The Doctrine of Buddha Nature in Chinese Buddhism—Hui-K'ai on Paramārtha

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The Doctrine of Buddha Nature in Chinese Buddhism—Hui-K'ai on Paramārtha
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Citation: Keenan, John P. "The Doctrine of Buddha Nature in Chinese Buddhism—Hui K'ai on Paramārtha." In Buddha Nature: A Festschrift in Honor of Minoru Kiyota, edited by Paul J. Griffiths and John P. Keenan, 125–37. Tokyo: Buddhist Books International, 1990.

Article Summary

John P. Keenan, in his essay on Paramārtha and Hui-K'ai, explores the complex process by which Indian Buddhist texts were transmitted into China, and argues for the pervasive influence, both linguistic and conceptual, of pre-Buddhist Taoist ideas upon that process. This influence, he argues, was essentially "centrist" in that Taoist thought then focused upon nonbeing as the source or matrix of being, and upon the importance of the "original nature" of human persons; such ideas were naturally conducive to an emphasis upon Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha Nature terms and concepts, for the interpretive tools for understanding them were already present in China, while this was not the case for Indian ideas about sūnyatā and the dialectic of the two truths.
      To illustrate this general point Keenan considers the case of the translator Paramārtha and his amanuensis Hui-k'ai, and shows that in their work on Indic texts they not infrequently added references to tathtāgatagarbha and Buddha Nature where no such mention was made in the originals; they thus contributed to the centrality of Buddha Nature thought in East Asian Buddhism. (Griffiths and Keenan, introduction to Buddha Nature, 5)