The 'pointing at the moon' metaphor

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The 'pointing at the moon' metaphor

Postby Qianxi » Wed Apr 02, 2014 9:25 pm

Looking up 'pointing at the moon' in Chinese dictionaries, the less detailed ones reference the Śuraṅgama sūtra/Lengyan Jing as the locus classicus, a sutra probably compiled in China. Being a cynical kind of person I thought perhaps that the point at the moon metaphor may have originated in China rather than in India. However, my theory was overturned by a more detailed dictionary that listed a couple of more solidly Indian sources: the Mahā Prajñāpāramitā śāstra/Da Zhidu Lun and the Laṅkāvatāra sūtra.

I should say my search for Indian source is not because I think India is the only source of authenticity in the world, I'm just interested in history. The later Chinese interpretations of the same metaphor are also very interesting.

Here are uses of the metaphor I have found, listed by date of translation/composition in Chinese:

406《大智度論》Mahā Prajñāpāramitā śāstra
443《宋译楞伽》Laṅkāvatāra sūtra (Liu Song dynasty translation)
513《魏譯楞伽》Laṅkāvatāra sūtra (Later Wei dynasty translation)
first half 6th c.《往生論註》Tanluan's Commentary on the Pure Land Discourse
587/629《法華文句》Zhiyi's Commentary on the Text of the Lotus Sutra

Those are the pre-Tang examples. Zhiyi's disciple Guanding waited so long to write up his notes from Zhiyi's lecture that it was the Tang dynasty(starting 618) by the time he finished!
After the start of the Tang, use of the metaphor starts to multiply. Here are some examples.

693?《圓覺經》Yuanjue Jing (probably compiled/composed in China)
704《唐譯楞伽》Laṅkāvatāra sūtra (Tang dynasty translation)
705/13《楞嚴經》Śuraṅgama sūtra/Lengyan Jing (probably compiled/composed in China
And of course the moon-finger metaphor is often quoted in Chan/Zen records.

Does anyone know of its use in any other places? I saw on Wikipedia that there is a kind of Tibetan picture showing a Buddha pointing at the moon, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhavacakra I wonder if there is a textual source for that.

So the only two Indian uses of this metaphor I have so far are its use in the Mahā Prajñāpāramitā śāstra (tr. 406) and in the Laṅkāvatāra sūtra (tr. 412?[lost], 443, etc.).

The usage in the Mahā Prajñāpāramitā śāstra is in the context of an explanation of the second of the 'Four Reliances' 四依四不依 from the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra 大般涅槃經. One should: 1, rely on the Dharma, not upon persons; 2, rely on the meaning, not on the language; 3, rely on wisdom, not on knowledge; 4, rely on sutras that reveal the whole truth, not on sutras that do not.

The passage from the Mahā Prajñāpāramitā śāstra goes:
《大智度論》九曰:「依義」者,義中無諍好惡、罪福、虛實故,語以得義,義非語也。如人以指指月以示惑者,惑者視指而不視月,人語之言:「我以指指月令汝知之,汝何看指而不視月?」此亦如是,語為義指,語非義也。是以故不應依語。

"Rely on the meaning": in the meaning there is no competition between good and bad, offences and wholesome acts, truth and falsehood. Therefore, language is what is used to get the meaning, the meaning is not language.
It is like someone showing the moon to one confused by pointing at it, and the confused person looking at the finger and not at the moon. Someone says to him "I am pointing at the moon to let you know about it. Why are you looking at my finger and not at the moon?"
It is the same in this case: language is the finger pointing at the meaning, language is not the meaning. This is why you should not rely on language.


The second Indian source is the Laṅkāvatāra sūtra. Luckily there is an English translation of a Sanskrit version of the sutra (made with reference to the Chinese versions) by DT Suzuki available online.

In this sutra the "pointing at the moon" metaphor is actually only put together in a verse summary:

《宋译楞伽》四:
如愚見指月,觀指不觀月,
計著名字者,不見我真實。
As the ignorant grasp the finger-tip and not the moon,
so those who cling to the letter know not my truth.


In the prose of which this is a summary, the moon and the pointing are two separate metaphors.

It basically boils down to this: Just as distortions in a reflection of the moon do not change the shape of the moon, the Buddha appears in the world by many names and in many aspects, but in ultimate reality is always one.
Many people do not understand this because they do not understand the relationship between language and meaning, just as a child might look at the finger instead of the thing pointed at.

The verse summary then combines these two metaphors in a very neat and logical way.

Suzuki's translated text is a little too long to paste here - the section I just summarised comprises the whole of chapter LXXVI in his translation http://lirs.ru/do/lanka_eng/lanka-nondiacritical.htm , beginning "Mention is made in the canonical books"
I'd recommend reading that chapter if you want to really explore the "pointing at the moon" metaphor.

Several of the other sutras and Chinese commentaries give the metaphor a different spin, maybe I'll look at some of those later.
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Re: The 'pointing at the moon' metaphor

Postby dude » Thu Apr 03, 2014 2:53 am

The usage in the Mahā Prajñāpāramitā śāstra is in the context of an explanation of the second of the 'Four Reliances' 四依四不依 from the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra 大般涅槃經. One should: 1, rely on the Dharma, not upon persons; 2, rely on the meaning, not on the language; 3, rely on wisdom, not on knowledge; 4, rely on sutras that reveal the whole truth, not on sutras that do not.

"THAT is what it really means. It means that the Buddha's true intent is hidden in the depths, not found in a superficial reading. It also says that some sutras reveal only part of the truth, and should be understood in relation to the sutras that reveal the whole truth.
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Re: The 'pointing at the moon' metaphor

Postby tingdzin » Thu Apr 03, 2014 3:33 pm

Thanks for the interesting post, Qianxi
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Re: The 'pointing at the moon' metaphor

Postby Simon E. » Thu Apr 03, 2014 4:04 pm

tingdzin wrote:Thanks for the interesting post, Qianxi



+1.

Its good to see a picture with some of the surface grubbiness cleaned up.

For a while I grew sensitised to that particular metaphor. I knew what it meant..at least partially.

But for a while it seemed to be obligatory to use in in every other post on some Buddhist forums..even when the result was to convey the opposite of what was meant.

:namaste:
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Re: The 'pointing at the moon' metaphor

Postby Huifeng » Fri Apr 04, 2014 2:15 am

Yes, this metaphor is much, much older than Chan in China, found in Mahayana sutra and probably earlier, too.

A couple of points to note:

The "Mahā Prajñāpāramitā śāstra" is actually the "Mahāprajñāpāramitā Upadeśa" (see Lamotte's essay at the start of his translation, Vol. III). Unfortunately, the former usage is still widely used.

You can check out his essay in Lopez, ed. Buddhist Hermeneutics, where he uses the Upadeśa extensively, and cites that passage from the Lankavatara. There is a translation there. Lamotte, Etienne. "Assessment of textual interpretation in Buddhism; tr by S. Boin-Webb." Buddhist Hermeneutics, Donald S. Lopez, ed. (1988): 11-27. (There's a Chinese-simplified character-translation of this whole book, published in Shanghai, if you prefer. Though, the translation quality is not that wonderful.)

And, you should probably check Lamotte's translation of this material anyway, for his (or rather, probably de la Vallee Poussin's) great footnotes. There may be all manner of historical precedents tucked away there.

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Re: The 'pointing at the moon' metaphor

Postby Qianxi » Fri Apr 04, 2014 9:49 am

Thanks a lot Huifeng. I should have said, this is just what I have been able to cobble together using the internet, I'm nowhere near a library unfortunately. Where I do a translation it's just the best I've been able to come up with in my spare time, I won't have read the whole sutra/commentary or looked in detail at the useage of key words elsewhere in the text or in other texts by the translator. I think posting this stuff is not too harmful if people take it as it is: just an indication, something for discussion, something posted anonymously on the internet.

I got "Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra" from the catalogue at jinglu.cbeta.org/cgi-bin/jl_detail.pl?lang=&sid=zrmqv , whose source for the Sanskrit equivalents is The Korean Buddhist Canon: A Descriptive Catalogue by Lewis Lancaster, 1979. I then separated out the words because long words look scary. I should be more careful about that!

That Buddhist Hermeneutics book looks like an interesting one.

I can't find Lamotte's French Mahāprajñāpāramitā Upadeśa translation online, but there is an English translation of Lamotte's French (vol. 1) by Gelongma Karma Migme Chodron, here http://www.scribd.com/doc/53288920

Chodron's English translation of Lamotte's French translation of Kumarajiva's Chinese translation:
b) Relying on the meaning (arthapratisaraṇa), since goodwill or malice, defect or merit, falsity or truth, cannot be attributed to meaning. It is the letter (vyañjana) that indicates the meaning (artha), but the meaning is not the letter. Suppose a man points his finger at the moon to people who doubt the moon's presence; if these doubters fixate on the finger but do not look at the moon, this man tells them: "I am pointing to the moon with my finger so that you may notice the moon. Why do you fixate on my finger instead of looking at the moon?" It is the same here: the letter (vyañjana) is the finger pointing to the meaning (artha), but the letter is not the meaning. This is why one should not rely on the letter.


My English translation (made before I found the Chodron/Lamotte one above):
"Rely on the meaning": in the meaning there is no competition between good and bad, offences and wholesome acts, truth and falsehood. Therefore, language is what is used to get the meaning, the meaning is not language.
It is like someone showing the moon to one confused by pointing at it, and the confused person looking at the finger and not at the moon. Someone says to him "I am pointing at the moon to let you know about it. Why are you looking at my finger and not at the moon?"
It is the same in this case: language is the finger pointing at the meaning, language is not the meaning. This is why you should not rely on language.


There are lots of points on which my translation seems to be inaccurate, especially in the first sentence. This is probably the level of accuracy you can expect from my future translations!

In the footnotes to this passage (p. 425, which I presume are translations of Lamotte's footnotes), Lamotte references the Laṅkāvatārasūtra and takes issue with the Suzuki translation that I linked to above.
The Suzuki translation of the finger pointing metaphor (remember the moon metaphor and the pointing metaphor are separate in the prose section of Laṅkāvatārasūtra) is:
Be not like the one who looks at the finger-tip. For instance, Mahamati, when a man with his finger-tip points at something to somebody, the finger-tip may be taken wrongly for the thing pointed at; in like manner, Mahamati, the people belonging to the class of the ignorant and simple-minded, like those of a childish group, are unable even unto their death to abandon the idea that in the finger-tip of words there is the meaning itself, and will not grasp ultimate reality because of their intent clinging to words which are no more than the finger-tip to them.


Lamotte says that by looking at the Tibetan version of the Laṅkāvatārasūtra he would translate it as:
"One must not do as the person who looks at the finger. Mahāmati, it is as if one were pointing out something with one's finger to somebody who persisted in looking only at the end of the finger. Similarly, O Mahāmati, stupid people, ordinary worldlings, like children, remain fixated on the end of the finger, which is called the literal interpretation, and they will die still attached to the end of the finger which is called 'the letter'. Because they have ignored the meaning designated by the end of the finger which they call the literal interpretation, they will never penetrate into the Absolute."


Makes you realise what work is required to make serious translations.

I thought Tanluan's Commentary on Vasbandhu's Pure Land Discourse might be a little easier, but a short passage of it has got me researching Daoist spells! Anyway, it's interesting.
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Re: The 'pointing at the moon' metaphor

Postby Huifeng » Sat Apr 05, 2014 1:46 am

Haha! Yes, serious translation work usually takes 100X as much work as what people expect at the start.

Lamotte's Vol II is from the 80s, I think. A lot of earlier material still uses "sastra", but later works often reference the earlier stuff, and also use "sastra". (Sorry, this is one of my pet peeves!)

Maybe you should come and study here at Buddhist Studies, Fo Guang University, we do quite a lot of translation work between the various faculty members. http://buddhist.fgu.edu.tw/news/news.php?Sn=1

This semester my MA Prajnaparamita class is focusing on the Upadesa, and my MA Hermeneutics class (co-taught) has been using this material, too. In particular, the system of four siddhantas, found in chp. 1 of the Upadesa, is also very interesting. This was used quite a bit in China, esp. in Tiantai. It has more depth than the two truths system, and parallels well with the four pratisarana, too.

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Re: The 'pointing at the moon' metaphor

Postby Qianxi » Sat Apr 05, 2014 12:35 pm

Thanks, I did think about trying to study Buddhism full time, but I've taken a different path now, career wise.

From a comment by Dan Lusthaus on an Indology mailing list thread discussing the origin of this metaphor, I found another use in a pre-Tang Indian sutra: Aṅgulimālīytba sūtra (translation completed 443). It's just a brief use, not extended exposition.

The list is now:

406《大智度論》 Mahāprajñāpāramitā Upadeśa
443 《央掘魔羅經》 Aṅgulimālīytba sūtra
443《宋譯楞伽》 Laṅkāvatāra sūtra (Liu Song dynasty translation)
513《魏譯楞伽》七 Laṅkāvatāra sūtra (Later Wei dynasty translation)
first half 6th c.《往生論註》 Tanluan's Commentary on the Pure Land Discourse
587/629《法華文句》 Zhiyi's Commentary on the Text of the Lotus Sutra
TANG DYNASTY STARTS 618
693?《圓覺經》 Yuanjue Jing (probably compiled/composed in China)
704《唐譯楞伽》 Laṅkāvatāra sūtra (Tang dynasty translation)
705/13《楞嚴經》 Śuraṅgama sūtra/Lengyan Jing (probably compiled/composed in China)
Various Chan/Zen records.

If anyone can find other Tang Dynasty/earlier uses that'd be interesting, even in commentaries.

Does the fact that in the Laṅkāvatāra sūtra the moon and the pointing metaphors are separate and only combined in the verse summary (serendipitously pushed together due to concision of verse?) suggest that the Laṅkāvatāra sūtra could be the origin of this metaphor? Just speculating.
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Re: The 'pointing at the moon' metaphor

Postby Qianxi » Sat Apr 05, 2014 6:57 pm

It's a shame that the cbeta concordance search doesn't seem to be working. If it was I might be able to turn up other examples (I remember you can rank search results by date of translation).

Anyway, as i have it, after the Mahāprajñāpāramitā Upadeśa (tr. 406), the Laṅkāvatāra sūtra (tr. 412[lost], 443 etc.) and a brief mention in the Aṅgulimālīytba sūtra (tr. 443), the next use that I have found is in Tanluan's Commentary on Vasubandhu's(reliable attribution?) Pure Land Discourse. I've been unable to find a date of composition, but Tanluan died in 542.

In the chapter of the Laṅkāvatāra sūtra linked to above, the specific examples given of names as moon-pointing labels are the names of the Buddha. The Pure Land tradition's claims about the special properties of the name Amitābha seem to conflict with this. Without mentioning the Laṅkāvatāra sūtra, Tanluan deals with the issue by asking himself a question:

《往生論註》 Tanluan's Commentary on the Pure Land Discourse wrote:問曰:名為法指,如指指月。若稱佛名號便得滿願者,指月之指應能破闇。若指月之指不能破闇,稱佛名號亦何能滿願耶?
答曰:諸法萬差不可一概:有名即法,有名異法。
名即法者,諸佛菩薩名號、般若波羅蜜,及陀羅尼章句、禁呪音辭等是也。
如禁腫辭云「日出東方乍赤乍黃」等句;假使酉亥行禁,不關日出,而腫得差。
亦如行師對陳,但一切齒中誦「臨兵鬪者皆陳列在前」。行誦此九字,五兵之所不中。抱朴子謂之「要道」者也。
又苦轉筋者,以木瓜對火熨之則愈;復有人但呼木瓜名亦愈,吾身得其效也。
如斯近事,世間共知,況不可思議境界者乎。滅除藥塗鼓之喻。復是一事。此喻已彰於前故不重引。
有名異法者,如指指月等名也。

Question: Names point to phenomena like fingers pointing at the moon. Saying that calling a name of the Buddha can bring about the fulfilment of our aspiration [to be reborn in the Pure Land] - that is like saying that a finger can light up the dark [with moonlight]. If the finger cannot light up the dark, how can calling a name of the Buddha bring about the fulfilment of our aspiration?

Answer: Phenomena are endlessly varied and cannot be treated as the same. There are names that are identical with phenomena; there are names that are different from phenomena.

Names that are identical with phenomena include those of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, prajñāpāramitā, dhāraṇī phrases, and protective spells.
Take for example the incantation to cure swelling [from Chinese folk medicine] that begins 'The sun rises in the east; now red now yellow.' If, instead of reciting it as the sun rises, you recite this spell in the evening, [the spell will still work and] the swelling will go down.
Another example: if you are marching to battle and everyone in the army chants the nine words "those about to fight are lined up in front!" Then no weapon will harm you. Baopuzi calls this 'the highest Dao'.
Another example: if you are suffering from a pulled muscle you can heal it by applying a cooked quince. However, you can also heal it just by having someone chant the word 'quince' - I have felt the benefit of this myself.
These things are all well known by ordinary people - even more so by those of the inconceivable realm.
(Another example is the story [from the Śuraṅgama-samādhi sūtra] of a herb which, when smeared on a drum, will cause those who hear it to be cured of their wounds. I have expanded on this allegory above so I will not do so again.)

Names that are different from phenomena are those that are like fingers pointing at the moon.
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Re: The 'pointing at the moon' metaphor

Postby Kunzang » Sun Apr 06, 2014 5:56 am

I'm almost certain it is also in the Saṃdhinirmocana Sūtra, but haven't found it yet. I'm just paging through it manually; if someone has a digital copy that's searchable you might want to try it - meanwhile I'll keep looking.
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Re: The 'pointing at the moon' metaphor

Postby Qianxi » Sun Apr 06, 2014 6:23 am

I searched the four Chinese translations and nothing came up. There is some mention of the sun and moon and there is a metaphor about dirt under a fingernail, but no pointing.
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Re: The 'pointing at the moon' metaphor

Postby Kunzang » Sun Apr 06, 2014 6:28 am

Qianxi wrote:I searched the four Chinese translations and nothing came up. There is some mention of the sun and moon and there is a metaphor about dirt under a fingernail, but no pointing.


Thanks for looking. I guess I must've been mistaken; I've been combing through it front and back without finding it. It really fits in with the themes of the sutra, so maybe that's why I mis-remembered it as being in there
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Re: The 'pointing at the moon' metaphor

Postby Qianxi » Sun Apr 06, 2014 7:07 pm

I've found a working search engine for the Taisho corpus http://21dzk.l.u-tokyo.ac.jp/SAT/key:指月
I think I now have quite a comprehensive list of uses of the 'pointing at the moon' metaphor preserved in the Taisho canon (up to the end of the Tang dynasty). I haven't found any additional sutras, just additional Chinese commentaries and another usage near the end of the Mahāprajñāpāramitā Upadeśa. I think all those texts by Jizang in the Sui dynasty might be interesting. The number of relevant texts from the Tang Dynasty was not so overwhelming after all - just 14, including four by Japanese monks. I'll try to translate the titles of these newly found commentaries later - it's not so easy!

In the lists above I misspelt Aṅgulimālīya as Aṅgulimālīytba.

後秦 Later Qin (384 - 417)
406《大智度論》九九十五 Mahāprajñāpāramitā Upadeśa

劉宋 Liu Song (420 - 479)
443 《央掘魔羅經》 Aṅgulimālīya sūtra
443《宋譯楞伽》 Laṅkāvatāra sūtra (Liu Song dynasty translation)

北魏 Northern Wei (386-534)
513《魏譯楞伽》七 Laṅkāvatāra sūtra (Northern Wei dynasty translation)
first half 6th c.《往生論註》 Tanluan's Commentary on the Pure Land Discourse

隋 Sui (581 – 618)
《金剛般若疏》 Jizang's Commentary on the Diamond Sutra
《大乘玄論》 Jizang's Treatise on the Mystery of the Mahayana
《二諦義》一 Jizang's Meaning of the Two Levels of Discourse
《維摩經玄疏》 Zhiyi's Commentary on the Mystery of the Vimalakirti Sutra
587/629《法華文句》 Zhiyi's Commentary on the Text of the Lotus Sutra

唐 Tang (618 – 907)
《安樂集》 (T 1958) 道綽撰 Daochuo (562-645)
《釋門歸敬儀》 (T 1896) 道宣述 Daoxuan (596-667)
《續高僧傳》 (T 2060) 道宣撰 Daoxuan
《大唐内典録》 (T 2149) 道宣撰 Daoxuan
《成唯識論掌中樞要》 (T 1831) 窺基撰 Kuiji (632-682)
《釋淨土群疑論》 (T 1960) 懷感撰 Huaigan (?-699)
693?《圓覺經》 Yuanjue Jing (probably compiled/composed in China)
704《唐譯楞伽》 Laṅkāvatāra sūtra (Tang dynasty translation)
705/13《楞嚴經》 Śuraṅgama sūtra/Lengyan Jing (probably compiled/composed in China)
《法華文句記》 (T 1719) 湛然述 Zhanran (711-782)

《中論疏記》 (T 2255) 日本 安澄撰 Anchō (763-814)
《梵網經開題》 (T 2246) 日本 空海撰 Kūkai (774-835)
《祕密漫荼羅十住心論》 (T 2425) 日本 空海 Kūkai
《入眞言門住如實見講演法華略儀》 (T 2192) 日本 圓珍撰 Enchin (814-891)

I think those are enough texts to be getting on with! If I included Chan Records compiled in the Song Dynasty I think the list would double or triple in size! Next I'll look at the second usage in the Mahāprajñāpāramitā Upadeśa, then try to understand a short paragraph of the Aṅgulimālīya sūtra (Tathagatagarbha doctrine :reading: ).
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Re: The 'pointing at the moon' metaphor

Postby Huifeng » Mon Apr 07, 2014 1:17 am

I was just about to suggest that if you're looking for a lot of Chan precedents, turn to Tiantai Zhiyi--but it seems you've found this already. How about Sengzhao and Kumarajiva's letters to Huiyuan? May have something in there considering their own reliance on the Upadesa. Just a thought.

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Re: The 'pointing at the moon' metaphor

Postby Qianxi » Mon Apr 07, 2014 6:43 pm

後秦 Later Qin (384 - 417)
402/7 《坐禪三昧經》 Kumarajiva's Sūtra on the Concentration of Sitting Meditation
402-6《大智度論》九四十三九十五 Mahāprajñāpāramitā Upadeśa

劉宋 Liu Song (420 - 479)
443 《央掘魔羅經》 Aṅgulimālīya sūtra
443《宋譯楞伽》 Laṅkāvatāra sūtra (Liu Song dynasty translation)

北魏 Northern Wei (386-534)
513《魏譯楞伽》七 Laṅkāvatāra sūtra (Northern Wei dynasty translation)
《往生論註》 Tanluan's (476–542) Commentary on the Pure Land Discourse

隋 Sui (581 – 618)
《金剛般若疏》 Jizang's Commentary on the Diamond Sutra
《大乘玄論》 Jizang's Treatise on the Mystery of the Mahayana
《二諦義》一 Jizang's Meaning of the Two Levels of Discourse
《維摩經玄疏》 Zhiyi's Commentary on the Mystery of the Vimalakirti Sutra
587/629《法華文句》 Zhiyi's Commentary on the Text of the Lotus Sutra

唐 Tang (618 – 907)
《安樂集》 Daochuo's (562-645) Anle Collection (quotes Tanluan)
《釋門歸敬儀》 Daoxuan (596-667)
《續高僧傳》 Daoxuan
《大唐内典録》 Daoxuan
《成唯識論掌中樞要》 Kuiji (632-682)
《釋淨土群疑論》 Huaigan (?-699)
693?《圓覺經》 Yuanjue Jing (probably compiled/composed in China)
704《唐譯楞伽》 Laṅkāvatāra sūtra (Tang dynasty translation)
705/13《楞嚴經》 Śuraṅgama sūtra/Lengyan Jing (probably compiled/composed in China)
《法華文句記》 Zhanran (711-782) Notes on Zhiyi's Commentary on the Text of the Lotus Sutra
《寶藏論》 Treatise on the Treasure Storehouse (attrib. Seng Zhao, probably composed in the Tang)

《中論疏記》 (T 2255) Anchō's (763-814) Notes on Jizang's Commentary on the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā
828《梵網經開題》 (T 2246) Kūkai's Introduction to the Brahmajala sutra
830《祕密漫荼羅十住心論》 (T 2425) Kūkai's Ten Abiding Stages of Mind According to the Secret Mandalas
《入眞言門住如實見講演法華略儀》 (T 2192) 日本 圓珍撰 Enchin (814-891)
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Re: The 'pointing at the moon' metaphor

Postby Qianxi » Thu May 08, 2014 11:13 am

Jizang used the pointing at the moon metaphor quite a lot. I've found it in 10 of his 25 extant works. Daoxuan and the Zhiyi/Guanding pair have left a similar number of works but they only used it in three or four of them. In fact, use of this metaphor further confirms the idea that the two works attributed to Zhiyi in this list were not just noted down later by Guanding, but largely composed by him after Zhiyi's death in 597, and that these works were greatly influenced by the ideas of Jizang who at that time (617-623) had an influential position at the court of the first Tang Emperor Gaozu.

Zhiyi's teacher Huisi has 6 short works in the canon and none of them use the pointing at the moon metaphor, none of the texts thought to have been composed in Zhiyi's lifetime contain the metaphor. Doesn't prove anything on its own of course.

後秦 Later Qin (384 - 417)
402/7 《坐禪三昧經》 Kumarajiva's Sūtra on the Concentration of Sitting Meditation
402-6《大智度論》九四十三九十五 Mahāprajñāpāramitā Upadeśa

劉宋 Liu Song (420 - 479)
443 《央掘魔羅經》 Aṅgulimālīya sūtra
443《宋譯楞伽》 Laṅkāvatāra sūtra (Liu Song dynasty translation)

梁 Liang(502-557)
509《大般涅槃經集解》 Baoliang's Collected Exegesis on the Mahaparinirvana Sutra

北魏 Northern Wei (386-534)
513《魏譯楞伽》七 Laṅkāvatāra sūtra (Northern Wei dynasty translation)
《往生論註》 Tanluan's (476–542) Commentary on the Pure Land Discourse

隋 Sui (581 – 618)
《金剛般若疏》三 Jizang's Commentary on the Diamond Sutra
《大乘玄論》 Jizang's Treatise on the Mystery of the Mahayana
《二諦義》一 Jizang's Meaning of the Two Levels of Discourse
《法華義疏》四 Jizang's Commentary on the Meaning of the Lotus Sutra
《涅槃經遊意》 Jizang's Musings on the Nirvāṇa Sūtra
《維摩經義疏》一 Jizang's Commentary on the Meaning of the Vimalakīrti Sūtra
《中觀論疏》一 Jizang's Commentary on Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā
《百論疏》 Jizang's Commentary on Āryadeva's Śatakaśāstra
《三論玄義》 Jizang's Profound Meaning of the Three Treatises
《十二門論疏》 Jizang's Commentary on the Twelve Gate Treatise

《維摩經玄疏》 Zhiyi's Commentary on the Mystery of the Vimalakirti Sutra
587/629《法華文句》 Zhiyi's Commentary on the Text of the Lotus Sutra

唐 Tang (618 – 907)
《觀心論疏》Guanding's(561-632) Commentary on Zhiyi's Treatise on Contemplating the Mind
《四念處》 Guanding's Four Establishments of Mindfulness
《安樂集》 Daochuo's (562-645) Anle Collection (quotes Tanluan)
《釋門歸敬儀》 Daoxuan (596-667)
《續高僧傳》十五二十八 Daoxuan
《大唐内典録》 Daoxuan
668 《法苑珠林》 Daoshi's Forest of Gems in the Garden of the Dharma
《成唯識論掌中樞要》 Kuiji (632-682)
《釋淨土群疑論》 Huaigan (?-699)
693?《圓覺經》 Yuanjue Jing (probably compiled/composed in China)
704《唐譯楞伽》 Laṅkāvatāra sūtra (Tang dynasty translation)
705/13《楞嚴經》 Śuraṅgama sūtra/Lengyan Jing (probably compiled/composed in China)
《法華文句記》 Zhanran (711-782) Notes on Zhiyi's Commentary on the Text of the Lotus Sutra
《寶藏論》 Treatise on the Treasure Storehouse (attrib. Seng Zhao, probably composed in the Tang)

《中論疏記》 (T 2255) Anchō's (763-814) Notes on Jizang's Commentary on the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā
828《梵網經開題》 (T 2246) Kūkai's Introduction to the Brahmajala sutra
830《祕密漫荼羅十住心論》 (T 2425) Kūkai's Ten Abiding Stages of Mind According to the Secret Mandalas
《入眞言門住如實見講演法華略儀》 (T 2192) 日本 圓珍撰 Enchin (814-891)
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Re: The 'pointing at the moon' metaphor

Postby Qianxi » Thu May 08, 2014 3:10 pm

《維摩經玄疏》 Zhiyi's Commentary on the Mystery of the Vimalakirti Sutra may actually have been written by Zhiyi himself, at the end of his life (according to this paper in Chinese it is an extract of the full Commentary on the Vimalakirti Sutra done at the request of Prince Guang [later known as Emperor Yang of Sui]). So it's probably not the case that 'finger-moon' metaphor is never found in Zhiyi and is always the work of his disciple Guanding under the influence of Jizang. But I think the general pattern of Guanding, under the influence of Jizang, using the metaphor much more than his teacher Zhiyi, still seems plausible.
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Re: The 'pointing at the moon' metaphor

Postby Qianxi » Thu May 08, 2014 6:15 pm

Another comment: maybe the [pre 900 ce] Chinese canon is not as vast and comprehensive as it seems. What are the chances that doing a computer search for a random key word (combinations of 'finger' and 'moon' in Chinese) turns up almost only famous names? Kumarajiva, Jizang, Zhiyi, Daoxuan... then two out of the four Tang Dynasty Japanese uses of the metaphor are by Kukai? Where are all the treatises written by the thousands of mediocre monks?

Makes one realise what a partial picture we have of Buddhist literature in China, even though what we have seems quite mountainous.
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