‘Right Words are Like the Reverse’—The Daoist Rhetoric and the Linguistic Strategy in Early Chinese Buddhism

Asian Philosophy 20 (3):283-307 (2010)
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Abstract

?Right words are like the reverse? is the concluding remark of chap. 78 in the Daoist classic Daodejing. Quoted in treatises composed by Seng Zhao (374?414), it designates the linguistic strategy used to unfold the Buddhist Madhyamaka meaning of ?emptiness? and ?ultimate truth?. In his treatise Things Do not Move, Seng Zhao demonstrates that ?motion and stillness? are not really contradictory, performing the deconstructive meaning of Buddhist ?emptiness? via the corresponding linguistic strategy. Though the topic of the discussion and the rhetoric are borrowed from Daoist sources, the point of view is rooted in the Buddhist understanding. The first section of this paper deals with the issue of exegetical methods in early Chinese Buddhism; the subsequent part explains both the Daoist background and the topics modified in Seng Zhao's discussions; the third part analyzes Seng Zhao's linguistic strategy and expounds its particular philosophical significance

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