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http://www.jstor.org
Robert M. Gimello
Apophatic
and
kataphatic
discourse in
Mahiyina:
A Chinese view
It is a
widely
held
view, among
modern scholars of
Mahayana
as well as within
certain of the
Mahayana
traditions
themselves,
that
Prasafigika-Madhyamika
of the sort one finds in such works as
Nagarjuna's Mulamadhya-makirika
and
VigrahavydvartanTl
is the definitive rendition of the Greater Vehicle's
ultimate
purport.
T. R. V.
Murti,
in his classic
study,
has called
Madhyamika
the "Central
Philosophy
of Buddhism."2 Kenneth Inada has called
Nagarjuna
"the
giant among giants"
of all Buddhist thinkers.3 Bimal K. Matilal has
recently argued
that "there is a sense in which the
Madhyamika position may
be considered
logically unassailable," thereby raising
it to a status of universal
rather than
just
Buddhist
preeminence.4
Such
judgments
abound in the litera-
ture of Buddhist
scholarship.
Nor is it
surprising
that
they should,
for
they
only
echo the centuries-old conviction of
many
eminent Buddhist that
Nagar-
juna's thought
is the most
perfect expression
of the Buddha's own middle
path.
The
pride
of
place
accorded to it
by
Tsofi kha
pa
and his dGe
lugs pa
school is
only
one of the
relatively
more recent traditional
examples
of this
tendency.
There is no doubt excellent reason for such acclaim as this. The
clarity, force,
and
elegance
of
Nagarjuna's arguments
are undeniable.
They
can
easily
over-
whelm,
and often have. However, the lavish traditional and modern
apprecia-
tions of
Nagarjuna's thought
have not been without untoward
consequences
for our
understanding
of other varieties of
Mahayana.
The
Mahayana
is a far
more various
thing
than a
reading
of the
Kirikas,
or even of their antecedent
Prajfiaparamita scriptures,
would
indicate;
and the
Madhyamika position
has
hardly gone unchallenged
in Buddhist intellectual
history. Indeed,
much of
the
subsequent history
of
Mahayana thought may
be read as a cumulative
qualification
of the
Sunyavada
that one finds in the Perfection of
Insight
Literature and in
Nagarjuna.
Such at least was the case with the
Yogacara
and
Tathagatagarbha traditions;
and when Buddhism found its
way
to
China,
Chinese Buddhist thinkers often
expressed
a clear
preference
for the later
qualifications
or modulations of
Madhyamika
rather than for the
severity
of an
unadulterated
Nagarjunism.
It
may
well be that our enthusiasm for
Nagarjuna
along
with the
comparative complexity
and
inacessibility
of other traditions
have
predisposed
us to
give
less attention than deserved to the alternative forms
of
Mahayana.5
Should this be
so,
the remarks that follow
may
be taken as an
effort at
compensation.
The
criticisms, explicit
or
implicit,
that have been leveled
against
classical
Sunyavada
are
many
and diverse. One
might
undertake to examine the
question
of whether
Madhyamika
is normative for the whole of
Mahayana by
investi-
gating,
for
example,
the claim of the
Madhyantavibhaga
that an
understanding
of
emptiness
is crude and
incomplete
unless
tempered by
an
understanding
of
the
reality
and
potency
of constructive
imagination.
For the
Yogacara
authors
of this
text, emptiness
is
always
and ever coincident with the
imagination
of
Robert M. Gimello is an Assistant
Professor
in the
Department of Religious
Studies at the
University
of California
at Santa Barbara.
Philosophy
East and West
26, no.
2, April
1976.
? by
The
University
Press of Hawaii. All
rights
reserved.
118 Gimello
the unreal
(abhitaparikalpa; hsii-wangfen-pieha)
and it is
only
the
coefficiency
of the two
principles
that can
wholly
account for the
way things really
are.6
It is in
recognition
of this-the essential
duplexity
of
reality-that
the
Madhyan-
tavibhaga may say,
as one would not
expect Nagarjuna
to
say:
na
sunyam napi casunyam
tasmat sarvvam
vidhiyate
satvad asatvat satvac ca
madhyama pratipac
ca sa
ku shuo i-ch'ieh fa fei
k'ung
fei
pu-k'ung
yu
wu chi
yu
ku shih
ming chung-tao
ib
Therefore it is said that all dharmas
Are neither
empty
nor
nonempty,
Because
they exist,
do not
exist,
and
yet again
exist.
This is the
meaning
of the
"middle-path."7
One
might
choose also to consider the
theory
of the "three revolutions of
the wheel of the law" found in the Sarmdhinirmocanasutra:
Formerly,
in the second
period
and for the sake
only
of those
aspiring
to
practice
of the
Mahayana-reckoning
on the fact that all dharmas lack own-
being,
neither arise nor
perish,
and are
originally
calm and
essentially
of
nirvana-the Lord turned the Wheel of the Law which is characterized
by
a
hidden intent
(i yin-mi hsiangc). [But]
this too
(i.e.,
like the first
turning)
had
[other teachings] superior
to it to which it deferred. It was of a sense still to be
interpreted (yu
wei liao-id;
neyartha),
and
[thus]
the
subject
of much
dispute.
In the
present
third
period
and for the sake of
aspirants
to all vehicles-
reckoning [again]
on the fact that all dharmas lack
own-being,
neither arise
nor
perish,
are
originally
calm and
essentially
of
nirvana,
and have the lack
of
own-being
as their nature-the Lord has turned the Wheel of the Law which
is characterized
[this time] by
a manifest
meaning (i
hsien-liao
hsiange).
This
is the most rare and
precious
[of
teachings].
There is
nothing superior
to this
Turning
of the Wheel of Law
by
the Lord and
nothing
to which it defers. It is
of
truly explicit meaning (chen liao-if; nTthdrtha)
and not the
subject
of
disputes.8
The third revolution of the dharmacakra here described
is,
of
course,
the
annunciation of what was to become
Yogacara
Buddhism. The second corres-
ponds
to the
Sunyavada
of the
Prajiiaparamita
canon
and, proleptically,
to
its
Madhyamika systematization.
The
implication
of this
passage
is that al-
though
both
dispensations
of the law teach
emptiness
(here
called "lack of
own-being," "nonarising," etc.),
the
Prajniaparamita
and
Madhyamika
versions
of the doctrine are
inchoate, eliptical, imprecise
and a source of
controversy,
whereas the
Yogacara
version is
definitive, explicit,
and not liable to
conflicting
interpretations.
A third
approach might
be to follow the masterful lead of
Ruegg,9
Taka-
saki,10
and
Wayman1'
in
considering
the claims of the
Tathagatagarbha
tradition to
superiority
over classical
Sunyavada.
The
Tathagatagarbha,
after
all,
is a tradition which
argues forcefully
that the
reality
of all
things
is as much
119
"nonempty" (asunya; pu-k'ungg)
as it is
"empty" (sunya; k'ungh)12
and which
employs
such
un-Madhyamika terminology
in its locutions about
reality
as
"permanence"
(nTtya; chang'), "purity" (subha; chingi),
and even "self"
(atman;
wok).13
A fourth
option,
and the one we take
here,
is to look at the differences
among
Madhyamika
and the other varieties of
Mahayana through
the
eyes
of those
Chinese Buddhist
who,
in
devising
their own
systems
of
thought,
were
given
the
opportunity
to
compare
and choose. I refer here to the numerous sixth-
and-seventh-century
Chinese thinkers who formulated "division of the doctrine"
(p'an-chiao1)
and similar schemes in the course of
fashioning
new and
uniquely
sinic schools of Buddhism. Almost without
exception
these thinkers chose to
subordinate
Sunyavada
of the sort one finds in the Perfection of
Insight
litera-
ture and the
Kdrikas
to other kinds of
Mahayana,
often to doctrines and texts
of
Tathagatagarbha provenance
or association. The
Hua-yen p'an-chiao system,
for
example, relegated Sunyavada
to the
category
of
"incipient"
or "elemen-
tary" (shihm) Mahayana
but held the
Tathagatagarbha
tradition to be
repre-
sentative of an "advanced" or "final"
(chungn) Mahayana,
both of which fell
short of the
perfection
of its own "rounded" or
"comprehensive" (yuan?)
teaching.14
A theme that unites all of these
challenges
to
Madhyamika primacy-the
Yogacara,
the
Tathagatagarbha,
and the Chinese-is a
profound
dissatisfaction
with the
seemingly
relentless
apophasis
of
Nagarjuna and,
to a lesser
extent,
of his sources. All are able to
acknowledge Nagarjuna's
caution-that uncritical
use of the constructive
language
of
philosophical
views is a
species
of intellectual
bondage-but they acknowledge
it
only
as a
caution,
a corrective to false views.
They insist, however,
that the
way
of denial and
negation,
the
unremitting
distrust of
positive language,
is
necessary
but not sufficient unto
enlightenment.
It allows one to fend off error but does not
actively
advance one toward the
truth and
may
even
impede
the
practical religious
life
by generating
more subtle
forms of error and
by inhibiting compassion. Therefore,
the various alternatives
to
Madhyamika
that we have mentioned took it
upon
themselves to reassert
the salvific value of
kataphasis,
the
spiritual utility
of
positive
and affirmative
language. They chose,
in
short,
eloquence
over silence.
In what follows we offer for consideration one
example
of the
rejection
of
an exclusive
apophasis
in favor of a
disciplined kataphasis.
We will examine the
argument
of a brief but
important
text entitled Discernments
of
the Dharma-
Element
of
the Avatathsaka
(Hua-yen fa-chieh
kuan-menP)15 attributed to Tu-
shunq (557-640),16
the
reputed
"first
patriarch"
of China's
Hua-yen (Avatam-
saka)
school of Buddhism. This
very
influential text has been
put
to
many
uses
in the
history
of East Asian
Buddhism,
both within and without the
Hua-yen
tradition. It
is,
of
course,
not
simply
a text "about Buddhist theories of lan-
guage."
But without
denying
the broader
range
of its
meanings
we do
suggest
that it does serve our
particular purpose well;
it offers a
significant
vision of
120 Gimello
the
place
of
language
in the
religious
life.
The Kuan-men is
composed
of three
general
discernments or kuan,r each one
of which is subdivided into several more
specific
discernments. The first of the
three,
entitled "Discernments of True
Emptiness" (chen-k'ung kuan-faS),
is a
straightforward
and
expert rendering
of standard
Mahayana teachings
on
emptiness (sunyata; k'ung)
and the relation of
emptiness
to material forms
(riupni; set). Emptiness
is shown to mean first that all constituents of
reality,
even material
forms,
are
dependently originated. They depend entirely
on a
plurality
of causes and conditions for their
ephemeral coming
to be and
they
are
utterly
devoid of
own-being (svabhdva-sunya; tzu-hsing k'ungU).
In
short,
all dharmas and all combinations of dharmas lack substance.
Thus,
there are
simply
no entities
anywhere
which exist in and of themselves. It follows from
their
insubstantiality
that all dharmas are also
indeterminable,
since to deter-
mine them would be to
assign
them fixed substantive identities
which,
in
turn,
would violate the doctrine of
dependent origination.
No
thing
born of causes
and conditions
possesses
such an
identity.
This we
may
call the transitive
import
of
emptiness. By
it we are
informed,
even if
only negatively,
about the
nature of
reality.
We are told what it is not. But this
negative import
does not
exhaust the doctrine's
meaning;
it has also an intransitive
significance.
As
dharmas are
indeterminable,
so
emptiness
itself is indeterminative. It is
espec-
ically emphasized
in the Kuan-men and most other
Mahayana
interpretations
of
emptiness
not
only
that all dharmas are devoid of determinate
identity
but also
that the statement that
they
are so is itself not a
determinating predicate.
In the
technical
language
of
Buddhism, emptiness
is not an
ascriptive
view
(drsti;
chienv)
about dharmas. Rather it is an
expression
of the resolute refusal to
predicate
or
ascribe, indeed,
of the
impossibility
of such
operations. Emptiness,
in other
words,
is the
very principle
of denial of
determinancy
within this
system
of
Mahayana discourse,
the
cognitive equivalent
of the words "no" or "not"
within the
system
of discourse known as
ordinary English usage. Admittedly
this reflexive function of
emptiness-by
which it eludes classification as a
determinating predicate,
denies itself
(finyatd-sunyatd; k'ung-k'ungW),
and so
avoids
hypostatization-is puzzling,
but it is
puzzling
in a
peculiarly deep
sense.
Like the well-known
paradox, "everything
I
say
is a
lie,"
its
difficulty may
well
derive from some
quirk
in the structure of
language
or
thought, perhaps
from
some
problem
inherent in the notion of reflexive
negation
itself.17 In
any case,
it follows from this
understanding
of
emptiness
that all
attempts
to formulate
determinate views of forms and
emptiness
must fail. Just as
particular
material
forms lack
ontological own-being,
so all
predications
lack the
linguistic equiva-
lent of
own-being-to wit,
referential
meaning.
The Buddhist ultimate truth of
emptiness
is
ineffable, then,
but in a
special
sense-not because our words fall
short of
describing
some transcendent absolute
reality
called
"emptiness,"
but
because all words are such that
they
lack referential content or are
"empty"
of
substantive
meaning (artha-sunya-sabda).
This holds
despite appearances
and
121
the common
usage
of words. As there are
really
no determinate entities to be
referred
to,
so words do not
actually
refer. Their indexical function is
illusory,
indeed it is one of the
major
fabricators of illusion. What
is,
and the
emptiness
thereof,
will
simply
not submit to the
language
of determinateness. On the
other
hand,
what other kind of
language
is there? This
problem
no doubt
accounts for the intractable character of the
emptiness teaching
and for its
frequent misinterpretation.
It is to this
problem
that our text
gives
initial
attention in its first
major
discernment.
Using terminology
and
concepts
which
are derived
entirely
from Indian Buddhism and which were well
known,
if not
always
well understood
by
earlier Chinese
Buddhists,
Tu-shun
proceeds
to
explain
"true
emptiness" by refuting
the three most common deviant "views"
of
emptiness,
all of which err in
falsely distinguishing
between material forms
and
emptiness: (1)
forms and true
emptiness
are
identical,
he
maintains,
precisely
because forms are not to be identified with the false
emptiness
of
annihilation
(pu-chi tuan-k'ungX); (2)
forms and true
emptiness
are identical
also
because,
although surely
there is no determinate form
possessed
of a
"mark"
(hsiangY)
which is the
equivalent
of the
principle
of
emptiness (k'ung
chih
liz),
each form is "devoid of substance"
(wu-t'iaa),
thus there is no
particular
existent nor mark thereof which
may
be called
emptiness;
and
finally, (3)
forms
are identical with true
emptiness
because when forms are
properly
discerned
they
all "coalesce"
(huiab)
and "revert to
emptiness" (kuei k'ungaC),
and therefore
emptiness
is not an
entity apart
from forms. The "views" or
predications
here
treated-that
emptiness
is
annihilation,
that it exists as a
quality
of
things,
and that it is a transcendent
entity-are
thus all averred to be themselves
empty.
Such views are
devoid,
to be
precise,
of reference. The
"emptinesses"
that
they adduce,
so to
speak,
are what
Nagarjuna
had called "misconceived"
(durdrsta).18
From these observations Tu-shun draws the
conclusion,
again
in
essentially
Indian
terms,
that
emptiness
and forms are
mutually
"non-
obstructive"
(wu-aiad).
Since
they
are
coextensive,
since the limit of one is the
limit of the
other,
forms and true
emptiness together
constitute a "dharma of
one taste"
(i-weifaae).
Tu-shun ends his treatment of the first
general
discern-
ment
by eloquently insisting
that
finally
it eludes even his own
attempts
to
verbalize it
(tzu yu
i
pu-shouaf)
and
by cautioning
that the correct
explanation
of the
identity
of forms and true
emptiness may
be achieved
only
while
striving
toward the "realm of
practice" (hsing-chingag),
at the entrance to
which, para-
doxically,
it must be
relinquished (jo
shou chieh
pu-she
wu
iju
tzu
cheng-hsingah).
Up
to this
point
Tu-shun's
exposition, though
a model of accurate
brevity,
contains
nothing
new. It is a
recapitulation
of certain fundamental
insights
of
Mahayana
drawn
largely,
it would
seem,
from the Perfection of
Insight
(Prajfiaparamita)
tradition as refined in the alembic of
Madhyamika analysis.
To be
sure,
this in itself
represents
a considerable advance over the obscured
vision of
Sunyavada achieved,
for
example, by
most of those Chinese Buddhists
of the fourth and
early
fifth centuries who concerned themselves with the
122 Gimello
problem.
In Tu-shun's work the lineaments of a correct
Sunyavada
are
lucidly
"discerned," and his
understanding
of it would
hardly
deserve an
epithet
such
as
"hybrid Buddhism,"
which
has,
with some
justice,
been
applied
to those
earlier efforts.19
Certainly
it is free of such
mitigating conceptual preoccupations
as those drawn
by
the earlier Chinese
dispensation
from Arcane
Learning
(hsiian-hsiiehai)
or Taoism. In
short,
the content of the Kuan-men's first set of
discernments is imitative but authoritative.
The second
major
division of the
work,
entitled "Discernment of the Mutual
Nonobstruction of
Principle
and Phenomena"
(li
shih wu-ai
kuanai)
is
quite
different. It initiates in the text a
significant departure
from
traditionally
Indian
forms of
conceptualization
and
expression
and
provides
us with the first instance
of the
phenomenon
which is our
underlying
theoretical concern-transition to
a more
kataphatic
mode of discourse. The first
thing
one notices about this
section of the Kuan-men is its introduction of a new nomenclature. Rather than
continue to dwell on
emptiness,
forms,
and their ineffable
identity,
Tu-shun
here treats of
principle
(liak) and
phenomena (shihal)
and of the
variety
of
relations that
may
obtain between them-their fusion
(yung-yungam),
their
coincidence versus their
reciprocal
effacement
(ts'un-wangan),
and their discord
versus their concord
(ni-shuna?).
He
specified
ten such relations:
1.
Principle pervades phenomena (li pien-yu shihaP)
2. Each
phenomenon pervades principle (shih pien-yu liaq)
3. Phenomena are formed
by principle (i
li
ch'eng shihar)
4. Phenomena can reveal
principle (shih neng
hsien
lias)
5. Phenomena are sublated
by principle
(i
li tuo
shihat)
6. Phenomena can conceal
principle (shih neng yin liu")
7. True
principle
is identical with
phenomena (chen-li
chi
shihav)
8. Each
phenomenon
is identical with
principle (shih-fa
chi
liaw)
9. True
principle
is not a
phenomenon (chen lifei shihax)
10. Phenomena are not
principle (shih-fa fei lia)
We should note that Tu-shun has made the second of these ten subsections
longer
than the other nine
put together, thereby indicating
that it is the crux
of this
major
discernment.
What is the
significance
of this
change
in nomenclature? What is
gained
in
choosing
to
speak
of
principle
rather than
emptiness,
of
phenomena
rather than
forms,
and of
fusion, pervasion,
et cetera rather than
only identity
and non-
identity?
If
principle
is
simply
a
synonym
of
emptiness
and if
phenomena
are
simply
dharmas
by
another
name,
then little indeed would seem to have been
gained.
Of
course,
it is to be noted that the terms li and shih are free of the sort
of
technical,
Indian Buddhist associations that bind words like
k'ung, se,
and
fai.
To this extent their introduction into the text
may
be
partially
an
attempt
at
freer translation into a more idiomatic Chinese.
However,
the terms ii and shih
are not mere
idioms; they
bear their own burden of accumulated
meaning.
123
Their use would
suggest,
therefore,
that the transition from the first to the
second discernment is not
merely
formal. It involves not
only
substitution of
terminology
but also a
deeper conceptual change,
a new
level,
and manner of
discourse.
The terms li and
shih,
especially
the
former,
have a
history
of reflective use
in earlier Chinese
thought
far too
long
and intricate for us to summarize here.20
Even if a
summary
were
feasible,
it would still be left to us to
guess
how much
of their
complex
semantic
history
Tu-shun had in mind when he chose to
adopt
these terms. Our
only
reasonable
recourse, then,
is to look to the text itself
with the aid of its commentaries. The earliest commentator and fourth
patriarch
of
Hua-yen, Ch'eng-kuanaz (738-839?), provides
several
possible
reasons for
the substitution of li and shih for
k'ung
and se.
First,
because the whole of the
first discernment-that of the
identity
of
k'ung
and se-serves to do no more
than
clarify
an abstract
proposition
or
principle (/iak), namely,
that the "true
emptiness
consists in the nonobstruction of
emptiness
and forms"
(se k'ung
wu-ai wei
chen-k'ungba). Second, although
the statement of this
principle
in the
older
terminology
does succeed in
clarifying
the truth of
emptiness,
it also has
the
disadvantage
of
tending
to
neglect
or diminish the
concretely
real. In the
words of
Ch'eng-kuan,
"it does not manifest the marvelous
actuality
of such-
ness"
(wei-hsien chen-ju
chih
miao-yubb). Third,
the insistence on the
identity
of
k'ung
and se is seen as
making
too much of an
ineffability
which our com-
mentator fears would
ultimately "extinguish
both
principle
and
phenomena"
(wang
li
shihbC). Finally,
the older
concepts
are held to be
inadequate
to the
breadth of their own vision because
they
"will not
broadly display
the marks of
nonobstruction"
(pu-kuang-hsien
wu-ai chih
hsiangbd).21 Tsung-mibe (780-841),
the fifth
patriarch,
offers
essentially
the same reasons.22 A still later commen-
tator,
the
Sung
monk
Pen-sung,bf
adds that the first discernment
"merely
inveighs against
delusion and discloses a
principle" (tan-shih
chien
ch'ing
hsien
libg);
it is
pure
but
useless,
"like refined
gold
which is
yet
to be fashioned into
an instrument and used"
(ju chin-k'uang
wei-wei ch'i
yungbh).23
Each of these three commentators makes
essentially
the same
point-that
the
principle
of true
emptiness,
even when it is
properly
discerned as "the
coalescence of forms and their reversion to
emptiness" (hui
se kuei
k'ungbi),
offers a rather barren
spiritual prospect.
However
carefully
it
may
be dis-
tinguished
from annihilationism
(ucchedavada, tuanbj),
discourse in terms of
emptiness
and forms seems still to dissolve the world of
practical experience
and to
derogate
its
variety.
In the
strong light
of
emptiness,
the world of forms
seems
pallid
and
featureless;
its
particularities
evanesce. In other words, while
the
cognitive import
of true
emptiness
is
certainly
not
nihilistic,
Tu-shun and
his commentators think that its conative and
practical force, just
as
certainly,
is. The
consequences
of this for the
Mahayana
Buddhist
might
well be dire.
Emptiness
can
easily
become a
dispiriting
intellectual barrier
(jheyivarana,
chih-changbk)
to his further
progress
on the bodhisattva
path.
Of
course,
classical
124 Gimello
Indian
Mahayana
also
recognizes
this
danger and,
in its own
terms, compensates
for it. The fourth of the six
perfections,
forbearance (ksiinti;
jenbl),
has to do
especially
with
enabling
the bodhisattva to
cope
with the
daunting prospect
of
emptiness
and with its
corollary,
the fact of "unarisen dharmas"
(anutpattika-
dharma;
wu-sheng-fabm).24 Only
if he is
able,
so to
speak,
to "tolerate" its
emptiness,
can a bodhisattva
hope
to act
successfully
in the
world,
for the weal
of sentient
beings?
Tu-shun's own
preliminary recognition
of this same
problem
is found at the end of the Kuan-men's first
section,
where it is
urged
that the
understanding
of
emptiness
and the
explanation
of its relation to forms should
not inhibit or
replace practice.
In
fact,
as we have
seen, practice
is declared the
only possible
context for correct
understanding
of
emptiness.
However,
even
when one takes into account all of the corrective devices
already
built into
Sunyavaida,
it
appears
that Tu-shun is still concerned that it
might
remain "like
a
badly grasped
snake or a flawed incantation which can ruin a slow-witted
person."
He is intent
upon removing
even the
conceptual
and verbal "near
occasions" of its misuse.25
In contrast then with the first
discernment,
the second-of the nonobstruction
of
principle
and
phenomena-offers
a
quite
abundant and
heartening spiritual
prospect.
In its conative as well as its
cognitive significance
it avoids the
negativism suggested by
the terms
"emptiness"
and
"forms,"
and
thereby
permits
a more affirmative
comprehension
of the
diversity
of
experience.
The
"phenomena"
of this second discernment are
things
and events themselves.
They
are to be
distinguished
from "forms"
precisely
because a form
(rupa)
is
not so much a
thing
or an event in itself as it is one of the finite number of
constituents of
things
and events.
Rupa,
in other
words,
is a
dharma;
a shih
need not be
only
a dharma.26 One
might
describe the transition from
rupa
to
shih as follows:
Rupa
are dharmas. Dharmas-like the five
skandha,
the twelve
ayatana,
or the
eighteen
dhatu-are the
subpersonal components
of all that
exists or is
dependently originated.
Because
they
are
subpersonal
certain
early
traditions of
Buddhism,
in
respect
of the anitman
doctrine, regarded
dharmas
as somehow more real than the
things
and events
they comprise.
Dharmas were
judged by
some to be
ultimately
real
(paramartha);
the
things they comprise
only conventionally (sarhvrti)
so.
Mahayana
Buddhism showed, however,
that
such dharmic
components
are as
empty
of
own-being
as is
anything
else;
dharmas too "lack selves"
(dharma-nairatmya)
and thus do not exist as discrete
entities. The classical
dharma-theory
had been
developed, primarily
in the
Abhidharma
traditions,
as an
explanation
of the fundamental doctrines of
dependent origination, impermanence,
and no-self.
However,
if dharmas them-
selves
may
be shown to be
empty,
then the
dharma-theory
loses
any
exclusive
claim it
may
once have had to definitive
explanatory
or illustrative
power.
The
way
is then clear for the formulation of new
explanatory
models of those
doctrines,
new theories or
conceptual expressions
of the
teaching
of no-self
and its corollaries. The
concept
of
phenomenal emptiness,
as
opposed
to dharmic
125
emptiness,
is one such alternative to the earlier
dharma-theory. What,
after
all,
is the
advantage
of
continuing
to be mindful of dharmas rather than of the
things
and events which dharmas had been
thought
to
comprise?
What
advantage
is
there in
discriminating
subtle instances
of
svabhava-sunyata
instead of crude
and more obvious instances of that same truth? Both kinds are
equally empty.
On the other
hand,
the Kuan-men and its commentaries do
suggest
that there
may
be some
positive advantages
found in
reversing
the
priority,
that
is,
in
focusing
on the more obvious rather than the subtler embodiments of
emptiness.
Consider the difference between a world
composed
of dharmas like
form,
feeling (vedana),
idea
(sarhjhi),
contact
(sparsa),
et cetera and a world
composed
of
objects
and activities of
everyday experience
that have
deliberately
not been
shattered or reduced to their
component
dharmas.
Surely
the latter is more
readily
at
hand, equally "empty,"
and-most
significantly-better
suited to
the
task, emphasized by Ch'eng-kuan,
of
"manifesting
the marvelous
actuality
of suchness." This
last,
as we shall
see,
was a task most
appealing
to Chinese
Buddhists.
As shih is not the exact
equivalent
of dharma or
rupa,
so li is not the exact
equivalent
of
suinyatd. Neither, however,
is it a denial of
sunyatd. Emptiness,
as it was described in the first
discernment,
is one member of a
propositional
relation between forms and itself. This holds true
regardless
of the nature of
that
relation,
even if it be the ineffable or indeterminable one of neither
identity
nor
nonidentity. Li, by contrast,
subsumes that
relation,
and with
it,
both of its
members. Li is not so much the
principle of emptiness
as it is the
principle
that
all
particulars
are
empty.
This
distinction,
between a nominative and a
proposi-
tional
function,
is difficult to
clarify.
It is a
modal,
not an
essential,
difference.
Admittedly, great
care was taken in the first discernment to show that
emptiness
too is not of the same order as
particulars,
that it is not a
"thing;"
to see it
otherwise would be to
adopt
one of the "misconceived views" of
emptiness
which were there refuted.
Nonetheless,
for Tu-shun the term li still marks an
advance over the term
sunyata precisely
because it makes that difference of
order or mode all the more clear.
Principles
have
noetic,
not
ontic, significance.
They suggest regularity
and truth but do not
imply
either substantive existence
or its
opposite,
nonexistence.
They
seem
proof, therefore, against
the common
ontological misinterpretations
to which an
abstract,
nominative locution like
emptiness
is
subject
because their
primary
function is not so much to
designate
or to advert as it is to establish rules
by
which such activities as
designation,
and
any
number of
others, may proceed. Justice,
for
example,
is admitted to
be a
"principle" governing many political endeavors, yet
in our
attempts
to
understand or effect
justice
we are not
normally
led to seek a
particular "thing"
called
justice,
unless it be a
"thing"
in a
suppositional
"third world."27 Nor
are we moved to
deny justice simply
because no such
"entity"
is to be found.
So too with the
principle
that all is
empty
or indeterminable. It
clearly
does not
prompt
a search for an
ontological something (even
an ineffable
something)
126 Gimello
called
"emptiness"
or "the indeterminate." The
"principle
that all
particulars
are
empty"
is not the
designation
of one or the
only
member of a class of real
things
that exist in some
supersensible
realm
beyond
the realm of
particulars.
If we
may
counterfeit a
phrase, "principle,"
in
Hua-yen usage,
is
always
"principle-that"
rather than
"principle-of."
Such a
principle
establishes the
rules for successful
engagerhent
with
particulars;
it is
certainly
not an alternative
to
particulars.
As another of Tu-shun's
progeny, Fa-tsangbn (643-712),
was to
say
of the Buddhist notion of "substance"
(t'ibo),
so we
might say
of
principle-
that "it is not
something produced by productive cause;
rather it is
something
illuminated
by
illuminative causes"
(fei sheng-yin
chih
suo-sheng
wei
liao-yin
chih
suo-liaobP).28
Like the new
concepts themselves,
the
variety
of nonobstructive interrelations
between li and shih also offers a contrast to the first discernment. Whereas the
mutual nonobstruction of
emptiness
and forms amounts to but the one relation
of
identity (chibq)
or nondifference
(pu-ibr),
the nonobstruction of
principle
and
phenomena
assumes no less than ten
specific
forms. In addition to
being
identical with each
other,
the two also
simultaneously pervade, constitute,
reveal, conceal,
and cancel each other.
Further,
these relations occur not
only
between
principle
and the
totality
of
phenomena
but also between
principle
and each
phenomenon.
Herein lies the
comparative
abundance of the second
discernment. In its new
conceptual expression,
the truth of
indeterminability
has become multifaceted and
may
now be
appreciated
from a liberal
variety
of
perspectives,
each
complementing
the others. This has fruitful
consequences
as well for the
practice
of Buddhism because the
practitioner
now has a more
diverse
repetoire
of themes for
contemplation
than the first discernment had
offered him.
However,
before we can
fully
understand the second discernment we have
still to determine what it
really
means to
say,
for
example,
that "each
phenom-
enon
pervades principle."
If
phenomena
are not the dharmas of traditional
Buddhism but are instead the
empirically
available
things
and events of this
world,
and if
principle
is
simply
the
principle
that these
things
and events are
indeterminable,
then what
possible
sense can it make to
say
that the one
pervades
the other? Tu-shun was
obviously
aware of this
problem
since he
included in his
exposition
several
questions
like: "If
principle
in its
totality
pervades
a
single
mote of
dust, why
is it not small?"
(li
chi
ch'uan-t'ipien
i-ch'en
ho-ku
fei hsiaobs)
and "If a
single
mote of dust
completely
encloses the nature
of
principle, why
is it not
large?" (i-ch'en ch'uan-yu
li-hsing
ho-ku
fei tabt).
In
other
words,
one is
initially puzzled
to know if and how
qualities
like
size,
which are
perfectly
suited to
physical particulars
like motes of
dust,
can be
ascribed to
principle.
How can a
principle
be either
large
or
small, except
in
the most
figurative
sense? And
yet
how can it not be one or the other if it is
said to be
pervaded by phenomena?
The assertion that
phenomena pervade
principle
would seem then to involve what certain modern Western
philosophers
127
have called a
category
mistake.29 A
phenomenon,
in common
parlance,
is a
"thing"
or an
"object
of
experience." Principle,
as we have
seen,
is
actually
a
proposition.
How can one
say
that a
thing "pervades"
a
proposition
or vice
versa? The terms of this statement seem
incompatible
because
they
inhabit
different
categories
of use. Would not such a sentence be of the same sort as
the statement that
"Saturday
is an
amphibious biped"?
Our
languages
do not
normally permit
us to link such
subjects
with such
predicates.
What
special
warrant then does Tu-shun have for
linking
them in the Kuan-men?
His
warrant,
I would
suggest,
is a
strong
one and is derived from the earliest
teachings
of Buddhism. Tu-shun is
justified
in
violating
our normal
categories
of
linguistic usage precisely
because the destruction and
replacement
of such
categories
is the
very purpose
for which he
composed
the Kuan-men. To
Buddhists,
after
all,
unlike certain
Wittgensteinians,
our normal
language
categories
have no inherent
authority. They
are not inalienable "forms of
life;"
they
are
merely part
of the
equipment
of
ignorance
with which all men are
endowed.
Therefore,
when one succeeds
despite
such
categories
in
discerning
that
phenomenon pervades principle,
one has
actually
revised his estimation of
phenomena radically.
One has done
so,
to be
specific, by freeing
himself of the
constraints
imposed by
conventional
language.
Phenomena are no
longer simply
discrete,
opaque
elements of
experience
of the sort that fit
comfortably
into
the
categories
of
speech.
Rather,
each has become also an emblem of Buddhist
truth. All
particulars,
Tu-shun
insists,
are not
only indeterminable; they
also
exemplify
the truth of
indeterminability.
Thus the Kuan-men can
say
that
because a
phenomenon
embraces
principle,
"the
phenomenon
is
emptied
and
principle
is solidified"
(shih
hsu erh li
shihbU);
because the
phenomenon
is
emptied,
"the
principle
within the whole of it is
distinctly
manifest"
(ch'uan
shih
chung
chih li
t'ing-jan lu-hsienbV).
In other
words,
a
particular thing
or event
is
dependently originated
or
empty
of
own-being
and
precisely thereby
is-at
least
analogically-"filled"
with the
principle
that all
particulars
are
empty.
Phenomena,
in fewer
words,
instantiate
principle.
This,
of
course,
is
by
no means to be construed as a kind of monism in which
all
plurality
and
particularity
is swallowed
up
in
principle.
The
phenomenal
world,
the world of
religious practice especially,
is not
deprived
of its rich diver-
sity because,
as the Kuan-men also
says, "although
the
totality [of phenomena]
is
wholely principle, yet
the marks of
phenomena
are as distinct as ever"
(chu
t'i ch'uan li erh
shih-hsiang yuan-janbW).
One
might maintain, then,
that the
discernment that each
phenomenon pervades principle
involves not a
category
mistake,
but a
category
revision.
Things
as such
may
be
categorially
incom-
patible
with
propositions,
but it is not at all clear that the same
may
be said of
the relation between
emblematic,
revelatory things
and
propositions. Despite
their
differences,
both
perform
the function of
signifying
or
revealing.
In
fact,
the
principle
that all is indeterminable must be
compatible
with
any particular
phenomenon
that
signifies
that same
truth; they actually
share a common
128 Gimello
identity.
The
principle
or
proposition
is the
"meaning"
of the
significant
phenomenon,
and the
phenomenon
is
essentially
a
particular expression
or
vehicle of the
principle.
Tu-shun
expressed
this
point
in
typically
laconic
Buddhist fashion
when,
in answer to the
question quoted
above about dust
motes,
he
said, "principle
and
phenomena,
when
compared,
are each neither
identical nor different"
(li
shih
hsiang-wang kofei
i
ibx).
This then is the
primary significance
of the second
major
discernment. Its
regnant concepts,
li and
shih,
are new and unheralded in the Indian
Mahayana
tradition, yet they
do not contradict the fundamental
Mahayana
tenet of the
emptiness
of all dharmas.
Rather, they amplify it; they
render
explicit
certain
consequences
and
applications
of that
teaching
which had been left
largely
implicit
in its classical
Prajiiaparamita
and
early Madhyamika
formulations.30
The term li reveals the true modal status of the
concept
of
emptiness
or in-
determinability
more
clearly
than did the word
isunyata
and without its
negative
conative
impact.
The Chinese word is freer of substantive
ontological
con-
notations and
thereby
is better able to show that
emptiness
is neither the name
of a
metaphysical entity
nor the
designation
of
nothingness; rather,
it has the
form and function of a
regulative principle.
The term
shih,
on the other
hand,
offers an alternative to the dharma
theory
which had found its
way
into
early
Mahayana
via Abhidharma. Shih is the term
designating
all
particular
elements
of the world of
experience
in their
immediately empirical
forms and is not
limited in its
application
to the
seventy-three,
or however
many, subpersonal
dharmic constituents of those
phenomena.
This
alternative,
in
turn,
liberates
one to discern the truth of
emptiness
and
indeterminability
"writ
large,"
to see
it as it
operates
in the realm of conventional
experience
and not
only
as it
occurs in the rarefied dharmic realm.
Finally,
the assertion that li and shih are
mutually
nonobstructive has the
culminating
effect of
validating
and
enhancing
the worth of the
phenomenal
world. This it can do because it shows that each
phenomenon
is not
only
a
thing
or event but is also an emblematic instance of
the most valuable of Buddhist truths.
Once even these
points
are
made, however,
there remains to be treated one
final
step
in the
process
of
change
from an
apophatic
to a
kataphatic
mode of
discourse that is
epitomized
in the
development
of the Kuan-men. This last
step
is taken with the introduction of the third and final
major
division of the text-
the "Discernment of Total Pervasion and Accomodation"
(chou-pien han-jung
kuanbY).
Like the
preceding,
this section too is divided into ten
specific
discern-
ments:
1.
Principle
as
phenomena (liju shihbz)
2. Phenomena as
principle (shihju i/ca)
3. Each
phenomenon
subsumes the mutual nonobstruction of
principle
and
phenomena (shih
han
li-shih-wu-aicb)
4. The diffuse and the local are
mutually
non-obstructive
(pien
chu wu-
aicc)
129
5. The broad and the narrow are
mutually
non-obstructive
(kuang
hsia
wu-aicd)
6.
Pervading
and
including
are
mutually
non-obstructive
(pienjung
wu-
aice)
7.
Containing
and
entering
are
mutually
non-obstructive
(sheju wu-aicf)
8.
Interpenetration
is without obstruction
(chiao-she wu-aicg)
9. Coexistence is without obstruction
(hsiang-tsai wu-aich)
10. Universal interfusion is without obstruction
(p'u-yung wu-aici)
One notices
immediately that,
unlike the
second,
this third discernment
introduces no
fundamentally
new
terminology.
There
are,
it is
true,
several
terms that were not used earlier in the work like "broad and
narrow,"
"con-
taining
and
entering,"
but these are
clearly just complements
to the basic
operative concepts
of
phenomena, principle,
and nonobstruction.
Wherein,
then,
lies the
conceptual
difference between the second and the third discern-
ment?
The text seems to
provide
a clue in the fact that while most of the ten
specific
discernments listed earlier
obviously overlap
in
significance,
one
among
them
stands out as
quite
distinct in form and substance. This is the third-the
discernment that each
phenomenon
subsumes the mutual nonobstruction of
principle
and
phenomena.
The crucial
insight expressed
here is both
simple
and
profound.
It is
simple
because it follows
necessarily,
almost
obviously,
from
premises
established earlier in the work. It is
profound
in that it marks
the ultimate
point
reached in the Kuan-men's
conceptual development
of the
emptiness teaching. Essentially,
the
conceptual change
undertaken at this
point
consists in a shift of the
primary
focus of meditative attention
away
from
principle
and toward
phenomena.
The second
discernment,
as we have
said,
had the intention of
validating
and
enhancing
the
phenomenal
world
by showing
that
phenomena
are not
merely
the mute
things
and events in which we are enmeshed
by
reason of our
ignorance
and
craving.
Rather
they
are all
eloquently significant, charged
with
meaning by
the
liberating principle
that all
things
are indeterminable. A
particular phenomenon,
after
all,
is above all else an instance of that truth.
Up
to this
point,
which is as far as the second discernment takes
us,
the enhanced
status of the
phenomenal appears
to be a conferred status. Phenomena are
endowed with value
by principle
and it is to
principle
that we must credit the
"marvel"
(miaocj)
of their "existence"
(yuck). However,
if it is discernible that
phenomena
are
"pervaded"
or "filled" with
principle,
then it should also be
clear that one
may justifiably dispense
with
principle-as-such
as an autonomous
meditative notion.
This,
in
fact,
is
exactly
what
happens
in the Kuan-men.
After the third
specific
discernment
(the
third subdivision of the third
major
section),
the term li is
dropped.
Phenomena are hence
perceived
as
quite
sufficient unto themselves. Their validation is no
longer something
conferred
upon
them
by
virtue of their relation with
principle;
it is inherent.
Phenomena,
130 Gimello
then,
are
self-validating
and what we are offered in this third
general
discern-
ment of our text is
actually
a vision of the
aseity
of
particular things.
Once
this is
appreciated
it will be difficult to continue to
speak,
as is still often
done,
of
phenomena having
their
"ground"
in the "absolute" or of their
being
"supported" by
the "one
reality."
This is not even the
general Mahayana
claim, much less the claim of
Hua-yen.
Phenomena are seen in
Hua-yen
to
depend
on no ultimate
reality
but their own for the wonder of their
presence.
They
have no noumenal
base;
they
are their own
"ground"
and
"support."
A
problem
arises
here,
however. Is not this
extraordinarily high
estimation of
phenomena
a reversion to the
ignorant
view that
things possess
substantial
own-being
and are therefore
independently originated?
I think not. The
aseity
ascribed to
any
one
phenomenon by
the Kuan-men consists
precisely
in that
phenomenon's
radical interrelatedness with all other
phenomena.
Phenomena
are not
independent
of each
other;
they possess
no svabhiva.
They
are inde-
pendent only
of
any absolute, unitary
reality conceived of as
undergirding
or
supporting them,
as somehow more real than
they.
A
contemporary
Western
philosopher
of
religion
has
recently
defined
religion
as "one's
way
of
valuing
most
intensively
and
comprehensively."31
In terms of this
quite
useful defini-
tion,
the final discernment of the Kuan-men allows the
Hua-yen
Buddhist to
regard
the
phenomenal
world in all of its
variety,
not as a
place
to be
fled,
but
as the
very
arena of his
religious practice.
He need not
deny
or
depart
from the
richness of "this world" in order to
pursue
release because each and
every
phenomenal
element of "this world" becomes a source and an
object
of in-
tensive and
comprehensive religious
value.32
There is, however,
an even more
profound consequence
of the climactic
insight
that each
phenomenon
subsumes the mutual nonobstruction of
prin-
ciple
and
phenomena.
If
principle
and
phenomena
were first seen as interfused
and if each
phenomenon
is now seen as
comprehending
their
very
interfusion,
then each
phenomenon
also somehow
comprehends
or
implicates
all other
phenomena.
We have
finally
a
vision,
not
only
of the
aseity
of
particular things,
but also of their total
repletion. According
to this
vision,
the
emptiness
of
things
is shown
actually
to entail their
plenitude.
The Kuan-men itself states
the
progression
in
resolutely simple
terms: First "one is in one"
(i chung iCl),
then "one is in all"
(i-ch'ieh chung icm),
then "all are in one"
(i chung i-ch'iehcn),
and
finally
"all are in all"
(i-ch'ieh chung i-ch'iehC?).
The first of these
steps
corresponds
to the commonsense
principle
of
identity
which
seems,
but is not
really,
in violation of the anatman doctrine. The second
expresses
the Kuan-
men's "reversion of forms to
emptiness."
The third is
synonymous
with its
"pervasion
of
principle by
each
phenomenon."
The last is
obviously
the
culminating
discernment of "total
pervasion
and accommodation." The first
three of
these, it should be
noted,
are
implicit
in the fourth. Other
Hua-yen
texts will wax more
lyrical
and
compare
the world of total
pervasion
and
accommodation,
the world of "all in
all,"
to Indra's
net,
at each knot of which
131
is
placed
a
jewel
so faceted as to be able to reflect not
only
the whole net but
also each and
every
other
jewel
in the
net,
each of which in turn does the
same,
ad infinitum.
Considering
that all of this
began
in an
appreciation
of
emptiness,
the Kuan-men would seem indeed to bear out
Nagarjuna's
dictum that "all is
fitting
for him to whom
emptiness
is
fitting" (Sarvam
ca
yujyate tasya sunyata
yasya yujyate).33
In their most
general
and least
technically theological
senses the terms
apophasis
and
kataphasis mean, respectively,
discourse which
proceeds by
negations
and discourse which
proceeds by
affirmations.34 It is the
Madhya-
mika's
apophatic
view of
language, prefigured
in the
early Prajfiaparamita
literature,
that
only negative
locutions can be of definitive
meaning (nitartha)
and ultimate truth
(paramartha). Any attempt
to
positively
characterize
reality
-if made on the
expectation
that
by
so
doing
one will have
verbally
or con-
ceptually "captured"
the truth of
things-is
bound to fail
and, worse, may
generate
new and more virulent
species
of error. All
positive
locutions therefore
are,
if not
false, merely
of conventional
(sarhvrti)
truth.35 On such
principles
it would follow that the
only legitimate employment
of
language
that is to be
credited with definitive
meaning
is
finally
that of reflexive denial. We
may
speak only
in order to command
silence;
we
may
use
language only
in order
to disabuse ourselves and others of the error
implicit
in
language.
The
kataphasis
of Tu-shun and of other varieties of
Mahayana
alternative
to
Sunyavada
is not a
simpleminded
and
complete rejection
of
Nagarjuna's
sound distrust of word and
concept.
Neither
Tu-shun,
nor the authors of the
Madhyantvibhaga
and
Sarmdhinirmocanasutra,
nor most
Tathagatagarbha
thinkers
believed,36
for
example,
that there are
positive
locutions and con-
ceptualizations
which can
provide
accurate,
descriptive purchase
on the utter
reality
of
things.
None have reverted to an
ignorant
confidence in the referential
capacity
of
language. However,
both Tu-shun and these other
Mahayana
thinkers did hold that there are certain
positive
and affirmative uses of
language
which
may perform salvifically necessary
tasks that
negation
cannot
perform,
and which
may
even be better than denial and
apophasis
at those
very
tasks
of
dissolving
error and
destroying
false views that
Nagarjuna
had
assigned
only
to denial and
negation.
It is this
very
claim that Tu-shun has made in his ascent
through
the three
levels of discernment that
comprise
the Kuan-men. The
emerging pattern
within
that work is one of the substitution of
relatively kataphatic
terms and
pro-
positions
for
relatively apophatic
ones,
for
example, "principle"
for
"empti-
ness,"
"phenomena" for "material
form,"
"universal interfusion of
particu-
lars" for "coalescence of forms and their reversion to
emptiness."
As Tu-shun
describes the uses to which these new
concepts
are
put,
we see it claimed for
them that
they
can do all that the terms of
Sunyavada apophasis
can do in
the destruction of error as well as
something
that
Sunyavada
itself cannot
do,
namely,
thwart the
potentially
nihilistic conative
impact
of the
emptiness
132 Gimello
teaching
and
encourage appreciation
of the infinite value of
particular things.
Moreover,
it can do these
things
without
falling
victim to the error of undis-
ciplined kataphasis.
These discernments of
Tu-shun's,
it must be
recalled,
are
instruments of meditation. It is
surely
not the
purpose
of
any
form of Buddhist
meditation
simply
to construct
conceptual
models of the
world,
nor are the
kataphatic
locutions of
Hua-yen
the
components
of such constructions.
Quite
to the
contrary,
their ultimate aim is to disabuse the meditator of his attachment
to
any
and all
concepts.
Liberation,
after
all,
is "inconceivable"
(acintya;
pu-ssu-
icP). However,
it is the attachment and not the
concepts
that one must be rid
of. That
very process
of
conceptual
disenchantment,
so
felicitiously
described
by
Buddhists as a
"rinsing" (hsi-ch'u?q)
of the mind in "the waters of
insight"
(chih-shuiCr)37
is in fact a
homeopathic therapy.
Cure of
conceptual
illness
requires precisely
the
expedient
and
disciplined
use of well-chosen
conceptual
remedies. The
"principle," "phenomena,"
and "nonobstruction" which com-
prise
the Kuan-men's "discernments" are such remedial instruments.
They
are
to be
used, by
collected and
one-pointed minds,
without
attachment,
and are
particularly designed
so as not to occasion or incite attachment. Consider
how difficult it would
be,
even in
practical
terms,
to focus one's tendencies
toward
conceptual
attachment on Tu-shun's notions of
"principle"
or
"pheno-
mena." Their "mutual
nonobstruction," by denying
the mind
any
static
point
of
focus,
stifles the
impulse
to attach one's mind to them. Their
"interpenetra-
tion" results in a
continuous, kaleidoscopic shifting
of intellectual focus-from
"the diffuse" to "the
local,"
from "the broad" to "the
narrow,"
from
"pervad-
ing"
to
"including,"
et cetera. The mind is never
given
the
opportunity
to make
hard and false
discriminations,
nor is it allowed to dwell in or
depend upon
any
one
perspective
on
any
discrete
object.
These meditative
concepts
and the
rather
special
sort of
analysis they permit
are to be
sharply distinguished
from
conventional
concepts-from
notions like
selfhood, permanence,
cause and
effect,
and the like-which Buddhists are wont to call
vikalpa (fen-piehcs
or
ssu-weict)
or
sarhjhi (hsiangcu).
Conventional
concepts
are
regarded by
Ma-
hayana
Buddhists as the flawed instruments of unstilled minds and
they
are
thought
to be too
readily susceptible
to
dangerous
misuse. First of
all, they
imply
false discriminations and are therefore held
simply
to be in error.
But,
even more serious is the assumed likelihood of their
becoming
mental
fixations,
objects
of a kind of intellectual
craving
that is far more difficult to
extinguish
than mere emotional
craving.
Such
concepts
as are used in meditative discern-
ment, however,
are not at all the
deceptively
safe harbors or
lulling
abodes of
thought
which the
Buddhists,
in their "homeless"
(aniketa; wu-chucv)
wisdom,
must avoid. Tu-shun's
concepts
of
principle
and
phenomena
are varieties of
"correct
concept" (samyaksamkalpa, cheng-ssu-weicw)
or of "notion associated
with
insight" (prajhasarhprayuktasarzjna;
chih-hui
hsiang-ying hsiangCx).33
Their
validity
is a function
especially
of the sort of use to which
they
can be
put. They
are not
used,
as conventional
vikalpa
or
sarjhia are,
in such
spiritually
133
inexpedient
activities as differentiation or dichotomous discrimination.
They
produce instead,
as we have
seen,
visions of coalescence and mutual
perme-
ability. They
are so defined as to
actually
"disarm"
themselves,
as
they
are
being used,
of the snares of
craving
and delusion with which conventional
concepts
are
equipped.
In their
perpetual
and total
commutability
li and shih
offer no sedative
dwelling place
for the mind.
They
therefore do not tether the
mind to
ignorant
views but
propel
it further
along
its
liberating
course.
A host of
problems
have been left untouched in our consideration of the
Kuan-men,
notable
among
them the
question
of whether Tu-shun's
preference
for
kataphasis
is an
expression
of Chinese
values,
an
organic development
within
Mahayana,
or both. We have also not
explored
the relation of the
Kuan-men to the
Hua-yen p'an
chiao
system.
We
hope, however,
that we have
at least shown Tu-shun's
appreciation
of the value of
positive
and affirmative
language
to be a
worthy
and no less
Mahayanist
alternative to
Nagarjuna's
unrelenting nay-saying.
NOTES
1. I do not assume that these two works are
typical
of
Nagarjuna's thought
in
general.
A
consideration of all works
validly
attributable to him
might yield
a
quite
different
picture
of
Nagarjuna's
Buddhism. See,
for
example,
D. S.
Ruegg,
"Le Dharmadhdtustava de
Nagarjuna,"
in Etudes tibetaines dediees a la memoire de Marcelle Lalou
(Paris:
Adrien
Maisonneuve, 1971),
pp.
448-471.
2. T. R. V.
Murti,
The Central
Philosophy of
Buddhism
(London:
Allen and
Unwin, 1955).
3. Kenneth K.
Inada, trans., Nigirjuna:
A translation of His
Milamadhyamakakdriki
with an
Introductory Essay (Tokyo:
Hokuseido, 1970), p.
3.
4. Bimal K.
Matilal, Epistemology, Logic,
and Grammar in Indian
Philosophical Analysis.
Janua
Linguarum,
Series
Minor,
III
(The Hague: Mouton, 1971), p.
146.
5. One is
reminded,
for
example,
of the comment of Edward
Conze,
a
partisan
of the less
complex
forms of
Mahayana,
about a
key
doctrine of
Yogacara.
He called the
alayavijhana
doctrine
"a
conceptual monstrosity."
See Edward
Conze,
Buddhist
Thought
in India
(London:
Allen and
Unwin, 1962), p.
133.
6.
Nagao Gadjin,
ed., Madhydntavibhdga-Bhasya (Tokyo:
Suzuki Research Foundation,
1964), p.
17 and T1599:31.451a15-17. The Chinese is Paramartha's version.
7.
Ibid., p.
18 and T1599:31.45a25-26.
8. T675:16.697a28-b9.
9. David
Seyfort Ruegg,
La theorie du
Tathigatagarbha
et du Gotra
(Paris: EFEO, 1969);
and
several other
publications.
10. Jikido Takasaki,
A
Study of
the
Ratnagotravibh5ga (Uttaratantra), Being
a Treatise on The
Tathdgatagarbha
Theory
(Rome: ISMEO, 1966).
11. Alex and Hideko
Wayman,
trans., The Lion's Roar
of Queen
Srimala
(New
York: Columbia,
University Press, 1974).
12. T353:12.221c16-18 and T1666:32.576a24-26.
13. T353:12.222a4-b3.
14. T1867:45.509a24-513cl8.
134 Gimello
15. T1878:45.652b12-654a28. The
authenticity
of this text is much
disputed
but in an as
yet
unpublished study
I have found reason to
accept
its attribution at least to Tu-shun's
period,
if not
to him.
16.
Principal biography:
T2060: 50.653b15-654a13.
17. Robinson's
description
of
emptiness
as "a surd within a
system
of constructs" seems
apt
here. See Richard H.
Robinson, Early Madhyamika
in India and China
(Madison: University
of
Wisconsin
Press, 1967), p.
49. See also Bimal K.
Matilal, Epistemology, Logic,
and Grammar in
Indian
Philosophical
Analysis. Janua
Linguarum,
Series Minor,
III
(The Hague:
Mouton, 1971),
pp.
146-167. On the
logical problem
of reflexive
negation
see Robert L.
Martin, ed., The Paradox
of
the Liar
(New Haven,
Conn.: Yale
University
Press, 1970).
18.
Mfilamadhyamikakiriki, 25:11;
T1564:30.32a.
19. Eric
Ziircher,
The Buddhist
Conquest of China,
2d
ed.,
Sinica
Leidensia,
Vol. II
(Leiden:
E. J.
Brill, 1972),
1: 12. One could
argue
as Robinson does
(Early Mddhyamika, pp. 123-144),
that
there were
exceptions
to the rule of
hybridization, Seng-chao (374-414) being
a most notable
example.
But he is notable
precisely
because he is so
exceptional.
20.
Attempts
at such summaries have been
made,
for
example, Wing-tsit Chan,
"The Evolution
of the Neo-Confucian
Concept
Li as
Principle." Tsing
Hua Journal of
Chinese
Studies,
NS 4
(1964):
123-148,
and Paul
Demieville,
"La
penetration
du bouddhisme dans la tradition
philosophique
chinoise," Cahiers d'histoire mondiale 3
(1956): 28-31,
but neither of these treats of the word's
evolution
during
the fifth and sixth centuries which is the
time-span
most
pertinent
to
Hua-yen
usage.
The most useful
study
of this
problem
that I have
yet
seen is
Kaginushi RyokeicY, Kegon
kyogaku josetsu.
shinnyo
to shinri no
kenkyuic (Kyoto: Bungakudo
shoten, 1968), especially pp.
182-213 in which the author examines the use of the term li in the Chii
Wei-mo-chingda,
in the
translations of Paramarthadb
(d.569),
and in the
writings
of
Hui-yfiandc
of the
Ching-ying templedd
(523-92).
21. Hua-yen Ja-chieh
hsian-chingde,
ch.
1,
T1883:45.676a13-6.
22. Chii
Hua-yenfa-chieh
kuan-mendf, T1884:45.687b6-8.
23.
Hua-yen ch'i-tzu-ching-t'ifa-chieh
kuan san-shih-men
sungdg,
T1885:45.701al3-4.
According
to the
introductory
remarks to this work
(T1885:45.692c12-21),
it was written in
K'ai-feng
in 1088
at the
request
of a
group
of eminent
laymen.
It is
regarded
as an
explanation
from the meditative
perspective (hsien-ch'u
ch'an-men
yen-mudh).
24.
Anutpattikadharmaksanti,
the tolerance of the truth that "all dharmas are
originally
unborn"
(i-ch'ieh fa pen-lai wu-shengdi),
is an
accomplishment
of the bodhisattba who has advanced to the
eighth
or "Immovable"
(Acala; pu-tungdj) stage
of his career. It is a
faculty
which allows him to
avoid the mental distraction and
dismay
that a
preoccupation
with
emptiness
can
engender.
For a
full account of it see chian 10 of Vasubandhu's
Dasanhuimivyakhyina (Shih-ti ching-lundk)
(T1522:
26.179b-c).
That veritable
encyclopedia
of
Mahayana,
the Ta-chih-tu lundl, also offers a brief but
apt explanation
of the
closely
related
concept
of dharmaksanti:
"By
the
power
of wisdom one
variously perceives
that
among
all dharmas there is not one that can be
grasped.
To
patiently
accept
this
teaching,
without doubt or
dismay (pu-ipu-huidm)-this
is call
dharmaksanti (fa-jendn)."
(T1509:25.171c18-20).
25.
Muilamadhyamikakiriki,
24:11, T1564:30.33a9.
26. It is true that the Kuan-men does
occasionally
use the
compound shih-fad?,
but this seems in
most cases to be for the
purpose
of balanced construction. In
any
case the distinction between shih
and
fa may
still be maintained
by admitting
that
whilefa may
also be
shih,
not all shih are
fa.
In
other words, the
category
of shih
may
be
regarded
as both broader than and inclusive of the
category
of
fa. Among
shih we find both commonsense
things
and events and
dharmas,
but the former far
out-number the latter. The Sarvastivada Abhidharma, for
example,
lists
only seventy-two
samskrta
dharmas; the
Vijfianavada
of
Hsiian-tsang only ninety-four.
The term dharma is here used in
only
one of its
many
senses.
27. I have in mind here,
for
example,
the "third world" of Karl
Popper,
which he defines as
"the world of
intelligibles,
one of ideas in the
objective
sense . . .the world of
possible objects
of
thought,
the world of theories in themselves...." See Karl
Popper, Objective Knowledge:
An
Evolutionary
Approach (London:
Oxford
University
Press, 1972), pp.
154
passim.
28. Hsiu Hua-yen ao-chih
wang-chin huan-yiian
kuandp
(T1876:45.637b15-16). Fa-tsang
is
here
elucidating
the notion of the "substance of suchness"
(chen-ju chih-tidq)
from the
Ta-ch'eng
135
ch'i-hsin lundr (T1666:32.579a12-20).
For a useful
comparison
of this work of
Fa-tsang
with the
Kuan-men itself see Kamata
Shigeods, Chugoku Bukkyo
shisoshi
kenkyiud (Tokyo: Shunjusha, 1969),
pp.
357-379.
29. See Gilbert
Ryle, "Categories,"
in
Proceedings of
the Aristotelian
Society
38
(1937):
189-206.
This is his initial statement of the idea. It
proved very
influential in modern British
philosophy,
and
Ryle developed
it further in several of his later works.
30.
This,
of
course,
is not to
say
that
analogous developments
from the
emptiness teaching
were
not to be found in other and later traditions of Indian
Mahayana.
We do find
them,
for
example,
in
Yogacara
and
Tathagatagarbha thought,
and these traditions did influence
Hua-yen.
But in the
Kuan-men itself
they play only
a
relatively
minor role.
31. Frederick
Ferre,
"The Definition of
Religion,"
Journal
of
the American
Academy of Religion,
38
(1970):11.
32.
Recently
another Western
philosopher
has noted elsewhere in Buddhism this same sense
of the value of life in the world: "When the distinction between the samtsdra
world,
the
perpetual
cycle
of
rebirth,
and Nirvana is
collapsed,
our
daily
life is stained with
religious significance.
The
entirety
of life is
religious,
rather than a restricted
portion
of it reserved for ritual and
specific
observances marked out as
'religious.' Everything
we do becomes a
religious act,
even ...
eating
and
sleeping."
Arthur C.
Danto, Mysticism
and
Morality.:
Oriental
Thought
and Moral
Philosophy
(New
York: Basic
Books, 1972), p.
80.
33.
Mulamadhyamikakdrikd, 25:11;
T1564:30.32a.
34. The two terms derive
originally
from the
theology
of
Pseudo-Dionysisius.
For a useful
disscussion of them see Vladimir
Lossky,
The
Mystical Theology of
the Eastern Church
(London:
James Clarke &
Co., 1957), pp.
25-43.
35. Frederick
Streng ("The Significance
of
Pratityasamutpada
for
Understanding
the Relation-
ship
between Sarmvrti and Paramartha in
Nagarjuna,"
in The Problem
of
Two
Truths, Mervyn
Sprung,
ed.
[Dordrecht: Reidel, 1974], pp. 27-39)
has
recently
described
Nagarjuna's
view of the
two truths in such a
way
as to
suggest
that
my
use of the word
"merely"
as a
qualifier
to samvrti
is
illegitimate. This,
of
course,
is an issue
worthy
of
separate
consideration and we have not the
space
for it
here,
but suffice it to
say
that while it is true that
Nagarjuna
does not
really
subordinate
sarmvrti to
paramartha
and
though
he deems both
necessary,
nevertheless he leaves much unsaid
about the kind of truth samtvrti is.
How,
for
example,
does it differ from conventional untruth? How
does one account for its
practical efficacy (updya),
if from the ultimate
perspective
it is untrue? In
view of these and similar
problems
I hesitate to
agree
that the notion of sarmvrti offers relief from the
relentless
apophasis
of
Madhyamika.
36. Professor
Ruegg
has shown that there were some thinkers
especially
concerned with the
Tathagatagarbha-those
of the Jo nan
pa
tradition in Tibet-who
may
indeed have believed that
language
could be used in this
way.
Their
kataphasis
is not Tu-shun's. See D. S.
Ruegg,
La theorie
du
Tathigatagarbha
de Bu ston
(Paris: EFEO, 1974).
37.
Mahjusripariprccha (Wen-shu-shih-li
wen
chingdu)
T468:14.503a25.
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