Yogâcāra Buddhism Transmitted or Transformed? Paramārtha (499–569) and His Chinese Interpreters

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LibraryDissertationsYogâcāra Buddhism Transmitted or Transformed? Paramārtha (499–569) and His Chinese Interpreters

Yogâcāra Buddhism Transmitted or Transformed? Paramārtha (499–569) and His Chinese Interpreters
Dissertation
Dissertation

Abstract

This dissertation argues that the Yogâcāra Buddhism transmitted by the Indian translator Paramârtha (Ch. Zhendi 真諦) underwent a significant transformation due to the influence of his later Chinese interpreters, a phenomenon to which previous scholars failed to paid enough attention.
      I begin with showing two contrary interpretations of Paramârtha's notion of jiexing 解性. The traditional interpretation glosses jiexing in terms of "original awakening" (benjue 本覺) in the Awakening of Faith and hence betrays its strong tie to that text. In contrast, a contrary interpretation of jiexing is preserved in a Dunhuang fragment Taishō No. 2805 (henceforth abbreviated as T2805).
      The crucial part of this dissertation consists in demonstrating that T2805 and the Awakening of Faith represent two competing lineages of the interpreters of Paramârtha. The first clue is that modern scholars have voiced objection to the traditional attribution of the Awakening of Faith to Paramârtha. In addition, I discovered that striking similarities exist between T2805 and Paramârtha's corpus with respect to terminology, style of phrasing, and doctrine. I further draw attention to the historical testimonies about two different doctrinal views held by Paramârtha's interpreters. Therefore, I argue that there were two lineages in the name of Paramârtha's disciples around 590 CE: the indirect lineage interpreted Paramârtha through the lens of the Awakening of Faith; and the direct lineage—represented by T2805—preserved Paramârtha's original teachings but died out prematurely. Later Chinese Buddhist tradition mistakenly regards the indirect lineage as Paramârtha's true heir and attributes the Awakening of Faith to Paramârtha.
      This implies that Paramârtha may have agreed with Xuanzang 2T5c (600–664) much more than scholars used to assume. For example, Xuanzang's characterization of the notion of "aboriginal uncontaminated seeds" looks very similar to how Paramârtha depicts jiexing. It also implies that we should distinguish the strong sense of the notion of "tathāgatagarbha" in the Awakening of Faith from its weak sense. The fact that even Vasubandhu endorses the weak sense of "tathāgatagarbha" strongly challenges the received wisdom that Yogâcāra and Tathāgatagarbha were two distinct and antagonistic trends of thought in India.

Citation Keng, Ching. "Yogâcāra Buddhism Transmitted or Transformed? Paramārtha (499–569) and His Chinese Interpreters." PhD diss., Harvard University, 2009.