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Illusionism (Maayavaada) in late T'ang Buddhism:
A Hypothesis on the Philosophical Roots of the Round
Enlightenment Suutra (Yuan-Chueh-Ching)

By Whalen W. Lai


One of the charges made by the Neo-Confucian master Chu Hsi(b) against the Buddhists was that the Buddhists dwelt upon the vacuous (hsu(c) ) and were unable to deal with reality (shih(d)) as the Confucians could.(1) As a general indictment against the otherworldly lifestyle of the monks who left behind the substantive world of human relationships, Chu Hsi's statement was not incorrect. The inner worldly mysticism of the Ch'an tradition notwithstanding, Buddhist individualism did not place priority in loyalty or filial piety. However, Chu Hsi also intended his criticism to be directed at the philosophical nihilism of the Buddhists. This charge against Buddhist nihilism is more difficult to accept, because major T'ang Buddhist schools such as T'ien-t'ai(e) and Hua-yen(f) had consciously transcended what they perceived as "nihilism" in the emptiness philosophy (`Suunyavaada).(2) Armed with such concepts as a`suunya tathaagatagarbha (the not-empty embryonic Buddha), Buddha-nature, shih-hsiang(g) (the "concrete" reality, dharmataa), and chen-ju(h) (the "true" such, suchness, tathataa),(3) the T'ang schools intentionally negated mere nihilism. Was Chu Hsi a mere polemicist? Was the charge of "nihilism" a matter of relative nihilism? Or was there a more immediate basis for Chu Hsi's indignation? I would like to consider, in this essay, the last alternative, namely, that despite the "positivism" of T'ien-t'ai and Hua-yen thought in the sixth and seventh centuries, there was a significant turn back to an illusionist tradition in the eighth that left a legacy in subsequent times. Chu Hsi apparently was reacting against this heritage. In support of this hypothesis is the fact that in writing against the Buddhists, Chu Hsi based himself predominantly on two Buddhist works that emerged in the eighth century: the companion texts of the philosophical or theoretical Yuan-chueh-ching (Round Enlightenment Suutra) and the meditative or practical `Sura.ngama suutra.(4) Both of these texts have been rendered into English, in due respect for their popularity among Ch'an circles, by Charles Luk;(5) abbreviated as YCC and SGS. The two texts will be analyzed (especially the YCC) in terms of a possible shift toward "illusionism" in late T'ang Buddhist thought. The term "illusionism" recalls the term maayaavaada that was used by the opponents of Advaita Vedaanta against `Sankara. That association is not intended here, but the YCC does have a strong dose of the Chinese word huan(i), illusion, often used to render maayaa. The YCC represents a Chinese Buddhist formulation of maayaavaada, one free from the aatman-Brahman tradition of Vedaanta. The full title of the YCC is Tn-fang-kuang Yuan-chueh hsiu-to-lo liao-i-ching(j) , supposedly translated from a Sanskrit text by a north Indian Kashmir monk, Chueh-chiu(k), in 718 at the famous White Horse Temple at Lo-yang. There is no other supporting evidence for this, and the Buddhist Catalogue of the K'ai-yuan era, (l) 730, already doubted this legend when it recorded it.(6) The full title itself is somewhat an anomaly, since the word suutra appears two times, phonetically as "hsiu-to-lo" in the middle and then as "ching" at the end, (7) The term "yuan-chueh, " round (that is, perfect) enlightenment, though not without Sanskrit parallels, has a more immediate cousin, it seems, in the T'ien-t'ai and Hua-yen association of the term yuan with perfection. The YCC speaks of the yuan-chueh-miao-hsin(m), the round-enlightened, mysterious mind and the SGS speaks of the ju-lai-tsang miao-chen-ju-hsin(n), the tathaagatagarba, mysterious, suchness mind. These are typical Chinese compounds created for stronger impacts. The term miao is drawn from the Taoist recognition of the mystery involved in the passage from passivity to activity; miao designates the "initial movements." Philosophically, both the YCC and the SGS drew upon the ideas found in the Awakening of Faith in Mahayana (AFM). Tsung-mi, the authorative commentator of the YCC, said it as follows:

Item four: To differentiate the degree of profundity of the teachings. The YCC utilizes the AFM to understand the various tainted dharmas and their fivefold sequence in order to establish the various depths of understanding among the schools in Buddhism, In the AFM, it is said that (1) the One Mind is the sole source of all realities; (2) the One Mind has two aspects, the Suchness Mind the essence of which is beyond Life and Death and the Phenomenal Mind which, grounded upon the Tathaagatagarbha, is fused with Life and Death (sa.msaara) to produce the aalayavij~naana; (3) the aalayavij~naana has two aspects, the enlightened half which is essentially distinct and separate from the flow of momentary consciousness and the non-enlightened half, the common mind that arises because of ignorance of the union of Mind with Suchness; (4) from this common mind arise three subtle defilements, (a) the activated mind touched off by ignorance, (b) the evolving mind desiring to perceive, and (c) the manifesting mind that creates external illusions; (5) from that arise six coarse defilements: forms of knowledge, continuity of object, psychic clinging, nominal existence, karma and bondage to suffering. In the classification the various schools, the Jen-t'ien-chiao can be said to address to karma, the Hiinayaana teachings to the preceding four coarse defilements, the Yogaacaara teaching to the three subtle defilements, but only the Final and Sudden Teaching intuits the total sequence that emerges out of the One Mind as the source of all. This fountainhead of One Mind is the Yuan-chueh-miao-hsin in the YCC. The YCC establishes the doctrine of Perfect Enlightenment and recognizes that both the pure and impure dharmas are all manifestations of this enlightened mind. [The suutra can be divided into sections:] From the beginning to the end of the Ma~nju`sri chapter, the YCC reveals the Suchness Mind and the Phenomenal Mind in the form of the differentiating tathaagatagarbha.

The chapter of the Bodhisattva Universal Seeing concerns a priori and incipient enlightenment, demonstrating that wu-ming(o) (avidyaa) is simply pu-chueh(p), non- enlightenment [yet to be enlightened].

The chapter on Pure Karma deals with the three subtle defilements and the first two of the six coarse defilements.

The chapter on Maitreya deals with the cycle of sa.msaara, cause and effect, that is, the last of the coarse defilements.

The fifth and last section understands that the Round Enlightenment comprehends and subsumes all of the above within itself.(8)

The meaning of the title of YCC is accordingly deep and profound. The general drive in the philosophy of the YCC is indeed grounded upon the optimism concerning and the comprehensiveness seen in the Mind. However, the reader should be forewarned that although the ideological link between the AFM and the YCC is there,(9) he would probably not find, on his first reading, all the nuances Tsung-mi attributed to the structure of the YCC.(10) There are reasons (discussed infra) to believe that Tsung-mi(q) read the much more analytical philosophy of the AFM into the YCC, which began as an intentional simplification of the "mind only" philosophy found in the AFM. Take for example the following passage from the Maitreya chapter:

Sons of good families, all sentient beings produce avidyaa because of their lust and greed and therefore they become classifiable into the five different grades (pa~ncagotraa.ni).

The position of grades is dependent upon two hindrances; the hindrance due to ignorance of the principle (li) which prevents the Right View, and the hindrance due to fact (shih) which precipitates Life and Death. What are the five grades? Sons of good families, if the two hindrances are not put an end to, then the person will not be enlightened. If the person proceeds to eliminate lust and greed, and can eliminate the hindrance due to fact, he will enter into the path of the `Sraavaka and the Pratyekabuddha but not yet into the path of the Bodhisattva. If both (principle and fact) hindrances are suppressed, then the person can be enlightened into the Bodhisattva realm. If the two are terminally ended, then he will enter into the Ju-lai-tsang miao-yuan-chueh, the mysterious Perfect Enlightenment of the Tathaagatagarbha, and pass onto the Great Nirvana.(11)

The above passage is philosophically dependent on the AFM and on Fa-tsang's(r) speculations on principle (noumena) and fact (phenomena),(12) but the formulation shows that the writer was very liberally syncretizing items together. The five grades are not fully covered. Traditionally, the five refers to the five types of the triyaana (‘Sraavaka, Pratyekabuddha, and Bodhisattva), the indeterminate type and the person without buddha-nature, agotra. The YCC, following the Chinese denial of the agotra type, seems to bend it into those of the ‘Sraavaka, Pratyekabuddha, Bodhisattva, Perfect Enlightenment, and the yet-to-be-enlightened.(13) Similarly, the YCC takes the liberty of finding in "lust and greed" a cause for avidyaa, ignorance, which should be the irreducible first cause. This move is contrary to the normal sequence in the twelve nidaanas in which "cravings" is subsequent to primal ignorance. This poetic license on the part of the YCC belongs more to a Confucian moralist in weighing against general avarice. An illuminating parallel may be found in the SGS which says at one point, "In the various world-realms, father, mother, son and grandson confinue nonstop because of basic greed and desire."(14) The family-centered language is Chinese.The YCC has a similar condemnation of ai(s), love. In its alignment of li and shih (t) to the two basic hindrances, the YCC is also making an Innovative move in associating shih, fact or phenomena, with the traditional Second hindrance, hindrance by kle`sa, mental defilements. In short, the YCC takes an overview of basic ideas and motifs current in T'ang Buddhist circles and synthesizes these ideas in such a general way that precisely because of its "comprehensive abstraction" the YCC has endeared itself to the Chinese Buddhists since.

The YCC, however, is more than a synergetic jumble of ideas, because it also has a very powerful central thesis. The format of the sutra is rather simple.

Without the usual extravaganza of many Mahayana sutras, the YCC depicts a master-disciple exchange. In a gathering of bodhisattvas around the Buddha, a Bodhisattva will rise and approach the Buddha with a question and receive a discourse. The discourses are fairly agnostic, that is, intellectualist. The set of stock metaphors is also limited. The most famous one is the analogy of k'ung-hua(u), "flower in the air," a symbol of an empty mirage of a flower (hua) grounded upon empty space (k'ung). K'ung-hua attains idiomatic usage in Chinese and I suspect the unintended semantic association with the emptiness philosophy, k'ung (empty) as in k'ung-chung(v) and with the Avatamsaka (garland) school, hua, as in Hua-yen, might reflect its original intention to synthesize these two streams.(l5) The basic message of the YCC is also simple. All men have the yuan-chueh, perfect enlightenment, in them. Greed, lust, and love hide this given reality and ignorance produces all the illusions. Through dialectical negation that pierces through the k'ung-hua illusion of existents themselves, the original miao-hsin, mysterious mind, will be regained. Significantly, the YCC is free from much of the Yogaacaara analysis of various consciousnesses, three truths, and so on and is thoroughly dictated by the Madhyamika negation, but in a somewhat Chinese style. However. the most frequently occuring term is not k'ung, the traditional word for `suunya or `suunyataa that has enticed Chinese Buddhists since the third century. The favorite word instead is huan, illusion, illusory, maayaa. The following section from the Samantabhadra chapter is perhaps most representative of the usage and the central philosophy of the YCC. For effect, I have chosen to substitute maayaa where huan occurs on the assumption that the reader recognizes the power of this word more than the Chinese huan or the English "illusion".

Sons of Good Families, all sentient maayaa transformations are due to the Tathaagata-Round-Enlightenment-Mysterious-Mind, just as the empty flower, k'ung-hua, is borne up by emptiness itself. Although the maayaa flowers are destroyed, the emptiness itself has not changed. Likewise, sentient beings' maayaa-mind might vanish with the maayaa of world-reality, but even when all maayaa are destroyed, the Mind shall remain unchanged. We may describe enlightenment vis a vis (a contrast with) maayaa, but that description itself is maayaa. We may speak of enlightenment independently [absolutely] it, that statement too is not independent of maayaa. To say that there is no enlightenment is the same [that is, deluding]. Maayaa [as a pseudo-reality] may be destroyed, but the name or attribute has not changed.

Sons of Good Families, Bodhisattvas and sentient beings living in this age of the Degenerate Dharma must flee from all maayaa transformations and stand firm on the Mind that dissociates itself from it. However, the "mind" being also maayaa, it too should be discarded. The act of dissociating or discarding, of illusion too should be left behind for good until finally maayaa is destroyed and one has nothing more to remove. This is like rubbing two sticks together to produce a fire. The fire produced consumes the wood itself and then itself becomes extinguished (when the wood is consumed). The art of cultivating maayaa in the midst of maayaa is comparable to that. However, although all maayaa has ended, one does not thereby become extinct.

Sons of Good Families, the act of realizing all is maayaa and thereby leaving the world behind would be a sign of the failure to exercise upaaya (skillful means). Departing from even that (final) fixation and becoming fully enlightened, one realizes that there is really no progress (made) and no incipiency (of enlightenment). All bodhisattvas and sentient beings of the age of the Degenerate Dharma, if you would so cultivate yourself, you can then truly depart from all maayaa.

The World-Honored One, wishing to emphasize the message, then speaks in verse:

Samantabhadra, you should recognize
From beginning less time
There was maayaa and ignorance
Produced (nonetheless) by the Tathaagata
Round Enlightenment Mind.
Like the flower in the air,
It exists by virtue of emptiness,
The empty flower can be erased but
The empty space remains.
All maayaa is from enlightenment itself.
When maayaa disappears, enlightenment will be perfect for
It never changes either.
If bodhisattvas
And sentient beings of the last age
Depart far away from maayaa,
The maayaa will itself disappear,
Like the fire generated from the wood
It consumes the wood and goes out.
Within enlightenment there is no earlier or later.
Within upaaya all is the same.(l6)

In this passage, huan occurs more than twenty times. The passage echoes the idea found in the AFM: the a priori subsistence of the enlightenment essence and the futility to speak of acquiring (earlier or later) enlightenment. (l7) However, it goes further than the AFM in its reliance on the negative dialectics; it does so partly by bypassing the Yogaacaara analytism. The YCC synthesized the basic philosophical idealism of Yogaacaara and grafted this maayaa idealism to the older `Suunyavaada. The YCC systematically undercut all ontological surety, repudiating even any "being" to mind and enlightenment. It is therefore natural that the later Ch'an(w) tradition whenever it was drawn to a written scripture would turn to the YCC,(18) and it is natural that Chu Hsi would see "nihilism" in this tradition. Since the YCC (and the SGS) seem to be fabricated works by the Chinese, the inquiry necessarily leads to from which circle in T'ang? The YCC was an early eighth-century work, emerging some time after the active years of Fa-tsang (circa 700) and before the K'ai-yuan Catalogue in 730. Tsung-mi mentioned a tradition which associated the YCC and SGS both to a little-known figure, the monk Wei-ch'ueh, who commented on both YCC and SGS.(19) Mochizuki Shingo(x) conjectures that both works developed around Wei-ch'ueh(y).

The SGS based part of its philosophy on Bhaavaviveka, a Madhyamika master in India, around 600. It cites from the Ta-ch'eng chang-chen-lun(z) the following `sloka:

The true nature exists but it is empty. Things are created illusions out of causation. Whereas the wu wei(aa) absolute is beyond life and death (sa.msaara), the unreal (maayaa) is like a flower in thin air.(20)

The `sloka does form the underpinning of the SGS as well as the YCC. It asserts the primacy of emptiness. According to a record preserved in the Japanese Buddhist tradition, the reassertion of the primacy of emptiness was not well received by some Chinese at the time. Doubt was cast upon the SGS for philosophical reasons. The Japanese record gives this exchange:

Question: Where does this philosophy [found by Bhaavaviveka] in the Buddha's teaching come from?

Answer: Chapter five in the Surangama suutra: "The true nature exists but it is empty. Things are created illusions out of causation. Whereas the wu wei absolute is beyond life and death, the unreal is like a flower in thin air." It says that illusion itself reveals what is true [that is, from emptiness is the true nature known] and that (concept-entities like) "true" and "deluded" are (in turn) just two more illusions. Such (conceptual) knowledge is not yet the insight into the "true'' which in itself is also "without the self-nature of truth." Where, after all, is the seer and the seen [in the ultimate illusion]?

Question: If that (negative) philosophy is the Buddha's teaching, why had T'ang Buddhist masters Chi-kuo(ab) and others questioned its authenticity?

Answer: This is because within the Chinese San-lun (Madhyamika) school, there were two transmissions. One party says that the suutra is fabricated and cannot be the word of the Buddha. The other party says that it is an authentic work and that even though the cited passage is the same (in SGS as in the Cheng-chen-lun by Bhaavaviveka) there is a difference in the meaning intended by the two. Bhaavaviveka may be wrong but the suutra is not.(21) The suutra, being regarded here as the authentic words of the Buddha, is seen in China as the original that Bhaavaviveka, who probably failed to subscribe to the Yuan-chueh-hsin ideology, "misquoted." Behind these cryptic remarks is hidden very probably a controversy that requires some explanation. The following however, can only be provisional, since we have only glimpses here and there into the tensions at that time.

Mochizuki says that the preceding record is the only reference we have concerning a schism within the San-lun tradition.(22) The major party of the San-lun school apparently sided with the critics of the SGS, while the defenders of the SGS felt the need also to dissociate themselves from Bhaavaviveka. Why? The answer lies perhaps in this: Bhaavaviveka, around 600 in India, defended the Madhyamika position against the new philosophy of the Yogaacaarins.

Whereas the Yogaacaara school reintroduced a substantive entity, a crypto atman, in its concept of the aalayavij~naana, a philosophy of "there being no reality without but there is an entity within,''Bhaavaviveka reasserted the Sunyaavaada position that" there is provisional reality at the mundane level, but in truth, at the ultimate level, paramaartha, all is empty."(23) It was a tension between a subjective idealism (Yogaacaara) and an epistemic denial by Suunyavaada of all realities.(24) The major party of the Chinese San-lun school probably sided then with the Chinese Yogaacaara school against the SGS supporters and Bhaavaviveka. This is because the major party shared with the Chinese Fa-hsiang(ad) the idea of a concrete (real) tathataa, Suchness. The Chinese Fa-hsiang school was based on an importation of the tradition of Dharmapaala by Hsuan-tsang(ae). Dharmapaala was supposed to have had a heated debate with Bhaavaviveka, (25) and Hsuan-tsang seems to repeat a similar debate with another Madhyamika-supporter in Naalandaa.(26) The charge Hsuan-tsang had against the emptiness tradition was that the latter knew only about the falsehood or illusion of parikalpita, without touching upon the higher paratantra and parini.spanna and that the Suunyavaada analysis of illusion cannot be applied to the "perfect" reality at the parini.spanna level of truth. The countercharge against the Yogaacaarins by the Madhyamika supporters was that in the end, there is no absolute that can be grasped, and all the discussions about parini.spanna itself is in the realm of provisional, unreal, conceptual discourse.(27) It is possible that in the early eighth century. The Chinese San-lun school witnessed a similar dissension within itself. Also, there allegedly was a new transmission of Madhyamika philosophy from Diipa.mkara to Fa-tsang of the Hua-yen school. In Fa-tsang's Commentary on the Twelve Gates, Shih-erh-men-lun(af) references were made to a tradition of controversy and separate lineages in Naalandaa.(28) The data are fairly confused and complicated.(29) For that reason, I will not go into the details here but seek to, in a simpler format, propose a hypothesis concerning the origin of the YCC and the SGS.

The philosophy of illusionism in the YCC is definitely simpler than that articulated by Bhaavaviveka in his surviving works. (30) The YCC does not address itself to Yogaacaara controversies and it does not totallydeny a "substantive" core: the Yuan-chueh hsin is still basically the One Suchness

Mind found in the AFM. (It is for this reason. I think, that the members of the pro-SGS clique would not associate themselves with Bhaavaviveka's `saastra.(31) Cleverly the YCC blends together the positive doctrine of the One Mind but guards against the idolatry of a concept of "one,'' or "mind." We can contrast the two key metaphors in the YCC and the AFM to show their implications:


Metaphor of k'ung-hua: Metaphor of water-wave:(32)
Flower (phenomena) in thin air Waves (phenomena) are grounded in depends on emptiness (space). Water (noumena).
Flower disappears, but the Waves can be calmed, the water space remains. remains.
Space is itself empty. Water is symbolic of reality.
False being (flower) overlays Becoming (waves, sa.msaara) is
Actual non-being (space). Generated out of being (water).

Although the YCC relies on the AFM and admits all things (including maayaa) to be generated out of the Round Enlightenment Mind, the YCC recognizes that all metaphors are finally unreal. There is, as it says, no such thing as k'ung-hua, a flower in midair. The AFM is more "realist" and assumes that the concrete water-wave metaphor does reflect a concrete reality. The YCC is not interested in the details of "generation of phenomena from noumena" (Suchness Causation in Hua-yen) but much more readily sees an essential and immediate identity between phenomena-flower and phenomena-air. Both the flower and the air are empty in their self-nature (svabhaava-`suunya). In the AFM, the water and the wave are not empty but are similarly watery: water is waves and vice versa ontologically. In the YCC, however, the flower (in its form) is not the thin air. There is no ontological continuity. Rather, the YCC recalls the insights of Naagaarjuna in a simple metaphor (drawn perhaps from Bhaavaviveka) that all forms (lak.sa.na like the flower) are empty (without self-nature), that they seemingly are because of emptiness (space) but this basic higher paramaartha emptiness essence (`svabhaavaa) is no more an entity that one can grasp. Reality is a mirage-like a flower in thin air, supported by emptiness, which itself is empty. Emptiness itself has to be emptied (`suunyata- `sunyata).

More than the Hua-yen tradition, the school that was critical of any conceptual security was Ch'an. Within the various schools of Ch'an, the branch most alert to the danger in absolutizing even such concepts as "mind" was the Niu-t'ou(ag) branch, which was influenced by the earlier San-lun tradition of Chi-tsang(33). However, since most Ch'an traditions (Tung-shan(af), for example, despite its opposition to Niu-t'ou)(34) in their most alert moments would not cling onto any concepts of "One," the "True." or the "Mind" (or their combination), it would be somewhat difficult to pinpoint the alleged Ch'an origin of the YCC. Suffice to say that the YCC seems to lean toward the greater simpliste of Ch'an and that it was supported by a faction of the San-lun school at the time.

Because of the oblique critique against the "concrete, ontological thingking" of the Hua-yen tradition in the YCC, it is perhaps necessary here to return once more to Tsung-mi, the authoritive commentator of this suutra. Despite his Ch'an background. Tsung-mi (whenever he writes long treatises) too often allows the Hua-yen scholastic side to get the better of him. In this regard, the passage cited earlier represents, from a purist point of view, a distortion (or, better a recomplication) the matter of enlightenment, there is neither the "earlier" or the "latter,"

Tsung-mi would not hesitate to apply his analytical skill and come up with different modes of enlightenment and various degrees of nonenlightenment. A classical example is his concluding diagram and remarks in his Ch'an-yuan chu-ch'uan-chi tu-hsu(ai) [On Ch'an Schools] (Taisho 48, #2015).(35) In a style worthy of a literati, Tsung-mi describes all the modes of original enlightenment through an analogy of a "wealthy man dwelling securely in his home." Since I have dealt with this elsewhere,(36) I will turn instead to his commentary on the YCC and selected a passage to show how Illusionism has been given a slight positive twist by Tsung-mi. In an interesting reference to Chuang-tzu and his butterfly dream, Tsung-mi gives an interesting critique against Consciousness-Only (Wei-shih(aj). Vij~natimaatrataa) in a Chinese style:

"Why ONLY Consciousness?"

Why then do they say "Consciousness Only" [a philosophy that affirms the one-sided reality of the seer and not the seen]? This is because they in their

delusion fail to grasp the one Mind [that truly would better unite the seer and the seen]. (Asleep like Chuane-tzu(ak,) we in our ignorance generate the various defilements; but only the Dream is "Consciousness Only"! [Not the awakened, enligfitened state.] The Yogaacaara school, fixated to the Dream, makes inner/outer distinctions [between the (subjective) thought of a butterfly and the (objective) dreamt-of butterfly.] This distinction is inferior because (in a higher stage) the consciousness is the consciousness of the object and vice versa [consciousness and object are One.]....There is in the end only One Mine.... Although in (undeluded Dream) the dream-thought is no more real than the dreamt of butterfly (i.e. they are both illusory), the dreamer (Chuang-tzu) is himself not illusory.(37) [The deluded consciousness is grounded in the undeluded True Mind.]

In a subtle way, Tsung-mi the "realist" assigns maayaa or huan to his discussion of the dream sequence. Dualities are then the structure of deluded relationships. In the end, the ''preferred" state is the basic unity of the undeluded Mind, that is, in this analogy, the awakened or enlightened Chuang-tzu. In this awakened state, huan is no longer operative. Tsung-mi therefore makes a fairly sharp distinction between dream and reality, illusion and enlightenment. I cannot help feeling if not always, then at least at times that Tsung-mi has put a limit to the applicability of the maayaavaada "negation dialectics.'' In Tsung-mi, there is a confidence in some sacred item that cannot be negated. Unlike Chuang-tzu who was not sure whether he was a man who dreamt himself a butterfly or a butterfly now thinking it was a man. Tsung mi, in his confidence, looks too much like his contented wealthy man dwelling in his home." In using a black-and-white dream versus awakened-state analogy, he has taken out the sting in the k'ung-hua metaphor and in true Maayaavaada.(38)

In this article, I have tried to account for the reason Chu Hsi would characterize Buddhism as dwelling in the hush, vacuous.(39) I tried to show that one reason was the popularity of the Round Enlightenment Suutra among those of the Ch'an circle whom he knew. This work, produced probably by the Chinese in the early eighth century, represents an "illusionist" reformulation of the Madhyamika philosophy. Based on the Awakening of Faith, it nevertheless seeks to undercut the "concrete" strand in T'ang Buddhist thought and probably helps the growth of the Ch'an tradition.

The Outlooks of YCC, Tsung-mi, and Wei-shih


All realities are empty Phenomenal realities are All phenomenal realities
(huan). Phenomena seemingly empty but are mere representations
(`Flower’) are illusion actually grounded in a (Consciousness
(`in the air') upon Positive Ultimate Only) except the
Illusion (`air, empty Reality (True Mind). Nonrepresentational
Space’). tathataa.
There is a True Mind, The True Mind is The aalayavij~naana is a
the yuan-chueh-hsin, clearly not empty representation-creating
but the "mind" too is (a`suunya) and, in fact, consciousness and not
conceptuaily "empty." is dynamically creative. always suchness itself.
The ideal is to realize The ideal is to realize The ideal is to recognize
all is huan, maayaa. all is the True Mind. that consciousness and
Subject and object object are interdependent, unites in the True Mind, and both should citta tathataa be ceased.

In response to Tsung-mi Tsung-mi criticizes Wei- Wei-shih would argue

(see passage to the shih for seeing only the that tathataa is not right), YCC would say illusion of consciousness ‘empty’, but it is not that the Dreamer is dreams and not Absolute Subject either part of the overall seeing the Reality of the maayaa. Dreamer (the True Mind).

Basic philosophy: systematic `suunyavaada primarily drawn from Indian Yogaacaara of (mayaavaada) gingerly the AFM and Hua-yen, Dharmapaala, systematically grafted to the True and the `positive' epistemological.

Mind (yuan-chueh) element of southern tradition in China. Ch'an of Shen-hui. Affinity with Niu-t'ou (?) and San-lun (?).


1. See Galen Eugene Sargent, Tchou Hi contre le Bouddhisme (Paris,1955) ; hereafter cited as Sargent Tchou Hi.

2. This is obvious in their tenet-classification in which Madhyamika is usually placed, as a "phenomena-negating" school and not yet a "noumena-affirming" school. Both T'ien-t'ai and Hua-yen, of course, relied on Naagaarjuna.

3. The Chinese adjectives, shih and chen, were consciously so used to make a "realist" point, which is almost impossible in the Sanskrit original.

4. See Sargent, Tchou Hi. In the Introduction he traces all the sources.

5. Charles Luk, ‘Suura^ngamasuutra (London, 1966) and "The Sutra of Complete Enlightenment" in Ch'an and Zen Teaching, volume 3 (London, 1968).

6. Mochizuki Shingo, Jodokyo no kigen to hattatsu(al) (Tokyo, 1930), p. 244, citing K'ai-yuan shih-chiao lu, ch. 9. Tsung-mi in Yuan-chueh-ching tashu I,A,2, felt defensive about its origin but placed it at 693 instead; ibid., p. 245. However, the work is not mentioned in the Ta-Chou Catalogue of suutras of 695. Early eighth century is the logical dating.

7. Nanjo(am) gives the reconstructed title of Muhaavaipulya-puur.nabuddha-suutra-prasannarth suutra; the term "liao-i" is found in the SGS title; see ibid., pp. 246-247. The distinction of liao-i, pu-liao-i goes back to India.

8. Zokuzo 1. 14, 2, pp. 116-117. For easy reference, see full citation in Bussho kaisetsu daijiten(an), 1:298bcd. Tsung-mi's resume here is a virtual summary of the main body of the AFM; see Hakeda Yoshito, trans., Awakening of Faith Attributed to A`svagho.sa (New York, 1967).

9. Compare, for example, the passage at the end of the Ma~nju`sri chapter in the YCC (Taisho (ao), 17, p. 913c): "Its nature being empty like space, it never moves for the tathaagatagarbha is beyond life and death, having neither knowledge nor perception but is of the nature of the Dharmadhaatu: thorough, complete, round, full and all pervasive" with the AFM, trans. cit., pp. 32-36.

10. Yuji Ryoei wrote a series of articles on the Engakukyo (YCC) and published Engakukyo kenkyuu(ap) (n.d., n.p.); unfortunately, these were not available to me during my research at Harvard.

11. Taisho, 17, p, 916b; see Mochizuki, p. 250.

12. YCC also used a favorite Hua-yen term, "nonobstruction," see Taisho, 17, p. 917c. The term, however, was already in use in the Six Dynasties.

13. The five grades are aligned to the six tainted minds in the AFM; Taisho, 17, 916bc. The AFM does not itself refer to pa~ncagotraa.ni.

14. Taisho, 19, p. 120b. Both reflect a Confucian moralistic concern.

15. In Ch'an legend, Buddha too held up a flower to Kaa`syapa. (In the air?)

16. Taisho, 17, p. 914ab. My translation 1 see Luk, Ch'an and Zen Teaching, 3. 180-182. Huan occurs all over the YCC. Confer Zokuzo(aq). 1.14.2, pp.138-140.

17. Since the YCC is committed philosophically to sudden enlightenment, Ch'an influence was probably there; Mochizuki, p. 251; compare the

Platform Suutra.

18. The YCC was well received by T'ien-t'ai. Hua-yen and Ch'an: see Daizokyo koza(ar), vol. 23 (Tokyo: 1934) , pp. 129-134. Japan's Dogen, however, questioned its authenticity, p. 126.

19. Wei-ch'ueh flourished around 766; biography in Sung Kao-seng-chuan(as), (T. 50, p. 738bc). He was associated with Ch'an and Hua-yen.

20. Taisho, 19, 124c; on the possible fabrication of SGS. See Mochizuki, pp. 229-238. Luk's translation of SGS should be used with care.

21. In Fusho (Japanese monk) Daijo sanron daigisho(at), 3; cited by Mochizuki. p. 239. The SGS and YCC were basic texts used by the Chinese.

22. It seems to be like this: "There is true nature", Chi-kuo, siding with Fa-hsiang. San-lun "True nature too is empty", Wei-ch'ueh , representing YCC, SGS.

23. Mochizuki's characterization, pp. 240-244. Bhaavaviveka is for "mundane being: truly empty" while Yogaacaara stands for "outer nonbeing; inner being" (su-yu chen-k'ung, nei-yu wai-wu(au)).

24. See reconstruction of this tension by Ishii Kyodo, Kegon kyogaku seiritsushi(ay) (Tokyo, 1960), pp. 266-274.

25. This is supposed to be a heated debate, but Ishii wonders with Maeda Eun (in Maeda's Daijo Bukkyo shiron (aw), p. 187), whether the debate has not

been overdramatized since Hsuan-tsang himself recorded in his Journey to the West chronicle (Taisho, 50, p. 931) that Bhaavaviveka respected Dharmapaala. That, however, may be Hsuan-tsang's bias.

26. See record of debate in his biography in Tuisho, 50, p. 244.

27. The Madhyamika group was defeated and supposedly left Naaandaa to stay in a Mahaabodhi temple.

28. Taisho, 42, p. 313.

29. See Ishii, Kegan kyogaku. The difficulty lies in linking the Indian controversy with the Chinese one, because the YCC affiliation with the

AFM and Hua-yen would put it on the "positive" side, more positive than even Chi-kuo and Fa-hsiang (see diagram note 22, herein).

30. See Yamaguchi Susumu, Bukkyo ni okeru "yu " to "wu" to-no tairon(ax) (Kyoto, 1935? ) on this debate between `being' and `nonbeing',

31. The clique finds Bhavaviveka too nihilistic; see note 29 herein.

32. See Hakeda, Awakening of Faith, pp. 41,55, for the original metaphor in the AFM.

33. For a short discussion, see my "Four Stages in the Radicalization of Ch'an" (manuscript, 1976).

34. "Keep to the One True Mind" is a doctrine related to Tao-hsin(ay) but see Kamata Shigeo, Shumitsu kyogaku no shisoshi teki kenkyuu (Tokyo, 1975),

pp. 168-171.

35. Kamata's trans. in Zen no Goroku 9 (Tokyo, 1971): 31-247.

36 Full English translation of this section has been made by Jan Yun-hua of McMaster and in a recent University of Columbia master's thesis.

37. Zokuzo 1, 14. 2, p. 212. Tsung-mi belittles Yogaacaara, calling it " Wei-yu-shih'' there is only consciousness. The higher philosophy he espouses would be a form of union of both citta and ruupa, subject and object. The structure of his argument is like this: YOGAACAARA Deluded Dream Consciousness. There is ONLY consciousness.

AFM / CH'AN waken True One Mind which encompasses. BOTH `I' and `It.'

38. Compare the use of the dream analogy by the YCC itself (Taisho 7, 913b): "Ignorance has no substance (empty); like the man dreaming in his dream, (avidyaa [like the dream]) is not without reality though. Awaken, one knows there is however nothing to be gained," (Punctuation in the Taisho is, I think, incorrect). The point here is different from Tsung-mi's. Empty as avidyaa may be, it can create the seeming reality of a dream. Yet the enlightened man will realize that there is nothing that can be grasped. Tsung-mi grasps on to the True Mind as the absolute that creates even the illusory dream. To YCCI reality is the dream.

39. The essay does not claim to be in any way exhaustive in trying to account why Chu Hsi so denounced Buddhism. I do believe polemics and relative nihilism played a part in his outlook.

Transcribed for Buddhism Today by Bhikkhuni Lien Hoa


Updated: 1-12-2000

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