Chinese language and Buddhism

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Re: Chinese language and Buddhism

Postby cdpatton » Sun Jun 16, 2013 4:11 am

Ben Yuan wrote:
Texts like the Mahaparinirvana-sutra clearly had the ideas of a permanent, transcendent self - styled as the dharmakaya - in them prior to arriving in China.

Dharmakāya is not an agent, thus it is also not an underlying perceiver.

A transcendent self has no aggregates, including consciousness.

It is an ocean, not a stream.

It is a description of the ends, which can't be retroactively applied to all consciousness or perception without also stating that there is no consciousness or perception anymore, i.e. cleansed. This is not what Park is discussing, though certainly "consciousness" as the subject of rebirth 'did' exist in Indian thought - albeit to a lesser extent in Buddhism than one finds in Chinese translations.
it hasn't much to do with some poor early translations or the lack of a highly structured grammar akin to Indic languages ...

It seems obvious that you would have to lose a lot of subtleties and the majesty and beauty when you translate from Sanskrit into Chinese, perhaps to a lesser extent when you translate into English also.

Thus, the question of the existence of the self, in terms of translations, is not the biggest issue. Which, due to Chinese grammar, is more or less inherent to the nature of the task itself, when, as Malcolm and others point out, is less evident in translation to Tibetan or English. This is broader than what Park was discussing however, as far as I can see.


Chinese is a language that leaves a great deal understood and implied - it does not lock an expression into an explicit structure. And I can certainly understand the point of not being able to fully reproduce the explicit grammar of Indic languages. But the overall implication is that this is somehow the reason Chinese Buddhism "went off the rails." (Which is loaded enough an assertion in the first place.) And that is where the conversation goes off the rails. It is not necessary to have "perfect grammar" or absolute explicitness to teach Dharma. The example of shen is instructive enough. I have hardly ever seen in used as it is discussed in the synopsis I quoted. In fact, it is typically used for atman, the heretical concept to Buddhists. The character used for self is wo. Thus, I naturally assumed the real argument there was the True Self discourse that arose from the Tathagata-garbha texts that Chinese Buddhism adopted as central doctrines early on.


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Re: Chinese language and Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Sun Jun 16, 2013 4:18 am

With Jizang the term Shen 神 is used to argue against the heterodox idea of uccheda-dṛṣṭ. He argued for the continuity of a being post-mortem, so he appropriated the term from canonical non-Buddhist Chinese classical literature.

Given his learning I would imagine he knew this might have been a bit problematic.

I personally don't think using the term "soul" is problematic if you understand soul = mental skandha-s.
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Re: Chinese language and Buddhism

Postby cdpatton » Sun Jun 16, 2013 4:33 am

Indrajala wrote:With Jizang the term Shen 神 is used to argue against the heterodox idea of uccheda-dṛṣṭ. He argued for the continuity of a being post-mortem, so he appropriated the term from canonical non-Buddhist Chinese classical literature.

Given his learning I would imagine he knew this might have been a bit problematic.

I personally don't think using the term "soul" is problematic if you understand soul = mental skandha-s.


Jizang was one for balancing a view against another, if I remember (it was a long time ago I read him). So, the reader (Chinese or otherwise) would catch onto his "devil's advocate" ways at a certain point, yes? My impression was that he was more interested in negating his listeners view (a la Nagarjuna) rather than formulated a real assertion. But, I am no specialist in Chinese exegesis - I am talking from vague memory.

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Re: Chinese language and Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Sun Jun 16, 2013 4:41 am

cdpatton wrote:Jizang was one for balancing a view against another, if I remember (it was a long time ago I read him). So, the reader (Chinese or otherwise) would catch onto his "devil's advocate" ways at a certain point, yes? My impression was that he was more interested in negating his listeners view (a la Nagarjuna) rather than formulated a real assertion. But, I am no specialist in Chinese exegesis - I am talking from vague memory.

Charlie.


Anything he argues he admits is provisional. That's why you negate existence 有 with non-existence 無, and then do away with the non-existence, thereby attaining the middle perspective 中觀. He believes realization is beyond conceptualization and language, so anything he argues is merely conventional and a means to an end. So, for him right view can be built upon lesser views. It isn't all or nothing. You can correct nihilism with a belief in a soul, then correct the belief in a soul with the aggregates, and then correct belief in aggregates with emptiness.
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