How Buddhism Acquired a Soul on the Way to China (Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies Monographs)

Jungnok Park

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 1845539974

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


How Buddhism Acquired a Soul on the Way to China tells the story of the spread of Buddhist religious thinking and practice from India to China and how, along the way, a religion was changed. While Indian Buddhists had constructed their ideas of self by means of empiricism, anti-Brahmanism and analytic reasoning, Chinese Buddhists did so by means of non-analytic insights, utilising pre-established epistemology and cosmogony. Furthermore, many specific Buddhist ideas were transformed when exchanged from an Indian to a Chinese context, often through the work of translators concept-matching Buddhist and Daoist terms.

One of the key changes was the Chinese reinterpretation of the concept of shen - originally an agent of thought which died with the body - into an eternal essence of human spirit, a soul. Though the notion of an imperishable soul was later disputed by Chinese Buddhist scholars the idea of a permanent agent of perception flourished in China. This historical analysis of the concept of self as it developed between Indian and Chinese Buddhism will be of interest to readers of Buddhist Philosophy as well as the History of Ideas.

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China's Buddhist Culture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

two-foot-supreme) and, secondly, the supreme one who is perfect in two qualities (l1WJE#: two-complete-supreme), i.e., in the quality of merit and that of wisdom: [The Buddha is called liangzuzun,] firstly, since the good places of rebirth, i.e. the world of human beings and the world of deities, are honourably appreciated for their being [the realm of] the bipeds, and since the Buddha is the most honourable among them. Secondly, since he perfectly possesses both merit and wisdom, Buddha is

5!{iJ1;zii, J;)W\Jjz�:@:. *�i:f:1iI0�, -'&;l'tJOtm. iE!.2)(::Jt:f.S�, 6 How Buddhism Acquired a Soul Therefore, due to the nature of their work, Buddhist translators in China were generally given a free hand to use their abilities to overcome the immense differences between South/Central Asian and Chinese culture. Their relatively free translations were guided by their under­ standing. Since they were unaware of all the differences, their misun­ derstandings easily yielded unintended

exist. This is the simplest and the most powerful argument against eternalist ideas in the early Buddhist texts.52 When the early Buddhists dispute with other philosophers, they always postulate the principle that what exists is what we exp erience. This empirical principle is a fundamental premise; it is not questioned. When some topics incompatible with this principle were in question, they kept silent.53 Being asked about the reason for their silence, they said, 'Friend, such a topic is not

so-called eternal (in fact, incessant) activity of the Buddha has a permanent substratum, which does not rise or cease, which means that it has been 'possessed' by all beings from the beginning . Throughout Mahayana literature, this substratum is identified with the unconditioned entities (or concepts), such as sunyata, nairatmya, tathata, nirva1J-a, etc., which are definitely inactive or unproductive. For example, the Srimaladevi-silflhanada­ sutra33 defines tathagatagarbha as the dharma -body

03) . The Chinese used the word IL' to refer to both the heart and the mind, regarding the heart as the organ of thought. This identification of the heart as the organ of thought had been dominant even among medical practitioners before the modernization of China in the nineteenth century. 49. mmm, ?Fmm ; 15UJ15, ?Fml"d { �r } , LZJS, p. 3 , § 1 ). 5 0. 'Our life is limited, whereas [the objects of] knowledge are limitless. Pursuing something limitless by means of something limited is dangerous.

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