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2013-03-22

Chiasmus in the Early Prajñāpāramitā: Literary Parallelism Connecting Criticism & Hermeneutics in an Early Mahāyāna Sūtra

Chiasmus in the Early Prajñāpāramitā:  
Literary Parallelism Connecting
Criticism & Hermeneutics
in an Early Mahāyāna Sūtra

Shì Hùifēng  (釋慧峰) / M B Orsborn
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy 
at The University of Hong Kong 
in December 2011 


Abstract


This study examines the early Prajñāpāramitā sūtras through the theory of “chiasmus”.  Chiasmic methodology analyses a text into two parallel halves, identifying complementary “prologue” (A) and “conclusion” (A’), and highlighting the critical “central point” (X), with sub-themes paralleled in the two halves (A-B-C-D…X…D’-C’-B’-A’).  Through chiasmus theory, many ancient texts formerly considered fragmentary and incoherent have been shown to be structurally sophisticated wholes. 

The modern text-critical approach has re-written the traditional account of the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.  Several scholars have proposed theories regarding a pre-textual “ur-sūtra”, though with little consensus on this.  In general, most agree that after the formation of an “ur-sūtra” the main body of the text was then chaotically compiled from various fragmentary sub-texts, with the Sadāprarudita Avadāna finally appended at the end.  The result is the presently extant smaller sūtra.  This modern scholarship then claims gradual growth through expansion into the medium and larger sūtras.  The modern academic “discourse on emptiness” portrays the Prajñāpāramitā as focusing on the doctrine of “emptiness” (śūnyatā).  This study challenges many of these claims. 

On analysis, primary and secondary chiasmi were identified in the first two chapters of the sūtra.  Their scope is the authority of teaching and training in the Prajñāpāramitā, and maintenance of the lineage of the Buddhas.  Their central climax is definitions of “bodhisattva”, “mahāsattva” and “mahāyāna”, in the rhetorical formula “XY is ~Y”.  Clearly paralleled sub-themes include “samādhi”, “the illusory”, “Māra” and “entrance into certitude”. 

A second chiasmus comprising the entire Avadāna at the end of the sūtra was also identified.  The scope is Sadāprarudita’s quest for Prajñāpāramitā, “to see and hear the Tathāgatas”.  The central climax is his seeing and hearing the “Tathāgata” as one who has realized “suchness” (tathatā) or “dependent origination” (pratītyasaṃutpāda), again expressed in the form “XY is ~Y”.  Paralleled sub-themes include “samādhi”, “Māra” and “giving”. 

These two chiasmi are similar in scope, centers which define key terms through the rhetorical formula “XY is ~Y”, and sub-themes.  This suggests a larger chiasmus which spans the entire text, with these chiasmi as prologue and conclusion respectively.  While not conclusive, there is evidence for a central climax centered at “suchness” (tathatā), attainment of which results in the bodhisattva’s status of irreversibility.  This connects the prologue and concluding chiasmi, “bodhisattvas” to “Tathāgatas”, respectively.  Numerous paralleled sub-themes are more or less salient. 

There are major implications from the discovery of chiasmus in the Prajñāpāramitā.  Critically, it suggests that the sūtra was initially composed as a complete chiasmic whole, rather than from accumulated fragmentary parts.  Hermeneutically, the core message may be understood more systematically than earlier methods.  It proposes “suchness” (tathatā) as the central theme, rather than “emptiness” (śūnyatā).  It also rejects the genre designation of the Prajñāpāramitā as a “philosophical” rather than “religious” text.  This study also offers direction for uncovering other cases of chiasmus in early Mahāyāna and Buddhist literature in general, with examples.  If a range of chiasmi can be analyzed, a general theory of Buddhist chiasmus can be established for use as a standard Buddhological tool. 


2013-01-04

2013 Whittier Winter Retreat Handbook

2013 Whittier Winter Retreat Handbook.

Here it is folks, the team at Hsi Lai Temple with the Whittier College, our 2013 program.

2013 Whittier Winter Retreat Handbook

2012-07-10

HBMLP Chanting Book (Evening, Meals, 88 Buddhas Repentance, Amitabha Pure Land) (Chinese, Pinyin, English)

HBMLP Chanting Book (Evening, Meals, 88 Buddhas Repentance, Amitabha Pure Land) (Chinese, Pinyin, English)

2012 HBMLP Chanting (Evening, Meals, 88 Buddhas Repentance, Amitabha Pure Land) (Chinese, Pinyin, English).pdf

Just recently compiled for the 2012 Humanistic Buddhism Monastic Life Program, aka the "Woodenfish", this Chanting Book contains the original Chinese, Hanyu Pinyin and English translation for the following common Chinese Buddhist liturgies:  

1. The Heart Sutra (which we use as our standard evening chanting)
2. Meal time offerings (breakfast and lunch, with the Five Contemplations added) 
3. The Amitabha Sutra (standard Pure Land service) 
4. The Eighty Eight Buddha's Repentance

Some of these have appeared on my Blog independently, so there may be some duplication.  Still, hopefully this latest file should be useful for some of you out there!  Enjoy!  

[2012-08-19 Update:  After actually using this document for the 2012 HBMLP I realized to my horror the huge amount of errors inside.  Apologies to all.  Corrections have been made here, though I suspect that many still remain.]  

~~ Huifeng

2011-11-21

Eighty Eight Buddhas Repentance - Chinese, Pinyin, English

Eighty Eight Buddhas Repentance


Eighty Eight Buddhas Repentance - Chinese, Pinyin, English


One from some time ago that I forgot to add here.  The classic chanting service of the Eighty Eight Buddhas Repentance!!  


~~ Huifeng

Universal Gate Chapter of the Lotus Sutra - Chinese, Pinyin, English

Universal Gate of Guan Yin / Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva

Universal Gate Chapter of the Lotus Sutra - Chinese, Pinyin, English


Here's the latest liturgy creation, originally for the students at Buddhist Studies at Fo Guang University.  May be a few little pinyin errors, so please let me know if you spot any.  


~~ Huifeng

2011-09-29

New blog from old "Huifeng" blog at Wisdom Door

Hi everyone,

After setting up this new blog here at Blogger - I confess I'm a bit of a Google fan - I had all sorts of problems exporting my old Huifeng Blog at Wisdom Door and importing it into Blogger here.
Today, I finally found a solution, with a little converted system online.
So, here it is!

~~ Huifeng

2010-09-17

Morning Chanting Service (1st & 15th of Lunar Month) (Chinese, Pinyin, English)

Morning Chanting Service (1st & 15th of Lunar Month) (Chinese, Pinyin, English)

Morning Chanting Service (1st & 15th of Lunar Month) (Chinese, Pinyin, English)

A PDF file with the standard morning chanting service (often used daily, or for the 1st and 15th of the lunar month), with the Chinese accompanied by Hanyu Pinyin and an English translation.  (Translation includes the various dharanis and mantras.)

Comments and feedback on the translations, the style and format, etc., are all most welcome!  

[2012-08-19 Update:  Corrections have been made to the Great Compassion Dharani portion of this file.  Thanks to Ven Kongmu for pointing this out to me a couple of weeks ago.]  

~~ Huifeng

Amitābha Pureland Dharma Service (Chinese, Pinyin, English)

Amitābha Pureland Dharma Service
(Chinese, Pinyin, English)


A PDF document containing the standard Pureland Dharma Service in Chinese, with Hanyu Pinyin and English translation.

Amitābha Pureland Dharma Service (Chinese, Pinyin, English)

Feedback on translation, style and format, etc., all most appreciated!  :)

2010-09-01

How to Input Pāli & Sanskrit Diacritics in MS Word Files

How to Input Pāli & Sanskrit Diacritics in MS Word Files



How to Input Pali and Sanskrit Diacritics in Word


After having a lot of people ask me how to input / type in Pali and Sanskrit diacritical marks (eg. ā ś ṣ ṛ ṭ ñ ū ī ō ṅ ṃ ṇ ḍ ḥ) in their essays, I had the chance to show this years HKU Buddhist Studies students how it is done.  This is the file, with clear and easy step by step instructions, including screen-shots of how it is done in Word 2010.


~~ Huifeng

2009-09-11

Pañcaviṃśati-sāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā passages corresponding to theHṛdaya Sūtra

Pañcaviṃśati-sāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā & Hṛdaya Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra

A basic source / resource file for Pañcaviṃśati-sāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā passages corresponding to the Hṛdaya Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, with some general comparisons.

For Prajñāpāramitā devotees and Dharma geeks!