The author is the founding director of the Centre for the Study of Religion and Culture in Asia at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands.
Da zhidu lun大智度論; Étienne Lamotte; Yinshun; Nāgārjuna; Japanese Buddhology; textual study; Umberto Eco
One of the most well-known accomplishments of Étienne Lamotte (1903–1983) was the unfinished French translation of Da zhidu lun 大智度論. Da zhidu lun is also a very popular text in East Asia, because it is attributed to Nāgārjuna, the so-called ‘patriarch of the eight schools’ (bazong zhi zu 八宗之祖) in East Asian Buddhism. Lamotte, however, claimed that Nāgārjuna might not have written Da zhidu lun. Lamotte’s argument led to various debates that gave rise to a wide array of hypotheses on who the author of Da zhidu lun could have been. The theory that Da zhidu lun could have been a text not (or not only) written by Nāgārjuna reached Chinese Buddhist monks and scholars as well, including the monk Yinshun 印順 (1906–2005). This paper will show the impact of Western scholarship on East Asian Buddhism, highlight the (pluri)directionality of knowledge transfer, and demonstrate relevance and potentiality of the dialogue between East and West for the advancement of Buddhist learning. Finally, Umberto Eco’s concepts of ‘empirical reader’ and ‘model reader’ will serve to understand this Buddhist textual debate from the wider perspective of textual interpretation and reception history.
Introduction: Academic Networks and the Limits of Interpretation 249 I. Lamotte’s Contribution to Buddhist Studies: Interpretation of History and Texts 251 II. Lamotte’s Le traité in Context: Western and Asian Studies on Da zhidu lun 252 II.1 Lamotte’s Le traité: Distinctive Features 253 II.2 Da zhidu lun ‘Global Scholarship’ in the Twentieth Century 254 II.3 Yinshun’s study on Da zhidu lun: a Chinese Buddhist perspective 258