Buddhist Hermeneutics: A Conference Report
By Donald S. Lopez, Jr.

Philosophy East & West
V. 37  No. 1  (January 1987)
pp. 71-83

Copyright 1987 by University of Hawaii Press


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Donald S. Lopez. Jr. is Associate Professor in the Department of Religion at Middlebury College, Vermont

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A research conference on Buddhist hermeneutics was held in Los Angeles, California, from May 31 to June 3, 1984. The conference was sponsored by the Kuroda Institute for the Study of Buddhism and Human Values, the sixth scholarly conference sponsored by the Institute over the past five years. Major funding for the conference was provided by a grant from the Division of Research Programs of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

    The Conference brought together a group of twenty scholars from the United States, Great Britain, and Japan to investigate the special problems faced and the solutions set forth by the great Buddhist schools of India, Southeast Asia, Tibet, China, Korea, and Japan as they attempted to interpret consistently the vast corpus of scriptures attributed to the Buddha.

    Hermeneutics is a discipline concerned with establishing principles for the retrieval of meaning, especially from a text. It is by no means a new science; sophisticated systems of interpretation were devised by Talmudic rabbis and by early Church fathers, such as Origen. However, current interest in hermeneutics is focused primarily on more modern theories of interpretation, a tradition beginning with the work of Friedrich Schleiermacher and continuing into the twentieth century with such figures as Bultmann, Heidegger, Gadamer, and Ricoeur.

    The interpretation of sacred scripture is, of course, a major issue in Buddhism, where the problems faced by the interpreters of the Buddha's word were somewhat different from those found in the West. Besides the sheer bulk of the canon, the various schools of Buddhist thought were faced with a peculiar dilemma: just as a physician does not prescribe the same remedy for all maladies, so the Buddha was said to teach different things to different persons depending upon their capacities and needs. Yet all the teachings of the Buddha must be free from error and contradiction. The major schools of Buddhist thought in India each set forth its own opinion as to the nature of the Buddha's final view. They were still faced with the difficulty, however, of explaining those statements that seemed to contradict what they understood the Buddha's final position to be on some point of doctrine. This problem provided the impetus for the development of interpretative formulae in India, the beginning of Buddhist hermeneutics. The situation was further complicated by the existence of interpretative guidelines in discourses attributed to the Buddha; in effect, the Buddha sometimes provided his own hermeneutics, as in the Catu.hpratisara.nasuutra and the Sa.mdhinirmocanasuutra.

    The purpose of the conference was to assemble a group of Buddhologists to assess the development of Buddhist hermeneutics as formulated by the major

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schools of Asia. In addition to identifying the various schools of interpretation, together with the models they employed and the goals they set for themselves, the conference sought to establish the range of motivations for the interpretation of scripture and assessed the philosophical and soteriological agendas that led to sometimes conflicting views of the same text.

    Present as a discussant was Professor David Tracy of the University of Chicago, a leading formulator of modern hermeneutical theory. Because Buddhologists have not had the opportunity to undertake the sophisticated hermeneutical and semiotic studies of sacred texts that  have been so important in Biblical exegesis during the twentieth century, the critical tools at the Buddhologist's disposal for the analysis of a text remain comparatively primitive. Professor Tracy contributed greatly to the conference with his questions and comments, which served to sensitize the participants to the possibilities and challenges that remain to be confronted in Buddhist hermeneutics.

    The conference encompassed six sessions of three hours each over three days, with Friday being devoted to Indian and Sinhalese Buddhism, Saturday morning to Buddhist Tantra, Saturday afternoon to Chinese Buddhism, Sunday morning to Japanese Buddhism, and Sunday afternoon to concluding remarks by Professor Tracy and the other discussants. Summaries of the sixteen papers follow in the order in which they were presented.

George D. Bond, Northwestern University. "The Gradual Path as a Hermeneutical Approach to the Dhamma in the Netti Prakara.na and the Petakopadesa"

The central hermeneutical principle or vehicle for the Theravada tradition is the path to enlightenment. It provides the meaning and structure for the teachings and the tradition as a whole. To demonstrate this thesis, Professor Bond examined the Netti Prakara.na and the Petakopadesa, Theravada's two most explicit treatises on textual interpretation. Central to the various methods of interpretation employed by these texts is the concept of the gradual path to nibbaana as a hermeneutical device or strategy to explain the logic and structure of the dhamma. The gradual path provides a framework that permits the dhamma to have both great diversity and an underlying unity. The Netti and Petakopadesa demonstrate the diversity of the dhamma by identifying various types of suttas that have relevance to various types of persons at different levels. With almost infinite variations, these combinations of types of suttas and types of persons constitute an immensely long and gradual path to the goal of nibbaana. Despite diverse categorizations, the manuals do not regard these as distinct religious paths; they do not separate the kammic from the nibbaanic path. The dhamma is one and the path is one, although the path has many levels and applications. This, the Netti shows, is the secret to understanding the logic and meaning of the Buddha's teaching.

Professor Bond went on to speculate about the historical situations that gave rise to these interpretative schema. In the clash of religious contexts that Dumont and Poussin describe, these texts had to clarify the nature of the path and roles of the renouncers and the men-in-the-world. These manuals accept all these forms of religious practice and link them together via the gradual path, which provides for the kind of hierarchical religion needed in the social context of the man-in-the-world, while also providing for the individualistic discipline and cosmology required by the adept. Thus, although the Netti and

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the Petakopadesa attempt to recontextualize this understanding of the gradual path by attributing it all to the Buddha, the conception of the dhamma and its interpretation presented here seem to reveal, in large part, a later context in which Theravaada was wrestling with the question of how to give the dhamma an inclusive interpretation, satisfying to both monks and lay persons, without sacrificing its true intention.

Yuichi Kajiyama, Kyoto University. "Transfer and Transformation of Merits in Relation to Emptiness"

The Indian theory of karmic retribution was based on two principles: that a deed, good or evil, necessarily brings about an effect, agreeable or disagreeable, in accordance with the deed; and that the agent of a deed is alone responsible for its effect. The later Hiinayaana schools developed two remedies to the theory of karma. The Theravaada invented a means by which one could transfer the effect of his deed to another (as described in the Pettavatthu, and so forth). The Sarvastivaada held that a sage could exchange the enjoyment of happiness resulting from past deeds for long life and vice versa (as in the J~naanaprasthaana and the Abhidharmako`sabhaa.sya). The former remedy changes the direction of karmic retribution, the latter changes the content of the karmic result.

Professor Kajiyama argued that Mahaayaana Buddhism can be regarded as a  movement to transcend the traditional Indian theory of karmic retribution and transmigration and to demythologize faith in heavenly saviors such as Amitaabha. In the Mahaayaana solution to the inexorable nature of karma, the theory developed of a transfer of merit (pari.naamanaa) that functioned in two ways to provide the ground of Mahaayaana soteriology. The Praj~naapaaramitaa literature and the Madhyamaka school held that one could change worldly merits into supramundane enlightenment because all things, including karman and its effect, are empty of their own being. Around the beginning of the Christian Era, belief in karman and rebirth was firmly established among Indians while people, suffering from successive foreign invasions, were longing for a savior who would redeem them from a life full of sins. At this point, Amitaabha appeared declaring that all beings would be saved through faith in him, despite their accumulation of karman that should lead them to hell. The principle underlying Amitaabha's merciful deliverance was the transfer of his merits to others, which transcended the law of karmic retribution. Transfer and transformation of merit, in turn, were made possible by virtue of the wisdom of emptiness. That same wisdom, however, tends to demythologize the cult of Amitaabha, who, being empty of own being in the ultimate sense, depends on a believer's mind and other causes for his appearance.

Through an analysis of the development of theories by which the effects of karma could be avoided, Professor Kajiyama demonstrated the hermeneutical principles that allowed for reinterpretations of a fundamental Buddhist doctrine, the law of karmic retribution.

Donald S. Lopez, Jr., Middlebury College. "The Hermeneutics of Suspicion in Indian Mahaayaana Buddhism"

This paper examined the interpretative principles developed by the Yogaacaara, Svaatantrika, and Praasa^ngika schools of Indian Mahaayaana Buddhism between the fourth and eighth centuries, using as source materials the analyses of these schools by two fourteenth-century Tibetan scholars of the dGe-lugs-pa school, Tsong-kha-pa and Pan-chen bSod-nams-grags-pa. Professor Lopez began with a presentation of the salient points of the systems of interpretation-theory developed by these schools, focusing especially on all three schools' treatment of the seventh chapter of the Sa.mdhinirmocanasuutra and the Maadhyamika's use of a passage from the Ak.sayamatinirde`sasuutra. He then went

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on to analyze their respective approaches in the light of modern hermeneutical theory, specifically that of Hans-Georg Gadamer, Paul Ricoeur, and David Tracy.

According to the dGe-lugs-pa interpreter Pan-chen Bsod-nams-grags-pa, the Yogaacaarins follow the Sa.mdhinirmocana in asserting that the first and second wheels of the teaching are interpretable (neyaartha) and that the final wheel is definitive (niitaartha). The Svaatantrikas agree that the first wheel is interpretable but find both interpretable and definitive statements in the second and third wheels. The Praasa^ngikas find the first and third wheels to be interpretable and the middle wheel. definitive. Professor Lopez examined at some length the criteria employed by each school in the determination of whether a statement is interpretable or definitive and considered the philosophical positions that underlay those criteria.

Professor Lopez concluded that the Yogaacaarin and Svaatantrika hermeneutic is essentially Romantic in the sense that their primary concern is to stand behind the text in an effort to establish the intention of the Buddha in terms of his audience. The Praasa^ngikas are also concerned with this but employ a more universal and disinterested approach in which the time, place, audience, and mode of expression of a text are not of overriding significance in the judgment of the text as definitive or interpretable. Professor Lopez argued that in the formulation of a critical theory of interpretation, the Buddhist is free to choose as the scriptural authority for his hermeneutic the suutra that best accommodates the assertions of his own school. Thus, the Yogaacaarins follow the Sa.mdhinirmocana, the Praasa^ngikas follow the Ak.sayamatinirde`sa, and the Svaatantrikas take a synthetic approach incorporating elements from both suutras. Yet, although the interpreter is free to choose, he is obliged to account for the scriptural authority of the other. This is accomplished by the Praasa^ngikas, for example, by their assessment that the Sa.mdhinirmocana is interpretable and intended for Yogaacaarin disciples not yet capable of understanding the Maadhyamika view. This conflict of interpretation among the schools and its attendant mutual suspicion challenges the schools constantly to reassess their explanatory methods.

Jeffrey Hopkins, University of Virginia. "The Question of Mind-Only in Asa^nga's Bodhisattvabhuumi"

In his Essence of Good Explanations (Legs bshad snying po), Tsong-kha-pa addresses at length the issue of the relationship between the view of reality, put forth in Asa^nga's "Chapter on Reality (tattva)" in the Bodhisattvabhuumi, and mind-only in the sense of no external objects. With extensive reasoning and citation of sources he proposes that the two are intertwined--that the fact that objects are not established by way of their own character as bases of names and bases of conception by thought is concomitant with a nondifference in entity between subject and object. Tsong-kha-pa's presentation is very interesting in light of the work of scholars such as Schmithausen, Wayman, and Willis that attempts to show that the view of Asa^nga's Bodhisattvabhuumi is not of mind-only. Professor Hopkins contrasted these more recent publications with Tsong-kha-pa to determine whether or not the evidence that he presents has successfully been refuted.

The issue of the relationship between these two types of emptiness (that of the object's serving naturally as the basis of a name and that of a difference of entity between subject and object) is central to Tsong-kha-pa's delineation of the procedure of hermeneutics in the Cittamaatra or Yogaacaara school. According to Tsong-kha-pa, interpretation of scripture in that school is based on the literality and nonliterality of particular passages, the basis of which is a determination of what actually exists. As the doctrine of the three characters--thoroughly established (parini.spanna, yongs grub), other-powered (paratan-

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tra, gzhan dbang), and imputed (parikalpita, kun btags)--is central to this school's presentation of what does and does not exist, and the status of what exists, the determination of emptiness, the thoroughly established character, is of special importance. As the final object of observation of a path of purification, it forces the requirement that scriptures speaking of contradictory modes of being be interpreted. The issue of whether Asa^nga holds a nondifference of entity between subject and object to be the final mode of subsistence of phenomena is, therefore, of pivotal importance in his hermeneutic. Professor Hopkins explained Tsong-kha-pa's position in contrast to that of recent scholars and suggested possible refinements in their arguments.

Luis O. Gomez, University of Michigan. "Precedents and Possibilities for a Buddhist Hermeneutic"

Buddhist scholars and scholars of Buddhism seem to have decided to adopt the term "hermeneutics" to describe a type of intellectual activity for which the ancient Buddhists did not have a single term. The new hermeneutical enthusiasm, however, seems motivated primarily by a desire to prove that the Buddhist tradition did not lack in hermeneutical sophistication. The question guiding our efforts seems to be, therefore, one of simply asking for specific instances of"the hermeneutical activity in Buddhism." In his paper, Professor Gomez sought to give our enthusiasm a new twist by exploring some of the ways in which Western contemporary awareness of the problems of understanding and interpretation present a new challenge to traditional Buddhist hermeneutics.

The question of the possible relationship or interaction between modern methodology and mentality on the one hand and traditional Buddhist exegetical and hermeneutical concepts on the other was the main focus of Professor Gomez's paper. By means of selected examples of hermeneutical categories and their application to problems of authenticity, authority, and exegesis in classical Buddhist thought, Professor Gomez sought to show that the contemporary "hermeneutical question" opens new problems to which the Buddhist exegete has to respond with a new understanding or a revision of his tradition.

In particular, Professor Gomez explored the meaning of history and "the conflict of interpretations" in terms of traditional Buddhist metaphysics and hermeneutics, uncovering with the contemporary categories a number of tensions and inconsistencies in the tradition.

The paper concluded with a note on the ways in which the impact of historical and hermeneutical consciousness on Buddhism may differ from or be similar to the effect of the emergence of hermeneutic pluralism and historical criticism on Christianity.

David Seyfort Ruegg, University of Chicago (in absentia). "The Buddhist Notion of an Immanent Absolute as a Problem in Hermeneutics"

Professor Ruegg's paper analyzed the philosophical and religious significance of the Mahaayaanist theory of the tathaagatagarbha in Indian thought. He began with a consideration of the soteriological and metaphysical status of the tathaagatagarbha as a problem in exegesis and hermeneutics. The ostensible similarity between the theory of the tathaagatagarbha and aatmavaada of the Tiirthikas did not go unnoticed in the Mahaayaana suutras. In the Mahaaparinirvaa.nasuutra the Buddha describes the tathaagata as a permanent, blissful self, very pure, and without marks, thereby converting many Tiirthikas to the dharma, but says later that in reality there is no self, thereby employing the principle of the Middle Way to eschew both the eternalist and nihilist views. The Buddhist philosophers were obliged, then, to differentiate between, on the one side, the tathaagatagarbha, the Buddhist notion of absolute reality in-

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formed by certain inseparable and constitutive Factors, and, on the other side, an eternal and unchanging entity like the aatman. In order to elucidate this difference, they had available two hermeneutical possibilities, either of which would allow them to remain faithful to their fundamental principle of non-substantiality (nairaatmya). The first possibility was based on the idea that the Buddha's teaching that the tathaagatagarbha is present in all living beings is not definitive (niitaartha), but requires interpretation (neyaartha), specifically, that the doctrine of the tathaagatagarbha was an expedient device employed by the Buddha to attract persons attached to the idea of a Self, or to inspire those who lacked confidence in their ability to achieve Buddhahood. Professor Ruegg demonstrated that this concept of the intentional (aabhipraayika) was not something invented by the Buddhist commentators, but had a long history in Indian semantics and semiotics. For example, there is a striking parallel between the semantic theory of suggestion (vya~njanaa) and poetical resonance (dhvani) on the one hand and the Buddhist hermeneuticians' theory of aabhipraayika and neyaartha on the other. The second solution to the problem raised by the status of the tathaagatagarbha centers on establishing the relationship between the tathaagatagarbha and `suunyataa. Here, the teaching of the tathaagatagarbha is held to be definitive (niitaartha) because it refers in the end to `suunyataa.

Hence, contrary to what has sometimes been suggested, it is not the case that the tathaagatagarbha theory represents a Brahmanical monism. Rather, Buddhist Mahaayaanist thought contains both a via negationis, in which reality is represented negatively and approached apophatically, and a via eminentiae, in which it is represented positively and approached cataphatically. The former approach is more common, but the latter is found in both the earliest texts as well as in the Mahaayaana. Professor Ruegg argued that what is of paramount importance is not whether absolute reality is to be described positively or negatively, but whether the theory adopted actually avoids representing reality as a nihilistic destruction of some entity or as a literal void to which one might cling dogmatically.

In the final section of his paper, Professor Ruegg considered the cognitive status of the tathaagatagarbha and the Absolute, dealing specifically with the question of the role of faith in the understanding of the Absolute.

Matthew Kapstein, University of Chicago. "Mi-pham's Theory of Interpretation"

Buddhist theory of interpretation, as opposed to actual interpretations, often seems to be little more than a collection of rules of thumb handed down through the tradition. The basis for these principles implicitly appears to be the demand of reason that a system of thought be coherent and cohesive, that is, that apparent contradictions be removed. As such, Buddhist theories of interpretation run the risk of becoming arbitrary principles whereby the Buddha's teaching can be forced into the mold established by any given later thinker. Any system of interpretation that fails to ground itself in anything more profound than the mere desire for consistency brings this problem with it. Hence, a complete theory of interpretation must give us not merely rules of thumb, but must ground its principles in more fundamental reason, and must indicate, too, the means by which those principles are to be applied. Read with this in mind, many of the discussions of interpretive theory found in the sastraic literature seem not to be intellectually satisfying.

One rather late Buddhist thinker who seems to have been aware of these difficulties was 'Jam-mgon 'Ju Mi-pham rnam-rgya1(1846-1912). Mi-pham places his discussions of the interpretative rules of thumb in an overall philosophical context that shows that he expected them to depend upon and be validated by the more fundamental principles of logic and epistemology. And he saw those to be themselves dependent upon still more fundamental

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metaphysical truths. In principle, then, Mi-pham saw the need for a coherent philosophical system, in which the theory of interpretation would be found as a particular subtheory. The full exploration and criticism of Mi-pham's theory would involve a thorough investigation of his treatment of all its many ramifications. Professor Kapstein focused his discussion on the general structure of Mi-pham's theory and then went on to inquire into the manner in which that structure suggests a possible fulfillment of some of the requirements of a theory of interpretation, as conceived by Western philosophers during the past two centuries.

Mi-pham's overriding architectonic here follows a classical outline, that of the four modes of` reasoning ( yukticatu.s.tayam ; Tibetan, rigs pa bzhi). The main sastraic sources for these topics appear to have been the Abhidharmasamuccaya and the Mahaayaanasuutraala.mkaara. Both works introduce the four modes of reasoning in connection with the exposition of the dharma. So the canonical context already relates these topics to the problem of interpretation in general. Mi-pham commented on the four modes of reasoning in at least three works: (1) a short verse tract entitled Don rnam par nges pa shes rab ral gri (The Sword of Discernment: An Ascertainment of Meaning), written in 1885; (2) Mkhas pa 'i tshul la 'jug pa'i sgo (Introduction to scholarship), a lengthy scholastic manual for more or less elementary instruction, composed in 1900; and (3) his mammoth commentary on the Mahaayaanasuutraala.mkaara, his last great exegetical work, written in 1911, the year preceding his demise. These make it clear that his views on the present subject matter were in much their final form when the first of these was composed. Professor Kapstein based his discussion on the first work.

Mi-pham's stated purpose in composing The Sword was to provide illumination for those who wished to partake of the Sugata's teaching, which is profound, extensive, and difficult to understand (rtogs dka' ba). His discussions elsewhere of these three properties of the teaching suggest that it is the last mentioned that is of foremost concern here. A consideration of the means whereby something difficult to understand may be understood provides a tenuous link with the primary concerns of recent hermeneutics. Mi-pham's general orientation here seems prima facie to relate his thought to Emilio Beti's approach to hermeneutics, rather than to the Heidegger-Gadamer School, with its dominant concern with the ontology of understanding.

Robert A. F. Thurman, Amherst College. "Vajra Hermeneutics"

Tsong-kha-pa described the role of philosophy in Buddhist thought as essentially hermeneutical, in that the determination of the authentic view of reality, which is the business of the Yogaacaara and Maadhyamika philosophers, is conducted as a determination of the interpretability and definitiveness of the various statements of the Buddha. Thus, in the philosophical context, hermeneutics has the double function of reconciling apparent contradictions between the Buddha's diverse statements while keeping alive the methodologies of interpretation by which one can extract the practical essence of each particular statement.

In the Tantras this problem is compounded by the element of esotericism, historically essential to the preservation of their teachings. And since the Tantras themselves involve perhaps the furthest elaboration of interpretations of  he Buddha's life and teachings, they must pay particular attention to the hermeneutical procedures necessary to a proper understanding and to an efficient practice. Professor Thurman argued that it comes as no surprise, therefore, that the Guhyasamaaja tradition as articulated by Vajra-Naagaarjuna and Vajra-Candrakiirti is deeply involved in hermeneutical strategies. It is said that the meaning of the King of Tantras, the Guhyasamaaja, also said to be a jewel casket of all the suutras, has its meanings sealed within by means of

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seven ornaments, which themselves are subdivided into twenty-eight principles. Of these, the "six parameters" (.sa.tko.ti) and the "four procedures" (caturvidham) of elucidation (vyaakhyaana) and exposition (aakhyaanam) are the most important hermeneutical ornaments. The six parameters contain the most important concepts utilized in exoteric hermeneutics, the three pairs of interpretable/definitive, intentional/nonintentional, and literal/nonliteral. The four procedures add four types of meaning into the scheme: literal, common, esoteric, and ultimate meanings.

In his study, Professor Thurman elucidated the presentation of these hermeneutical strategies by Candrakiirti in his Pradiipoddyotana, illustrated how they are used in the interpretation of selected texts, and reflected on how this presentation relates to hermeneutical approaches of exoteric commentators. He concluded with a consideration of how this Tantric refinement of Buddhist hermeneutics completes the tradition in such a way as to make comparison with modern disciplines of hermeneutics possible and fruitful.

Michael Broido, Oxford University. "Killing, Lying, Stealing, and Adultery in the Kaalacakratantra"

The Kaalacakratantra (III.97-98) seems to recommend six apparently immoral activities (correlated with the six types of adepts). The Vimalaprabhaa gives two interpretations for each recommended activity. One set of six is described as definitive (niitaartha); these have to do with the "channels," "winds," and "circles." The other set is described as requiring interpretation (neyaartha) and enjoins the adept not to take the verse literally unless he has attained the five special insights (abhij~naa), in which case the otherwise immoral actions may be turned to good effect. The hermeneutic vocabulary of niitaartha and neyaartha is used in a way different from that familiar from the Guhyasamaaja literature. Professor Broido argued from the evidence in the Vimalaprabhaa that the practice of applying the Guhyasamaaja style of hermeneutics to all the Tantras, which was common in Tibet, was not followed in India.

Peter Gregory, University of Illinois. "What Happened to the Perfect Teaching?"

Professor Gregory discussed a hermeneutical problem within the doctrinal classification (p'an-chiao) of the Hua-yen tradition of Chinese Buddhism--a problem centering on the classification of the Avata.msaka (Hua-yen) Suutra. Since this scripture, from which the Hua-yen tradition takes its name, is central to the tradition's identity, the problem he discussed in his paper bears on the tradition's assessment of its cardinal teaching. In his Treatise on the Five Teachings( Wu-chiao chang), Fa-tsang (643-712) had identified the Huayen Suutra with the "Perfect Teaching" (yuan-chiao), which is extolled as the most profound teaching of the Buddha. Tsung-mi (780-841), however, omitted the Perfect Teaching from his classificatory scheme in his Inquiry into the Origin of Man ( Yuan-jen lun), according pride of place to the "Teaching which Reveals the Nature" (hsien-hsing chiao), a teaching which corresponded to that which Fa-tsang had merely ranked third in his fivefold scheme.

Professor Gregory suggested various reasons for the revalorization of Huayen teachings seen in this shift in the interpretation of the meaning of the Hua-yen Suutra. He characterized Fa-tsang's understanding of the purport of this scripture in terms of the conditioned origination of the dharmadhaatu (fa-chieh yuan-ch'i), a doctrine that has been traditionally explained as teaching the unobstructed interrelation of all phenomena (shih-shih wu-ai). This is contrasted with Nature Origination (hsing-ch'i), a doctrine based on the teaching of the tathaagatagarbha articulated in Awakening of Faith (Ta-sheng ch'i-hsin lun) and representative of that which Fa-tsang classifies as the third teaching within his Treatise on the Five Teachings, that of Advanced Mahaayaana, which teaches the interpenetration of the absolute and phenomenal (li-shih

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wu-ai). Professor Gregory argued that Tsung-mi's emphasis on li-shih wu-ai over shih-shih wu-ai throughout his writings was based, in part, on the Huayen legacy he had inherited from Ch'eng-kuan. It also reflected his personal preference for the Scripture of Perfect Enlightenment (Yuan-chueh ching), which he saw as more suited to the needs of the times and which served as the catalyst for his initial enlightenment experience. Professor Gregory went on to contend that the most important factor behind Tsung-mi's reevaluation of Hua-yen teachings was the rise of Ch'an, a movement with which he was intimately involved. Tsung-mi saw li-shih wu-ai as providing a philosophical rationale for Ch'an practice and so as offering a more effective soteriological prescription than shih-shih wu-ai. Professor Gregory suggested in conclusion that Tsung-mi's position was further related to his reaction against what he perceived to be the antinomian implications of some of the more radical Ch'an teachings of the late eighth and early ninth centuries.

Robert M. Gimello, University of Arizona. "Hua-yen Hermeneutics"

Professor Gimello discussed the different exegetical styles of Chih-yen and Li T'ung-hsuan in their commentaries to the Avata.masaka (Hua-yen) Suutra. He pointed out that whereas Chih-yen seemed to have used the text as an opportunity to address an agenda of doctrinal issues that often had more to do with the scholastic debates of the Chinese Buddhist world in the sixth and seventh centuries than with the contents of the scripture, Li T'ung-hsuan's comments represent a more sensitive and nuanced reading of the text itself. Professor Gimello used the difference between the approaches of these two Hua-yen exegetes to draw a more general distinction between what he called explicit and implicit hermeneutics, observing that explicit hermeneutical schemes (such as p'an-chiao) frequently had little to do with the implicit hermeneutic revealed in the way a particular commentator dealt with the actual words of a text.

Robert Buswell, University of California, Los Angeles. "Ch'an Hermeneutics: A Korean View"

The hermeneutical perspectives of the East Asian Ch'an tradition, which prided itself on being a "separate transmission outside the sutras," presents a unique set of interpretative problems; this is because, unlike text-based Buddhist hermeneutics, its hermeneutical considerations evolved into more gnoselogical and ontological concerns. Professor Buswell explored the contributions of the Korean Ch'an school, known as Soon--which was the successor to a vigorous critical tradition in Chinese Ch'an Buddhism--focusing on the work of Chinul (1158-1210). Chinul attempted to counter the claim of the Hua-yen school that Ch'an was nothing more than a glorified sudden teaching, the fourth of the five divisions proposed by Fa-tsang (643-712), by showing that Ch'an was in fact the only true complete (yuan) and sudden (tun) teaching. Ch'an was distinguished from the sudden teaching because, unlike the sudden teaching that culminated in the abandonment of thought, its praxis led to the state of the unimpeded interpenetration of the dharmadhaatu, the consummation of the complete teaching of the scholastic doctrine. But Ch'an was also superior to the complete teaching because its description of the enlightenment experience, although parallel in content to that achieved in Hua-yen practice, was less reliant on conceptual modes of expression. This difference is clarified in the Ch'an hermeneutical principle of the "live word," which is intended to catalyze awakening, and the "dead word," which is merely a theoretical description of truth; Ch'an descriptions of enlightenment that seem to parallel those used in Hua-yen actually are "live words." Professor Buswell concluded with a discussion of levels of Ch'an discourse in order to indicate that Ch'an has close affinities with the analysis of the

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teachings found in the general Chinese hermeneutical structure, in which there is a progression from naive cataphasis to radical apophasis to perfected cataphasis.

Thomas P. Kasulis, Northland College. "The Basis of Kuukai's Theory of Interpretation"

Professor Kasulis set out to explain the basic hermeneutic theory implicit in the works of Kuukai (774-835), the founder of Japanese Shingon Buddhism. The first part of his paper explained the historical and intellectual context of Kuukai's early life as a student and religious ascetic. Professor Kasulis suggested that Kuukai's mountain practice based on the text known as Kokuuzoogumonjihoo was a youthful expression of his desire to correlate religious ritual (in this case, the chanting of dhaara.nii) with textual interpretation (this particular practice promised the development of the ability to memorize and understand all Buddhist scriptures). In his major work of this early period, Sangooshiki (Aims of the Three Teachings), Kuukai evaluated Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism with reference to how they could improve people, rather than to how consistent or comprehensive they were as pure systems of thought.

In the second part of his paper, Professor Kasulis began by explaining Kuukai's fully developed theory of language. He suggested that Kuukai's Shingon theory analyzes language on three levels: the cosmic, in which language, indeed all the universe, is simply Dainichi's act; the microcosmic, in which language is seen as a surface manifestation of the subperceptible resonances (kyoo); and the macrocosmic, in which language, as we ordinarily understand it, is evaluated according to how well it leads the listener to an awareness of the cosmic and microcosmic. Professor Kasulis then went on to discuss the "ten stages of mind" classification system as exemplifying the results of applying the Shingon view of language to the interpretation of religious texts and traditions. The connection between these later writings and Kuukai's earlier work is that throughout his life, Kuukai tended to understand what words mean in light of what they do.

Roger Corless, Duke University. "Shinran's Proofs of True Buddhism: Hermeneutics and Doctrinal Development in the Kyoogyooshinshoo's Use of T'an-luan's Lun-chu"

Shinran's Kyoogyooshinshoo is a collection of proof texts intended to show the superiority of Faith (shinjin), Other Power (tariki), and the Fundamental Vow (hongan) of Amida Buddha. The proof texts are quoted out of context and apparently arbitrarily, and it has been alleged that Shinran grossly misinterpreted his sources. By an analysis of those proof texts on the True Teaching (kyoo), Practice (gyoo), Faith (shin), and Attainment (shoo) which Shinran draws from T'an-luan, Professor Corless contrasted T'an-luan's hermeneutic of commentatorial notation (chu) with Shinran's hermeneutic of selection (senchaku) and sought to show that Shinran's hermeneutic is circular. Professor Corless claimed that the circularity of this hermeneutic is legitimate because it is congruent with his new vision of the coinherence of the unmanifest and manifest aspects of the dharmakaaya encapsulated in the Hongan and because it is a hermeneutic of persuasion intended to induce in us a paradigm shift of vision away from the "miscellaneous practices" of Tendai towards the Absolute Tariki of Shinshuu.

John C. Maraldo, University of North Florida. "Why Doesn't Doogen Say What He Means? Text and Intertext in a Medieval Zen Master's Writings"

Professor Maraldo began by discussing the ambiguities that surround the identity of Doogen as author. There is Doogen the first patriarch of the Sootoo

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Sect, Doogen the Zen master, Doogen the Buddhist monk, Doogen the historical figure, Doogen the philosopher, Doogen the phenomenologist, and now, Doogen the proto-poststructuralist. The author of the Shooboogenzoo is, in fact, a network of writers participating in a structured activity that transcends them individually. A similar ambiguity characterizes the nature of the Shooboogenzoo itself. What is the "true dharma eye" and what is the "treasury"? We know that the text was compiled as a single work long after Doogen's death. It never existed as a single work and there is no original as far as any kind of definitive, uniform monograph is concerned. Can we discern an internal unity to the work, a structural or thematic or logical universe of discourse, independent of the interests of its redactors? There is reason to believe that the discourses that comprise the Shooboogenzoo are based upon or condensed from sermons Doogen addressed to his disciples. It is not clear why Doogen wrote them down at all; if his intention was to transmit his teaching, why did he write in such an inexplicable style? To illustrate this style, Professor Maraldo gave examples of the widely variant translations of arbitrarily selected passages of the text. It is not the case that the study of a passage allows one to eliminate possible translations; indeed, with study the ways of reading a passage grow more numerous. He went on to illustrate some of the various approaches at interpretation that have been attempted by modern scholars. He argued that the variant readings of Doogen have been arrived at by writing new texts, as it were; by transferring words from one context to another, re-forming combinations of kanji, letting recombinations remind us of other passages, and so on. To define the text is to multiply it. What is read in the words set down in writing emerges from an intertext, an interplay between the written, repeatable work and the performance of the reader. This network allows the reader to collect dispersed meanings and to formulate yet other works, the text in translation. Doogen's words work very literally to disperse any sense of a literal transmission of mind. It is as if Doogen were writing to demonstrate how Zen is "a separate transmission outside the writings, not dependent on words and letters."

During the final session, the four discussants offered their reflections on the conference. Professor Alan Sponberg of Princeton University identified three types of hermeneutics in Buddhist thought. The first and most obvious are the classificatory systems, such as the four siddhaanta of Indian Buddhism or the p'an-chiao of Chinese Buddhism. These, however, are in fact the products of hermeneutical reflection rather than hermeneutical principles themselves. They clearly reflect certain hermeneutical assumptions, but those assumptions are rarely articulated by the systems themselves. The second category of hermeneutics, then, consists of the principles and strategies that are descriptive of the process of understanding. The third and deepest sense of hermeneutics in Buddhist thought is as a theory of understanding. It is in the consideration of this last aspect of hermeneutics that there is much to be gained from the study of current hermeneutical reflection in the West. However, Professor Sponberg warned against a wholesale adoption of the principles and presuppositions of Western hermeneutical theory. Rather, it is essential that scholars of Buddhism construct a hermeneutics that will be useful to the study of Buddhism. In this way, Buddhist Studies can make a contribution to the field of hermeneutics and has a responsibility to do so. In Buddhism, for example, it seems that the hermeneutical enter-

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prise plays an important role in soteriology in the sense that hermeneutics, as a theory of understanding, provides a technique for divesting oneself of illusion.

    Also reflecting on what is unique in Buddhist hermeneutics, Professor David Chappell of the University of Hawaii noted that a hermeneutical principle central to Buddhist thought that seems to be absent in the West is the centrality of spiritual development in the understanding of a text. That is, in Buddhism there is a process of inner cultivation that prepares one for interpretation.    Professor Chappell suggested, then, that a more fruitful parallel in the analysis of the hermeneutics of traditional Buddhist commentators is not with modern Western theorists. but rather with the medieval interpreters of the Bible, who sought deepening levels of understanding of their sacred scriptures.

    Professor Chappell argued that the discussions during the conference had dwelt inordinately on the idea of a hermeneutics of control, whereby an interpreter forces a text to fit into his own doctrinal position. Although there are ample examples of this in the history of Buddhist thought, this is only the third of three stages of hermeneutical practice in Buddhist history. The first he called a hermeneutic of individualization, when a pioneering thinker, such as Hui-ssu or Shinran, provides a radically new and revolutionary reading to a text. That new reading must then be restored to the historical milieu and to the tradition. This is the hermeneutics of integration, effected by figures such as Chih-i. It is when the once radical reinterpretation of a text becomes simply a received and unquestioned gloss that one encounters the hermeneutics of control.

    Professor Carl Bielefeldt of Stanford University reflected that the very fact that there is a discipline of hermeneutics whereby meaning is to be retrieved from the past implies an estrangement and alienation from tradition. Despite the fact that the problem of historical consciousness is not generally associated with Buddhism, it is indeed there. It is important to consider what kinds of historical consciousness occur in Buddhism and how they have affected the ways in which Buddhists have understood their texts and tradition. The importance of the historical in Buddhism is evidenced by the need perceived by the Mahaayaana to account for its temporal distance from the Buddha, notions of the evolution and devolution of the dharma, the discovery of hidden texts in Tibet, and the emphasis on lineage and transmission in the Ch'an tradition.

    Professor Bielefeldt offered the case of Chih-i's formulation of the four teachings as illustrative of the problem of the historical in Buddhist thought. Corresponding to the four alternatives of being, nonbeing, both, and neither, the Hiinayaana suutras teach being, the early Maadhyamika teaches nonbeing, the tathaagatagarbha teaches both, and the perfect teaching, that of the Lotus Suutra, teaches neither. Chih-i saw these doctrines as unfolding sequentially in the teachings of the Buddha historically and as unfolding in the experience of the practitioner. But such an historical system raises an entire new set of questions, for if we are living in an age in which the perfect teaching has been fully revealed, what is left for us to discover?

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    Professor David Tracy of the University of Chicago began his remarks by identifying possible areas of further inquiry for Buddhologists. One of the most important enterprises for the scholars of a particular tradition is to engage the question of which texts of the tradition are classics and which are merely period pieces in terms of their history of effects on the tradition. Are there criteria for classic texts in Buddhism, including classic texts of hermeneutics, and can these criteria be profitably discussed? A second point for consideration is the problem of distance from the classics. In the West, this is a problem of temporal distance. The Buddhologist not only must negotiate a temporal distance of often considerably greater expanse, but also is faced with a cultural chasm. This double distance problem induces a kind of double alienation from the text, an alienation that is not wholly negative in that it provides the opportunity for the effective use of historical critical method. The double distance also magnifies the problem of what the interpreter does with the claims of the text, especially when the text, as is most often the case in Buddhism, is setting forth a vision of reality. It is at this point that the interpreter enters into what Gadamer called a "conversation" with the text. It is in this conversation that the various Buddhist traditions provide means of identifying systemic distortions in our view of reality. Professor Tracy referred to this as a radical hermeneutics of suspicion.

    This was one of several areas in which Professor Tracy felt that Buddhist thought could contribute to hermeneutical theory. Another area was the question of understanding and the application of understanding. He discerned in Buddhism a theory of application, exemplified in Kuukai's ten stages, that is radically situational and considerably more refined than much current speculation on the question. He also felt that Buddhism has much to say on the relationship between language and experience. He observed further that Buddhist texts seem to differ from those of other religious traditions in their emphasis on the authority of reason; the texts are disclosive rather than authoritarian, demanding not the obedience of the will but self-criticism.

    Professor Tracy observed that, in listening to the papers and discussion during the conference, it seemed that Buddhologists are struggling with problems similar to those encountered in the West, but with scholars of Buddhism both suffering from and challenged by the double distance of time and culture. Their encounter with this dilemma will result in alternative ways of thinking about the problems of Western hermeneutics so that, far from fearing having some monolithic "modern Western hermeneutics" forced upon it, Buddhology can look forward to the discovery of resources that will contribute to the hermeneutical enterprise as a whole.

The papers summarized here were working drafts submitted for the conference. The revised essays resulting from the conference will be edited by Donald S. Lopez, Jr., the conference director, and published by the University of Hawaii Press as part of the Kuroda Institute series, Studies in East Asian Buddhism.

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