Chiasmus in the early Prajñāpāramitā (Full Text)

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Chiasmus in the early Prajñāpāramitā (Full Text)

Postby Huifeng » Sat Mar 02, 2013 10:37 am

Chiasmus in the early Prajñāpāramitā

Full text now available at the University of Hong Kong Scholars Hub:
http://hub.hku.hk/handle/10722/181019

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Abstract of thesis entitled

“Chiasmus in the Early Prajñāpāramitā:
Literary Parallelism Connecting Criticism &
Hermeneutics in an Early Mahāyāna Sūtra”


Submitted by Orsborn, Matthew Bryan for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at The University of Hong Kong in January 2012



This study examines the early Prajñāpāramitā sūtras through the theory of “chiasmus”. Chiasmic methodology analyses a text into two parallel halves, identifying complementary “prologue” (A) and “conclusion” (A’), and highlighting the critical “central point” (X), with sub-themes paralleled in the two halves (A-B-C-D…X…D’-C’-B’-A’). Through chiasmus theory, many ancient texts formerly considered fragmentary and incoherent have been shown to be structurally sophisticated wholes.

The modern text-critical approach has re-written the traditional account of the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras. Several scholars have proposed theories regarding a pre-textual “ur-sūtra”, though with little consensus on this. In general, most agree that after the formation of an “ur-sūtra” the main body of the text was then chaotically compiled from various fragmentary sub-texts, with the Sadāprarudita Avadāna finally appended at the end. The result is the presently extant smaller sūtra. This modern scholarship then claims gradual growth through expansion into the medium and larger sūtras. The modern academic “discourse on emptiness” portrays the Prajñāpāramitā as focusing on the doctrine of “emptiness” (śūnyatā). This study challenges many of these claims.

On analysis, primary and secondary chiasmi were identified in the first two chapters of the sūtra. Their scope is the authority of teaching and training in the Prajñāpāramitā, and maintenance of the lineage of the Buddhas. Their central climax is definitions of “bodhisattva”, “mahāsattva” and “mahāyāna”, in the rhetorical formula “XY is ~Y”. Clearly paralleled scope is Sadāprarudita’s quest for Prajñāpāramitā, “to see and hear the Tathāgatas”. The central climax is his seeing and hearing the “Tathāgata” as one who has realized “suchness” (tathatā) or “dependent origination” (pratītyasaṃutpāda), again expressed in the form “XY is ~Y”. Paralleled sub-themes include “samādhi”, “Māra” and “giving”.

These two chiasmi are similar in scope, centers which define key terms through the rhetorical formula “XY is ~Y”, and sub-themes. This suggests a larger chiasmus which spans the entire text, with these chiasmi as prologue and conclusion respectively. While not conclusive, there is evidence for a central climax centered at “suchness” (tathatā), attainment of which results in the bodhisattva’s status of irreversibility. This connects the prologue and concluding chiasmi, “bodhisattvas” to “Tathāgatas”, respectively. Numerous paralleled sub-themes are more or less salient.

There are major implications from the discovery of chiasmus in the Prajñāpāramitā. Critically, it suggests that the sūtra was initially composed as a complete chiasmic whole, rather than from accumulated fragmentary parts. Hermeneutically, the core message may be understood more systematically than earlier methods. It proposes “suchness” (tathatā) as the central theme, rather than “emptiness” (śūnyatā). It also rejects the genre designation of the Prajñāpāramitā as a “philosophical” rather than “religious” text. This study also offers direction for uncovering other cases of chiasmus in early Mahāyāna and Buddhist literature in general, with examples. If a range of chiasmi can be analyzed, a general theory of Buddhist chiasmus can be established for use as a standard Buddhological tool.

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Future publication as a monograph upcoming.

Shì Hùifēng 釋慧峰 (M B Orsborn)

PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Buddhist Studies, 博士 助理教授 佛教學系
Fó Guāng University, Jiaoxi, Taiwan 佛光大學 礁溪 台灣
Fó Guāng Shān Monastery, Kao Hsiung, Taiwan 佛光山寺 高雄 台灣
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Re: Chiasmus in the early Prajñāpāramitā (Full Text)

Postby Yudron » Sat Mar 02, 2013 1:07 pm

Is that your work?
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Re: Chiasmus in the early Prajñāpāramitā (Full Text)

Postby Huifeng » Sun Mar 03, 2013 2:01 am

Yudron wrote:Is that your work?


Yes.

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Re: Chiasmus in the early Prajñāpāramitā (Full Text)

Postby Yudron » Sun Mar 03, 2013 2:47 am

I think I get the general drift of the abstract, although some of the terminology is new to me.

Can I assume this is a study of the Prajnaparamita in Chinese, right? Does the Chinese version of this body of literature have all the various lengths of the Prajnaparamita that are in the Tibetan? Are the Tibetan and Chinese versions very similar?
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Re: Chiasmus in the early Prajñāpāramitā (Full Text)

Postby Jnana » Sun Mar 03, 2013 2:58 am

Huifeng wrote:Chiasmus in the early Prajñāpāramitā

Full text now available at the University of Hong Kong Scholars Hub:
http://hub.hku.hk/handle/10722/181019

Thanks for making it publicly available Ven. Huifeng.


:anjali:
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Re: Chiasmus in the early Prajñāpāramitā (Full Text)

Postby futerko » Sun Mar 03, 2013 3:41 am

Marvellous, thank you :bow:
Last edited by futerko on Sun Mar 03, 2013 3:44 am, edited 2 times in total.
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
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Re: Chiasmus in the early Prajñāpāramitā (Full Text)

Postby Huifeng » Sun Mar 03, 2013 3:41 am

Yudron wrote:I think I get the general drift of the abstract, although some of the terminology is new to me.

Can I assume this is a study of the Prajnaparamita in Chinese, right? Does the Chinese version of this body of literature have all the various lengths of the Prajnaparamita that are in the Tibetan? Are the Tibetan and Chinese versions very similar?


It's a study of the Prajnaparamita across a range of textual witnesses, not limited to any single text or canonical language. The most important ones are the earliest of the Chinese translations and the Sanskrit (Prakrit for the Rgs). The Tibetan witnesses provide little help for what I am trying to do, late as they are, they are extremely similar to the Sanskrit and later Chinese. So, the Tibetan is very close to say Xuanzang's and Danapala's versions. There are a range of Chinese translations across the whole body of literature, multiple translations for the main texts. However, this is about the smaller text that is generally considered the oldest (often now known by its Sanskrit name the Astasahasrika, but this name is a later invention, and I believe it anachronistic and Sanskrit-biased to call all versions of this text by this name, hence "smaller text"). While it uses the Chinese, it is not about Chinese interpretation or understanding of these texts. Nor is it about classical Indian interpretation, either, for that matter. But, all this information is inside the document. For these questions, Chp. 2, in particular.

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Re: Chiasmus in the early Prajñāpāramitā (Full Text)

Postby Huifeng » Sun Mar 03, 2013 3:45 am

Jnana wrote:
Huifeng wrote:Chiasmus in the early Prajñāpāramitā

Full text now available at the University of Hong Kong Scholars Hub:
http://hub.hku.hk/handle/10722/181019

Thanks for making it publicly available Ven. Huifeng.


:anjali:


Thanks for your help during the process, Jnana! :namaste:

~~ Huifeng
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Re: Chiasmus in the early Prajñāpāramitā (Full Text)

Postby Greg » Sun Mar 03, 2013 7:19 am

Thank you for sharing this. It is wonderful when scholars make their work available to the public so generously. I look forward to spending time with it.
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Re: Chiasmus in the early Prajñāpāramitā (Full Text)

Postby Leo Rivers » Sun Mar 03, 2013 4:39 pm

It proposes “suchness” (tathāta) as the central theme, rather than “emptiness” (Śūnyatā ).


and


Rather than “emptiness”, the Prajñāpāramitā was intended to indicate the process of the bodhisattva path, from initial aspiration as a “bodhisattva” to final awakening as a “Tathāgata”, with special emphasis on the stage of irreversibility (avinivartanīya), which is attained through realization of “suchness” (tathatā) (§5.2). However, despite this disagreement with the modern academic “discourse on emptiness”, we shall indicate the key reasons why the subsequent growth and usage of the sūtra, where the principle agents were also most likely unaware of the underlying structure, does in fact turn it towards such a Madhyamaka interpretation (§6.2.2).


This is interesting. It suggests Nagarjuna took the discussion one way, into lionizing “emptiness” as a rationally defensible trend.

It also may support those who read an early form of Yogacara into Nagarjuna's cristicisms... were those who followed “suchness” as a mystically essential trend.

THAT would make the Yogacara a thing rooted in the tathāgāta scriptures, and the original branch, rather than what is now considered the main branch, with a dash of Tathāgāta from a sidecar trend as seasoning.

But maybe I'm trying too hard with too little too. Great way to start Sunday either way Thank for this.
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