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PHL237H1 Study Guide - Final Guide: Negative Dialectics, Mahayana, Chinese Buddhism

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Vincent Shen
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(A Draft of ) Prof. Vincent Shen’s Comments on Fung’s Short History 2
Chapters 21-23
Page 242
Fung makes the distinction between “Buddhism in China” and “Chinese Buddhism,” taking
Wei-shi school as the example of “Buddhism in China,” and Sanlun School as the example
of “Chinese Buddhism.” Though this distinction is justifiable to some degree in the sense that
both Weishi and Sanlun come from Indian Mahayana Buddhism, that is, Sanlun from
Madhyamika, and Weishi from Yogacara. However, even in these two schools, Chinese
people have their contribution, such as Sengzhao’s emphasis on spiritual emptiness non
attachment), and Chinese Weishi emphasis on the transformation of consciousness into
wisdom. On the other side, the Middle Path school (Sanlun), unlike Fung’s putting it together
with Daoism, especially Zhuangzi, is in fact using abstract language of negative dialectics,
which is different from Zhangzi’s use of metaphors and stories.
Page 244
Fung claims that nirvana is the "identification of the individual with the Universal Mind."
He makes it seem as if the concept of Universal Mind is shared by all Buddhist schools.
However, the idea of “Universal Mind” is not clear in the philosophy of the Three Treatise
School (三三三), and in the Consciousness-Only School (三三三), the term used is rather universal
consciousness—the Alaya-consciousness. It is thus better to think of nirvana more generally
as the cessation of all suffering and the escape from the cycle of transmigration.
Fung says that the method of the School of the Middle Path (a.k.a. Three Treatise School)
can be characterized as a "negative method." However, it is better to characterize this method
as a method of "negative dialectics." The reason for this is that the idea of a "negative
method" seems to imply that it is one of simple denial and negation. However, this is to
conceive the method as static and to overlook the dynamic nature of the method. This
dynamic nature is captured in the idea of "negative dialectics." The method of negative
dialectics involves the denial of all finite affirmations, rather than simple straightforward
Page 245
Fung's interpretation of the Theory of Double Truth is not entirely correct. Fung sees the
point of this theory to be the denial of all one-sided truths. However, the real point of the
theory is to overcome any dualism rather than merely one-sidedness of the worldly view
and the true view. The negative dialectics consists in first denying the dualism between
yu(being) and wu(non-being), then that between two one-sided-views, and finally that
between the one-sided-view and the middle view. The true middle path is thus interpreted as
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