Buddhism, Schools of: East Asian Buddhism

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The Japanese monk Gyōnen (12401321 ce) is well-known for his detailed work describing the origins of Buddhist schools and their transmission from India to East Asia. Because Gyōnen's understanding of these schools is clearly defined and is representative, in key respects, of other premodern East Asian sources, it will serve as a useful starting point from which to develop an understanding of the category "school" in the context of East Asian Buddhism. It will also serve as a basis for examining basic questions and relationships modern scholars face when trying to understand the development and transmission of these schools. Gyōnen's definition of "school" is also useful because modern Japanese Buddhist scholarshipa dominant intellectual force in the study of East Asian Buddhismdeveloped out of the sectarian tradition and institutions of scholar-monks like Gyōnen, and a number of Japanese universities are affiliated with modern Buddhist schools. His work also draws attention to relationships among East Asian schools of Buddhism, as well as to their collective relationship to Indian Buddhist schools, particularly their perceived fidelity to a "pure" or "original" Indian Buddhism.

Transmission of Buddhist Schools in the "Three Lands"

Among Gyōnen's collected works are general historical overviews of Buddhist schools and their lineages, including the Sangoku buppō denzū engi (Transmission of Buddhism in the Three Lands) and the Hasshū kōyō (Essentials of the Eight Schools). The former describes the transmission of Buddhist schools in the "three lands," or sangoku, of India, China, and Japan, and the latter details the eight "schools," or shū, of Japanese Buddhism. In these and other general works, Gyōnen understands "school" to be a lineage of masters and disciples united by their study of particular texts and doctrines. As such, both works contain detailed lists recounting these texts and doctrines, and describing the central figures from individual schools who have interpreted, lectured on, and propagated them.

In the Sangoku buppō denzū engi, Gyōnen identifies thirteen principal schools of Chinese Buddhism, including the Tiantai, Sanlun, and Chan, and traces their "uninterrupted transmission" through the "three lands," beginning with founding Indian figures and patriarchs such as Śākyamuni Buddha and Nāgārjuna, continuing through a line of Indian and Chinese masters, and eventually ending with Japanese teachers. Of these thirteen Chinese schools, he classifies eight as the traditional schools of Japanese Buddhism, which developed in Japan's Nara (710794 ce) and Heian periods (7941185 ce).

In these texts, Gyōnen generally uses shū (Chin. zong, Kor. chong ) to refer to a school, but Mark Blum notes that he also refers to them as ryū ("stream") and ke ("house") (2002). Although shū is commonly used among premodern East Asian authors, other Chinese terms, often associated with particular schools or groups of schools, can be found: the Chinese character bu, "group" or "division," is generally used to refer to the schools of Hīnayāna Buddhism, whereas multiple words including zong appear in premodern East Asian sources to indicate the Mahāyāna schools that have predominated in the region. "Gate," "house," and "mountain," for example, are common designations for Chinese Chan, Korean Son, and Japanese Zen.

Defining "Full-Fledged" Chinese Buddhist Schools

These semantic problems have been compounded, moreover, not only because these individual words can have multiple meanings, but also because there is a lack of standardization in translation and usage in modern scholarly works. Even a cursory reading of the academic literature reveals scholars generally do not distinguish carefully among a number of terms used to translate zong and these other terms, including "school," "sect," "lineage," and "tradition," among others. Leo Pruden, for example, translates the term shū, appearing in the title of Gyōnen's Hasshū kōyō, as "tradition" (1994), whereas Mark Blum opts instead for "school" (2002). This ambiguity leads Blum to leave shū untranslated in some sections of his work, The Origins and Development of Pure Land Buddhism: A Study and Translation of Gyōnen's Jōdo Hōmon Genrushō, whereas John McRae adopts "school" in Seeing through Zen: Encounter, Transformation, and Genealogy in Chinese Chan Buddhism precisely because its ambiguity fits his interpretive framework.

In his description of Chinese schools of Buddhism in the first edition of The Encyclopedia of Religion, Stanley Weinstein seeks to clarify some of these ambiguities by distinguishing among three principal meanings of zong in premodern Chinese Buddhist sources: a doctrine, the teaching of a text, and a school. He writes that the tendency of scholars to automatically translate zong as "school" has produced "persistent misconceptions about what actually constitutes a school in Chinese Buddhism" (p. 257).

As a doctrine, zong appears in statements such as "the doctrine of emptiness," or in the panjiao systems devised by Chinese Buddhists to rank the large number of sometimes contradictory doctrines they received from South Asia. The second meaning of zong, the teaching of a text, is tied to the work of Kumārajīva (344413 ce), a central figure in the translation of Buddhist texts from Sanskrit into Chinese. The translations of Kumarajiiva and later scholar-monks from the fifth and sixth centuries led to the development in China of "exegetical traditions" focusing on particular texts such as the Dilun, Shelun, and Dalun, whose members studied, lectured on, and commented on these works. Weinstein notes that monks of these traditions specialized in the interpretation of a particular text, and thus explicated its zong, which he describes as the "essential doctrine" or "underlying theme."

From among these exegetical traditions, Weinstein claims that only the Sanlun of Jizang (549623 ce), which studies the Dalun and other texts, approaches what he defines as a "full-fledged school": "a tradition that traces its origin back to a founder, usually designated 'first patriarch,' who is believed to have provided the basic spiritual insights that were then transmitted through an unbroken line of successors or 'dharma heirs'" (p. 260). Because Jizang's line ended only two generations after his death, however, Weinstein argues that it is only with the emergence of the Tiantai, Huayan, and Chan in the second half of the Tang dynasty (618907 ce) that such schools could be found.

From among this group, Chan, for example, describes itself as an unbroken lineage of dharma heirs that can be traced from the figure of Bodhidharmaconsidered to be the twenty-eighth Indian patriarch and first figure to teach Chan in Chinaback to Śākyamuni Buddha. From the figure of Bodhidharma, moreover, Chan genealogical charts trace the development of these schools forward in time through a series of Chinese dharma heirs, whose lines were eventually transmitted to Korea and Japan. During Japan's Kamakura period (11851333 ce), Gyōnen's contemporaries Eisai (11451215 ce) and Dōgen (12001253 ce) traveled to China where they received certificates attesting their enlightenment and authorizing them to propagate the Linji (J. Rinzai) and Caodong (J. Sōto) Chan lineages. After returning to Japan, they transmitted these teachings to disciples who thus continued the tradition as an uninterrupted lineage of Japanese dharma heirs.

But even if the definition of school is restricted as Weinstein suggests, he and other scholars point out that the independent identities of Chan and these other schools were often after the fact creations of the disciples of their purported founders, sometimes a number of generations removed from the "first patriarch." Thus, although they may be described as discrete lineages by later members, and often accepted as such by scholar-monks like Gyōnen, these schools were not necessarily seen in this way during the lifetime of the founder and possibly not even for generations thereafter. Despite these and other issues taken up below, critics claim that modern scholars have often accepted the descriptions of these schools in the work of Gyōnen and other premodern sources at face value, and have thus understood them to be self-contained entities that have been "transmitted without interruption" and that can be clearly distinguished from the doctrines and practices of other schools of Buddhism, other religious traditions, and society at large.

"Textuality Overrides Actuality"

Gregory Schopen asserts that the tendency to confuse such accounts in premodern sources like those of Gyōnen for actual conditions and practices has led to a situation in which "textuality overrides actuality" (p. 7). Schopen claims that texts serve as unreliable witnesses to the actual behavior of Buddhist monastics because they often reflect sectarian commitments and polemical agendas, and are thus likely to present idealized accounts of particular schools, as well as the Buddhist community more generally. In response to these perceived deficiencies, Schopen has turned to the study of epigraphic data, and has produced results that challenge widely accepted images of monastic behavior. He asserts, for example, that this evidence proves that Buddhist monks and nuns in India held money, transferred merit, and engaged in other activities that contravene the rules of monastic conduct or that do not accord with basic tenets of Buddhism.

Although Schopen's work centers on South Asia, other studies of East Asian schools of Buddhism reveal a similar disjuncture between idealized accounts of monastic behavior and actual practices. This body of scholarship covers a broad range of topics, including Bernard Faure's research on Buddhism and sexuality, as well as Brian Victoria's work on the connection between Zen and war. In Zen at War, Victoria argues that Zen Buddhist institutions and intellectuals helped create the ideological justification for the Japanese military's aggression on the East Asian continent from the early to mid-1900s. He asserts that D.T. Suzuki and other such figures forged a close connection between the principles of Zen and the "warrior spirit," or bushidō, and that these ideas were incorporated into the military's rhetoric portraying its aggression as a "just war" meant to liberate East Asians from Western colonial domination, and unite them as "Asian brethren" within the Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere. In Pruning the Bodhi Tree: The Storm over Critical Buddhism (1997), Hakamaya Noriaki and Matsumoto Shirō make a similar argument of a close connection among Zen, Japanese nationalism, and the military, and also assert that Sōtō Zen institutions and leaders have contributed to social discrimination in Japan against the burakumin, Koreans, and women, among other minority groups.

The "Classical Paradigm" of Buddhist Studies

Other studies seek to reveal the processes by which commonly accepted images of Buddhist schools have been shaped by the assumptions, methods, and frames of reference of traditional Buddhist studies, often described as its "classical paradigm." Frank Reynolds states that this paradigm generally adopts "a positivistic view of historical methods and historical facts" (1999, p. 462), and, like Gyōnen, takes lineages, doctrines, and texts, which are often abstracted from their historical and social contexts, to be the central defining elements of Buddhist schools. Reynolds adds that this approach focuses on "origins," and thus privileges Sanskrit and Pali texts, as well as Indian schools and doctrines, as the chief arbiters for judging the legitimacy of non-Indian texts and forms of Buddhism, including those of East Asia. Much like Gyōnen's focus on "lands" in the sangoku paradigm, moreover, modern scholars often rely on "nation" as a key frame of reference for understanding the transmission and development of these schools, and are thus concerned with distinguishing among "national" varieties of East Asian Buddhism, or with judging the legitimacy of East Asian Buddhist schools, texts, and doctrines as a group based on their perceived fidelity to Indian "originals."

Robert Buswell asserts that the institutional history of North American Buddhist studies, an outgrowth of "area studies," and other factors have contributed to the former tendency, and that this focus on the distinctiveness of modern, national varieties of East Asian Buddhism inhibits a fuller understanding of premodern East Asian Buddhist schools and their members. By viewing these schools anachronistically through the lens of the modern notion of nation, observers may fail to recognize the complex of factors through which premodern East Asian Buddhists would have "imagined" their individual identities, identities which Buswell notes were connected simultaneously to both translocal Sino-Indian Buddhist "macroculture" and to local relationships and commitments. He claims that these tendencies have also reinforced what have been historically uncertain geographic borders and precluded academic "cross-fertilization," thereby preventing observers from viewing the development of these East Asian schools as part of broader processes of intercultural interaction. Buswell adds that this "national" approach has become so thoroughly ingrained in the academic training of Buddhist studies that it has rarely been questioned, and scholars thus "continue to hypostatize into inviolate traditions complex religious phenomena that involved multivalent levels of cultural interaction and symbiosis and intricate series of personal identities" (p. 73).

N ihonjinron and Japanese Sectarian Scholarship

The structure of the sangoku paradigm also draws attention to the relations among the schools of these East Asian nations, particularly the differential treatment accorded Chinese Buddhist schools relative to those of the Korean peninsula. Whereas Gyōnen ascribes a central position to China as the bridge between Japanese and Indian Buddhism, he does not describe Korean schools of Buddhism in any detail. Although he does note that Buddhism was transmitted to Japan from the Korean peninsula in the sixth century ce, and that it was propagated by Shōtoku Taishi (574622 ce) whose Buddhist tutors were peninsular monks, these schools were not seen to be of sufficient value to be included in the sangoku paradigm. And, whereas Blum makes a reasoned argument that Gyōnen's omission in this regard was linguisticthat is, Chinese, but not Korean, was a sacred, canonical language of Buddhismrather than racial, this omission is complicated by the history of modern relations that exists between Japan and its East Asian neighbors, particularly the events described by Victoria.

Some critics contend that common images of these "national" East Asian Buddhist schools have been shaped in fundamental ways by Japan's racial attitudes and theories and by the intellectual paradigms and social structures of Japanese Buddhist scholarship. This body of work examines, for example, the ways in which the notion of a unified and unchanging Japanese "essence," often referred to as nihonjinron ("discourse on Japaneseness"), informs studies in a broad spectrum of Japanese cultural areas, including the works of National Learning (J. kokugaku ), the Kyoto school of philosophy, and Zen and other schools of Buddhism.

A number of such studies also question how the institutional affiliations and agendas of Japanese Buddhist scholars, as well as the requirements for progressing within their scholarly communities, have delimited the range of acceptable topics and interpretive methods. T. Griffith Foulk writes that whereas Western scholars of Japanese Buddhism are deeply indebted to the research, guidance, and methods of their Japanese counterparts or mentors, there is a growing awareness that the latter's scholarship often reflects the interests of sectarian institutions that developed out of those of Gyōnen and other such premodern monk-scholars, and which he describes as normative traditions. These observers claim that such interests have led scholars to focus on the history of particular Japanese Buddhist schools and lineages, as well as on the thought and lives and of their central figures, and thereby limited the breadth of scholarly inquiry by isolating scholars of Buddhism from other academic disciplines. The influence of these theories and methods extends, moreover, to the study of Chinese and Korean Buddhist schools. In the case of the former, for example, McRae, Sharf, and others point out that understanding of Chan and other Chinese Buddhist schools has been deeply influenced by these Japanese methods and attitudes.

Korean Buddhist Identity and "Cultural Self-Sufficiency"

To overcome the limits of these received methods, and to thereby bring the study of Buddhism into a broader-based discourse in the humanities, a number of scholars have applied the methods and theories of outside disciplines such as archaeology, anthropology, cultural studies, and literary criticism. These efforts include studies that investigate the interests and processes by which these premodern narratives have been created and transmitted, and identify the ideological and other functions they have played in the process of inventing schools as part of tradition.

One such example is Buswell's study, "Imagining 'Korean Buddhism': The Invention of a National Religious Tradition," which offers an alternative angle of vision for understanding the development of Korean Buddhist tradition by incorporating a number of these methods and theories, including Benedict Anderson's "imagined communities." In so doing, he reveals the limits of the traditional paradigm's focus on "nation" by showing the complexity of Buddhist identity, particularly, the ways in which premodern Buddhist monastics of the Korean peninsula imagined themselves as actors within a number of translocal and local relationships and commitments.

Buswell claims that for much of the history of Buddhism on the Korean peninsula, it would have been "patently absurd" for monastics to view themselves in national terms as there was "no independent sense of a 'Korean' national tradition of Buddhism distinct from the broader Sino-Indian tradition during the premodern era" (p. 85). Rather, their identities would have been defined by sectarian commitments, ordination lineages, functional positions (disciples of A, teachers of B, or as proselytists, doctrinal specialists, meditators, and so on), or local tribal or clan membership. Just as important, however, is that these monastics would also have imagined themselves to be participants in a pan-Asian Buddhist "macroculture." Buswell notes that these groups tried to integrate peninsular Buddhism into this macroculture by forging connections to India's King Aśoka, the Dragon King, and other translocal Buddhist models and authorizing mechanisms.

At the same time, however, these monastics actively sought to create a sense of their own "cultural self-sufficiency" by "inventing" legitimate local practices, figures, and texts, including the Vajrasamādhi-sūtra. Buswell asserts that the narrative describing the discovery of this text by a Silla envoy in the palace of the Dragon King was meant to establish the self-sufficiency and legitimacy of peninsular Buddhism relative to China by proving it was no longer in need of a constant influx of their texts and teachers. The Vajrasamādhi-sūtra also became a basic text in the development of Chinese Chan, and thus offers an important example of reversing the established direction of the flow of religious and cultural products from China eastward.

Japanese "Cultural Self-Sufficiency"

Even in Japan where governmental authorities have often exerted greater control over Buddhist schools compared to China and Korea, the identities of individual monastics have not always been clearly defined along either strict national or sectarian lines. Although state control created greater institutional separation and sectarian awarenessevident in the harsh and sometimes violent sectarian debates of Gyōnen's Kamakura periodBuswell's approach is still instructive. Gyōnen, for example, is known primarily for his affiliation with the Kegon and Vinaya schools, but also "imagined" himself as a Brahmā, or Buddhist "striver," associated with teachers from the Pure Land and other schools. And much like the identities of premodern Korean monks described by Buswell, Gyōnen defined himself in both translocal and local terms. According to Blum, Gyōnen saw himself recording the transmission of transhistorical Buddhist truth embedded in "homogeneous time," but that manifested in particular times and placeswhich Blum describes as the "particularity of the Japanese experience" (2002, p. 90). Within this "particularity," Gyōnen imagined his identity in terms of his sectarian commitments to the Kegon school and position at Tōdaiji temple, as well as in functional termsparticularly as a commentator on the Sangyō-gisho, a collection of three Buddhist commentaries attributed to Japan's Shōtoku Taishi.

This process described by Buswell of establishing and bolstering local "cultural self-sufficiency" is evident in the valorization and transmission of these commentaries, and in the evolution of the figure of Shōtoku as father of Japanese Buddhism and Buddhist exegete. Shōtoku is depicted in accounts from the eighth century as a devout practitioner and generous patron of Buddhism, who later was linked to important Japanese Buddhist figures such as Kūkai (774835 ce), Saichō (767822 ce), and Shinran (11731263 ce), and was identified as the "first patriarch" or central figure in a number of Japanese Buddhist schools. These accounts relate that his keen intellectual interest and understanding of Buddhist doctrine, honed under the instruction of continental tutors, led to lectures at court on the Śrīmālādevī Sūtra and the Lotus Sūtra. These lectures are thought to constitute the basis for the composition of the Shōmangyō-gisho and the Hokke-gisho, two of the three commentaries attributed to him.

As Shōtoku's image evolved and religious authority expanded, his human ties to continental teachers were downplayed, whereas his synchronic ties to translocal Buddhist figures increased. Over time, Shōtoku came to be seen as the reincarnation of a number of central Buddhist figures such as Śākyamuni Buddha, Queen Śrīmālā, Avalokiteśvara, and the Chinese Tiantai monk Huisi (515577 ce). Among these previous births, Shōtoku's former life as Queen Śrīmālā of India naturally authorized him to compose the Shōmangyō-gisho as it was an exegesis on the very text that she had proclaimed in Ayodhyā through the eloquence granted her by the Buddha himself.

The Japanese historian Tsuda Sōkichi argues that the compilers of these early Japanese texts sought to remake Yamato, or early Japan, in the image of China as described in its dynastic histories, and that accounts of Shōtoku's lectures were fabricated as part of this greater effort. Tsuda believes that Shōtoku's lectures, as well as other aspects of his Buddhist identity, were modeled on those given by Emperor Wu of the Liang dynasty (r. 502549 ce) and other Chinese sovereigns. Although Shōtoku's authorship of the Sangyō-gisho is contested by Tsuda and a small number of other modern Japanese scholars, it has been seen by most observers as a crucial event in Japanese Buddhist history that served to create the "cultural self-sufficiency" of local Japanese schools and traditions. Regardless of the authenticity of their attribution to Shōtoku, they were accepted as genuine and were studied and transmitted by Gyōnen and other eminent Japanese Buddhist figures. Although Shōtoku's Buddhist teachers from the Korean peninsula were not written out of the historical record, there was a gradual diminution in their influence on his development as a Buddhist practitioner and exegete. Over time, a body of myths emerged that portrayed Shōtoku in an equal, and sometimes superior, position to his teachers.

Two of the three commentaries begin with a declaration stating that the text is the work of King Jōgū (Shōtoku Taishi) "of the Great Land of Yamato," and that it was not composed by anyone from across the sea. In 772 ce, a group of Buddhist monks accompanied a diplomatic mission to Tang China, where they presented copies of the Shōmangyō-gisho and Hokke-gisho to their Chinese hosts as proof of Shōtoku's profound understanding of Buddhist doctrine and the high standard of the traditions they represented. Based on this copy of the Shōmangyō-gisho, moreover, the Tang dynasty monk Mingkong (dates unknown) composed the Shengmanjing shuyi sichao, which was later copied and brought back to Japan by the Tendai school's Ennin (794864 ce) and cited as proof of the value of the Shōmangyō-gisho and Shootoku's greatness as a Buddhist exegete. In a postscript to a copy of Mingkong's commentary presented by the Japanese monk Eizon (12011290 ce) to Hōryūji in March 1256, he wrote that the text was by "an eminent monk from the Great [Land of] Tang" and that it added prestige to the "sublime text" of Japan's Shōtoku Taishi.

The "Encounter Paradigm"

Sharf asserts that Chinese Buddhism has often been viewed by modern scholars through the lens of the "encounter paradigm," in which its schools, texts, and doctrines have been understood as the product of a protracted "encounter" between "Indian Buddhism" and "Chinese civilization." He traces the formalization of this paradigm to the work of Arthur Wright, whose study, Buddhism in Chinese History, divides this process into four distinctive periods: preparation, domestication, independent growth, and appropriation. Although subsequent scholarship has argued over the details, Sharf contends that this view still prevails, and cites the influential work of Richard Robinson, which compares the Chinese Sanlun school of Jizang to its Indian "original" and finds the former to be, in some ways, "wanting" (p. 288, n. 15). Sharf believes that this paradigm, with its emphasis on "domestication and transformation," has often led scholars to compare Chinese Buddhism to an imagined sense of "original" Indian Buddhism, and thus to question whether the Chinese "got it right" (pp. 711). This attitude has led in turn to suspicions of Chinese "apocryphal" texts, like the influential Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith, and the consequent devaluation of the schools and doctrines of East Asian Buddhism that developed in reliance on them.

These attitudes are evident in the arguments of the Japanese scholars Hakamaya Noriaki and Matsumoto Shirō, the central figures of "Critical Buddhism," who harshly criticize a group of related Buddhist doctrines, including Buddha nature, tathāgatagarbha, and original enlightenment. These doctrines have been particularly popular in East Asian schools and have served as central topics in a number of Chinese Buddhist texts, including the Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith. In his article, "The Doctrine of Tathāgata-garhba Is Not Buddhist," Matsumoto rejects these doctrines because, he claims, they posit an essential, underlying substratum to reality, which contravenes basic Buddhist tenets such as dependent origination, emptiness, and no-self.

In "Critical Buddhism and Returning to the Sources," Dan Lusthaus states that this intellectual movement was an inevitable development that emerged, in part, because Japanese scholars of Buddhism like Hakamaya and Matsumoto have begun paying greater attention to Tibetan and Sanskrit materials, and reevaluating East Asian Buddhist schools and teachings in light of these efforts. Lusthaus contends that Chinese Buddhists of the Tang dynasty deliberately attempted to separate Chinese Buddhism from Indian interpretations and methodologies. He identifies the choice by the Chinese of Paramārtha's (499569 ce) sixth-century translations of Buddhist texts from Sanskrit into Chinese over those of Xuanzang's (600664 ce) in the following century as a key moment in Chinese Buddhist history, a moment in which "East Asian Buddhism returned with deliberateness and passion to its own earlier misconceptions instead of returning to the trajectory of Indian Buddhism from which it believed it had been spawned" (p. 35). As such, Chinese Buddhism paid little attention to Indian Buddhist philosophers and logicians, and turned instead to a "Chinese hierarchical system and a crypto-Taoist dialectical reasoning" (p. 38).

This debate over the possible deviation of East Asian schools from "original" or "pure" Buddhism represents a basic division in the field over how to view the processes of the transmission and assimilation of Buddhism in local conditions. Whereas the Critical Buddhists and others focus on the perceived deviation or degeneration of Buddhism as it has been transmitted over time and space, others contend that such attempts to reconstruct "original" Indian Buddhism face not only insurmountable hermeneutical obstacles but also replicate the very "essentialization" that they decry. Peter Gregory responds to the arguments of Hakamaya and Matsumoto in his essay, "Is Critical Buddhism Really Critical," by invoking the logic of Buddhist tenets, writing, "Only when we acknowledge that Buddhism lacks any defining, unalterable essence (an ātman, so to speak) and is itself the product of a complex set of interdependent and ever-changing conditions (pratītyasamutpāda ), will we have a proper framework for understanding the process of its historical and cultural transformation and recognizing our own location in that stream we would call the 'tradition'" (1997, p. 297).

Gregory and others argue that determining "true Buddhism" is a normative, theological issue, and scholars should not simply ignore or dismiss the beliefs of East Asian Buddhist figures, like Gyōnen, who were convinced of the authenticity of the teachings and texts they engaged and transmitted. In a similar way, Sharf writes that his study is "an argument for treating Chinese Buddhism as the legitimate, if misunderstood scion of sinitic culture. Whatever else it may be, Buddhism is the product of Buddhists, and the Buddhists in the case at hand were Chinese" (p. 2). He argues that instead of trying to establish fixed or normative definitions of basic categories of Buddhism, scholars are better served by trying to understand their shifting and often hazy borders as well as their "rhetorical deployments." Sharf suggests that the Chinese schools of Buddhism detailed by Gyōnen are better understood as "organizational categories applied after the fact by medieval Buddhist historians and bibliographers" (p. 7). And the term "Buddhism," he writes, functions as a "placeholder," and pure Buddhism is "an analytic abstraction posited by Buddhist polemicists, apologists, reformers, and now scholars" (p. 16).

See Also

Buddhism, overview article and articles on Buddhism in China, Buddhism in Japan, and Buddhism in Korea; Buddhist Meditation, article on East Asian Buddhist Meditation.


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Mark Dennis (2005)

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