chinese Āgamas), which appears again in the Vajracchedikā, focusing on discussions of the terms dharma and adharma in both Indian commentaries (mainly preserved in Chinese translation) and Chinese authors and commentators. She shows that key textual variants are distributed in a complex pattern through both translations and commentaries, in both Indian and Chinese texts. Her careful analysis shows that all texts containing the variant readings contain Yogācāra thought, and thus, that the variants probably stemmed from Yogācāra circles in India. Moreover, the diverse interpretations of the term adharma, in particular, differentiate themselves along the lines of sectarian divisions between Mādhyamika and Yogācāra authors. This sectarian coloring of interpretation continues in China, where Zhiyi and Jizang explain the root text’s notion of “abandoning adharma” to mean the abandonment of even the ultimate reality, that is, non-existence, whereas Kuiji follows Vasubandhu and interprets the notion to refer to the denial of the non-existence of the ultimate truth. Thus, the Chinese commentators accept the ideas in Asaṅga’s and Vasubandhu’s commentaries only selectively, depending upon their own doctrinal preferences; and the fact that Jizang aligns himself more closely with Asaṅga on several points shows, interestingly enough, that Asaṅga’s interpretation was more acceptable to the Chinese Mādhyamikas. As already discussed above, these subtly nuanced choices on the part of Chinese commentators clearly show them to be aware and insightful contributors to a debate continuous with concerns that were also vital in India.
Michael Radich attempts to provide a fresh perspective on fifth- and sixth-century debates in the Chinese Buddhist world about whether or not some part of the sentient being does or does not survive death, to transmigrate and reap karmic rewards. Chinese Buddhist thinkers argued, against their non-Buddhist opponents, that something does survive death. Seen against the background of normative Indian Buddhism, this turn of events has struck scholars as odd and even heretical (as a kind of “ātmavāda”); unsurprisingly, then, the debate and its fruits have often been regarded as evidence of the supposed “sinification” of Buddhist ideas. Radich suggests that this way of reading the debates is probably misleading. A significant thread running through Buddhist contributions to these debates is the use of terms meaning “consciousness” (esp. equivalents to Skt. vijñāna) for the transmigrating entity, and Radich aims to show that the uses of vijñāna in this debate have a longer prehistory in China than has usually been recognized, and ultimately, can be traced in part to a minority strand of ideas in Indic traditions. The center of Radich’s study is a new interpretation of Liang Wudi’s (梁武帝, r. 502-549) Shenming cheng fo yi (神明成佛義) and its relation to its scriptural sources and intellectual-historical context. This study is intended as part of a larger project examining possible antecedents to Paramārtha’s (Zhendi 真諦, 499-569) doctrine of *amalavijñāna (amoluoshi 阿摩羅識, “taintless consciousness”). As such, this paper attempts to contribute to a larger reconsideration of outdated interpretations of the development of Chinese Buddhist doctrine in terms of “sinification”, by arguing that continuities with Indian materials often prove on closer scrutiny to be greater than scholars have sometimes thought.
On the basis of the Tathāgatagarbha-sūtra, Michael Zimmermann studies two different models of Buddha-nature in Indian sources, both of which can be read into the Sanskrit term tathāgatagarbha: a theory of disclosure, and a theory of development. The disclosure model is built on the idea that living beings already carry within themselves a full-fledged Buddha, whose efficacy has only to be disclosed, without any essential modification of the living being. The developmental model, by contrast, perceives this Buddha-element in sentient beings as something which has to be nourished and can transform into full buddhahood only after a process of development. Over the course of subsequent centuries, Zimmermann contends, these two models became two prototypes of the theory of Buddha-nature, and influenced the intellectual history of the spread of Buddha-nature teaching throughout Central and East Asia. Zimmermann argues that at the early stage of Buddha-nature thought in India, the authors of the texts obviously had no intention to promote their message along philosophically refined lines, but rather, seem mainly to have aimed to spread the idea that all sentient beings have the potential to become a Buddha, by arguing that sentient beings carry all they need for that end within themselves, albeit hidden and unknown to themselves; the texts also do not outline concrete modes of practice by which this aim can be realized.
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