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The Development of Nagarjuna’s Thought in China from the Eastern Jin to the Early Tang Dynasty

Author: RuanShiJinFeng(ShiYanLian)
Tutor: ChenQingYuan
School: Fujian Normal University
Course: Chinese classical literature
Keywords: Sayings of the Middle Path Middle View thoughts propagation research Eastern Jin to Early Tang
CLC: B948
Type: PhD thesis
Year: 2008
Downloads: 268
Quote: 1
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Abstract


The Madhyamika school of thought is one of the most important schools in Buddhism.The propagation of this school started with the founder,Nagarjuna of ancient India.Nagarjuna’s Middle View had influenced the development of the Prajna school.The main tenets center around the unification of "inter-dependance" and "emptiness".In other words,it means that all manifestation not only are devoid of any permanent identity and at the same time,the tentative identity of the manifestation is neither negated.At the mundane level,tentative identities exist while at the transcendental level,all are devoid of any identity.Thus,the Middle Path exist when neither are negated.The ultimate negation of Nagarjuna of all manifestation is not a sweeping negation of all manifestations,it is however a negation of the attachment of the false self-identity of all manifestations. Therefore,through a thorough change of mindset,one can then only see the true inherent nature of all manifestations,and will not go into the extreme of nihilism. Emptiness(sunyata)does not negate all manifestation and at the same time it doesn’t negate the existence of all manifestation.Conversely,Sunyata is the basis for the existence of all manifestations.All manifestation do not have a permanent ’self’ and thus all manifestation are able to exist thorough inter-dependence.However,this Indian Buddhist thought is at odds with the Chinese traditional spiritual thought.The Prajna thought was also limited within the framework of Chinese Taoist thought as well.This caused Chinese Buddhist thinkers to be unable to comprehend the Prajna thought correctly.Thus,in the initial period of propagation of the Prajna school in China,this school had limited development. Until the arrival of the translator Kumarajiva who translated,works on the Prajna Middle View School,and the efforts by his disciples,the Middle View school could then be propagated with a new outlook throughout China.The Prajna school’s development in China gave rise to masters like Kumarajiva,Dao Sheng,Seng Zhao etc.The propagation by Kumarajiva also led to the development of other schools of the Sui and Tang era,which are the Tiantai,Sanlun,Huayuan and Chan.Even though the teachings and practices of these schools were different,but all were based on the sunyata concept of emptiness.It can be said that they are the inheritors of the Prajna school.The Prajna thoughts of these masters also led to future developments that were historically important in Buddhist history.In this paper,other than presenting historical documents and explaining the development of the sunyata thought,relevant data are examined to discuss, criticize and to correct them.Kumarajiva,Dao Sheng and Seng Zhao are chosen to be researched on and analyzed as well.Relevant works from the Eastern Jin to the Early Tang era were also examined on their influence on the birth of Buddhist sects.Through careful analysis and study,the Prajna thoughts of these schools are also discussed.This will reveal the origin,teachings and development of the Sunyata school and to present the theory and practice of Nagarjuna’s Sunyata.

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