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Thusness (zhenru) - A Case of the Sinicized Interpretation of Buddhist Terms

Funayama Toru, Kyoto University

The Sanskrit term tathatā "suchness," signifying "the condition of (entities) as they are" or a state of true reality in the broad sense, is popularly known as zhenru "thusness" in Chinese Buddhism. As one of the most fundamental terms of Mahayana Buddhism, "thusness" was variously used and interpreted throughout the history of Chinese Buddhism. It is also well-known that tathatā was translated benwu "original non-being" in the early stage of Chinese Buddhist translation and later substituted by zhenru "thusness"; however the exact translator that started to use this word has not yet been identified and the exact meaning of this compound is also not fully clear. Although it is often thought that benwu was replaced by zhenru so as to avoid Daoist overtones, the Chinese character zhen itself also stems from Daoism. In other words, even the term zhenru necessarily had a certain Chinese flavor. It is also noteworthy that Kumarajiva did not use the term in his translation. In this talk, I will attempt to explore some basic characteristics of the Chinese interpretation of this term as well as its significance in the Chinese culture, with special reference to the differentiation between zhen and ru in Chinese language, a distinction found notably in the Awakening of Faith whose authorship is still controversial.

Thursday, February 27, 2014 | 7:30 pm — 9:00 pm
Stanford Humanities Center.

Ho Center for Buddhist Studies at Stanford
Stanford Humanities Center