BUDDHIST AND CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHIES AND CHINESE CULTURE
THE INTRODUCTION OF INDIAN BUDDHISM INTO CHINA
A PERSPECTIVE ON THE MEANING OF STUDIES IN COMPARATIVE PHILOSOPHY AND COMPARATIVE RELIGION*
Here I do not intend to analyze or study the entire history of the introduction of Indian Buddhism into China; rather, I wish simply to investigate the relationships which existed between Buddhism, after it was introduced into China in the period of the Wei, and Jin, and the North and South dynasties, and the previously existing ideologies and cultures in China at the time, and to illustrate thereby the meaning of studying comparative philosophy and comparative religions.
THE INTRODUCTION OF INDIAN BUDDHISM INTO CHINA AND THE POPULARIZATION OF THE SCHOOL OF PRAJNA TEACHINGS [BANRUOXUE] IN THE WEI AND JIN PERIODS
The Beginnings of Buddhism in China
There are diverse theories regarding the timing of the introduction of Buddhism from India to China. There is, however, a general consensus that the introduction of Buddhism commenced with the dispatching of an envoy to the lands of the west by Emperor Mingdi of the Eastern Han dynasty during his reign of Yongping (58-75 A.D.) to seek the Buddhist teachings. According to even earlier legends the emissary Zhang Xian, who had been sent to the Western lands, "heard of the teachings of foutu (Buddha) and had been commissioned by the monarch of Da-rou-zhi to preserve and transmit the teachings of the futu jing (Buddha's classic, or sutra). Even disregarding this, I am convinced that the introduction of Buddhism into China predated the dispatch of the imperial envoy during the Yongping reign to seek out Buddhist teachings. In the eighth year of the reign of Yongping, Emperor Mingdi decreed that those criminals who had incurred the death penalty might atone for their crimes by offering jian cloth to the state and thus escape the execution of their sentences. Prince Ying, a brother to Mingdi, sent in thirty bales of jian, whereupon the emperor issued the following explanatory edict:
Prince Ying of Chu has been reciting the refined teachings of Huang and Lao [Huangdi, or the Yellow Emperor, and Laozi (Lao Tzu) are together revered as the founders of the Daoist school of philosophy, and particularly of its so-called Esoteric or Immortal school--Tr.] and has worshiped at the benevolent shrine of Buddha. He has undertaken to cleanse himself and has fasted for three months, observing his vows to the gods. [In the Chinese Buddhist contexts, fasting does not necessarily mean abstinence from food altogether but usually refers to the assumption of an exacting vegetarian diet avoiding the taking of life, which is known as zaijie--Tr.] He has repented and should be considered to have expiated any crime he may have perpetrated or any suspicions he may have provoked. He is now, by way of atonement, submitting his property to add to the grand fete of the Upasaka [Buddhist disciples] and to the glory of the temples of Buddha.
The fact that Prince Ying worshiped Huangdi, Laozi (Lao Tzu), and Buddha at the same time and in the same fashion tells us that Buddhism certainly already had been introduced into China for quite some time prior to the eighth year of the Yongping reign. Therefore, it would be quite late to take the sending of the imperial envoy to seek out Buddhist teachings during the reign of Yongping to be the point of beginning of the introduction of Buddhism into China. Still, although Buddhism was not introduced into China after that event, it would perhaps be generally correct to say that it was only during, or even after, the reign of Yongping that Buddhism became a religion of some influence in China. After its introduction into China, Buddhism did not attain the height of its influence until the Eastern Jin dynasty, meanwhile undergoing several significant stages of propagation and evolution.
During the Eastern Han dynasty, Buddhism was propagated in China as one of several Daoist practices [daoshu] popular at the time. Daoist teachings and practices had gained great currency since the beginning of the Western Han dynasty and remained in vogue throughout the two Han dynasties. At that time all Daoist practices, whether the [philosophical] teachings of Huangdi and Laozi (Lao Tzu) or the sorcerous practices of the magicians, were indifferently known as daoshu [Daoist practices or techniques]. The techniques practiced and taught by the magicians covered a very wide area: worshiping at shrines and temples, ancestral worship, ways to immortality and longevity, and such methods as jiushi [long vision] According to the Fangshu zhuan [Biographies of the Magi] in Hou Han shu [History of the Later Han Dynasty], at that time, many people studied diverse things and the teachings of many schools such as "Numbers of Steps according to the Yin and Yang," "The Writings of He and Luo" [Huang He, or Yellow River, and the Luo River], "The Tortoise and Dragon Graphs," "The Methods of Ji Zi," "The Book of Wei [Latitudes] and Hou [Seasons]," "The Talismanic Graphs of the Decision of the Bells," and "The Book of Shi Kuang," as well as such techniques as "Wind Horn," "Transmutation and Transportation," "The Seven Ways," "Cardinal and Primal Breathing," "The Seven Divisions of the Six Days," "Divination for Chance Encounters," "Omen of the Day," "Firmness and Singularity," "Instantaneity," "Solitude and Emptiness," and so on. The following passage explains the reason for this proliferation of these Daoist practices and methods at that time:
In the Han dynasty, since Emperor Wudi turned his favor toward the methods and crafts of the Daoists, scholars throughout the land who possessed the least learning on those subjects could not afford to miss taking advantage of the situation; they converged upon the royal court, each with his books and with his hands clasped together [in the sign of salutation]. Thereafter, Wang Mang [The 'usurper' who dethroned the Han emperor and founded the short-lived Xin dynasty from 8 to 23 A.D.--Tr.] usurped the throne by falsely assuming the mandate under the guise of receiving talismans for that effect secretly. Later on, Emperor Guangwudi [25-57 A.D.] was found to be fond of portents and oracles and believed in them. Thus the scholars who had learned to be attentive to the fashions and ways of the times strove to compete with one another on the field of these techniques and practices and ideas. Whenever they could, they would bring their crafts to the attention of His Majesty and would debate about the validity and relative virtues of these things whenever they could.
According to the records of the day, "Huang-Lao" and Buddha were equally regarded as Daoist techniques. In the ninth year of the reign of Yanxi of Emperor Huandi (166), Xiang Kai memorialized the emperor, saying:
We hear that shrines for Huang-Lao and for Buddha have been erected in the palace. These teachings exhort people to purity of mind and tranquillity of the soul; they place inaction and quietude at the top of their list of values; they emphasize the value of life and abhor killing; they exhort people to restrain their desires and purge themselves of extravagant ways. But Your Majesty is shorn neither of desire nor extravagance, and your habits of killing and punishing people have extended beyond the bounds of reason. Since you violated their way, how can you expect to receive their mandate?
Even the disciples of Buddhism referred to their own teachings as the craft of the dao (tao) [Way]. In Li Huo Lun [Discourse on the Disposition of Error] Mouzi wrote, "There are ninety-six types of people adhering to the teaching of Dao; of these, none is as great as or is more exalted than the teachings of Buddha. The Sishi'er Zhang Jing [Sutra of Forty-two Chapters] [a sutra often attributed to Kasyapa Matanga and Gobharana, the first Indian monks to "officially" arrive in China as envoys from a Buddhist state--Tr.] also referred to its own teachings as fodao [or, Way of Buddha]. Furthermore, the Buddhist teachings at that time contained elements which coincided with, or bore resemblances to, the Chinese Daoist teachings--for example, when it taught:
Arhan [worthy men, or saints] are beings which can fly and are capable of transformation; their longevity is the kalpa [age] that is past, and they live and move throughout the heaven and the earth (Chapter 1 of the Sishi'er Zhang Jing)
those who have learned the Way should purge their minds of impurities and they shall instantly become pure and clean. (Chapter 35)
At such times, the Buddhist sutra came very close to the "immortality teachings" of the Huang-Lao school of Daoism (Taoism).
At that time, the principle contents of Buddhist teachings were such things as "the imperishability of the spirit, or soul," yin-guo [causes and effects as the basic method of understanding the development of things] and baoying [retribution]. For example, in the book Hou Han Ji [The Chronicles of the Later Han Dynasty] Yuan Hong wrote,
[Buddhism] also posits that when the person dies the spirit does not perish but would subsequently take on new form. For all one's deeds in life, whether good or evil, there will be retribution. For that reason one must value the performance of good actions and the cultivation of the dao, so as to persist, and continue to persist, in the tempering of the soulspirit, until it arrives at the realm of wuwei [inaction or quietude], and at that point one would become Buddha.
This was an idea that existed previously in China. In the Chinese form, the idea of the imperishability of the soul was expressed in the long held you guei lun [theory of the existence of ghosts]. The poem Wen Wang [King Wen] in the Da ya section of Shi Jing [Classic of Odes] described the "presence of the three hou [secondary, or humane sovereign spirit] in Heaven" and the ascension to that realm of the refined spirits and ghosts [jing ling] [of mortals]. In the chapter Yang sheng zhu [Lord Nurturer of Life] in the book Zhuangzi, there was a parable which spoke of the "continuation of the flame even though the tinder has expired," and in the chapter Jing shen xun [Exhortation on the Spirit] in Huai Nan Zi the idea was posited that "the form indeed has its limitations, but the spirit does not dissolve. Therefore, [the relationship between spirit and form is one in which] something that is incapable of dissolving is adapted to something that does dissolve; the result is that there can be myriad such adaptations; one cannot in any way see these ways of changing and permutation as finite." It was precisely because of the prevalence of this thought, and in response to it, that opponents such as Huan Tan argued for the theory of "the simultaneous destruction of the form and the spirit," and Wang Chong suggested that "when a man dies he is not transformed into a ghost." These latter were all critiques of the idea of the "imperishability of the soul." The idea that the imperishability of the spirit or soul itself depended on the exercises of tempering and cultivation [in mystical or metaphysical ways] was a concept which also already existed in the tradition of China. As for the ideas of causes and effects and retribution, although these theories of Buddhism in general were not entirely similar to previously existing Chinese theories, the popular forms that they assumed during the Han dynasty corresponded to certain ideas which the Chinese already held at the time, such as the idea in the Kun Gua [Changes through the Feminine Symbol] section of Yi Jing (I Ching) [Book of Changes] which held that "good fortune would come to those who performed good deeds, and ill fortune to those who are evil," or that "the family which accumulates good actions will be rewarded with exceedingly great causes for celebration, whereas households which pile up evil deeds will have much cause for suffering."
By the time of the transition between the Han and the Wei dynasties, owing to the gradual expansion of Buddhism, more and more Buddhist sutras were translated into Chinese. Translations at the time included both Hinayana [Theravedic, known in Chinese as xiao cheng] and Mahayana [da cheng] sutras. Consequently, the processes by which Buddhism was popularized in China fell into two main channels: the history of the An Shigao school, which belonged to the Hinayana category, and that of the Zhi-lou-jiacan school, which belonged to the Mahayana and emphasized the teaching of prajna [wisdom].
The An Shigao of Hinayana School
This emphasized the teachings of dhyana [meditation exercises, in Chinese, chan]. In the first year of the reign of Jianhe of Emperor Huandi of the Han dynasty [147 A.D.], an Shigao arrived at Luoyang and began a prolific career in translating sutras. [An Shigao was the Chinese name of the Buddhist pandit who went to China from Parthia or Persia. The name An translates as tranquillity and may have derived from the monk's Persian identity, since Parthia was, at the time, and for much of Chinese history, known to the Chinese as Anshiguo, or land of tranquillity. We have no knowledge of the monk's Persian name--Tr.]
The most influential of his translations were the An Ban Shou Yi Jing [Sutra on the Maintenance of Thought by the Practice of Anapana] and the Yin Chi Ru Jing [Sutra on Entrance to Truth by Covert Maintenance]. The first described a method for practicing chan, or meditation exercises; it was a book on breathing methods designed to "keep one's thoughts in place," which methods were in some ways similar to the breathing and respiration exercises and techniques espoused by the Daoists, and particularly by the School of Immortals. The latter sutra was an exposition of the esoteric significance of names and numbers in the Buddhist canons and bore some resemblance to the line-by-line and phrase-by-phrase exposition of the classics, a method of scholarship known as zhangju xue. This was practiced in general by many Han Confucianist scholars in their various annotations and exegeses of the Confucianist classics, often attempting to find "true" meanings that were camouflaged by the words of the scriptures.
This methodology in the studying of the Hinayana scriptures continued in the An Shigao school until at least the third generation of his disciples, chief among whom was Kang Hui the Monk [Kang Zeng Hui], who lived during the time of the Kingdom of Wu [222-280]. This school's theory of life was fundamentally based on the concept of yuanqi [original breath]. It maintained that "original breath" was the same as what the Chinese have called the wu xing [Five Elements, or Five Agents] or the wu yin [Five Negatives, of Five Feminine Qualities] [later this was translated into Buddhist terminology as the wu yin, or Five Inward Contents, similar in meaning and identity to the Sanskrit term skandhas, of which there were also five-Tr.]. The Sutra on Entrance to Truth by Covert Maintenance explained the wu yin zhong [five yin species] thus:
The five yin species make up the body . . . this is similar to the original breath [yuanqi] . . . the original breath contains the escalation and demotion of all things, as well as their establishment and ruin. When it reaches its end it will begin again and will continue to go on through the triloka [Three Realms]; it does not end, but is infinite; that is why it is called the zhong [species, or seed].
This brand of Buddhism believed that in the beginning the human being was made up of the accumulation and aggregation of the five yin [elements]; thus the Sutra on Entrance to Truth by Covert Maintenance translated by An Shigao posited that "yin was the accumulation of all appearances." The theory of yuanqi [original breath] had been popular in China since pre-Qin times, and it flourished in the two Han dynasties. Moreover, there was an intimate connection between the idea of original breath and the issue of the form-spirit relationship for it was maintained that whereas form was made up of the chuqi [crude breath] the spirit was the jingqi [refined breath]. Such a theory had a great deal of connection with the teachings of yangsheng [the cultivation and nourishment of life essence] as espoused by the School of Immortality.
In the book Lü Shi Chunqiu [Spring and Autumn Classic by Master Lu] the point was made that in order to become immortal and to achieve jiu shi [long vision] the qi, or breath, must circulate without impediment of any kind in the body; only then will the "refined breath [spirit] be rejuvenated everyday and the evil breath be daily abated," so that "the spirit shall reside at peace within the form and one's days and years shall be stretched to everlasting." At that time, the adherents of the An Shigao school of Buddhism also learned to bring together the ideas of the five yin and yuanqi and claimed that, if one were able to coordinate one's original breath well, one's mind would be tranquil, at ease, and the body would be also free of sicknesses, whereas if the original breath were not well coordinated and if the yin and the yang in a person, and the five elements [wuxing], were not properly blended, the body would succumb to illness. The Fo Yi Jing [Buddha's Medical Sutra], translated in the time of the kingdom of Wu by Zhu Luyan and Zhi Yue, said,
In the human body there are four illnesses: one is related to Earth, another to Water, a third to Fire, and a fourth to Wind. As the Wind increases, the qi [breath] arises; as the Fire increases, the heat arises; as the Water increases, the cold would rise; as the Earth increases, the strength [of the person] would wax. It is from these four [basic] illnesses that the four hundred and four illnesses have arisen. Earth belongs to the body, Water to the mouth, Fire to the eyes, and Wind to the ear.
Such sayings bore much resemblance to the medical theories popular during the Han dynasty, in which emphasis was given to the methods of creating a balance or coordination system within the body for the yuanqi. This was seen in terms of the need to orientate the development of the yuanqi in a good or correct direction and away from the evil or wrong direction. It was felt that, if the mind and the spirit were tranquil, the person would be able not to generate or create any desires or worries, and that it was only because the mind and spirit moved or acted, thereby generating thoughts, that all sorts of worries and troubles were created. As to how all these various worries may be eliminated, the Hinayana school of chan or meditation believed that one simply had to nourish the mind and cultivate the spirit, in which the main thing was to "keep thoughts [yi] in their proper place" [namely, in the state of non-being, or the state prior to when thoughts were created]. The meditation exercises were therefore intended to prevent the generation of thoughts or ideas by means of concentrating. The An Ban Shou Yi Jing said, "One must maintain one's mind and keep it in place--i.e., before any thoughts have been generated. Once thoughts are generated the maintenance will have been broken." The Chu Jing [Sutra on Abiding in That Which is Fixed] translated by An Shigao told the following story:
Buddha said to the gathered bhiksu [mendicant disciples]: You must learn to understand all things by sitting in meditation, but you must also learn to be able to speak the words of the Law. Those who cannot do so must block out their vision and screen sounds and learn to keep their minds in place and be good at listening only within themselves. In this way they may find their way [to Enlightenment or Buddhahood]. When the congregated bhiksu heard Buddha make this proclamation, their hearts were glad and understood Buddha's words, and immediately they found the way to becoming Arhat [saints].
The method of keeping one's mind in place was known as an ban [anapana], in which ana referred to inhalation and pana referred to exhalation. This was similar to the tu na breathing exercises espoused by both the Huang-Lao school and the Immortality school of Daoism (Taoism), both of which were popular in the Han dynasty. Thus, the An Ban Zhu Xu [Preface to the Annotations on Anapana] written by [the monk] Dao An explained: "By anapana we mean exhalation [externalization] and inhalation [internalization]" and "One can entrust one's breath to anapana and maintain, or preserve, simply that which is achieved already." If one could keep one's mind in place, so the argument went, one's mind and spirit would become clear and serene, and if one's mind and spirit were clear and tranquil, one would become Buddha. Thus also Kang Hui the Monk said in the An ban xu [Preface to Anapana]:
He who cultivates anapana has a totally clear mind; if he should raise his eyes, there is no darkness or gloom within the scope of his vision which he may not pierce . . . there is nothing so far away in the distance that he cannot see, no sound so obscure that he cannot hear. His understanding shall encompass the uncertain, the ambiguous appearances, and the false impressions and resemblances; he shall be completely free in his existence; he shall be big enough to contain within himself all that is within the bounds of the Eight Extremes and yet also small enough to penetrate the stem of a hair or a quill. He shall control the heavens and the earth, and stay the progress of time and longevity. His godly characteristics and powers shall be so fierce as to destroy Heaven's own arms, and he shall have the power to remove the trisahasra [the Three Thousand Things, or All Things] and all the temples on earth. The Eight Unthinking [Non-Thoughts] are unfathomable by even the Brahman, and the Virtuous Character of the God knows no limitations. This is the origin of the six paramitas [methods].
From the above, it is clear that the Hinayana chan [dhyana, or meditative] techniques espoused by the An Shigao school were certain ideas which had already gained popularity in China before that time through the espousal of the Huang-Lao school and the Immortality school in Daoism (Taoism) and that what we have seen was an obvious attempt to use prevalent Daoist techniques [daoshu] to explain and popularize Buddhism.
The Zhi-lou-jia-qian of Mahayana School
This system of thought was quite different as its Mahayana teachings emphasized prajna [wisdom]. Zhi-lou-jia-qian had a disciple called Zhi Liang and a third-generation disciple called Zhi Qian; together they were known as the "Three Zhi's." Zhi-lou-jia-qian arrived in Luoyang in the last year of the reign of Emperor Huandi  and, in 169, translated the Daoxing Banruo Boluomi Jing [Prajnaparamita Sutra on the Cultivation of the Truth]. Later, Zhi Qian retranslated this sutra as the Da ming Du Wuji Jing [Sutra on the Transition by Way of the Great Enlightenment to Infinite Endlessness]. This system of thought, espoused originally by Zhi Qian, emphasized that the fundamental principle of life was to make the spirit revert to its original, virginal truth or reality and that life would then conform to the dao [or the Way of Natural Things]. With this postulate the ideas of Laozi (Lao Tzu) and Zhuangzi exerted a profound influence over this particular school of Buddhism.
It becomes even more obvious that Zhi Qian's purpose was to make Buddhism conform to the school of Chinese metaphysics which at the time had as its core the ideas of Laozi (Lao Tzu) and Zhuangzi when in the title of his new translation of the Prajnaparamita sutra "The Great Enlightenment" or "The Great Light" for "prajna". [Technically, the Sanskrit for the Chinese term ming, meaning brightness or enlightenment, is vidya, and not prajna--Tr.]. This reflects the idea contained in the saying in Laozi (Lao Tzu) [or Dao De jing]: "Zhi chang yue ming" [To know the constant is Enlightenment]. Also, the translation of "paramita" as du wu ji [ferrying across to infinite endlessness] appears to refer to the arrival at the realm of oneness or unity with the dao. [Actually the term du, meaning to make a crossing or transition, is contained in the Sanskrit term paramita itself, which means ferrying across, and hence saving--Tr.] Therefore, in the annotations which Zhi Qian made for the first pin [folio] of the Sutra on the Transition by Way of Great Enlightenment to Infinite Endlessness we find the following passage:
The teacher [Zhi Qian's mentor Zhi Liang] said: The Bodhisattva's mind treads on the Great Way in order to be able to understand and empathize with the Way. The mind became one with the dao [Way]. This takes no form; that is why it is simply described as the Void.
Here, the idea of mind "being one with the Way" seemed to be the same notion as that expressed in Daoism (Taoism) as "[having the spirit] revert no more to the yin corpus [i.e., the dead body], but join the dao (tao) in oneness." This was described in fuller detail later on in the Fo shuo si wen qing jing [sic?] [There seems to be a typographical error in the Chinese text at this point. We have not been able to identify this particular sutra as it is here presented, or even a term in Buddhism corresponding to the phrase si wen qing. Perhaps the term zi was mistaken for the character qing here. In Buddhism, the term si zi qing refers to the so-called Four Self-Injuries,i.e., four ways in which people bring damage to their own bodies and minds. It is possible that there may have been a sutra on the subject--Tr.] translated by Fa Hu [Zhu Fahu]. This idea also bore resemblance to the notion of "simultaneously accomplishing the Deed of the Way" [yu dao ju cheng], which was described and proposed by Ruan Ji in his Da Ren Xiansheng Zhuan [Biographies of Great Men and Forebears]. The sentence "There is no form; therefore it is described as the Void" is very similar to Laozi (Lao Tzu)'s dictum, "The Constant Way has no form." Therefore, it was understood that the mind and the spirit also have no traceable form.
According to people such as Zhi Qian, the human mind-spirit originated from the Way, and only various post-natural influences [such as temptations of desires and appetites] made it impossible for the mind-spirit to return to the state of being one with the Way. In order to be free of these limitations and trammels, therefore, the mind-spirit must empathize with the Way and must understand it. If the mind-spirit was capable of understanding its own original source, it would be able to once again become one with the Way, and thus become Buddha. In fact, this uses the ideas of Laozi (Lao Tzu) and Zhuangzi to explain the tenets of Buddhism.
During the time of the Wei and Jin dynasties, the metaphysical ontology of the Xuanxue [Daoist metaphysics] school, which accepted Laozi (Lao Tzu)'s and Zhuangzi's ideas as its framework, was very popular. Its main focus was the questions of ben-mo [the relationship between the fundamental and the incidental] and you-wu [existence and non-existence]. The ideas of prajna in Buddhist thought came very close to this sort of metaphysical thought. Therefore, at the time, it was convenient and expedient for Buddhist monks to use this sort of Chinese [Daoist] metaphysics to explain Buddhism. The methodology and approach that they adopted was a metaphysical method of the Xuanxue school which moved gradually from the principle of geyi [study of meanings] to the principle of de yi wang yan [discarding the word when the meaning has been attained] or ji yan chu yi [extrapolating the meaning which originates from, and transcends, the word which was its temporary abode].
One very notable phenomenon of the period was that there were many similarities between the ways in which the great monks of Buddhism perceived things and the way in which the great scholars [of the Daoist metaphysical school] looked at the things of the universe. Moreover, they seemed to take pride equally in being free of worldly matters, in being unconventional, unconfined by normal ethical constraints, and "above it all." While the famous scholars employed the so-called san xuan [Three Metaphysical Observations] to develop and promote their xuanxue [Daoist metaphysics], the great monks of the period similarly used the doctrine of san xuan to explain the principles of Buddhism. In the Western Jin dynasty a renowned monk, Zhi Xiaolong, befriended such great scholars of the day as Ruan Zan and Yi Kai and became known to the people of the time as Ba da [He Who Reached Far in All Eight Directions]. In the Eastern Jin, Sun Zuo wrote the book Dao xian lun [On the Good People in the Dao] in which he compared seven famous monks to the legendary "Seven Scholars of the Bamboo Grove."
At the time, many Buddhist monks became extremely well-versed in the teachings of Laozi (Lao Tzu) and Zhuangzi. It was said in the historical record that the Monk Fahu [Zhu Fahu] "was well-read in all the Six Classics, and has been widely exposed to the teachings of all the Hundred Schools [of the pre-Qin period]." Furthermore, the Monk Zhi Dun praised the Monk Yu Falan for "having a comprehensive understanding of the meanings of the Xuanxue." Zhi Xiaolong claimed that he himself "became a free spirit capable of roaming without restriction [xiaoyou] when he achieved the goal of paoyi [the Daoist principle of maintaining singularity, or becoming one with and undifferentiated from the Dao] and arrived at mie [nirvana, or extinction] by way of the cultivation of tranquillity." The Monk Dao Qian [Zhu Daoqian] "roamed freely for thirty-some years teaching and preaching; in some cases he transmitted the teachings of the Vaipulya sutras; in others he explained the doctrines of Laozi (Lao Tzu) and Zhuangzi." The Monk Zhi Dun was "fond of the teachings of Laozi (Lao Tzu) and Zhuangzi" and annotated the chapter "Xiao yao you" [The Roaming of a Free Spirit] in the book Zhuangzi. The Monk Dao An made a comparison between the [Daoist] doctrines of ke dao [the Way of Possibilities] and chang dao [the Constant Way] and the Buddhist doctrine of the two satya [er ti]. [The two satya, or two forms of noble statements of the truth sees dogma as existing in two forms--or the universal truth as able to be expressed in two dichotomized ways--one, the samvritisatya or vulgar and common statement in which truths are expressed as if phenomena are real, and, secondly, the paramartha-satya, or true statement by the enlightened who has already understood the true unreality and non-existence of phenomena--Tr.] When the Monk Hui Guan annotated the Fa hua jing [Saddharmapundarika sutra, or Sutra of the Lotus of the Wonderful Law] he studied the teachings of Laozi (Lao Tzu) and Zhuangzi. The Monk Hui Yuan was known also for having "broadly studied the Six Classics, and [he] was particularly adept at interpreting the teaching of Laozi (Lao Tzu) and Zhuangzi."
At the time, the majority of the famous monks preached the doctrine of prajna, and, as we have seen already, they were also prone to discuss, if not advocate, the teachings of Lao and Zhuang. Indeed, objectively for the most part the Buddhist teachings introduced into China from India and other "Western countries" at the time belonged to the prajna school, but there were other factors which rendered the popularity of the prajna school in China at that time far from accidental.
In the article Bei nai ye xu [Preface to the Vinaya, or Discipline, Pitaka], the Monk Dao An wrote:
Of the twelve volumes herein collected, the most voluminous is the collection of Vaipulya sutras. This occurs because in this country the teachings of Lao and Zhuang have already gained much headway among the people. [These teachings] are quite similar to the teachings of the fangdeng [vaipulya] sutras; there is much that they share in common. That is why the people have already adapted their behavior and ways of life to the teachings [of our sutras].
The "vaipulya" teachings belonged to the category of the fangdeng [or fangguang, both being the general categorical title give to the Mahayana sutras]. The prajna [wisdom] teachings also belonged to the category of fangdeng. From Dao An's explanation we can see that the popularity of the prajna teachings in China during the Western and Eastern Jin Dynasties had a great deal to do with the influence of Daoist metaphysics, or xuanxue. However, even so, the major pin [segments] among the prajna sutras, namely, the Fangguang banruo boluomi jing [The Prajnaparamita Sutra Emitting Light] and the Guang-han banruo boluomi jing [The Prajnaparamita Sutra Praising Light] did not become truly popular until the early years of the Eastern Jin. That is why the Jian bei jing xu [The Account of the Gradual Fulfillment of the Sutras] said:
Although the great pin has appeared for some decades, at the time of its appearance the learned people for the most part did not study it or practice it. One wonders why the various masters should have done so? . . . However, this situation has gradually changed, and since [through translation] the major pin has arrived in toto [in China], there is not a single pandit today, of either East or West, who does not make it his career and goal to teach it.
The Guangzhan Banruo Boluomi Jing was produced in translation by Zhu Fahu in the seventh year of the Taikang reign , and the Fangguang banruo boluomi jing was translated by Zhu Falan in the third year of the reign of Yuankang . Both became popular only in the early years of the Eastern Jin dynasty [i.e., circa 320]. This popularity was intimately related to the socio-historical conditions of the period. Since the Wei dynasty and the beginning of the Jin dynasty there had been a continuous enlargement of the power and influence of the ruling cliques made up of the menfa shizu [grand noble families and gentry clans]. One can say that this influence reached its peak in the reign of Yuankang [291-299 A.D.] The subsequent "rebellion of the Eight Princes," the invasion of the northwestern minority nationalities and their domination of the Central Chinese Plains, and the southward move of the royal house and central government of the Jin dynasty of the Sima family accelerated the degeneration of the ruling cliques. By this time, this ruling power structure had become extremely helpless and pessimistic about its own fate and the destiny of society. It was natural, therefore, that they then turned their attention to the problems of life, death, and liberation of the individual. This was also one of the reasons for the increasing popularity of the two religions--Buddhism and Daoism (Taoism)--toward the end of the Eastern Jin dynasty.
A society wherein people are seeking a world which transcends the mundane and real provides a very important context and purpose for the emergence of religions. For religions they are able to propose to people that solutions can be found in their own particular worlds of fantasy for the many sufferings which exist in such common measure in the real society where they cannot be resolved, including such problems as living and dying. Buddhism is no exception to this generalization. After the in
troduction of prajna Buddhist teachings into China, it remained in a stage of translation until the Eastern Jin dynasty. That is, the Chinese Buddhist monks had not yet formed their own understanding or interpretation of the prajna teachings. In the Eastern Jin, however, sects and subgroups which represented different understandings of the teachings of prajna Buddhism began to emerge. Later, it was as discussions and responses to the schools of prajna teachings which has emerged since the Eastern Jin dynasty. The Monk Zhao [Seng Zhao] wrote the Bu zhen kong lun [Treatise on the Fallacy of the Doctrine of True Nothingness or Non-existence] to criticize the refute the three schools, namely, the ben wu [Original Nonexistence or Nothingness] school, the zhi se [Identity of Appearances] school, and the xin wu [Non-existence of the Mind] school; during the Song dynasty Tan Ji wrote the treatise Liu Jia Qi Zong Lun [On the Six Schools and Seven Sects]; and the Monk Jing [Zeng Jing] wrote Shi Xiang Liu Jia Lun [The Six Schools of the Sect of the Reality of Appearances].
We do not propose to spend much time in this essay in discussing in any detail the various prajna teachings popular at that time, but two notable issues were the very questions which had occupied the center of attention in the Daoist metaphysical teachings [xuanxue] of the Wei and Jin periods, namely, the questions of ben-mo [relationship between the fundamental and the incidental] and you-wu [substance and unreality, or existence and non-existence]. These were the very same questions posed by the various schools of prajna Buddhism popular at the time. In the following paragraphs I shall attempt to illustrate this problem by taking, in turn, the three schools contradicted and criticized by the Monk Shao in Bu Zhen kong lun.
The meaning of the doctrine of the non-existence of the mind [xin wu yi]. In Bu Zen Kong Lun the Master Monk Shao wrote:
By saying that the mind does not really exist they [the adherent of this doctrine] are actually saying that the mind does not have existence in any thing, but they do not actually say that all things do not really have existence. This doctrine is good in that it leads people toward tranquillity of the spirit, but it is faulty in that it is really things, rather than the mind, that are empty and non-existent.
According to Ji Kang (Chi Kang), in the Er ti yi [The Meaning of the Two
Those who espouse the dogma of the non-existence of the Mind have for too long taken the truth of this doctrine for granted. Even before the time of the Great Pandita Kumarajiva, and going as far back as to the time of the Masters Dao An and Zhu Fahu, this dogma has existed. Those who speak of the non-existence of the mind cite the sutras, saying: "Those who say that the nature of appearance is empty and non-existent are in fact clear that appearances cannot by themselves be empty and nonexistent but are empty or non-existent in the mind. It is because one can achieve this emptiness of vision [of the mind] that one can say that appearances are non-existent. In the final analysis, however, the appearance cannot be non-existent." Master Shao dispelled this dogma; he understood its goodness to lay in its exhortation to the tranquillity of the spirit, but he also faulted it for its ignorance of the fact that it is matter, or things, which are non-existent. To achieve tranquillity of the spirit one must indeed understand the emptiness, or non-existence, of the mind; in this respect the word of that dogma is good, but, in claiming that appearances may not themselves be non-existent, this dogma has exposed its own weakness.
The idea here is to claim that "the significance of the dogma of the nonexistence of the mind" is that "the mind, not the appearances [of matter], is empty and non-existent." To say that it is not the appearances which are nonexistent is to say that "all things are not [necessarily] non-existent." In the Tang dynasty, in his annotations to Shao Lun So [Commentary on the Arguments of the Grand Monk Shao], Yuan Kang wrote, "It [the dogma of the non-existence of the mind] affirms that matter has substance and is not non-existent"; "it did not understand that the nature of matter is non-existence; [the Monk Shao] called this its fallacy." To "not understand that the nature of matter is non-existence" is to understand the nature of matter as substance, or existence--this is an idea that bears much resemblance to the thought of Guo Xiang.
[Although a Daoist metaphysician], Guo Xiang opposed the notion of "taking wu [non-existence, or non-being] as the point of origin." He believed that wan you [all that is, or all existence] does not originate from wu [non-existence] or have wu for its original ontological reality. To Guo Xing, you [existence] is the only real being, and it exists on the basis of the fact that each matter has its own zi xiang [particularity of nature of self-nature]. Therefore, he said, "Each matter, or thing, has its nature." To speak of the non-existence of the mind would therefore be to project the emptiness, or non-existence, of the mind into all things. Yuan Kang annotated this notion, saying, "[To say that the mind is non-existent] is to say that one must also not generate a definite, appropriating mind on the basis of matter; this is what is meant by emptiness or non-existence." This, too, was rather similar to the ideas espoused by Guo Xiang.
In annotating and commenting on the seven "inner" chapters of the book Zhuangzi, Guo Xiang wrote a set of essays which explained, from his viewpoint, the meaning of the title of each of those chapters. In three of these essays, Guo espoused the idea of "the non-existence of the mind [wu xin]." The essay on the chapter Ren jian shi [The Inter-human World], for example, said, "Only those who have no existence of the mind and are not self-serving can go wherever the changes lead and yet not feel the burdens [of change]." The essay on Da zong shi [The Great Ancestor and Teacher] said, "Out of the great expanse of the universe and the richness of all things, there is only one thing which is worth learning from, and of which it is worth one's while to become master, and that is the emptiness, or non-existence, of the mind." In the essay on the chapter Ying di wang [Response of Emperors and Princes], Guo said, "Those who have no existence of the mind and have learned to allow changes and transformation to come whither they will and lead whither they will are worthy of becoming emperors and princes of men." According to these sayings, it is evident that Guo Xiang believed that the sage has no existence of the mind and simply follows the [natural] course of matter and is therefore capable of "going wherever changes may lead, and feels no burden."
Nonetheless, although we may say that the [Buddhist] doctrine on the non-existence of the mind resembles Guo Xiang's thinking on the subject in many ways, we have no evidence that the doctrine was directly derived from Guo Xiang's system of thought. We can say only that at that time, under the prevailing influence of xuanxue [Daoist metaphysics], Buddhism often focused on the same problems on which this school of xuanxue concentrated.
The meaning of the doctrine of the Identity of Appearances [ji se yi]. It was Zhi Dun [Zhi Daolin] who advocated the doctrine of the Identity of Appearances. It was said that he wrote about twenty essays [on the subject], including the Shi zhi se ben wu yi [The Buddha's Notion of the Identity of Appearances Originating in Nothing], the Ji se you xuan lun [Treatise on the Free Roaming in the Realm of Metaphysics of the Doctrine of the Identity of Appearances], the Miao guan zhang [The Chapter on the Wondrous Vision or Meditation], and the Xiao yao lun [Treatise on Free Roaming]. Most of these have been lost and only fragments remain. In the segment Wenxue [Literature] in the book Shi shuo xin yu [New Specimens of the Talk of the Times] Zhi Dun's essay Miao guan zhang [Chapter on the Wondrous Vision or Meditation] was cited in one of the notes, and in this citation [the article to which it was attached was itself lost] a certain fragmentary passage read as follows:
The nature of appearances is that appearances do not exist naturally or in and of themselves. Since appearances do not exist naturally or in and of themselves, there are appearances that are kong [empty, or insubstantial]. That is why we say: Appearance [se] is empty, and yet appearance is also separate, or different, from emptiness.
Furthermore, in the Shao Lun Shu [Commentary on the arguments of the Grand Monk Shao] the Monk Hui Da was quoted as saying:
The Master of the Laws [fashi] Zhi Daolin said, in the Ji se lun [Treatise on the Identity of Appearances]: I believe that the saying: "The identity of appearances is emptiness, not that the appearances perish, but that they are empty, or nonexistent" is a most correct statement. (This saying is derived from the text of the Wei mo jing [Vimalakirti nirdesa Sutra].) Why? Because the nature of appearances lies in that appearances are not by themselves naturally appearances. Although they are appearances, they are empty.
The saying that "appearances are not by themselves appearances" meant that physical phenomena do not have their own nature or character [zixing, or self-nature]. The saying, "appearances do not exist by themselves or naturally" meant that there are no supporting materials or substances behind things in the natural state. By "self-nature" [zi xing] we are actually referring to "substance in itself" [zi ti] or ontological substance [ben ti]. If things did not have their own substances, although there are myriad separate and diverse phenomena, they are all not real. This is the reasoning behind stating that "although they are appearances, they are empty"; i.e., although there are myriad diverse phenomena, there is in reality not a single true substance. In the time of the Wei and Jin dynasties, the term kong [emptiness] was often conceived to be interchangeable with the term wu [non-existence, nonbeing] and xuanxue scholars [metaphysicians] [or adherents of the Buddhist religion who were influenced by the ideas of xuan xue] of the day often also argued that kong [emptiness or insubstantiality or unreality], or, interchangeably wu [non-existence] was the ontological substance of all things. (This, for instance, was the contention of the ben wu yi [Doctrine of the Non-existence of Origin], with which we shall be soon dealing.) Therefore, on the point that it made regarding the absence of ontological substance behind matter, or things, Zhi Dun's idea also came very close to the ideas of Guo Xiang.
The notion of "the non-existence of substance" [wu-ti] proposed that behind se [phenomena or appearances] there is no ontological substance in the kong or wu [i.e., the kong (emptiness) or wu (non-existence) is not actually ontological substance for the se (appearances)]. Although there is phenomenon, there is no ontological substance, and thus "appearances are also separate from emptiness." Since there is no ontological substance to appearances, one cannot say that it is only when appearances have perished that they become "empty" [or, revert to emptiness]--hence the saying: "Not that appearances perish, but that they are empty." From this angle, Zhi Dun's Ji se lun [Treatise on the Identity of Appearances] could have been more appropriately called the Je se ben wu yi [Doctrine of the Identity of Appearances Originating in Nothing]. From one angle, Zhi Dun's idea appeared to be quite similar to Guo Xiang's thought, as when they seemed to hold in common a belief that there is no ontological substance behind things. From another facet, however, their ideas were different. Zhi Dun's belief, as we have seen, was that, if things did not have ontological substance behind them, it meant that things were "empty" to begin with.
From the angle of their separate interpretations of the essay, Xiao yao you [Free Roaming] in the book Zhuangzi, it becomes even more obvious that there were differences between Zhi Dun's ideas and Guo Xiang's thought. According to the "Zhi Dun zhuan" [The Biography of Zhi Dun] in Gao Zeng Zhuan [The Biographies of the Great Monks].
Liu Xizhi et al., when discussing the chapter Xiao yao bian of the book Zhuangzi, said: "Each must accommodate its own nature and only then can it roam totally freely." Dun [Zhi Dun] disagreed, saying: "That is wrong. Jie [a tyrant, and last ruler of the Xia dynasty] and Qi [a notorious bandit and rebel of the late Spring and Autumn period] are by nature cruel and ruinous. If it were indeed all right, and necessary, for each to accommodate its own nature, would not Jie and Qi also be free roaming now?" On that [Zhi Dun] retired to write his own annotation of the Xiao yao bian.
The idea of "each accommodating its own nature and thereby becoming a free roaming spirit" was, of course, precisely the dominant thought in Guo Xiang's own annotation and interpretation of the Xiao yao bian. In the prefatorial note of his commentary to this chapter of Zhuangzi in which he laid down his arguments by way of explaining the chapter's title, he said:
Although things may differ in size, if they were each placed in its own appropriate place, where it fits the circumstances, each matter would be able to let loose its own nature and each thing will be suited to its ability; each will be in its proper portion, and all things will be equally free to roam. How then can differences be driven between things?
Moreover, the first annotation in Guo Xiang's annotative commentary on Xiao yao you read, in part,
Zhuangzi's general idea was that one must be essentially free to roam and travel totally free of confinements. One must therefore obtain oneself--be independent--by putting oneself in non-action. Therefore the smallest is also the greatest. One must hence understand the principle of fitting one's nature to one's portion.
From the above, we can see that it was precisely to this idea of Guo Xiang's that Zhi Dun objected. What then were Zhi Dun's own views on "the freely roaming spirit"? The full text of his commentary on the Xiao yao bian is no longer extant. However, a fragment of it was cited by an annotation in the Wenxue [Literature] portion of Shi shuo xin yu.
Xiaoyao [free roaming] means the fulfillment of the enlightenment of the mind of the Ultimate Man. The Young Master Zhuang established through the Word the Great Way, by putting his ideas into the words of the roc [peng] and the wren [yan]. The roc's pathway of life is a broad one; to accommodate it he has to lose himself outside of his own body; the wren, on the other hand, is but close to the ground, yet it jeered at that which was far away and high up in the heavens. He had a sense of arrogance and conflict in his own mind. The Ultimate Man rides on the wings of the Propriety of Heaven and is glad; he roams in the realm of Infinity and is entirely footloose. To objectify objects and not be objectified by objects is to roam freely and not return to one's condition; to contain a sense of xuan [the metaphysical principle] and not to engage in action, to move swiftly and yet without any haste, is to roam freely and be able to go wherever one wishes. That is what is meant by xiaoyao. If one had a desire in one's mind which has to be met, and if one is content with meeting the desires whose fulfillment meant contentment, then, though one's happiness may appear similar to natural naivete, it would, in fact, be nothing but like the desire of the thirsty for the contentment of a single drink. How can one lose the sense of luxurious food simply because one has been filled up by one good dinner? Or can we put an end to the reality of the grandeur of the ceremonial wine after we have imbibed some rich quaff? The Ultimate Man does not speak of xiaoyao [free roaming] until he is truly satisfied.
It was Guo Xiang's belief that, although things differed in magnitude, they were equal in terms of the ability to "roam freely" under the principle of "each according to its own nature." From this opinion Zhi Dun differed. In his point of view, whether or not one was capable of roaming freely depended on one's perspective. If one could "objectify all objects and not be objectified by objects" [i.e., be in control of all things and not be oneself trammeled by things], and "contain a sense of xuan [the metaphysical principle] and not engage in action, be swift without being in any haste" [i.e., respond objectively to all things and yet not ask, or need, anything of things; respond to change but not change oneself, then one would be capable of "free roaming" that is indeed worthy of that description.
On the other hand, Zhi Dun believed that, if one were to "roam" only to satisfy the requirements of one's own nature and portion, then it would be nothing more than a hungry man seeking a meal or a thirsty man asking for the gratification of a drink. To him, such low levels of demand and satisfaction cannot be considered "free roaming." Therefore, only that which satisfies the Ultimate can be called "roaming freely." Zhi Dun thought of "satisfying the Ultimate" as "riding the wings of the Propriety of Heaven" (according to Zhuangzi's text, the proper citation should have been "the Propriety of Heaven and Earth") and "being glad, traveling in the realm of Infinity and being completely unconfined." This meant living in the universe and yet not being limited by the limited world, and absolutely transcending of the world of matter and being unconfined, unfettered in thought. That is what he meant when he said, "To roam freely is to attain the full enlightenment of the mind of the Ultimate Man." In Zhi Dun's view "roaming freely" depended solely on the ability of the mind of the Ultimate Man to transcend the limitations of time and space.
Another essay that Zhi Dun wrote, known by the title Ji se you xuan lun [Treatise on Free Roaming in the Realm of the Metaphysical by the Doctrine of the Identity of Appearances] is also no longer extant. It is possible to deduce, however, that it contained a theory which was derived from a combination of his "doctrine of the identity of appearances" [ji se yi] and his doctrine of "free roaming" [xiao yao yi]. If the Ultimate Man was able to realize the principle that "appearances are not by themselves appearances" [se bu zi se], then he would be able to "objectify all things and not be objectified by them", to "contain a sense of the principle of the metaphysical and not engage in action, to be swift and yet not in haste"; such a person would "roam freely everywhere and be able to go wherever he wishes." In other words, such a person's mind would be fully capable of transcending all the limitations of time and space. Therefore, in Zhi Dun's view, to become Buddha meant, in fact, to roam freely and to become completely unconfined by convention--this was precisely the same goals which the xuanxue [Daoist metaphysics] scholars strove to achieve. From this viewpoint, there is, between his "doctrine on free roaming in the realm of the metaphysical by the principle of the identity of appearances" [ji se you xuan lun] and his "doctrine of the identity of appearances originating in nothingness" [ji se ben wu lun], no inconsistency of theoretical contradiction.
From the above analysis, we can see that the questions discussed in Zhi Dun's doctrine of the identity of appearances were the same as those which were raised in the circle of xuanxue. Furthermore, from his own views on the question of xiao yao [free roaming], we can see that he was himself a xuanxue scholar [Daoist metaphysician]. Although his views differed from those of Guo Xiang, they were in fact quite close to the original ideas of Zhuang Zhou [Zhuangzi].
The Meaning of the Doctrine of Original Nothingness [ben wu yi]. From the Liu jia qi zong lun [Treatise of the Six Schools and Seven Sects] written by the Monk Tan Ji, and the Zhong lun shu [Commentary on the Prannyaya mula sastrtika, or Treatise of the Meditation of the Mean] written by the Monk Ji Kang (Chi Kang), the ben wu yi [doctrine of original nothingness] bifurcated into two major channels. One was the ben wu zong [School of Original Nothingness] and the other was known as the ben wu yi zong [the Variant Sect of Original Nothingness]. The former school espoused the form of the doctrine as championed by the Monk Dao An; the latter was espoused by the Pandita Shen [or Fa Shen, a.k.a. Zhu Daoqian]. In reality they resembled each other in major ways and differed only in minor areas. Here, therefore, we shall not dwell on the differences but analyze only Dao An's "doctrine or original nothingness" [ben wu] in order to illustrate the relationship of this doctrine to the teachings of xuanxue.
In the Zhong lun suo, Ji Kang (Chi Kang) wrote:
Before the arrival of Kumarajiva the Pandita, there were three schools of Buddhist teachings in Changan [the Tang dynasty capital of China]. One was the school of the Monk [Shi] Dao An, which was represented by his teachings on Original Nothingness, in which he argued that wu [nothingness, or non-being] existed prior to all creation and that kong [emptiness or non-existence] was the beginning of all forms. He also argued that what was holding people back [from their enlightenment] was the sense of you [existence, or being] when you is in fact a product rather than a point of origin. If people could only rest their minds in contentment with Original Nothingness, they would be able to quell all devious thought. . . . To understand this significance is to maintain tranquillity in the universal enlightenment of Original Nothingness. All the myriad dharma [fa, or things] have, as their original nature, emptiness and extinction; that is what we mean when we say Original Nothingness.
This quotation suggests that Dao An first of all posited that the prior existence of all dharma, together with all their forms and phenomena, was wu [nothingness, or non-being] and kong [emptiness or non-existence]. However, kong wu [non-existence and emptiness, or non-being] was not the same as xu kong [void]. Dao An, therefore, said "Wu [non-existence] existed before the original transformation [or creation]; kong [emptiness] was the beginning of all forms [formed substance]; that is what we mean when we speak of original nothingness. This does not mean that it was from a [specific] void that all things were given birth." (See the citation of Tan Ji's Liu jia qi zong lun in the Ming Zeng Zhuan chao [Handcopy of the Biographies of the Renowned Monks].) Therefore, when [Dao An] argued that "the wan you [all things] were generated from kong wu" [emptiness and non-existence], the term kong wu did not mean xu kong [void]; the meaning, rather, was that kong [emptiness] or wu [non-existence] was the original ontological substance of wan you [all things]. Only in this way could it exist "prior to all existences" [wan you].
It should be noted that Dao An's understanding of the Kong zong [Emptiness Sect, or Sect of Non-being] in Buddhist prajna teaching was not quite in conformity to that sect's understanding of its own teachings, in which "original nothingness" seemed to have been taken to mean that "all dharma did not originally have a nature unto themselves [zi xing]," or, in other words, nothing has a real ontological substance in itself. (We shall have more to say on this issue later.) Instead, Dao An's doctrine of original nothingness can be said to have borne certain resemblances to Wang Bi's idea of "accepting wu [non-existence] as the origin" [yi wu wei ben]. In fact, it may be closer even to the ideas of Zhang Zhan. Like Wang Bi, Zhang Zhan posited "non-existence as the origin" [yi wu wei ben], but when he spoke of wu [non-existence] he seemed to have been referring to something outside of [and over and above] you [existence]. For example, he said: "Because there is such a thing as Ultimate Non-existence [zhi wu], it can therefore be the origination and source of all changes and transformations [from which came creation]." He also said: "That which is not born can therefore be the origin of all that is born." In these illustrations, Zhang Zhan affirmed in his mind that there was, above and beyond wan you [all existence], a transcendental Absolute which served as the Origin from which and by which all existence is born.
This viewpoint differed substantially from that of Wang Bi. Wang believed that, although "non-existence" [wu] was the ontological substance of "existence" [you], it did not exist outside of you. He said: "Non-existence cannot be without name; it must have cause in existence." Also, Wang believed that substance [ti] cannot be divorced from usage [yong]. He said: "We shall take non-existence for usage; we cannot abandon non-existence as substance alone." On the other hand, Dao An, when he talked of Original Nothingness, saw wu [non-existence] as existing prior to wan you [all existences, or all being]. He was, therefore, closer to Zhang Zhan's ideas. Furthermore, Dao An, in a way similar to Zhang Zhan, even used the "theory of the Original Breath, or Spirit" [yuan qi lun] to explain the construction of the Universe and the formation of all things. It was thus recorded in Tan Ji's Liu Jia Qi Zong Lun:
In the first place, thus spoke the Founder of the Sect of Original Nothingness: Ru lai [He That Was as He Came, i.e., Buddha] came to prosper the world. He taught the doctrine of Original Nothingness to extend his teachings. That is why the profound vaipulya sutras all contain enlightenment on the doctrine of the original nothingness of the wu yin [the five negative elements, or agencies]. For the longest time, the doctrine of original nothingness has been accepted and broadened. . . . How so? Prior to primal and Covert Creation, there was nothing but the frame. It was when the Original Spirit or Breath began to mold and transform that the myriad phenomena began to be endowed with forms. ... This is not to say that it is out of Emptiness that the many things were born. What holds people back is that they remain stagnated [in their understanding] in the realm of the you [being] which is merely the product, or result [and not the origin]. If a person is capable of investing his mind in the Original Nothingness, he would be able to shed this very burden. This is what we mean when we say that, if only one would pursue and exalt the origin, the inconsequential ends would be put to rest.
By wu [non-existence] Dao An meant the Original Spirit or Breath [yuan qi] which he conceived to be a frame without form or phenomenon. This viewpoint was consistent with the interpretation which the Buddhist monks, from the Han-Wei period up to this time, held with regard to the notion of the formation of the universe, and followed from those interpretations. The Monk Kang Hui, when he translated the Liu Du Ji Jing [Collected Sutra of the Six Paramitas] wrote, in its volume 8, under the Cha Wei Wang Jing [Sutra of the Observations of the Covert Meanings of the Words of the King]:
What we have observed has rendered us profoundly aware that, when Man was in a primitive original state, he was born of the Original Nothingness. Then the Original Breath became differentiated: that part which was solid and strong became earth, that which was soft became water, that which was warm became fire, and that which was mobile became wind. . . . These four things met in harmony and the Knowing Spirit was born. Arising, it became enlightened as to its capacities and senses, and it ceased to desire, becoming thus empty of mind, and the spirit was reverted to Original Nothingness. This Breath, or Spirit, of the Knowing and the Origin was delicate, subtle, and imperceptible.
Again, in the Yin Chi Ru Jing Zhu [Annotations to the Sutra of the Entrance to Truth by Way of Covert Maintenance], the wu yin zhong [Five Negative Elements species] were described as being "akin to the yuan qi [original breath or spirit]." Therefore, the idea was not that "all existences" were born of "emptiness," but that "all existences" came about as the result of the transformation of the Original Breath or Spirit which had neither form nor phenomenon. All things were born of this formless, phenomenon-less Original Breath or Spirit, and man was no exception.
The argument continues that Man was confused because he was holding on to the various forms and appearances which had temporary existence, but if he was able to comprehend that wu [non-existence] existed before the myriad transformations, and that kong [emptiness] was the origin of the many forms, he would be able to revert to his own source, transcend life and death, become delivered, and merge as one with the universe and all things, that is, attain the dao (tao) [way] and revert to the yuan qi [original Spirit]. Therefore, in Dao An's doctrine of Original Nothingness, the key to deliverance was to eliminate the incorrect understanding of things. In nonaction and absence of desire and purity of the mind one would be able to achieve that state of being "commensurate with the Ultimate Emptiness and roam with the Creator Force in tranquil and serene happiness." (See Ren Ben Yu Sheng Jing Zhu [Annotations on the Sutra on the Origin of the Life of Man in Desires].)
The way to deliverance described by Dao An was almost identical to that proposed by Zhang Zhan. Zhang believed that if man were able to relinquish all tenets and understand the origins and the ultimate destinations of life and death--i.e., that Man came from the Ultimate Emptiness and shall return unto that Ultimate Emptiness, Man would be able to attain deliverance and become the Ultimate Being, which has attained the dao (tao) [way]. Furthermore, the Ultimate Being is one "whose mind has been re-joined, re-connected with the Original Spirit or Breath, and whose body, covertly, was in harmony with the Yin and Yang." (See the book Lie Zi Zhu [Annotations on Lie Zi].)
In the Bu zhen kong lun [Treatise on the Fallacy of the Doctrine of True Non-existence] the Monk Shao criticized the doctrine of Original Nothingness, saying:
The advocates of Original Nothingness align their sentiments on the side of wu [nothingness] and then write their words of teaching to support that argument. They refute, to begin with, the notion of existence and say that you [existence or being] was in fact wu [non-existence]. Even if one refuted the notion of non-existence will nonetheless still be nonexistence. The original meaning of the Buddhist canons is that fei you [not being] is not really being and that fei wu [not non-being] is not really non-being. Why must one insist on refuting the notion of being and say that "this being is not," or refute the notion of non-being and say that "non-being is not"?
What this passage says is: The school of Original Nothingness maintains a biased affinity for wu [non-being]. They accept the idea that nonbeing is the ontological substance of reality, and all its arguments are based on this philosophy of non-being. Therefore the adherents of this school do not recognize you [being]; rather, they believe that being cannot be divorced from non-being; i.e., they accept "non-being as the origin." They believe, moreover, that non-being itself could not be separated from non-being; i.e., they maintain the notion of the fundamentality of non-being, insist upon it, and see non-being as true non-being. However, according to the original intent of the Buddhist sutras, what is important, and to be maintained, was that "not being" is not truly being [fei you bu shi zhen di you], and not non-being is also not truly non-being [fei wu ye bu shi zhen di wu]. Why, therefore, should anyone insist that "not being" meant the non-being of any particular thing or that "not non-being" meant the absence of any particular non-being?
[From the above] it appears that the Monk Shao took the original intent of the Kong zong [Emptiness school] of prajna Buddhism as his point of departure in criticizing the doctrine of Original Nothingness and its adherents for their insistence on wu [non-existence] and their failure to comprehend that "non-being" was itself a jiaming [false name, or illusion] and not a real being. His argument, ultimately, was that only "the refutation of both being and non-being" was the true principle taught by Buddhism. In doing so, in the Bu zhen kong lun [Treatise on the Fallacy of the Doctrine of True Nothingness] the Monk Shao criticized not only the doctrine of Original Nothingness itself, but also Wang Bi's idea of "valuing nothingness" and Guo Xiang's idea of "exalting being" as well, and thereby developed [not just Buddhist teachings but also] the teachings of xuanxue [Daoist metaphysics] of the Wei and Jin periods.
The Meaning of the Doctrine of Non-Real, Non-Existence or Emptiness [bu shen kong yi]. It can be argued that the criticism contained in the Monk Shao's Bu zhen kong lun of the three schools of prajna Buddhism which were popular in China at that time was based on the original intent of the Indian teachings of Buddhist prajna. By positing that "emptiness is not real" [bu zhen kong] he suggested that all things do not truly exist, or that all things not truly are, but rather, the existence of all things is unreal, and that that is why we can call [existence] kong [emptiness or unreality]. In other words, "emptiness" equals "unreality." This was the Chinese expression of the fundamental premise of the Kong zong [Emptiness school] of Indian Buddhist prajna teaching, namely, the premise that "all fa [dharma, or things] do not have ontological self-substance" [zhu fa ben wu zi xing].
The Monk Shao said that the Zhong lun [Treatise on the Mean] posited the paradox that while, from one angle, "all fa [dharma] were not existent," from another angle, "all fa were also, and at the same time, not non-existent." He argued that to understand this principle of "not being and yet not non-being" would be to understand the ultimate truth. This is because, he argued, although there were very many things of various forms and appearances, under analysis they can all be found to be formed only by causes and effects and their combinations and have no zi xing [self-nature, or ontological substance, or reality in and of themselves]. This would therefore be "non-existence." On the other hand, although all dharma had no real ontological substance, there were nonetheless phenomena in many diverse forms and appearances, and dharma was therefore also "not non-existence." Hence, he argued, one cannot say that there are no things, but only that there are no real things.
In what way, then, can there be such "unreal existence" [jia you]?
According the Monk Shao's interpretation of Zhong lun, all things are formed of the combinations and permutations of causes and effects and therefore have no ontological substance. However, once made up by the combination of causes and effects, things also then become "not non-existent" and cannot be said to be fundamentally non-existent. By further applying logical reasoning to this issue, the Monk Shao concluded that this principle was the very basic truth. If "being" was "real being," he argued, "being" would have existed at the beginning and should exist to the very end, and there would have been no need to wait for the combination of causes and effects to bring "being" into existence. If, on the other hand, "non-being" was real non-being, "non-being" itself should also have existed at the very beginning and to the very end, and there would also have been no need to wait for the combination of causes and effects to bring about "non-being."
If one were to accept that "being" cannot be "being in itself," but had to wait for the combination of causes and effects to bring it into being, then one would be able to realize that "being" was not "real being." [He said], "Being is not real being; therefore, though there is being, we do not say that there is real being." At the same time, one must also say that there is "not non-being." If there was real "non-being" it would be monolithic and totally immobile [zhan ran bu dong] [i.e., totally incapable of transformation] and no phenomenon could then be generated. Only such a totally immobile "non-existence" could be called "real non-existence." Therefore, if we were to say that "all fa" [dharma] were "truly nonexistent" there would not be the generation of all fa, and nothing would come of causes and effects. Since "all fa" do come as a result of causes and effects, then one cannot say that there is real "non-existence."
Both in terms of contents and methodology, one can say that the Monk Shao's Bu zhen kong lun was closer in meaning to the original intents of Indian Buddhist prajna teaching. It was not by accident that his doctrine of the Bu zhen kong lun came about; it was, rather, because by that time two conditions had already come into existence. The first was the fact that Kumarajiva was already in possession of the various sutras that provided full explanation [to the Chinese] of the prajna teachings, such as Da zhi du lun [Treatise on the Paramita, or ferrying across by way of the Great Wisdom], Zhong lun [Treatise on the Mean]. Bai lun [The Hundred Treatises], and Shi er men lun [Treatise on the Twelve Sects]. This made it possible by that time to have a clearer understanding of the teachings of the Indian prajna school of Buddhism. The second was that contemporary developments in the teachings of xuanxue [Daoist metaphysics] made it possible for such theories as "non-being and yet not nonbeing" [fei you fei wu] to appear in the Chinese mind and exert an impact on Chinese thinkers (more on this later).
THE INTERACTION BETWEEN THE IMPORTED IDEOLOGICAL
CULTURE--BUDDHISM--AND THE PREVIOUSLY
EXISTING IDEOLOGICAL CULTURE OF CHINA
The question of the importation of an alien ideological culture and its interaction with an existing native ideological culture is a very complicated one, and there is great significance in studying this problem. Our country's philosophical thinking [and, in fact, its entire culture and society] underwent a major transformation in the time of the Wei and Jin dynasties and the North and South dynasties; it can easily be said that the introduction of Buddhism was one of the most significant causes of this transformation. As for China Buddhism was an alien ideological culture, it is very helpful to study the interaction between the two and the process by which this alien ideological culture integrated with China's own pre-existing traditional ideological culture. This would include its development from being formalistically attached to the body of China's traditional ideological culture, to emerging with its own characteristics which clearly conflicted with and were contradictory to China's ideological culture, and finally to becoming an integral part of the Chinese ideological culture.
The formation of an ideological culture is certain to have its roots in social history; thus in the history of the world various ideological cultures have emerged which are separate and different in both type and form. To understand the characteristics of an ideological culture and the level of its development, one must compare it with other ideological cultures. If we were to compare the Buddhism introduced into China during the period of the Wei, Jin, and North and South dynasties with what existed at that time as China's native traditional ideological culture, we would be able to understand more profoundly not only the characteristics and level of development of that traditional Chinese ideological culture, but also the reasons for which an alien ideological culture was able to be assimilated by the Chinese. The method of analytically studying the comparisons between the ideological culture of one nation [or country or region] and that of another is known as comparative philosophy, which is guided by Marxist thought.
Another significant phenomenon which emerged in the period of the Wei, Jin, and North and South dynasties was the Daoist religion. This was formed in the late years of the Eastern Han dynasty and acquired its own theoretical system. Although it can be said that the formation of the Daoist religion was influenced or stimulated by the introduction of Buddhism, it was nonetheless a religion peculiar to the Chinese, particularly to the Han people, and was bound, therefore, to have characteristics which set it apart from Buddhism. Prior to the Wei and the Jin, Buddhism had just been introduced and in the early stages of its introduction had been grafted to the already existing body of the daoshu [Daoist techniques and crafts]. Hence, the contradictions between the two religions, although already real, were not obvious or outstanding. Since the Wei and Jin, however, because the Daoist religion's own system of thought and theory had gradually formed and because Buddhism, as an imported alien ideological culture, needed to shed gradually its own earlier attachment to the pre-existing native ideological culture, the contradictions and conflict between the two religions became daily more acute and intensified. If we were to analyze and draw comparisons [between these two religions] on the issues upon which they debated, it would be easy for us to see more clearly the characteristics of the Daoist religion as well as the mutual influence which their two religions had upon one another in the midst of their contradictions and polemical struggles. This is the task of those who undertake the study of comparative religion. At this time, we ought also to develop and promote this field of investigation, so that we may form a comparative study of religions, guided, also, by Marxist thought.
What were the most notable characteristics in Buddhism after it was introduced into China and as it became popularized and developed in China? What are the ones we should study and what general laws [of development] can we extract from [such a study]? What conclusions can be drawn? In the following discussion we shall suggest three major problem areas for analysis.
Adaptation to Tradition
When Buddhism was introduced into China at first it was grafted upon the body of pre-existing Chinese ideological culture; then it gradually developed on its own and began to exert its own influence on that culture and Chinese society. It should be understood that Buddhism did not have a great deal of influence immediately after its introduction.
After being introduced into China in the Han dynasty, Buddhism at first attached itself to the daoshu. In the Wei and Jin period, because of the popularity and influence of xuanxue [Daoist metaphysics] Buddhism switched and was attached to the latter. During the time of the Han dynasty, the central tenets of [Chinese] Buddhism were "the imperishability of the soul, or spirit," and "causes and effects." These were ideas that were already originally carried within traditional Chinese thought, or, in some cases, were at least similar in ways to certain ideas which already existed in Chinese philosophical traditions. Furthermore, the Hinayana methods of chan meditation [dhyana] which were preached at that time also generally were quite similar to the breathing exercises taught by the Huang-Lao School of Daoism (Taoism) and the Immortality [shen xian jia] school. By the time of the Wei and Jin Daoist metaphysical teachings had become popular, and, since Kong zong [the Emptiness sect] of Buddhist prajna teachings was somewhat similar to these Daoist metaphysical teachings, this branch of Buddhism was therefore able to gain popularity by attaching itself to the body of xuanxue. However, it was not until Kumarajiva translated the sutras and commentaries [sastras] such as the Zhong lun that the Chinese understanding of the teachings of the Kong zong of Indian Buddhist prajna philosophy came close to capturing the original intents of those teachings. From the above brief description, we can see that, when Buddhism was first introduced into China, it had first to exist as an attachment, or graft, on the body of some previously existing ideology, and only thus was it able to achieve popularity of its own.
There is one question here which needs to be raised and calls for some discussion. When Zhi-lou-jian translated the Dao Xing Jing [Sutra on the Practice, or Way, of the Truth] in the year 179 A.D., there was in it a pin [segment, or folio] known as the ben wu pin [segment of Original Nothingness]. This appeared long before the [xuanxue] ideas of gui wu [exalting nothingness] and yi wu wei ben [taking nothingness as the origin] which are identified with He Yan [190-249] and Wang Bi [226-249]. Does this then mean that Wang and He's idea of "taking nothingness as the origin" was a product, a result of the influence of Buddhism? We do not believe that this is the answer; it would accord with the facts of the historical record to think that Daoist metaphysical thinking [or, xuanxue] was generated only under the influence of Buddhism. First of all, the formation of Daoist metaphysical thinking responded to the social needs at the time. Moreover, the emergence of xuanxue should be considered in the light and context of other intellectual developments, either of the period or slightly earlier. These include the development of the teachings of ming li zhi xue [on names and principles] and the distinction between cai [ability] and xing [nature, or character] which appeared during the interim period between the fall of the Han and the rise of Wei, as well as the revival of various schools of Confucianism, Daoism (Taoism), the School of Names [Ming jia] and Legalism, and their mutual intersection and influence. This makes it possible to see that, from the angle of certain inevitable trends in ideological and intellectual development, this emergence of xuanxue was a product of the natural processes of China's indigenous intellectual evolution.
We have not found any convincing evidence that Wang Bi and He Yan were influenced by Buddhism. Even if one or two pieces of evidence were to be discovered indicating that Wang, He, and company may have been in contact with the Buddhism of the day, either directly or indirectly, nonetheless we must still maintain that the ideas of xuanxue were products of the development of preexisting indigenous Chinese ideas themselves. Furthermore, there is a great deal of evidence showing that by and large, during the Han-Wei period, the Chinese officer-scholar gentry did not in the least think highly of Buddhism. For instance, Mouzi in Li huo lun [Treatise on the Disposition of Error] said for the record that "the people of the age, and scholars, mostly sneer at it [i.e., Buddhism] and defame it," and, "we have not heard that, among the rules and teachings accepted by the five talents or among the discussions taken up in the Forest of Confucianist Scholars, the practicing of the ways of Buddha is valued or self-disfigurement is esteemed."
One thing serves to illustrate this point even more clearly and conclusively, namely that, while in the prajna Buddhist teachings of the time the term ben wu [original nothingness] was used, it did not mean the same thing as Wang Bi's idea of yi wu wei ben [taking nothingness to be the origin]. In the various prajna sutras, the idea of ben wu was taken to mean that "all fa [dharma] do not have ontological self-substance" [zhu fa ben wu zi xing]--that is, that all things did not, in and of themselves, have real substance. This, if fact, negated the notion that there was original substance to things. When Wang Bi spoke of ben wu [original nothingness], on the other hand, he meant that "nothingness was the original substance"--that is, ontological reality--of existence [wu shi you di ben ti].
The Buddhist teachings that were imported into China in the Wei-Jin period were for the most part teachings of the Mahayana prajna Kong zong [Emptiness school]. Its fundamental premise was that "all things did not originally have ontological substance, or self-substance" [zi xing]. In this, the term fa [dharma] referred to all things, material but also spiritual. These were known as adharma in the Buddhist sutras. In the Da bo you jing [Great Collection of Prajna Sutras], volume 556, we find the following passage:
Take ourselves, for instance; we are, ultimately, not life. We are jia ming [false names or unreal names] [i.e., we are illusions, or falsehoods.] We have no zi xing [self-nature, or nature in and of ourselves]. Likewise, all dharma--they too are nothing but false names, and no nature in and of themselves. What is se [appearance]? It cannot be assumed and cannot be born. What is shou [acceptance, or destiny] or xiang [thought] or xing [action] or shi [perception, or understanding]? They, too, are incapable of being assumed or being born.
The Kong zong [Emptiness school] of prajna teaching believed that while people have always held to the notion that there was something which could be called you wuo [having oneself, or self-existence], i.e., zi ti [self-substance], they have done so without realizing that "self" was nothing but the combination produced by the five elements [wu yin] of se [appearance], shou [acceptance or destiny], xiang [thought], xing [action], and shi [perception or understanding]. They were indeed wrong to have believed that there was such a thing as "self." How could "self" exist apart from or independent of these five elements? Therefore, it argued, the term "self" was really nothing but a hypothesis, an unreal name [jia ming], and did not contain any self-nature. Not only was this true of people but of all dharma [things] as well. Therefore, the Guan si ti pin [Segment of the Meditation on the Catvariarya satyani, or Four Noble True Statements] in the Zhong lun argued:
The various causes and effects generate the dharma. The idea of self is but an idea of emptiness, and also a false name. This is the meaning of the Central Way, or the Mean.
The argument here, apparently, was that, since all things were generated by causes and effects, there is in reality no such thing as zi xing [self-nature, or real self-substance] but only kong [non-existence]. The idea of self, therefore, is itself a "non-existence." However, although things did not contain "self-substance," there are, nonetheless, all sorts of separate phenomena in the world after all. What then are such things? To say that they do not have real existence; still possible, however, are all sorts of unreal existences or phenomena. For purposes of convenience, the argument went, these are given hypothetical, or false, names. The Fangguang banruo jing [Prajnaparamita Sutra Emitting Light] said:
Buddha spoke thus to Subhuti [One of the Ten Major Disciples of Buddha, said to have been the best exponent of the Sunya, or Doctrine of the Void--Tr.]: Names are not real; an unreal designation is given and is known as a name, or as the five yin [elements] or as a human being, man or woman.
The Monk Shao, in Bu zhen kong lun, provided the following explanation:
The Fangguang [sutra] said: All dharma have false designations which are not real. For example, Man is the product of the transformation of illusions; this is not to say that there is no man who is the product of the transformation of illusions, but simply that Man who is the product of the transformation of illusions is not really Man [i.e., there is no reality to Man who is produced by the transformation of illusions].
This raises a secondary question which must be discussed here. Does the idea of kong [emptiness or non-existence] in the saying "self, as it is expressed, is kong, or empty or non-existent" [wuo shuo ji shi kong] signify the position that while things, phenomenologically speaking, did not really exist, there was, nonetheless, an ontologically real "non-existence" [similar to Wang Bi's ontologically real wu, or non-being] which itself was true? This, we shall see, was not the viewpoint of the Kong zong [Emptiness school] of prajna Buddhist teaching. To the adherents of the Kong zong, kong simply referred to the absence "of ontological self-substance in all dharma." This arose because the dictum "dharma is produced or generated by causes and effects; the statement of self is itself non-existent" was proposed for the very purpose of dispelling people's insistence on holding to the idea of real ontological substance in all things. But if people were simply to switch to insist on [the idea of the reality of] non-existence, alluded to in the sentence "the statement of self is itself a non-existence," then the purpose would be defeated, because people would still be insisting on the reality of something-i.e., of "non-existence." That is why, the Kong zong believed, it was necessary to add: "Even this [non-existence itself] is but a false name." Hence the formulation, completed, would be: Not only are the names of things, i.e., phenomena, jia ming [false names] and merely hypothetical; kong [emptiness, or non-existence] itself is a false name also.
Volume 556 of the Da Bo You Jing contained this parable:
At one time, the various sons of heaven asked He Who Appeared in Goodness [a name for Buddha]: Is it possible to be in Nirvana and still revert to the realm of illusion? He Who Appeared in Goodness replied: If there was a thing [dharma] that overcame Nirvana and yet, then, reverted to the state of illusion, what would Nirvana then be?
One must, therefore, not only understand that all dharma do not have real ontological substance; one must at the same time not insist on [the reality of] non-existence. The Da zhi du lun [Treatise on the Ferrying Across by Means of the Great Wisdom] said:
The situation is like the taking of medicine. Medicine can dispel the sickness. When the illness has been dispelled, the medicine should also be expelled. If not, then an illness will be acquired. Kong [non-existence] is something that was used to dispel all our troubles, but we should be wary lest kong itself remain to plague us. Therefore, what we suggest is that we must use kong to shed kong--that is, we must understand the non-existence of non-existence itself.
This means that the assertion of "non-existence" was for the purpose of dispelling the insistence on existence. When and if the notion of existence has been dispelled, the time would come for one to know that "non-existence" is itself an illusion, an unreality, or false name. Yet one cannot say that all is "non-existence" (because there is still, for example, Man who is the product of the transformation of illusions). To understand both of these aspects would be to achieve the Zhong dao guan [True Meditation of the Middle Way, or Mean]. It was, however, not until the late years of the Eastern Jin dynasty, after Kumarajiva had already translated such treatises as the Zhong lun, that this idea of "not existence and yet not non-existence" [fei you fei wu] was truly accepted and understood among Chinese Buddhists and epitomized in the Bu zhen kong lun of the Monk Shao.
Prior to the time of the Monk Shao, the general understanding which the Chinese monks had regarding prajna teaching was on the whole derived from the perspectives of the Daoist metaphysical [xuanxue] thought which was popular at the time. This is something we have already discussed. To further substantiate this argument, let us now analyze again some of the problems raised in connection with Dao An's theory of Original Nothingness. We have, earlier, cited the following passage from Ji Kang (Chi Kang)'s Zhong Lun Shu[Commentary on the Treatise of the Mean]:
When Master An expressed [the doctrine of] Original Nothingness, he meant that all dharma's original nature was emptiness and extinction. That is why he said "Original Nothingness."
Is this not the same idea as that contained in the saying: "All dharma do not originally have any ontological self-substance"? In fact it is not. The sentence here, "all dharma's original nature is emptiness and extinction," meant that emptiness and extinction made up the original nature of all dharma, or, in other words, all things have emptiness and extinction for their original nature or ontological substance. This was an interpretation that could be traced as far back as the Monk Hui Da's Shao lun Shu[Commentary on the Arguments of the Monk Shao]. There he criticized Dao An's theory of Original Nothingness by saying: "[He, Dao An,] was simply unable to realize that originally all dharma was nothing; and therefore he called original non-existence real, but resulting existence vulgar." The same idea was contained in An Cheng's Zhong Lun Shu[Commentary on the Treatise of the Mean], which said: "The Bie ji [Alternative Record] says" 'The true statement [zhen ti] is the origin of the vulgar statement [shu ti].' That is why we say that Non-existence existed prior to the Original, or Primeval, Transformation." From all the above illustrations, we can see that, in Dao An's understanding of kong [non-existence] or wu [non-being], he still took them to be the ontological substance for you [existence].
Why did such a set of circumstances come about? Because, as Engels pointed out, tradition is an immense force of conservatism. It appears that every ideological cultural tradition is bound to have its conservative aspect which resists imported alien ideological cultural influences. For that reason, an imported ideological culture must first adapt itself to the requirements and demands of the originally existing native ideological culture and be grafted onto its body. Those elements within the imported ideological culture which are relatively close to the original native ideological culture or which resemble it will be easier to be propagated; only then, after the grafting and the initial propagation, will it be possible for the various parts of the imported culture gradually to infiltrate the original culture and exert some of their own influence, until eventually [the imported culture] modifies, or effects transformations in, the original ideological culture.
The Enrichment and Intensification
When an imported ideological culture is capable of having a relatively great impact on the country [or nation or region] to which it was imported, in addition to the real and practical societal needs, this would often also occur because the imported culture in general approximated a potential or possible product of the evolution--or certain aspects of the evolution--of the original indigenous ideological culture itself.
It is possible to trace a line of development in the ideas of xuanxue [Daoist metaphysics] from Wang Bi and He Yan's ideas of gui wu [valuing nothingness or non-being] which were based on the notion of "taking non-being as the origin" to Guo Xiang's idea of cong you [exalting being] which was based on the notion of "all things generating themselves" [wan wu zi sheng]. Subsequently, the ideas of Zhang Zhan emerged during the time of the Eastern Jin, which were exemplified in the saying, "Things are generated by themselves spontaneously and instantly, and yet they share one common origin in non-being" [fu er er zi sheng, ze ben tong yu wu]. What then followed in this line of development was the notion of "not being and yet not non-being" [fei you fei wu]. This was similar to the doctrine of "not real non-existence" [bu zhen kong] in the Kong zong [Emptiness school] of prajna Buddhist teaching. Why was it possible for Wei-Jin Daoist metaphysics to develop into the idea of "not being and yet not non-being?" One may say that this was a "potential" product of the evolution of Wei-Jin Daoist metaphysics, or, in other words, it can be said that such an evolution was not only not antithetical or contradictory to the essence of Wei-Jin Daoist metaphysics; it was in fact an enrichment of Wei-Jin Daoist metaphysics.
Beginning with Wang Bi and He Yan, and particularly in the case of Wang Bi, Wei-Jin Daoist metaphysical thought carried out rather penetrating examinations and logical reasoning on the question of the relationship between you [being] and wu [non-being]. Wang Bi used the idea of ti [substance] and yong [effect, function, usage, or phenomenon] to illustrate the relationship between being and non-being. He posited that "non-being cannot be without expression, and therefore must have cause in being." Therefore he believed that, while "non-being" was the ontological substance, it was contained in "being" and had expression in "being." Therefore he viewed substance [ti] and use [yong] as essentially one and the same thing. However, since there was an emphasis in Wang Bi's system of thought on the absoluteness of "non-being," the idea of "exalting the origin and ending the result" [cong ben shi mo] emerged. This brought about an inconsistency in Wang Bi's system of thought. From the perspective of this cong ben shi mo idea, it can be said that there was a notion of negating the being, or, an idea of "not being." Through Xiang Xiu and Pei Wei, Wang Bi's idea of gui wu [valuing the non-being] later made the transition to Guo Xiang's idea of cong you [exalting being].
In Guo's view, being was the only existence, and there was nothing that existed over and beyond wan wu [all things] and that could have served as the ontological substance for wan you [i.e., a Creator substance]. He believed that the existence of all things was based on their respective "self-nature" [zi xing] and that this self-nature was generated spontaneously and instantaneously. For this reason he argued: "Non-being is non-being; that is it. It cannot generate being." In this way he directly challenged and refuted the idea of an ontologically substantial non-being. This idea in itself contained the notion of "not non-being."
In the Eastern Jin dynasty, Zhang Zhan wrote a commentary and annotations to the book Lie Zi, and in it he attempted to bring together in his own way the ideas of Wang Bi and Guo Xiang. On the one hand he argued that "all beings [qun you] have the Ultimate Void [zhi xu] as their ancestor [zong]"--i.e., wu [non-being] or zhi xu [the Ultimate Void] was the basis for the existence of you [being]. This was his idea of wu as ontological substance. To him, Non-being was neither created nor perishable; it does not come together and does not dissipate, whereas all being is created and is perishable, and clusters and dissipates. Moreover, he believed that all species [wan pin] have their ultimate test in their ultimate perishability and, therefore, are "not being." Yet, at the same time, Zhang argued that all things were instantaneously and spontaneously created--their existence was neither purposeful nor conditional. This had the potential or possibility of leading toward the idea of "not non-being."
Nevertheless, in the case of Zhang Zhan, these two ideas were put together mechanistically and were mutually incompatible and contradictory. His system of thought was not one which was tightly woven. And yet, incidentally, it was at this juncture that prajna Buddhist teachings, in particular those of the Kong zong, posited the idea of fei you fei wu [not being and yet not non-being], which itself was far more solid and tightly argued in theory and reasoning methods. For that reason, one can say that the doctrine of the Bu zhen kong lun [Treatise on the Fallacy of Real Nothingness] proposed by the Monk Shao was a development of the ideas of xuanxue [Daoist metaphysics] after Wang Bi and Guo Xiang. Although the ideas of the Monk Shao came directly from Indian prajna Buddhist teaching, they in fact became an important component of Chinese philosophy itself and helped to make up the following circle in the development of Wei-Jin xuanxue-Wang Bi-Guo Xiang-the Monk Shao.
Why was such a development possible? One may ascribe it to the demands or requirements of the heritage or continuity of ideological cultures [as they came into contact with one another]. As long as the development of an ideological culture is not drastically interrupted, what follows must be the product of a continuous evolution from what preceded it. The development of preceding ideas often would contain several possibilities, and the idea(s) which would continue to be developed, representing the subsequent parts of the development, would be bound to take the shape of one or another of these possibilities. If an imported alien ideological culture can, on the whole, adapt or conform to a certain aspect of a potential or possible development of the original indigenous culture and ideology [or fit into a trend or tendency of one of the possible developments], not only will it be itself developed and thus exert relatively great influence in itself, but it may even become directly a component part of the original indigenous ideological culture and perhaps even to some extent alter the course of the development of that original ideological culture.
Relative Excellence and Real Contribution
If an imported alien ideological culture affects the original indigenous ideological culture, and if this is not a temporary influence but a long lasting one, in some aspects or even in all aspects in general it would have to achieve a higher level of development than that of the indigenous culture. Only in this way can the imported ideological culture serve as a stimulus to the native culture and affect the development of the native culture itself.
Whether or not the level of development and sophistication in reasoning achieved by the Kong zong [Emptiness school] of Indian prajna Buddhist teaching was generally higher than that of China's own native and traditional ideological culture which existed at that time is a question which may not be realistically and honestly resolved until very careful and meticulous analysis has been made. This is not a problem which we may attempt to discuss here. However, in one specific aspect of its ways of reasoning and philosophizing, namely, its analysis of the questions of being and non-being [you wu], the Kong zong of prajna Buddhism, in postulating the dialectical thesis of "not being and yet not non-being" [fei you fei wu], clearly demonstrated a superior level of theory and reasoning in comparison with the ideas of Wang Bi and Guo Xiang, although its own ideas, like those of Wang and Guo, were drawn from the general source of idealism. In terms of development, although it appeared to have been derived out of Wang Bi and Guo Xiang's xuanxue thought, the Monk Shao's doctrine of bu zhen kong [not real emptiness] was closer to the original intents of the Kong zong's teachings and should be acknowledged as having made certain advances beyond Wang and Guo's ideas.
As I see it, it was after the baptism of the introduction and assimilation of prajna philosophy introduced from India that the idealist philosophies of the Chinese tradition became themselves a truly influential and meaningful system of thought. In them, the doctrine of the Creator [a spiritual ontological substance which created Heaven and Earth and all things] no longer occupied a central position. In its stead, abstract concepts such as li [principle] or dao [Way], which determined, rather than personally created, the existence of Heaven, Earth, and all things, were put into the position of first or primal importance. In another case, it was the mind that was put into that position, as in ideas which posited that "mind equals principle" [xin ji li] or "the principle is possessed in the mind" [li ju yu xin]; i.e., the notions that the principles of Heaven, Earth, and all things were all present in the mind. It was only after such idealistic concepts were developed that the fundamental forms of China's traditional idealist philosophy were set. This itself set the stage for the emergence of the li xue [neo-Confucianist philosophy of Principle] in the Song and Ming dynasties, whether it be the Cheng and Zhu [Cheng Hao, Cheng Yi, and Zhu Xi] school or the Lu-Wang [Lu Xiangshan, Wang Yangming] school.
However, for an imported alien ideological culture, even one with a relatively higher level of development in reasoning, to have a great and long-lasting impact on the country [nation or region] to which it is introduced, it not only would have to subject itself, nonetheless, to the limitations of the political and socioeconomic conditions of the host country, nation, or region, but it must also be in possession of the first and second sets of conditions described in the afore-discussed sections. This is particularly true of ideological cultures, especially if the original, indigenous ideological culture did not experience an abrupt and radical interruption, or if such an interruption was not to be caused by the introduction of the alien culture. Only in such a way could the new culture affect the original culture in a profound and long-lasting way. Without these conditions, no matter how advanced or superior the imported ideological culture may be, it would be difficult for it to strike roots into the soil of the host country and over the long run exert any deep influence. For example, the Wei shi [Vidjnana, or Consciousness Only school] teachings of Buddhism introduced [later] by the [Tang dynasty] Monk Xuan Zang, and the related teachings of vidjna [yin ming, or hetuvidya, or nyaya teachings] which were introduced at about the same time and in conjunction with the Consciousness Only school, were also superior in the levels of their reasoning and development, and yet, though they gained much ground in establishing a reputation for themselves for a time, they did not eventually have a very long-lasting impact on the development of Chinese thought as a whole. Even though specific categories of thought in the Consciousness Only [Wei shi] school, such as the dual categories of neng [ability or possibility] and suo [identity or proper placement], were individually absorbed into Chinese thought, on the whole the Wei shi school did not become an integrated component of the Chinese traditional ideological culture, and to this day we still have the tendency to think of the Wei shi [vidjnana, or Consciousness Only] teachings as an Indian ideology.
Out of the three points of argumentation outlined above, we may draw out one proposition: that it is meaningful, at least in one aspect, to focus the comparative study of philosophies on the general and historical laws which govern the extent to which an imported alien ideological culture may influence [the ideological culture(s) of] the country, or nation or region to which it was introduced, and on the conditions without which such an influence may not take place. In comparing and analyzing, for example, two ideological cultures which stemmed from different traditions we must understand, first, the characteristics and level of development and reasoning which have been achieved by the original indigenous ideological culture [i.e., that which, of the two, is the host culture] and, second, the differences and similarities between these two cultures, their mutual influences, their assimilation and conflict, the amelioration of their conflict, and so on.
As we study the introduction of Buddhism from India to China in the first century A.D., and its subsequent development we must ask its meaning for the practical way of life today. The tendencies in the development of current world ideological cultures are manifested as patterns conflict and harmony between many different ideological cultures stemming from many different traditions. The instability, contradictions and conflicts in the world today may also be ascribed, in addition to certain other [political and economic] factors, in part to differences in ideological and cultural [i.e., philosophical and religious] traditions. The contradictions between the Arab and Islamic world, on the one hand, and the West, on the other, for example, are themselves fraught with philosophical and religious factors. At the same time, because of the increasing frequency and intimacy in terms of intercultural contacts in today's world, the propensity for mutual interaction and influence and for harmonization and assimilation between various ideological cultures is also very obvious.
In particular, the broad spread of Marxism throughout the world today has provided many new lessons to be learned and emulated in the relations between ideological cultures which stem from different traditions and backgrounds. Marxism itself was generated in Western Europe under historical conditions peculiar to Western Europe and therefore as an ideological culture it was alien to many other parts of the world. Out of this, problems have surfaced in the relationship between Marxism and the various indigenous ideological cultures of the places to which it has been introduced. Even though Marxism is a proletarian philosophy and the cause of the proletariat is not confined by national boundaries--[Marxism] is the ideological weapon with which the proletariat and the revolutionary peoples of all countries carry out their revolutionary struggles--in order for Marxism to take root in any country [or nation or region] in a certain sense it will still have to become integrated with the native ideological culture of that country [nation or region]. Or, shall we say, it must undertake critically to carry on the legacy of that original indigenous ideological cultural tradition. Unless this is achieved, Marxism will not be able to exert any real influence.
Is it possible then for Marxism to be enriched and furthered in its development by, say, the study of the relations between Marxism and China's traditional indigenous ideological culture? We believe so. In the essay "The Task of the Youth League," Lenin said: "It is only when we have indeed understood fully the culture which is created through the entire developmental process of humanity at large, and are capable of transforming this culture of the past, that we can proceed to construct a truly proletarian culture." Undoubtedly Marxism is a methodology which will guide us in dealing accurately with our various ideological cultural traditions. It is "not a doctrine, but a methodology. It provides, not ready-made dogma, but points of departure for further investigation and a methodology which may be employed in such an investigation" (see The Complete Works of Marx and Engels [Chinese edition], vol. 39, p. 406]). It should be acknowledged that in the history of human civilization each nation or people had, and has, its own special contribution to make. If we were to study, with the correct method, these contributions, we would be able to render accurate assessments regarding them and turn these assessments into parts of the legacy of the spiritual civilization of humanity, which we are to inherit. It is not the intent of Marxism to reject the spiritual cultures which have made contributions to the human society; rather, it hopes to absorb them, and transform them, and in the process continue to enrich and develop itself.
THE COMPARATIVE STUDY OF PHILOSOPHIES AND RELIGIONS
The present age is vastly different from past ages. As the world marches into the 1980s, developments in science and technology and social progress have made the interaction between the various countries and nations of the world immensely different from that of the past when the world was still in a stage of feudalism. These objective circumstances compel us to absorb imported alien ideological cultures more quickly. What methods can we use to turn those parts of alien ideas which are of use and value to us more speedily into integrated parts of our own ideological culture? One important method would be to engage in the comparative study of philosophies. In the past, the absorption of alien ideological cultures as a natural and spontaneous process was often slow and sluggish, and incidental and accidental factors tended to have a great deal of influence on the process. If we were to carry out such work today in a conscious and deliberate fashion, we are bound to be able to absorb the valuable and refined portions of an alien ideological culture more speedily. This problem applies to Marxism as well. If we are able to deal correctly with the relationship between Marxism and our own ideological cultural tradition, so that Marxism may become even more compatible with the circumstances and sentiments of the people in our country, if we may create a Sinicized Marxism, then it not only would take deeper and stronger roots in China, but would also more effectively absorb and retain the good and valuable parts of Chinese ideological cultural tradition and expel those which are valueless or corrupted so that our country's fine spiritual culture may be further developed. Therefore, the establishment of comparative philosophical studies under the guidance of Marxism is a most important task for us. The question is, how we should undertake the study of comparative philosophy?
The Search for Common Laws
In comparatively studying two ideological cultures from different traditions we should attend to the discovery of certain common laws which govern the evolution of human ideological culture.
The study of comparative philosophy, like the comparative study of religions and literature, has a specific meaning of its own. The study of comparative philosophy does not mean simply the comparison between two, any two, philosophers (taking, for instance, Zhu Xi and Wang Shouren [Wang Yangming]), any more than the study of comparative religion means the simple comparison of any two Buddhist monks [say, Zhi Dun and Dao An]. Comparative philosophy or comparative religion refers to comparing two systems of philosophical thought which stem from different traditions, or two religious systems that come from different sources and origins. Therefore, such comparative studies must be comparative analyses of two different countries [such as China and India] or regions [such as East and West] or nations [such as the Chinese people and some other nationality].
Philosophy is the most general science in the study of Nature, society, and human reasoning, and the laws which govern the development of human thought are, fundamentally speaking, similar or for the most part identical. Thus, when we have understood the laws which governed and sustained the evolution of the philosophical thought of a certain ideological cultural tradition, analyze the philosophical thoughts of another ideological cultural tradition promises to be of great help. In "On the Problems of the Dialectical Method," Lenin said:
[These are] the circles which describe the history of philosophy: The Ancient World: Dialectics from Democritus through Plato to Heraclitus; The Modern Age: Feuerbach to Hegel [through Berkeley, Hume, and Kant]; Hegel to Feuerbach to Marx.
In his "Outline to Hegel's 'Notes on the History of Philosophy'" Lenin also said:
It is possible to see the history of philosophy in terms of circles . . . Each type of philosophical thinking equals a smaller circle on the big circle (spiral) of the evolution of human thought.
Hegel's idea of "the history of Philosophy as a circle," which Lenin cited in the above-mentioned essays, is not only a law which summarizes the development of Western thought, but also a profound reflection of the general law of the history of the development of philosophy and of thought in the universal sense. If we took this idea to be a compass to guide us in studying the laws which governed the development of traditional Chinese philosophy, we could see that, in general, traditional Chinese philosophy was also made up of three major spirals? The first would be the philosophy of the pre-Qin period: From Confucius to Mencius to Xunzi [through the philosophies of other schools of the time]: the second would be Wei-Jin xuanxue [Daoist metaphysics]: Wang Bi to Guo Xiang to the Monk Shao; the third would be Song-Ming neo-Confucianism: Zhang Zai to Zhu Xi to Wang Fuzhi. Between these three circles, which are to be seen as being put together as spirals, there would be the connecting tissues of development--the Han Classical scholarship [jingxue] which made up the transition from the first circle to the second one, and the development of Sui-Tang Buddhism, which made up the transition from the second circle to the third. Together these three ascending circles would make up a vast circle which would express the whole of Chinese philosophical tradition: from the pre-Qin and Han philosophy, whose primary substance was Confucianism; to the Wei-Jin and Sui-Tang philosophy, whose primary substance was xuanxue [metaphysics] built on the foundation and framework of the ideas of Laozi (Lao Tzu) and Zhuangzi as well as a gradually Sinicized Buddhism; to the neo-Confucianism [Song-Ming Confucianism], which absorbed the thought of both Daoism (Taoism) and Buddhism, and on that basis developed [Confucianism] to a higher stage of evolution.
In the book Comparative Religion F. B. Jevons cited one example which quite clearly demonstrated the general significance of the study of comparative religion. He said that it was difficult to understand, or explain, the demotion of the Thunder God in the religion of ancient Babylon from his original status to the rank of a demon. The answer seemed to lie, he also said, in the study of comparative religion and its methodology, because in the history of the development of various religions we often encounter in the history of the development of various religions, the phenomenon of deities of an earlier religion being demoted to another rank in a new religion when the older, earlier religion is overcome and replaced. In this case, the method of the study of comparative religion provides us with a rational explanation for such a phenomenon as the demotion of the Thunder God of Babylon to the rank of a demon.
At the present time, the methods of comparative studies generally fall into two categories: namely, "parallel studies" and "influence studies." The former refers to conducting comparative studies between two different ideological cultures which do not have direct or indirect influences upon one another, and yet between whom there obviously are comparable points. In this case, the task would be to discover the similar as well as the dissimilar phenomena between the two and to demonstrate common laws and dissimilar, individual qualities. The latter is to conduct comparative studies where there are direct or indirect mutual influences, or, in some cases, unilateral influence, in order to discover the shared phenomena as well as points of dissimilarity so as to demonstrate the contradictions, conflicts, assimilations and compromises that exist between them.
No matter to which category it may belong, when a comparison is made it should not simply draw one or two elements from the ideological culture of a country, nation, or region and study them in comparison with a few sayings or one or two isolated phenomena from the ideological culture of another country, nation, or region. This would be what is known as piecemeal comparison which, strictly speaking, has hardly anything to do with the study of comparative philosophy or comparative religion. The comparative study of two different ideological cultural traditions ought to be conducted on the basis of a rather comprehensive and exhaustive comparison of a problem or problems found in both traditions. Only in this way can we discover the phenomena [within each] which reflect the presence of laws, and only then can we be led from knowledge or its absence to knowledge regarding this particular law of the development of human ideological culture, and from the understanding of the individual to an understanding of the general.
Attention to the Specific Characteristics
of a Culture
In undertaking to study comparatively the ideological cultures of two different traditions, we should base conclusions on the special characteristics and features of both of these cultures. Only when a certain ideological culture is compared and analyzed in the light of a different ideological cultural tradition that its own special characteristics and features can become clarified. It is impossible to express the special characteristics of an ideological culture when it is studied only by itself or internally.
In the first and second part of this essay we discussed the fact that, although there were apparent similarities between metaphysics [xuanxue] in China during the Wei-Jin period and the prajna teachings of Indian Buddhism, they ultimately were separate and not the same, each having its own special characteristics. We were able to draw such a conclusion because we had made a comparative study of these two ideological cultures which stemmed from separate traditions. For example, we came to know that the analysis which Wei-Jin xuanxue made of "being" and "non-being" was made from the angle or perspective of "existence," that is, from the perspective of the relationship between "ontological substance" and "phenomenon," with the latter being seen as the various expressions of ontological substance. Indian prajna Buddhist teaching, on the other hand, often analyzed wu [or kong, or non-existence] and you [being] as a pair of abstract concepts. Therefore, although both may have appeared to be speaking of ben wu [nothingness or origin], when Wang Bi employed the term he was referring to the idea of yi wu wei ben [taking nothingness to be the origin]--i.e., non-being [wu] being the substance behind being [you]--whereas when prajna teaching used the same term it referred to the idea that "all dharma did not have original self-nature" [zhu fa ben wu zi xing]. In this latter formulation, wu [or kong, or non-existence] did not refer to substance, but rather [to the idea] that all things did not have real self-substance [zi ti] and therefore that the existence of all things was merely illusory. Furthermore, the method of reasoning behind Wei-Jin metaphysics and that behind Indian Buddhist prajna teaching were also different. The tendency for the Indian Buddhist prajna teachers was to employ an analytical method to reason out their viewpoints whereas the Wei-Jin xuanxue metaphysicists would reason by way of the philosophical methods represented by such sayings as: de yi wang yan [Once the meaning, or intent, is attained, the words may be forgotten] and ji yu chu yan [The meaning resides outside of the words, which are only its temporary abode].
For example, in the Kong zong [Emptiness school] of prajna Buddhism, the postulate "all dharma did not originally have self-nature" [zhu fa ben wu zi xing] would often be analyzed in the following logical manner:
(1) When things are analyzed at the utmost level of minutiae, further analysis would, presumably, bring the object of analysis to the realm of lin xu [the neighborhood of Void or Nothingness]. That is, further analysis would bring about the logical conclusion that the object of analysis does not really have substance or a self--thus the saying: "Observe and contemplate the minutiae of things; when the final minutiae is reached, there would be found no substance."
(2) When one analyzes things from the angle of the relationship between time and object, one will understand that neither wu xiang [material or physical phenomenon or appearance] nor xin xiang [mental or psychological phenomenon] is real. First, all things are generated instantaneously and also perish equally instantaneously, that is, all things are no sooner generated than they perish. Second, nothing lasts at all, that is, not things are first generated and then perish, but that they are generated and perish all at once: generation and perishing happen at one and the same time. For these two reasons therefore things cannot be said to have any real self-substance.
(3) The analysis of the object itself leads inevitably to the conclusion that it is made up of the combination of causes and effects and therefore it does not have any real ontological substance of its own. Since all dharma does not have real self-substance, all things or phenomena are therefore without original existence--thus the saying: "not that appearances (phenomena) perish, but that they are non-existent."
The method which the Wei-Jin xuanxue [Daoist metaphysics] scholars, such as Wang Bi, used to argue for their idea of "having origin in non-being" [yi wu wei ben] was very different from that of the prajna Buddhists. In the Laozi (Lao Tzu) Zhi Lue [An Outline of the Intentions of Laozi (Lao Tzu)], Wang Bi said:
The cause for the generation of a thing and the fulfilling of its achievement is this: It must be born of the Form-less [wu xing] and have origin in the Name-less [wu ming]. The Form-less and the Name-less is the origin of all things. It is neither warm nor cold, neither gong nor shang [Gong and shang are sounds of special characters--Tr.]; its sound cannot be heard; one cannot see its expression if one were to look at it, nor know it by feeling, nor taste it. This is made of a primal combination of forces; as a phenomenon it does not have a form, as a noise it has but a little sound, and in terms of taste it does not have any presentation. It is for this reason that it can be the origin of all species and objects. It exists as an embryo, in which all Heaven and Earth is contained and all parts of Heaven and Earth are connected. There is nowhere it cannot go, and yet it will not be directed. If something is warm, it cannot be cool; if something is gong, it cannot be shang. Once things take form, they are inevitably divided; sounds, too, naturally belong to separate divisions. Therefore, if something that is a phenomenon has form, it cannot be the Great Phenomenon; the sound that has noise cannot be the Great Sound. Nevertheless, if the Four Phenomena did not have form, the Great Phenomenon cannot be free. If the Five Sounds did not have noise, the Great Sound cannot arrive. If the Four Phenomena do take form, and yet objects are not made to submit to a master, the Great Phenomenon will be free; if the Five Sounds have noise but the mind does not follow them, the Great Sound will arrive.
In Wang Bi's view, Heaven and Earth and all things have many forms and appearances. What is one thing therefore cannot be any other thing at the same time; if something has a specific form, it cannot take another form. Thus, it is only the Form-less that can accomplish any form, only the Sound-less that can become any sound, only the Non-being [that which is not any specific being] that can accomplish being [can become anything]. It is because Non-being can become, or accomplish all being that it can be the foundation of the existence of all existence. Therefore:
All things under heaven are born of "being." The beginning of being is in having non-being as its origin. If one desired to accomplish "being" one must first revert to "non-being" (see Laozi (Lao Tzu) Zhu [Annotations on Laozi (Lao Tzu)]).
All things under heaven are specific and concrete existences with forms and phenomena. That these things with forms and phenomena can come into being, or be generated, is because they have "non-being" as their ontological substance; only then can this substance be expressed as many specific things with many forms and appearances. For example, it was argued, the water of the sea is manifested in waves and billows of many different colors and shapes. That it can be manifested in these many phenomena is precisely because it has its origins in water. Therefore, in order to preserve all things of various forms and phenomena, one must grasp the "non-being" which is their ontological substance.
However, the "non-being" which is the ontological substance is not a "thing" which exists outside of "all things." Although one can say that "a phenomenon which has form is not the Great Phenomenon," unless "the Four Phenomena have form the Great Phenomenon cannot be free." Therefore, it is only when one can understand things through specific forms and phenomena, and yet not be confined by the specific forms and phenomena, that one can grasp "the phenomenon which is without phenomenon" [wu xiang zhi xiang], or, "the scenery outside of the picture" [hua wai zhi jing]. It is only when one can understand through specific sounds and yet not be insistent on, or confined by, specific sounds that one can grasp "the sound that has no noise" [wu sheng zhi yin] or, "the sounds outside the chords" [xuan wai zhi yin], and it is only through the understanding of language [words] and yet not insisting on language that one can attain the "meaning without words" [wu yan zhi yi] or, the "meaning outside the words" [yan wai zhi yi].
From the above we can see quite clearly that the method with which the argument "taking non-being as the origin" [yi wu wei ben] was made by Wang Bi was very different from the analytical approach adopted by the Kong zong of prajna Buddhist teaching. The approach taken by Wang Bi was the method of de yi wang yan [attain the meaning and lose, or forget, the words] which is a peculiarly metaphysical method of the xuanxue scholars.
When we have compared and studied the various aspects of the gui wu [valuing non-being] school of Wei-Jin xuanxue, as exemplified by Wang Bi, and the Kong zong [Emptiness school] of Indian prajna teaching, we shall be able to see more clearly each school's characteristics and its level of development. Only on such a basis can we clarify the relationship between Buddhism and Wei-Jin Daoist metaphysics during the period immediately or shortly after the introduction of Buddhism into China.
In issue no. 1, 1980 of Zhexue Yanjiu [Philosophical Studies], an article was published on "A Brief Discussion on the Theories of Early Daoist Religion on the Questions of Life and Death and Form and Spirit." In that essay, comparisons were made of the Daoist religion and Buddhism during the period of the Wei, Jin, and North and South dynasties, focusing on their respective views regarding life and death, and the question of jietuo [emancipation, or, in the Buddhist case, more commonly known as deliverance; in Sanskrit, mukti, or moksa]. The article pointed out that on these questions between these two religions, both of which were popular at the time, there were three major differences:
(1) On the question of life and death, the Daoist religion advocated adopting the notion of "everlasting life" [i.e., non-perishing] as the goal, whereas Buddhism advocated taking "eternal extinction" [i.e., non-life] as the goal. Daoism (Taoism)'s idea of emancipation advocated the transformation of mortal flesh into immortality by way of an integration of the body and the spirit such that this integrated substance may live on in non-perishable eternal life and in so doing be separated from the trouble-laden world of the present and enter the spiritual world of fantasy and illusion. Buddhism, on the other hand, believed that the source of the pains of human life was the "life of being," which was the state in which the spirit was connected to the body. Within this state of "life of being," until the spirit achieves Nirvana it must always return in the cycles of incarnation. Only by transcending these cycles of incarnation becoming separated from the body and returning to everlasting extinction, can the spirit be delivered from the sea of bitterness that is human life.
(2) On the question of form and spirit, Daoism (Taoism) advocated the achievement of immortality by having the spirit and form become one. Buddhism advocated having the form and spirit separated from one another and thereby achieving Buddhahood. Buddhism believed that, unless the spirit became separated from the form, it would not be able to escape the cycles of incarnation and could not be delivered: to be delivered the spirit must be separated from the form, and, in response to its own completed destiny, enter extinction and perish. Daoism (Taoism) believed that the path of transcending life and death and becoming liberated did not lie in this sort of completed destiny or extinction but in the immortalization of the flesh and for the flesh to become immortal it cannot, and must not, be separated from the spirit.
(3) As to the methods of achieving liberation or deliverance Daoism (Taoism) advocated the tempering of the form, whereas Buddhism advocated the nurturing of the spirit. As Buddhism believed that the achievement of Buddhahood depended on enlightenment and realization, the chief means of achieving Nirvana was to cultivate the inner mind and enhance one's own realization or awareness. As Daoism (Taoism) believed that the achievement of immortality depended on the accumulation of successes and attainments, its chief means of achieving liberation was to temper body and mind, nurture life, and be assisted by external matter [foreign substances].
From these three points of comparison, we generally can know the characteristics of the Daoist and the Buddhist religions in China during the period of the Wei, Jin, and North and South dynasties. Daoism (Taoism)'s goal was the achievement of immortality. Though this was an impossibility, because of this people's attention was directed toward the tempering and nurturing of the functions of their own bodies and spirits [e.g., the qi gong, or breathing exercises] and to the study of external matter such as the manufacturing of pills and elixirs (foreign substances) whose assistance they counted upon for the achievement of the goal of immortality. The goal of Buddhism was to achieve Buddhahood. Though this, too, was obviously an unattainable goal, nevertheless it directed people's attentions toward the analysis of psychological activities and to the study of the cognitive processes.
Therefore, we have been able to discover that in Daoism (Taoism) there was, and is, much material related to understanding of "the way of materials" and to knowledge concerning the human body that is worthy of our own efforts of analysis and investigation. For example, the book Dao Zang [The Treasury of the Way] comprised of 5,000 to 6,000 volumes all of which, unfortunately, have yet to be systematically organized and studied, contains a wealth of information on such things as breathing exercises, medicines and herbacology (pharmacology), chemistry, hygiene, and physical education.
On the other hand, there are also over 10,000 volumes of Buddhist sutras [including sastras, annotations, and other exegetical treatises] in Chinese. In many areas, such as the analysis of psychological and psychic activity, of the processes of knowledge and cognition, the analysis of the relationship between subject and object, the analysis of concepts, perception and conceptualization, and the logical process known as vidjnana, or sometimes hetu-vidya-these Buddhist canons have much to add to our enlightenment. If we could but purge from these Daoist and Buddhist materials those parts which are unscientific, fabulous, fantastic or superstitious and analyze the remaining parts which are of positive value, it would be a most meaningful endeavor.
One of the purposes of studying comparative philosophy or comparative religion is to discover, through comparison and analysis, the characteristics of individual ideological cultures of various traditions, to identify and establish their peculiarities so that people may correctly understand and assess the status and role of these particular ideological cultures in the development of world history, and to ascertain the contributions they have made. The great treasure trove of human ideological and intellectual culture inevitably is made up of the good and superior parts of many individual ideological cultures, each with its own tradition and characteristics. If an ideological culture did not contain any special characteristic of its own, it would be difficult for it to make any contribution to human intellectual civilization. On the other hand, a culture which becomes the ideological culture of a nation, or a part thereof, is bound to have its own special characteristics and therefore is bound to make some contribution to the ideological culture of the human race as a whole.
THE ISOLATION OF OLD TOPICS AND NEW ISSUES
Finally, in the comparative study of two ideological cultures of different traditions we should attend to the discovery and re-discovery of problems to be mulled over and solved, and to proposing new topics or lessons for investigation and study.
Jin Kemu, in his article "Shi lun fan yu zhong di 'you yi chuanzai'" [A Tentative Discussion of the Terms, or Expressions, for 'Being, Unity and Existence' in Sanskrit] pointed out that there are several roots, or radicals, for the expressions in Sanskrit that stand for the notions of being, unity, or existence. The more common ones, he tells us--and there are two of them--are as and bhu. These are both translated in the Chinese language as you [being]. For example, in the translation of the Zhong bian fen bie lun [The Treatise on the Differences between the Mean and the Extremes] [written by Vasubandhu] made by Chen Zhenti, and in the translation of the Bian zhong bian lun [The Treatise on the Debate Between the Doctrines of the Mean and the Extremes] made by Xuan Zang, the term "sattvau." was consistently translated as you [being]. However, bhava [having, or possession], one of the dvadasanga pratityasamutpada, or Twelve yinyuan [nidanas, or combinations of causes], was also translated as you [being]. As refers to existence or being in the simple, abstract sense, or, if you will, the static, absolute sense, whereas bhu refers to existence in the transforming or specific sense, or in the moving, relative sense.
We also know that in ancient Greek philosophy, particularly in the Aristotelian system of thought, "substance" was also divided into two categories: primary substance and secondary substance. The two possessed different meanings. The former does not refer to simple and pure matter, nor to the general form common to the various matters, but to the individual units of matter and their forms. The second meaning of substance [or, secondary substance] referred, on the other hand, to the general form, or concept or category of matter, which becomes individualized in each separate matter.
Does this fact--that, while in Sanskrit, corresponding to various linguistic radicals, the terms for "being, unity, and existence" have different meanings, and that the term "substance" in the Aristotelian system of thought also has various meanings--enlighten us in any way? In the Chinese translations of the Buddhist canons the term for existence and being, which had different meanings in the original, all were translated as you. In Chinese traditional philosophy, then, did the concept conveyed by the term you also have various meanings? When Pei Wei, in his Cong you lun [Treatise on the Exaltation of Being] spoke of "self-generating and inevitably existent in substance" [zi sheng er bie ti you] did the term you there refer to specifically existent matters or to the general existence of matter? Again, in the usage of Guo Xiang's Zhuangzi Zhu [Annotations on Zhuangzi] did the term you sometimes refer to the specifically existent matters and sometimes to the general existence of matter? These are all questions which call for further investigation and require deeper analyses of the meaning(s) contained in the term you in traditional Chinese philosophy.
In his book Ti yong lun [On Substance and Use], Xiong Shili proposed that the essential and fundamental difference between traditional Chinese philosophy and Indian Buddhism was that where traditional Chinese philosophy talked about the "one-ness of substance and use" [ti yong ru yi] Indian Buddhism separated substance from use, rending the two asunder. Whether or not Xiong's conclusion was correct is not something we wish to make a point of in our discussion here, but certainly it can be said that the problem which he raised in his study of these two ideological cultures stemming from different traditions is most likely to have considerable significance for the study of the characteristics of the Chinese philosophical tradition itself.
From the perspective of the general trends in the development of traditional Chinese philosophy, it can be seen that the notions of tian dao [Heaven's Way] and ren dao [the way of humanity] generally are considered to be consistent and integrated one with the other--in other words, it was assumed that the ideal should and could be realized in present reality. Even in the xuanxue metaphysics of the Wei-Jin period, although this system of thought took the ideas of Lao Zi and Zhuangzi to be its framework, the ultimate pursuit of the metaphysicians was still to achieve the "way of the inner sage and the outward monarch combined" [nei sheng wai wang zhi dao] which was contained in the "paradise which is naturally possessed by the Great Teaching" [ming jiao zhong zi you le di], i.e., in Confucianism. When the Song-Ming neo-Confucianists opposed Buddhism and Daoism (Taoism), they did so chiefly on the grounds that Buddhists and Daoists, according to the neo-Confucianists, "pursued the illusory transcendental periphery of the universe of that which was real." The neo-Confucianists claimed to believe fundamentally that "the ethics of the norm" [gang chang] and the great teaching [ming jiao] equaled "the principle of heaven" [tian li]. On the other hand, in Chinese Buddhism, too, and particularly in the Chan School, the teaching was that "achieving Buddhahood" did not require leaping out of, or being separated from a life of reality. The Chan Buddhists said, "Carrying water, cutting firewood, all these contained the most wonderful way and truth"--that is, it was possible for one to become enlightened to the wonderful way of achieving Buddhahood even in the mundane routines of everyday life.
When we compare China's traditional philosophy with the transcendentalist "going outside of the world" notion in Indian Buddhism, can we say that Chinese philosophy, after all, remained indeed faithful to the idea of "one-ness of substance and use" and that it was for this reason that the notions of complete transcendentalism were never able to become part of the mainstream of traditional Chinese thought? As I see it, this, too, is a question which merits further and more penetrating investigation.
If we were to apply the comparative method to the study of the philosophical ideas and religious doctrines of various ideological cultures which stemmed from different traditions, such as the ideological culture of China and that of India, or that of the Western world, we will, I believe, discover even more lessons to be learned and topics to be discussed.
Over a hundred years ago that Marx and Engels pointed out: "Because the bourgeoisie opened up a world market, the production and consumption of the various countries have become universalized. . . . This is true not only of material production, but of the products of the mind and spirit as well. The spiritual products of the nations have become their common property, and the partialism and parochialism of the individual nations have become daily increasingly impossible. Therefore, out of the literature of the many nations and places of the world a world literature has been formed."
According to the editor-annotator, the term "literature" here referred to writing in many areas, including science, art and philosophy. We have now reached the 1980s; our age is much more advanced than that of 1848 when Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto. The interflow of ideas and culture and the interaction between peoples and civilizations have become even more widespread and profound. The comparative study of philosophy and religion is bound to promote the study of the history of Chinese philosophy. In the comparative study of ideological cultures of different traditions we can discover the common laws which govern the development of things; we can expose and demonstrate the characteristics and levels of development of various ideological cultures and expand the contents and scope of our study. Will this also play a part in the enrichment and enhancement of the development of Marxism? I am sure that it will.
*Tang Yijie, "On the Significance to Study Comparative Philosophy and Comparative Religion through the Study on the Introduction of Indian Buddhism into China." Zhexue Luncong [Collection of Philosophical Discourses], no. 8, August, 1983, pp. 272-301.
1. See Tang Yongtong's essay "Du renwu zhi" [On Reading Biographies] in Wei Jin xuan xue lun gao [Draft Essays on the Daoist Metaphysical Teachings of the Wei and Jin].
RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN TRADITIONAL AND
IMPORTED THOUGHT AND CULTURE IN CHINA
THE IMPORTATION OF BUDDHISM
Historically, there were three major occasions when China imported foreign culture and ideology. The first was the importation of Buddhism--the focus of this paper.
The second cultural incursion was that of Western culture, an event which, for a time, gave rise to debate over the respective merits of things past and present, Chinese and foreign. From a philosophical standpoint, this event raised questions concerning the relationships between Western and Chinese philosophy. Many modern philosophers, whether or not they were aware of it, were in actuality striving to reconcile these two vastly different cultures. Before Liberation, Feng Youlan (Feng Youlan)a was perhaps most successful in reconciling the two. His "New Rationalism" may be seen as an attempt to use Western pragmatism to resolve several traditional Chinese philosophical questions. That he did not succeed in determining the true course of Chinese philosophical development can be seen in the fact that, in practice, he failed to solve China's social problems.
The third event was the importation of Marxism, a European ideology developed in response to European historical conditions. In order for Marxism to take root in China, it must also, in a certain sense, merge with traditional Chinese culture and thought. That is to say, it must pass through a stage of critical acceptance of traditional culture.
Jia Yib in his "Guo Chin Lun"c (Treatise on the Failings of Ch'in) quoted an old adage: "The unforgotten events of the past are teachers of the future." Can we today learn anything from the contacts between imported Buddhism and traditional Chinese culture? I think we can.
I would like to discuss three important elements which characterized Buddhism's spread in China.
First, is the fact that when Buddhism first entered China, it tended to attach itself to native ideologies. Only later did it gradually develop and begin to influence those ideologies.
When, during the Han dynasty, Buddhism entered China, it identified itself with native religious practitioners. During the Wei-Jin period, Buddhism identified itself with the "Mysterious Learning"d then popular.
During the Han Dynasty, Buddhism was often seen as on par with the Huang-Laoe School. Thus, King Ying of Chu is reported as having "recited the subtle words of Huang-Laoe and respectfully performed human sacrifices to the Buddha," while Emperor Huanf "set up shrines to Huang-Lao and the Buddha in his palace."
Buddhist disciples of the period even identified themselves as "practitioners of the techniques of the Way." The "Lihuo lun"g (Treatise on Rectifying Error) of the Mozi (Mo Tzu)h states: "There are ninety-six distinct ways, but, among those worthy of veneration, none is so great as the teachings of the Buddha." The Sutra in Forty-two Sectionsi also styles itself "the Way of the Buddha."
At that time the principal tenets preached by Buddhist missionaries were the immortality of the soul and karmic retribution; such Indian concepts as the "non-existence of the self" were simply not understood. The immortality of the soul was already present in traditional Chinese thought, but only in the concept of spirits. The Wen Wang Ode of the Shi Jing (Shih Ching)j says of the former Zhou Kings, "The Three Directors are in Heaven," that is, their souls have ascended. The "Jingshen Xun" of the Huai Nan Zik asserts that "the form may be ground away, but the spirit is not transformed." As a result of these beliefs, Huan Tanl held that "when the form comes to an end, the spirit is easily destroyed," while Wang Chongm argued that "when men die, they do not become ghosts (spirits)."
That the immortality of the soul or spirit depended on "refining and nurturing" was also a native Chinese concept.
As for karmic retribution, while the Buddhist conception did not exactly accord with that of China, it was promulgated during the Han and was compatible with the Chinese notion that "good fortune comes to those who are good and evil to the dissolute." Witness the Wen-yen gloss to the Qian hexagram of the Yi Jing (I Ching)n: "Those who accumulate good deeds will certainly have an excess of blessings, while those who accumulate bad deeds will have an excess of calamity."
During the end of the Han and the beginning of the Three Kingdoms period, as Buddhist translations increased, Buddhism divided into two main schools. The first was the An Shi Gaoo lineage of Hinayana Buddhism, emphasizing meditation. The second was the Lokak sema lineage of Mahayana Buddhism, which emphasized prajna.
An Shi Gao translated a number of sutras among which the most influential were the Anapansmrti-sutra (T602) and the Yin chi Ru Jing (T1694). The former emphasis breath control, a practice comparable to the "inhalation and exhalation" (tu-na)p methods of Chinese seekers of transcendence. The latter explicates Buddhist numerical categories and may be compared to Han exegetical studies.
With regard to man's place in the cosmos, the theories of these sutras are based on the concept of "primal breath" and state that primal breath encompasses the Five Phases which they equate with the five skandas. It can be seen that the Hinayana practices expounded by the An Shi Gao lineage were assimilated to the popular religious practices and thought of the day which then used them to explicate Buddhism.
The prajna concept taught by the Lokaksema lineage held as its most important truth the "return of the spirit to its original perfection and union with the Way." In this we see already the influence of the philosophy of the Laozi (Lao Tzu)q and the Zhuangzi.r
Zhi Qian (Chih Ch'ien),s the disciple of Lokaksema's disciple Zhi Lian, re-translated the Prajnaparamita sutra as the Ta Ming Du Wu Ji Jing.t This title itself betrays the influence of the Laozi (Lao Tzu) and Zhuangzi. His translation of "Grand luminescence" for prajna probably draws on the phrase, "He who knows the eternal nature of things appears luminous," from the Laozi (Lao Tzu). The translation "cross to the illimitable" for paramita also means to reach a state of union with the Way, that is the illimitable Dao.
Zhi Qian (Chih Ch'ien)'s gloss for the first chapter states: "My Master (that is Chih Liàngu) said: "The heart of the Bodhisativa treads the Great Way. Wishing to embody the Way, his heart and the way merge. For this reason, the formless is called the `empty void'." This is the same point reached in Ruan Ji's': Biography of the Prior-born Great Man," wherein the great man merges with the way. The latter phrase recalls as well the Laozi (Lao Tzu) statement, "The constant nature of the Way is formless."
Zhi Qian (Chih Ch'ien) and the others believed that man's heart and spirit originated in the Dao, but, because of such flaws of the latter heavens as desire, man can no longer join with the Dao. For the heart and spirit to escape these limitations, one must embody one's origin, the Dao, and become a Buddha. This is undoubtedly a Buddhism assimilated to the thought of the Laozi (Lao Tzu) and Zhuangzi.
During the Wei-Jin period the ontology of Mysterious Learning, based on the Laozi (Lao Tzu) and the Zhuangzi, was very popular. The central issues discussed in the Mysterious Learning were questions of fundamental cause and secondary effects as well as existence and non-existence. Buddhist prajna studies were fairly similar to the concerns of Mysterious Learning, so many monks used it to explain Buddhist principles. Dao An,w for example, wrote in his Pi-nai-yehx (Preface to the Vinaya):
Among the twelve sections of the Tripitaka, the vaipulya section is the largest due to the fact that Laozi (Lao Tzu) and Zhuangzi have spread teachings in this country similar to the Fang-teng Jing and Prajnaparamita sutra and thus it has been easy to travel with the wind.
Even the clerics of that time recognized that the popularity of Buddhism was due to the thought of the Laozi (Lao Tzu) and Zhuangzi.
What is the reason for this situation? As Engels has said: "Tradition is a great conservative force." It seems that any cultural ideology has its conservative aspects and will resist foreign culture. Because of this, foreign ideologies must first adapt themselves to the requirements of the native ideology, attaching themselves to a native thought system. Elements of the foreign ideology which are similar or identical to the native ideology are easily transmitted, while dissimilar elements seep in only gradually to eventually change the native ideology.
The second element involves the reason why Buddhism, as a foreign importation, was able to have such a strong impact on Chinese culture. In addition to the fact that it met certain social needs, it often accorded with the natural development of Chinese thought.
The Mysterious Learning of the Wei-Chin period developed from Wang Bix and He Yan'sy emphasis on Non-being as the source of all existence through Guo Xiangg'sz emphasis on Being ("The ten-thousand things are born of themselves,") to Chang Chanaa of the Eastern Chin, who contended that "in being suddenly born of themselves, the Source of all things resides in Non-being." Finally there was Seng Zhao,ab who held that "the Emptiness of the Unreal" consisted of a negation of both Being and Non-being. Why was the Mysterious Learning of the Wei Chin period summed up in Seng Zhao's prajna inspired doctrine? Precisely because this was one possible outcome to which this philosophical system tended.
Beginning with He Yan and particularly Wang Bi, Mysterious Learning was much engrossed with the relationship between Being and Non-being, which was explained in terms of substance and function. It was held that "Non-being may not be understood in terms of Non-being, (so) it draws its name from Being." Thus Non-being was held to be the Original substance, which expressed itself as Being so that its substance and function were as one. However, since Wang Bi emphasized the unconditional nature of Non-being, there was also the tendency to glorify the Original substance while neglecting its expression as Being. This was an internal contradiction in the thought of Wang Bi.
From just this element of Wang Bi's thought, we can extrapolate the negation of Being (which was fully realized in Seng Zhao's system).
Wang Bi's emphasis on Non-being was further refined by Xiang Xiuac and Pei Guad and eventually developed into Guo Xiangg's emphasis on Being. According to Guo Xiang, all existence was comprised of individual concrete objects. Beyond these material objects there was no Original substance (i.e., no creator). The existence of the ten-thousand things was based solely on their "self-nature." This self-nature was self-generated. He wrote "Non-being has no reality and thus cannot give birth to Being." This direct contradiction of non-existence contains within it the seeds of (Seng Zhao's) negation of existence.
These two developments fit exactly the Prajna School's negation of Being and Non-being. So Seng Zhao's doctrine of the Emptiness of the Unreal continues the philosophical development begun by Wang Bi and Guo Xiangg. We may, then, trace the historical development of Mysterious Learning from Wang Bi through Guo Xiangg to Seng Zhao. Later, the San-lun Schoolae (Madhyamika) would develop Seng Zhao's doctrine and Hui Nengaf of the Chan Schoolag would further refine it and eventually influence the Neo-Confucianism of the Song and Ming dynasties.
The reason for this development is that ideologies have certain set principles of development. Unless interrupted, later developments always grow out of earlier tendencies. Also, an ideology often has several possible ways in which it might develop, so that, if an important ideology accords in important respects with one possible line of development, it can have a very great impact. The important ideology may then become a constituent element of the native ideology and, to a greater or lesser extent, influence the development of the native culture.
Thirdly, the reason that Buddhism was able to work such a lasting influence on Chinese thought and culture, was that, in certain respects, it was superior to native Chinese systems of thought. In this way it was able to act as a stimulus in the development of Chinese culture.
The question of the Indian Buddhist prajna doctrine's superiority to native Chinese modes of thought is one that must be examined closely from every angle before a conclusion can be reached. This we are not able to do here, so we will only examine the prajna system's resolution of the contradiction inherent in the doctrine of the negation of Being and Non-being. Despite the fact that, like the thought of Wang Bi and Guo Xiangg, this doctrine is an instance of idealism, it is undoubtedly superior to theirs in that it can be used to analyze problems from two opposite directions. Even though Seng Zhao's doctrine of the "Emptiness of the Unreal" can be seen as an extension of Wang Bi and Guo Xiangg, it goes beyond their systems in that it accords fairly well with the Indian prajna system.
In my opinion, after its absorption into Indian Buddhism, the idea of a creator or a spiritual entity which fashioned heaven and earth never again occupied an important position in China's idealism. This was replaced by such abstract concepts as the Confucian liah (the "natural pattern") and Daoai ("the Way"), which, as first principles, determined human existence in the universe. Sometimes "Heart mind"aj was made a first principle; it was held that "the heart is the natural pattern" or that "the natural pattern merges in the heart." This is a feature of Sung and Ming dynasty philosophy. As this sort of idealism developed, it became the most important form of Chinese traditional philosophy.
However, even for a relatively superior foreign ideology to influence another culture it must, in addition to satisfying certain economic and political conditions, also meet the first two requirements we have discussed. If it does not, then even a superior ideology will fail to take root in the host country. For example, the "Treatise on the Completion of Ideation Only" (Wei-shih hun)ak brought in by Xuan Zangal and Hetuvidya (Yin-ming xüeam) are both fairly lofty constructions, but, despite Xuan Zang's reputation, they were not influential in China and failed to become a constituent of Chinese philosophy.
I think that the above three points are significant phenomena attending Buddhism's importation into China. With these in mind, I would like to bring up a question of current concern: can Marxism merge with traditional Chinese thought and culture. This is a large and difficult question. Predictions are hard to make, but it can be explained. In the abstract, most people respond that they wish for a merger of the two, but the question is whether this is possible and how it could be achieved.
Here I wish only to discuss a few thoughts drawn from the second of the points above: If Marxism is to take root in China, continuing lines of development begun in traditional Chinese thought and culture, the chief issue is to find points of convergence between the two so both Chinese philosophy and Marxism will progress.
Marxism is undoubtedly a superior ideology. Moreover, it developed in the West so that there are great differences between it and traditional Chinese thought. It is also a vast system of thought, so that it is difficult to know just where to search for points of convergence. Naturally, I cannot here discuss the problem in its entirety. I merely wish to raise a few examples.
The dialectical methodology of Marxism centers on the law of the unity of opposites, and takes actual practice as the only standard of determining truth. This I believe to be correct. If related principles can be found among those fundamental to traditional Chinese philosophy, then cannot Marxism be sinified and become a further development of Chinese philosophy?
The central problem of traditional Chinese philosophy as defined by ancient philosophers and historians is the question of the relationship between man and heaven. The traditional answer to this question, in most cases, has been that heaven (that is the natural world, or the way of heaven) and man (society, or the way of man) are one. From this unity derives the unity of thought and action and, in art, the unity of subjective feeling and objective expression. (This is what Wang Fu calls the interface of emotion and scene.)
These three unities of man and heaven, of thought and action, and the unity of subjectivity and objectivity are questions of "truth," "goodness" and "beauty." Chinese philosophy, then, emphasizes unity, a fact which may have something to do with Chinese thought processes or social conditions. Confucian thought has always emphasized the Grand Unity and the Way of the Mean, and opposed excess.
If we correctly understand this unity and do not regard it as inflexible, then it is easy to see it as an active unification as in the Yi Zhuan (I Chuan) phrases "giving birth without cessation" and "Heavens movements enduring while the Xunzi (Hsün Tzu)an never ceases in expanding himself."
Would it be wrong, then, to see struggle, (or "movement") as the traditional technique of Chinese philosophy by which union was achieved, with the unities of heaven and man, knowledge and action, subjective and objective as the goals of this striving? If so, then this is a point of convergence between traditional Chinese philosophy and Marxism. From one standpoint, the Marxist law of the reconciliation of opposites is a superior summation and more scientific continuation of traditional Chinese philosophy. From another, absorbing Chinese ideas of unity would enrich Marxism.
Another special characteristic of Chinese philosophy is that it has never separated its theories of knowledge from questions of moral cultivation. Thus questions of knowledge and action are at once epistemological and moral. To know one must be able to put something into practice. The unity of thought and action, then, is an important concept.
From the point of view of the development of thought, it is proper and even necessary to separate epistemological and moral questions. The failure to do so may have been a shortcoming. Looked at from another angle, however, the traditional Chinese concept of putting moral theories into action has a great significance.
"Practice" in Marxism primarily denotes production struggle, class struggle and scientific experimentation. Of course, such things as the "struggle against Japan," an example of social practice, also included moral practice. "Is it not meaningful, then, to emphasize moral practice"?
I think that such an emphasis would have two important results: first, it would raise our self-evaluation and cause us to view ourselves as moral human beings; second, it would cause us to pay attention to the results of our actions.
I think that if we can overcome the confusion of traditional Chinese philosophy with respect to practice and, moreover, refine it through reference to Marxist views, we can make it more scientific and more correct.
This would serve both to advance traditional Chinese philosophy and to sinify Marxism. The moral emphasis on the unity of thought and action in practice would also enrich Marxism. If this is so, then here is yet another point of convergence between traditional Chinese philosophy and Marxism.
Undoubtedly Marxism must develop, thus it must be an open system, and not a closed one. If it is to develop in China, then it must resolve the question of its merger with traditional Chinese culture. Naturally, the convergence of two such extremely different entities is difficult, but the need to advance Chinese philosophy requires that we strive to do so.
The advancement of Chinese philosophy depends on Marxism's union with the better elements of that philosophy. The modern generation of philosophers is faced with this responsibility. I myself am without special abilities. I can only express my feelings through an old adage: "Though I cannot achieve it, I aspire to do so."
THE ATTEMPT OF MATTEO RICCI TO LINK
CHINESE AND WESTERN CULTURES
When introduced into another country or nation a foreign culture is confronted by the problem of how to treat that cultural tradition. If it wishes to spread easily and exert influence in the country in which it is introduced it must identify with that country's native culture. Hence, as the attitude of Matteo Ricci towards traditional Chinese culture is related to his missionary goals in contacting Chinese and especially Confucianist culture, he developed an intensive knowledge of that culture and recognized its very positive value. Therefore, his missionary work is related to an important issue in the history of culture: how effectively to blend not only into one but to communicate between two cultural traditions with different backgrounds. This is the heart of the problem of cultural transplantation. Most probably, he appreciated well the significance of solving the problem and on the hole took a positive attitude towards Confucianist culture. We may observe this problem in two aspects: one is his own description of the problem; the other is how the literati of the period or a little later looked upon Matteo Ricci.
Matteo Ricci not only had a good command of Chinese, but also knew a great deal about Chinese customs and etiquette. He not only dressed in Confucianist style and called himself a "Western Confucianist" (xiru) with a square piece of cloth on his head, but also followed the etiquette of a Chinese scholar when meeting visitors. He made a careful study of ancient Chinese classics and records and regarded Confucius as a great man of wide knowledge. Of The Four Books (sishu) which he translated he wrote that it "was written by the four great philosophers and is full of reasonable ethical thought."1 To his mind, "it is no use at all just to know our learning without the knowledge of theirs."2
But how did he treat Chinese culture? In a letter of February 15, 1609, to another missionary he wrote:
As I have gradually illustrated, they (the Chinese) also appreciate very much the principle of filial piety, although one might hold different views. To date from its very beginning, they faithfully followed natural law in ancient times, just like the case in our country. In 1500, this nation did not simply worship any idols. Even though they did worship some, these idols were not so detestable as those worshipped by our Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Some of the gods were even very moral and well-known for their good conduct. As a matter of fact, in the most ancient and authoritative works of the literati, they only worshipped Heaven and Nature and their common master. When making a careful study of all these works, we may find few things contrary to reason, but instead, most of them are corresponding to reason. And their natural philosophers are no worse than anyone else.3
The above quotations make clear the following: (1) Ricci knew very well traditional--especially Confucian--Chinese culture. As in ancient society, China was dominated by the patriarchal clan system and moral importance was attached to filial piety based on the principle of blood relation and "natural law." In China worship of Heaven and Nature also is moral and hence naturally "reasonable." Being quite knowledgeable regarding Chinese culture, Ricci regarded Confucianism not as a kind of religion, but rather as based on "natural law." (2) Ricci highly appreciated China's Confucianist culture. He saw that the idolatry in ancient Chinese culture was not like that of the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans and hence that ancient Chinese philosophy, in speaking of human nature and heavenly principles, transcended Western philosophy. This appears in his answer to Xu Guangqi's question, "China now, when virtue and rite and cultural relics are all prevailing, really flourishes culturally as though it has dispelled clouds and seen the sun again."4 This may be due to the fact that as Catholic he attached great importance to opposing idolatry and advocating morality. Matteo Ricci was strongly against the idolatry of Buddhism and Daoism (Taoism), but he did not regard Confucian worship as a kind of idolatry. Thus we can say, that, on the whole, Matteo Ricci agreed with and appreciated the orthodox Confucianist thought of Chinese culture.
As Xu Guangqi believed in Catholicism through his contact with Ricci, he respected Ricci both for his learning and for his morality. He noted that in Ricci's speech, "you cannot find even a single word which runs counter to the principle of loyalty and piety, nor can you find one harmful to the will of the people and the world."5 That Xu Guangqi should attach special importance to "loyalty and piety" was influenced strongly by traditional Chinese ideas and it is on this basis that Matteo Ricci preached the Catholic doctrines and received Chinese culture. One passage in Ten Discourses by a Paradoxical Man describes the statement of Gong Dacan made on Matteo Ricci:
On hearing his wise talk, I feel that the Confucian classics of China and those of his country corroborate each other. Thus those who believe in the real sages, either from the East or from the West, from the North or from the South, are actually all the same.6
All the Chinese scholars mentioned above think that what Ricci preached corresponded to traditional Chinese thought, especially to that of Confucianism, the most fundamental linking point of which lies in "the principle of loyalty and piety." As far as we know, although the Chinese intellectuals at the time set store in Ricci's knowledge of astronomy, almanac, science and technology, they valued even more highly his attempt to combine Western with Chinese culture. This probably is one of the earliest manifestations of "regarding Chinese learning as the body and Western learning for use." I shall discuss this problem later on.
MODES OF RELATING ORIENTAL AND OCCIDENTAL CULTURES
Judging from the above two aspects we see that, while doing missionary work in China, Matteo Ricci actually was trying to link Oriental and Occidental cultures. On this premise, we would conclude that his attempt adopted the methods of "linking Catholicism with Confucianism" (heru), "using the Catholic doctrines as a complement to Confucianism" (buru), "making in some respects the Catholic doctrines transcend the Confucian ones" (chaoru) "and making some revisions of the Catholic doctrines so that they would concord with the Confucianist ones" (furu). In short, on the above bases Ricci attempted to discover the point at which Oriental and Occidental cultures could be linked.
Linking Catholicism with Confucianism (heru)
Matteo Ricci wrote three important books on Catholic doctrines: The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven, Ten Discoursed by a Paradoxical Man and Twenty-five Sayings from Epictetus. The original title of the first one is "The True Meaning of the Learning of Heaven." Obviously, he first thought of avoiding the name "the Lord of Heaven" because there is no such thing in China, to facilitate its reception by the Chinese. Fang Yingjing explains in the Preface as follows:
This book is about the questions and answers between Matteo Ricci and his fellow friends and five Chinese. What is the Lord of Heaven? It is God. It does exist.
The edition of The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven in the Ming Dynasty often used the titles "God" and "Heaven" for "the Lord of Heaven" or "the Lord of Supremacy," while the present edition often uses instead "the Lord of Heaven" and "the Lord of Supremacy" simply because Ricci used those titles in order to be easily received by the Chinese. Thus in ancient times the Chinese people worshipped Heaven, their state and their forefathers, but not "the Lord of Heaven." He tries to conform to this by quoting the classics to show that in ancient China "the Lord of Heaven" is God himself. The Chinese classics which he quotes include The Book of Songs (shi), The Book of History (shu), The Book of Rites (li), The Book of Changes (yi) and The Doctrine of the Mean (zhongyong). These quotes appear more frequently in The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven. For instance, in Discourse 6 of Vol. II, where he answers the question about "rewarding the good and punishing the evil," he more than once quotes Chinese classics to confirm that the doctrines of Catholicism should be combined with those of Confucianism. (1) Matteo Ricci is quite aware of the existence of a supreme personal "God" in ancient China, regarding which he argues that the "Lord of Heaven" in Western Catholicism and "God" in China are one thing with different names. (2) Criticizing Zhu Xi's explanation, he argues that there is only one "supreme lord," not two (heaven and earth). In his Introduction to The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven he notes that the ancient sage advised that the subject should be faithful, but that they cannot be faithful to two lords. Of the three Cardinal Guides, ruler guiding subject stands first for since a state has its head, how can heaven and earth not have their lord? As a state should be unified, how can heaven and earth have two lords? All these ideas obviously show his interpretations of the Catholic doctrines in relation to Confucianism. (3) Quoting the ancient classics he also states that God wills to impose fortune and misfortune on humanity. (4) So God has his own "sphere" (ting) which is different from the "heaven" (tian) in nature. From all these we can see that what Matteo Ricci attempts to prove that Catholicism coincides with Confucianism and the ancient Chinese classics.
Complementing Confucianism (buru)
Lettere dalla China is a note written by Matteo Ricci in Italian in China. Later a British missionary translated it from Italian into Latin and added something concerning the history of missionary work as well as of Matteo Ricci, the missionary. It also has an appendix relating the missionary's posthumous glory and pathos. One passage in the book reads as follows:
In answering what the main content of Christianity is, Dr. Xu Guangqi sums it up very exactly in four Chinese characters: "expelling Buddhism and complementing Confucianism" (qufuburu). That is to say, he wants to expel the idol of Buddhism and add something to the doctrines of Confucianism.7
As generally any religion is characterized by excluding others, Ricci criticized Buddhism and Daoism (Taoism), especially the former, since he wanted to bring Catholicism to China; this shows signs in nearly all his works. St. Augustine once pointed out that the main content of a heathen religion should resolutely be given up, but that the ideas put forward by some heathen philosophers should be taken into account, accepted or approved if they were really reasonable. Matteo Ricci took this approach to the doctrines of Confucianism. He declared that Confucianism had nothing to do with religion, but was rather a kind of philosophy. He particularly esteemed Confucius, noting that as Confucius lived five centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ he could not know what was to happen 500 years later. "Ricci just quotes the classics of Confucianism in their own terms, saying nothing of how they should be evaluated after the death of Confucius."8 In Ten Discourses by a Paradoxical Man there is a passage about Gong Dacan's discussion with Ricci on the issue: "whether good or evil will be rewarded posthumously." Gong first notes that the Chinese classics, because Emperor Qin Shihuang burned books and persecuted scholars after the death of Confucius, lost the records of the paradise, hell and retribution, which are still in a good state of preservation in the West: "Thus the stories about the paradise and hell are well preserved." In China, the story of retribution in later ages "is both vague and strange to scholars, who half believe and half doubt its existence." Gong also tries to prove the probable existence of the paradise by quoting ancient classics, but he still doubts the idea that "bestowing charity is bound to be rewarded a place and stand long." Ricci explains this according to the doctrines of Catholicism in which retribution to those who bestow favor does not consist in "place" or "life span." A man living in the world should work hard for the Lord of Heaven instead of intending to be rewarded in his lifetime; he should be confident that he will finally go to the paradise. Therefore, answering Xu Guangqi he says: "Those who suffer simply for benefit and emolument or fame and official rank or lasciviousness rather than the sacred cause are actually tragic. But those who suffer for the Lord of Heaven are obviously happy and seem to live in the paradise."9 It is apparent that he wants to complement the thought of Confucianism with Catholic doctrines, but the approach he adopts is not to negate the Confucian classics but to extend and develop them so as to show that the Confucian ideas do not run counter to those of Western religions but may be complemented by them.
In The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven many passages deal with the "retribution of good and evil." In Discourse VI "On Man's Being Rewarded with Heaven or Punished with Hell after Death," he more or less complements and revises the Confucianist concept that "the family always doing good is bound to be fortunate, whereas the family always doing evil is doomed to misfortune." To him, there is not only retribution in one's lifetime or to one's descendants (he seems not to be favor of that to one's descendants). What is more important is posthumous retribution: those who do good will go to Heaven instead of going to Hell after death. But as their purpose is not just this, Ricci adds:
All those who do good usually have three intentions: (1) to go to Heaven instead of going to Hell; (2) to reward the kindness bestowed by the Lord of Heaven; and (3) just to follow the imperial edict given by the Lord of Heaven.10
The first intention serves as a bridge in order for one to reach the third; that is, doing good is after all following the imperial edict. However, the Confucianists did not know this, and even criticized the concepts of Heaven and Hell simply because they could not understand their deep significance: "The Confucianists criticize the concepts of the Heaven and Hell because they do not know truth."11 We can see roughly the difference between Catholicism and China's Confucianist tradition. Since the Confucianists talk about "the retribution of good or evil" just from personal moral cultivation, so everyone should "have self-cultivation" or "stick to morality" only for the purpose of reaching one's inner moral accomplishment. In this sense, it is pursuing a kind of "inner transcendence." But the Catholic doing good is after all for "the Lord of Heaven," which is a kind of power of "outer transcendence." So it pursues or follows a kind of "outer transcendence." I shall discuss this problem later on.
Transcending Confucianism (chaoru)
The aim of China's Confucianist theory is to pursue "inner transcendence," whereas that of Catholicism is to pursue "outer transcendence." In The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven Matteo Ricci points out this shortcoming of Confucianism and criticizes it.12
As far as we know, traditional Chinese philosophy, and Confucianist philosophy in particular, is strikingly different from Western philosophy and religion. The Greek philosophy of Plato and Aristotle already had divided the world into two parts: a transcendental noumenon and a real world. Thereafter Christianity was concerned especially with an outer transcendent God, whereas traditional Chinese philosophy was characterized by "inner transcendence." What Confucius means by "nature and the doctrine of Heaven" is a matter of inner transcendence, and what Mencius meant by "thinking hard, knowing nature and Heaven" is also a matter of "inner transcendence." There is a sentence in Xici saying: "A feminine (yin) and a masculine (yang) equals a word, and it is followed by virtue (shan) and will have a nature," which is a matter of "inner transcendence." According to this, one may reach a realm leading to a transcendental "way of Heaven" through one's own inner moral cultivation, without the help of an outer transcendent power. But for Ricci, one can hardly reach the culminating realm just through one's inner moral cultivation; one must be pushed by an outer transcendent power or God; thus it is necessary to believe in God. That is to say, Ricci considers the doctrines of Catholicism to be more perfect than those of Confucianism.
Concordance with Confucianism (furu)
This concept means that it is necessary to make some revisions of the Catholic doctrines or to yield to some of the Confucianist ideas in order to concord or chime in with China's traditional Confucianist thought.
The editor's Preface to the French 1978 edition of Lettere dalla China says:
Immediately before Ricci's death, the methods adapted by the Chinese missionary group led by him had already become an issue argued both at home and abroad. It was disputed with two objections. In practice, he was accused of paying too much attention to developing his relation to the Confucianist elite instead of pushing forward the missionary cause. In theory, he was also opposed for his positive evaluation of Confucianism. Some people even pointed out that, if so, it would run a risk of sullying the purity of Christianity. Only by means of a heightened religious emphasis can the missionary preach the Gospel to the broad masses of people and make evident the characteristics of Christianity.13
I have already pointed out that Matteo Ricci had some opinions of China's Confucianist tradition and attempted to link Western and Eastern cultures. Naturally, he knew clearly that there were many differences and conflicts between Confucianism and Catholicism and probably would have dealt with these by the methods of "complementing Confucianism" and "transcending Confucianism." If his missionary work were completely according to Catholic doctrines, however, he would have been confronted with more difficulties. Therefore, he had to make some revisions of the Catholic doctrines so as to cater to the Chinese tradition and it is not strange that he was criticized. As to how he adapted Catholicism to Confucianism, the following should be noted.
a. In order to fit Catholicism to Chinese society, he explained its differences from Chinese society. In the Italian edition of his Lettere dalla China, there is a passage describing how the Confucianist offers sacrifices to gods.
However, according to an old law, there is a grand Confucian temple in every big city where the literati gather, with a figure of Confucius enshrined and his name; every year, the literati offer sacrifices to him four times, with a candle burning and a beast is killed. However, as they do not think of him as godly or want anything of him, such a rite cannot be called a real offering.14
In Matteo Ricci's books, there are many signs of the Catholic stance against idolatry; the criticism of Buddhist idolatry is particularly strong. However, he never criticizes Confucian offerings to the Sage, nor does he criticize the Chinese offerings to their ancestors. The issue concerning offerings is an important reason why China later forbad the preaching of Catholicism. In 1704, the Vatican gave orders that Chinese Catholics should not follow traditional Chinese rites that did not conform to Catholicism. Obviously, offering sacrifices to Confucius as well as to ancestors is especially counter to Catholicism; this led the Chinese government to limit and even forbid the preaching of Catholicism. Since Matteo Ricci well understood Chinese conditions, he adopted the method of compromising with the Chinese tradition for the sake of adapting to Chinese society as well as his missionary work, although the attempts did not conform to the doctrines of Catholicism.
b. He makes some Catholic ideas conform to traditional Chinese Confucianist thought so as to enable the Chinese to accept Catholicism. As mentioned previously, the "Lord of Heaven" in Catholicism is, of course, the supreme personified God, but Ricci's The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven does not mean this according to its original title. In that book he often uses such words as "God" and "Heaven" of Chinese origin, instead of the "Lord of Heaven." According to Fang Hao's Collected Essays on The History of Chinese Catholicism, in contrast to the edition of the Ming Dynasty, it is found that the later edition has changed the words "God" or "Heaven" in the Ming to "Lord of Heaven" or "Supreme Lord" in 79 places.15 In the Chinese language there are already such words as "God" (shangdi) and "Heaven" (tian), but in traditional Chinese thought tian has several meanings. Among these Ricci takes the meanings "God," "Heaven" and the supreme personified God, but for the Chinese people there may be some other meanings. In 1715, after Ricci's death, the Pope gave an edict that the name "Lord of Heaven" was a legal one and such names as "God" and "Heaven" should no longer be used because they could be interpreted in different ways.
Also, according to Professor Luo Guang, Ricci says in his Twenty-five Sayings from Epictetus, "This book is actually composed of 25 chapters. Every chapter is short and concise. It advises people to live simply and to restrain desire and feeling. Happiness lies in one's secure state of mind without having stirred either by good fortune or misfortune. The purpose of human life lies in one's obedience to the Lord of Heaven." It is apparent then that the book is intended to conform to Chinese conditions.
c. Ricci made some revisions in the "idea of sin" in order that it should approach more closely the "idea of virtue" in China's Confucianist tradition. As the "idea of sin" in Catholicism implies, human nature cannot be considered "virtuous," which is entirely different from the "idea of human nature being virtuous" in China's traditional Confucianist thought. In accordance with St. Augustine's interpretation, man is born to be "sinful" because of his rational choice. In the final analysis, what causes man to choose evil with reason is his vanity, or an ego-centric desire that puts himself over God. Such a desire usually drives him into following his own intention and holding in contempt God's decree, which is particularly apparent in human desire. Augustine then adds that, since man intentionally chooses evil and commits sins violating God, he can never recover his original state with his own effort. For such a "sin" causes him to degenerate inevitably, being characteristically ego-centric in willing and desiring and able only to choose "committing sin" or tending to "evil."
In this regard in the 7th discourse of The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven, Ricci thinks that the "human nature" refers to what differentiates man from metal and stone, grass and wood, bird, beast and even spirit, and this is why man "can reason things out." So he says: "What can reason things out is alone called human nature, which is different from other creatures." "Virtue and morality come after reason, which itself is something dependent, and not human nature itself." Thus, "reasoning things out" refers simply to this virtuous "ability," and "human nature is born to be virtuous." This obviously caters to Confucianist ideas. But since Matteo Ricci could not completely violate the doctrines of the Lord of Heaven, he thinks that man is "able to reason things out." How can he get such an ability? Just as farmers plough, weed, remove the stones and irrigate before they sow seeds in order to get good harvests, so "learners should first of all get rid of evil before they could be virtuous. Only by standing aloof from worldly success can they be successful." As this idea is associated with that of "sin" in Catholicism, it could not but conflict with the so-called idea of "good ability." Thus it is quite difficult to reconcile one cultural tradition with another.
From the above four points we can see that Matteo Ricci preached the doctrines of Catholicism for the purpose of linking Oriental and Occidental culture together. Whether his attempt was successful or not will not be evaluated here, but that he was the very first Westerner to make such an attempt is certainly of historical importance.
"BODY AND USE" AND THE CORRELATION OF
CHINESE AND WESTERN HARMONY
In trying to link Western and Chinese culture, often we encounter the problem of the "body and use" (tiyong), of Chinese learning and Western learning. In preaching Catholicism in China, Matteo Ricci could not but consider his relation to traditional Chinese thought and culture. Similarly, in receiving Catholicism, the Chinese had to consider such a relation. Above I have discussed how he dealt with this problem. Now let us consider how the Chinese intellectuals at the time received Catholicism. In my opinion, such receivers of Catholicism at the time as Xu Guangqi, Li Zhizao and others in receiving or studying Western learning took the attitude: "Chinese learning as body and Western learning for use, we know that although the Protestants were active at that time even at the court in Beijing, yet "the Chinese court made use of them only by employing their techniques." "For example, Ricci once repaired clocks and other machines in the court, and Tang Ruowang and Nan Huairen and others joined in revising the calendar." "What China's enlightened literati were particularly interested in was to learn from them their science and knowledge." "They did not have great success in shaping China's intellectuals"16 for few Chinese intellectuals received the doctrines of Catholicism. As these were received chiefly due to his association with traditional Chinese thought, especially the Confucianist morality, his attempt can be regarded as another earlier form of "regarding Chinese learning as body and Western learning for use" formulated in the 1860s.
During subsequent centuries there have been various attempts to correlate "Chinese learning" and "Western learning" with that between "body" (ti) and "use" (yong), such as "Chinese learning as body and Western learning for use," or "Western learning as body and Chinese learning for use" and even "both the two learnings as body and Chinese learning for use" are called "all-Westernizers" (quanpan xihua pai); those who regard "Chinese learning as body and Western learning for use: are called "Chinese culture supremacists" (guocui pai). Such confusions are caused by the attempt to describe the relationship between "Chinese learning" and "Western learning" with that between "body and use." As a matter of fact, none of the above ideas are tenable.
As a pair of important categories in the history of Chinese philosophy, "body" and "use" are not substantial categories, but rather fundamental relations. "Body" (ti) generally refers to the "inner transcendental spirit" or "transcendental noumenon." It corresponds to what Mencius means by "conscience" (liangzhi or liangneng) and Wang Yangming by "mind" (xin), etc.; the latter corresponds to "God's will" (tianming), "taiji," "God's word" (tianli) and "logos" (dao), etc. "use" (yong) refers to the various functions demonstrated by such an "inner transcendental spirit" or "transcendental noumenon." According to traditional Chinese philosophy, ti and yong are unified, with the former presenting the latter for, as Wang Bi in the Wei-Jin Dynasty pointed out, there would be no corresponding yong without ti. The so-called concept of "Chinese learning as body and Western learning for use" is nothing but an effort to preserve the inner transcendental noumenon in Chinese tradition, so as to reject the Western spirit. For how could we make "Western learning for use" if we should do like that? Similarly, it is impossible to regard "Western learning as body and Chinese learning for use." The former will inevitably result in "Chinese learning both as body and for use" and, the latter, "Western learning both as body and for use."
As for "both the learnings as body and for use interchangeably," it can be interpreted as: if something in Chinese learning is good we should regard "Chinese learning as body and Western learning for use"; also, if something in Western learning is good we should in turn regard "Western learning as body and Chinese learning for use." Such an idea is obviously untenable. It will do nothing but include both attitudes in the so-called concept of regarding "both learnings as body and for use interchangeably," which is just eclectic. Professor Fang Keli involves himself in a confused eclectic situation although he criticizes the above two attitudes in his "`Chinese Learning as Body and Western Learning for Use' and `Western Learning as Body and Chinese Learning for Use'".17
It would give rise to "stealthily substituting one culture for another" if we use the relation of tiyong to explain the relationship between Chinese culture and Western culture. If we do not improve the cultural soil and other conditions, but just stealthily substitute one culture for another, the cultural foundation will not be solid. Thus to my mind, our modern society should have its modern spirit and various systems embodying such a spirit. If we use the relation of tiyong to explain this problem, we might probably regard "the modern spirit as body and the systems and their functions embodying such a spirit for use." If so, one might ask: what is the "modern spirit"? and what are the "systems and their functions embodying the spirit"?
Here I would refer to the point of view put forward by Mr. Yan Fu, who once criticized the idea of regarding "Chinese learning as body and Western learning for use." He also points out that body and use should be unified rather than dual. Particularly, he lays emphasis on the significance of science and puts forward a very meaningful proposition: "liberty as body and democracy for use." I do think that such an idea of his is probably of certain modern significance. So in my opinion, "liberty" is the concentrative embodiment of the modern spirit, or an inner spirit in the modern era and a universal ideal that the people in modern society are pursuing; whereas "democracy" consists of various systems of modern society ensuring one "liberty," rather than certain people only. We now live Chinese society. It is most important to give everyone "liberty" and have a set of democratic systems ensuring its realization if we want to enable our society to become modernized. Only in this way, can people give full play to their enthusiasm and creativity, and our country set foot on the road not only of the "four modernization" but also of all-around modernization.
- Written by: doc