Huseng wrote: It is funny how he accused them of theft.
The article suggests it was the Jesuits who first leveled that criticism. But truthfully, isn't the success of Catholic Missionaries, particularly Jesuit missionaries, attributable in a great degree to their liberal attitude toward syncretism, their willingness to adapt local beliefs and customs towards Christianity? "Oh, this is a temple to Qetzalcoatl, the Serpent God of the Harvest? Well, the REAL identity is Our Lady of Guadalupe. Why don't we just tear down this temple and raise a church to Our Lady?" The paper mentions that this WAS what the Jesuits were doing to an extent, particularly with their attitude toward ancestor veneration, until the Pope found out and put an end to that, anyways. (Buddhist missionaries have done the same thing, by the way - in Japan, kami were interpreted by Buddhists as Buddhist protective deities. Heck, its in Buddhist DNA - see incorporation of the Vedic pantheon and physical and spiritual architecture of the world in Buddhist thought).
With that said, I think it was a common trope in East Asian Buddhist rhetoric to accuse rival teachers or sects of "stealing the ghee" of one's own school. It is mentioned that Ouyi was associated with Tientai. Certain Tientai masters accused other sects of stealing Zhiyi's Trichiliocosm in a Single Thought. I would guess that Ouyi would have been familiar with those writings. It would be interesting to see if any connection can be drawn.
On a related note - I know the author of this article; she's coming out of Harvard where Ryuichi Abe teaches. He used to be my adviser at Columbia. When I was applying, one of the things we talked about was the relatively novel experience of being a practicing Buddhist studying Buddhism in the academy and how this was considered by many in the field to be a fatal shortcoming - I guess its presumed one's perspective will be compromised (Abe, who has a Shingon background, quipped something about women in the women's studies department should also be criticized for similar reasons by that rationale). He told me that would not be a problem at Columbia because both he an Bob Thurman, being practitioners, did not share that prejudice. At least when I knew Prof. Foulks (she was a grad student at the time) she was a practicing Buddhist.
It is interesting that Prof. Foulks considers the subjective experience of Ouyi, particularly as it relates to his repentance for having once criticized Buddhism. I was looking forward to a deeper exploration based on the introduction to the article, but it seems this part of her study was yet undeveloped. Consideration of subjective religious experience seems to me a relatively new direction in Religious studies - at least when it comes to Buddhism. The scholarship of previous generations tended, at least this is my impression, to be limited to taxonomic approaches. Consideration of the subjective experience of Buddhism tends to be circumscribed. In a way I understand - Religion departments approach religion differently than it is in say a seminary or monastic environments. But I still felt that scholarship was lacking in this regard - let's be frank - religion is about the religious experience, and everything else - the theory, rituals, history etc. orbit around this. I always thought that Buddhism is particularly amenable to the study of this precisely because so much of Buddhist writing is itself about the religious experience. It would be interesting to find out if this direction in Prof. Foulks work is at all influenced by a more permissive approach under Prof. Abe. I ended up not pursuing an academic career, but I always felt that there was room to approach the subjective religious experience with scientific rigor - even those areas that get "far out" from the narrow confines of "normal human experience" in the academy. This article doesn't go that far into Ouyi's subjective experience, but there are some hints in this general direction I'm suggesting. I will be looking forward to Prof. Foulks further studies on the subject.
The discussion above about the comparative role of repentance in East Asian and Western Buddhism is really interesting. I think it deserves its own thread...