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Lecture by Jakub Zamorski (Krakow), "Illusory Moons, Turbid Waters"

Oct 23, 2018 06:00 pm to 08:00 pm
Organiser: HCTS professorships Intellectual History, Buddhist Studies, und Global Art History

Lecture Series on Knowledge, Belief and Religion


"Illusory Moons, Turbid Waters – Contentious Analogies and Unresolved Arguments in Modern Sino-Japanese Buddhist Polemics"

The topic of this talk is the intra-Buddhist debate about the proper understanding of Pure Land doctrines which ensued between the Chinese layman Yang Wenhui (楊文會, 1837-1911) and Japanese priests of the Jōdo-shinshū school at the end of the 19th century. The debate in question has been studied mostly as a testimony of unresolved differences between the ‘Chinese’ and ‘Japanese’ interpretations of a shared scriptural tradition. Yet, it cannot be denied that both Yang and his Japanese adversaries made earnest attempts to settle this conflict by demonstrating the superiority of their own doctrinal interpretations to their opponents. Seen in this light, the debate required both parties to move beyond their respective orthodoxies and to ground their claims in some mutually acknowledged standards of a justified Buddhist belief. In his talk Jakub Zamorski will try to reconstruct these common standards by examining the forms and styles of argumentation employed in the debate – namely, the appeals to faith in scriptural authority and to reasoning by analogy, especially in the famous simile of the moon reflected in water. Even though arguments of this kind failed to resolve this embittered dispute, they provide remarkable insights into the standards of rational debate accepted by traditionally educated Chinese and Japanese Buddhists on the eve of the imminent ‘Westernisation’ and ‘modernisation’ of East Asian intellectual life.


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