LAMOTTE, ÉTIENNE (1903–1983), Belgian specialist in Indian Buddhist doctrine and history. A Roman Catholic priest, Lamotte was a professor at the Catholic University of Louvain. His two most significant achievements in the field of Buddhist studies were his Histoire du bouddhisme indien des origines à l'ère Śaka (1958), the most elaborate work thus far on the history of early Buddhism, and his Le traité de la grande vertu de sagesse (1944–1980), an annotated translation of a large portion of the Ta chih tu lun (Skt., *Mahāprajñāpāramitopadeśa ), which is an encyclopedic treatise on Mahāyāna Buddhism attributed to Nāgārjuna and translated into Chinese by Kumārajīva.
His ten years of collaborative work with Louis de La Vallée Poussin (1869–1938) were more decisive in the formation of Lamotte's thought than were his short periods of study in Rome (1926–1927) and Paris (1931–1932). If the monumental writings of these two masters of the French-language school of Buddhist philology are compared, one realizes a great complementarity in their achievements. La Vallée Poussin's glittering genius is swift and full of illuminating and often paradoxical insights into every part of his field of study. Lamotte's genius is reflected in the remarkable organization of the exegetical work that formed his voluminous books. Each element of his books—chapter, paragraph, footnote (often constituting a comprehensive monograph)—contributes to the brightness of the synthesis of a broad range of information by diffusing its own particular light.
Lamotte's exegetical work centered on doctrinally important texts, mostly of the śāstra (treatise) type preserved primarily in Tibetan or Chinese. At first attracted to the Yogācāra (Idealist) school, he produced a study (1935) on the Saṃdhinirmocana Sūtra and a commentary (1938–1939) on Asaṅga's Mahāyānasaṃgraha titled La somme du grande véhicule d'Asaṅga (Mahāyānasaṃgraha ). His interest shifted to Vasubandhu's Karmasiddhiprakaraṇa and to the seventeenth chapter of Candrakīrti's Prasannapadā, a commentary to the Madhyamakakārikā s by Nāgārjuna. This last work initiated his choice of Mādhyamika texts for the remainder of his career. In addition to the already mentioned Traité (Mahāprajñāpāramitopadeśa ), he translated two related Mahāyāna sūtras: the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa (1962; translated into English as The Teaching of Vimalakīrti, 1976) and the Śūraṃgamasamādhi (1965).
Lamotte's Histoire du bouddhisme indien des origines à l'ère Śaka is an epoch-making synthesis based on multilingual documents (including Greek and Chinese) and incorporating the latest developments in Indian epigraphy, archaeology, and linguistics. The first volume traces the development of Buddhism up to the emergence of the Maitreya cult. The second volume was never finished. Some parts of this projected second volume, however, have been published separately, including "Mañjuśrī," T'oung pao 48 (1960): 1–96, and "Vajrāpaṇi," in Mélanges Demiéville, vol. 1 (1966), pp. 156–168.
Biographical and bibliographical information on Lamotte is available in the Notice published by the Imprimerie Orientaliste (Louvain, 1972). This work has been supplemented by D. Donnet's "L'œuvre de Mgr É. Lamotte," in Indianisme et bouddhisme: Mélanges offerts à Mgr Étienne Lamotte (Louvain, 1980), pp. vii–xvi.
Lamotte, É. Śūraṃgamasamādhisūtra. The Concentration of Heroic Progress. Translated by Sara Boin-Webb. Surrey, U.K., 1998.
Hubert Durt (1987 and 2005)