A Chinese Madhymaka Theory of the Truth: The case of Chi-tsang
By Ming-Wood Liu
Philosophy East and West, Volume 43, Number 4, October 1993
© by University of Hawaii Press
| Chi-tsang (549-623) was the key figure in the revival of Chinese Madhyamaka in the late sixth century, and his teaching is commonly acknowledged to be the apex of the development of Madhyamaka thought in China.(1) This essay attempts to examine the conception of truth underlying a number of ideas generally considered as central to Chi-tsang's philosophy, including "refutation of falsehood" (p'o-hsieh), "revelation of truth" (hsien-cheng), and "two truths" (erh-ti).(2) But before entering into these ideas, we shall take a brief look at one idea which determines the overall direction of Chi-tsang's thought and which constitutes the very theoretical basis of his teaching of truth, namely, the idea of nonattachment.
Chi-tsang is very fond of quoting the words of Fa-lang (507-581), his teacher, to support his own theories. In the following resume which Chi-tsang gives of Fa-lang's instruction, students are enjoined to follow the rules of "nonabidingness" (wu-chu) and "nonacquisitiveness (wu-te) in their speech and thought:
Chi-tsang takes up Fa-lang's view of attachment as the "root of encumbrances'' when he observes that "the existence of dependence and attachment is the root of various defilements" and when he disparages those practitioners liable to the error of attachment as "ignorant'' and "devoid of the [ture] way and the [true] fruit."(4) Chi-tsang also follows Fa-lang in considering the cultivation of nonattachment as the principal objective of the teaching of all Buddhist scriptures, when he makes out that "nondependence" and "nonattachment" are the main principles of all suutras and `saastras:
In Chi-tsang's writings, nonattachment is represented as the basis of deliverance and the entrance to the true Way.s Lauded as the "one mark and one taste" of the Buddha Dharma,(9) it is looked upon as forming the very essence of the superior Buddha-vehicle.(10)
The importance attributed to the practice of nonattachment by Fa-lang and Chi-tsang is grounded on the Buddhist scriptures. Its origin can be traced back to the very beginning of the Buddhist religion, when `Saakyamuni, prompted by the realization that desire is the root of all ills,(11) formulated such doctrines as the "five skandhas" and "non-self" with a view to eliminating the attachment of sentient beings to sa.msaaric existence.(12) The emphasis on nonattachment in Buddhism came to a head in the Praj~naapaaramitaa-suutras and the early Madhyamaka works of Naagaarjuna and Naagaarjuna's followers. These works exempted nothing, not even the cardinal Buddhist ideals of nirvana and Buddhahood, from the rule of abandonment.(13) Chi-tsang's clear knowledge of the thorough form of nonattachment which the Madhyamaka tradition advocates is clearly demonstrated in the following comments he makes on the purpose of Naagaarjuna's writings:
According to Chi-tsang, Naagaarjuna aimed to achieve with his treatises the eradication of all forms of acquisitions, including not only the eradication of the acquisition of the thoughts and words of the Hinayana and the non-Buddhists, but also the eradication of the acquisition of the thoughts and words of the Mahaayaana and the Buddhists. Hence, he prescribed that the pure should be given up together with the impure, for grasping at the pure is as serious a mistake as grasping at the impure. Quoting the words of Fa-lang, Chi-tsang laments how often truth, wisdom, and meditation become additional obstacles on the path of enlightenment due to the deliberate frame of mind of the practitioners:
Among the objects of nonattachment cited by Chi-tsang is the notion of nonattachment itself. So Chi-tsang chides those practitioners who are attached to the practice of nonattachment as blind to the Buddha's real intention,(16) and warns his readers not to adhere to the idea of "non-acquisitiveness" as definitely correct:
In Chi-tsang's opinion, real abandonment is achieved only when one abandons "abandonment" as well as "procurement.'"(18)
Chi-Tsang's Concept of Truth as Nonattachment
A. Nonattachment as the Criterion of Truth. That Chi-tsang's teaching of absolute nonattachment has a direct bearing on his teaching of truth is testified to by where Chi-tsang draws the line between the true and the false:
This passage links "falsehood" to the harboring, and "truth" to the forsaking, of the distinction between Hiinayaana and Mahaayaana, between Buddhist and non-Buddhist, and so forth. Another passage associates falsehood with acquisitiveness and truth with nonacquisitiveness:
In sum, as Chi-tsang sees it, truth rests entirely upon nonattachment.
B. "Refutation of Falsehoods" /s Equivalent to "Revelation of Truths" (P'o-hsieh chi hsien-cheng). The implications of Chi-tsang's conception of truth as nonattachment can be seen from Chi-tsang's exposition of the two ideas of "refutation of falsehoods" and "revelation of truths," which are made out in Chi-tsang's writings as the two main themes of the Three Treatises, the principal Indian Madhyamaka texts in the eyes of the Chinese Buddhists:(21)
However, just to say in general that the Madhyamaka is concerned with "refuting falsehoods" and "revealing truths" tells us little about the peculiar character of Madhyamaka thought, for the same can be said of the thought of all other Buddhist schools, and, as a matter of fact, of the thought of all non-Buddhist schools as well. What is special about the Madhyamaka in this respect is its singular way of conceiving the relation between the two functions, a way arising from its conception of the quintessence of truth as nonattachment:
While "refuting falsehoods" and "revealing truths" are tasks common to all Buddhist schools, whether Madhyamaka or non-Madhyamaka, the non-Madhyamaka schools generally espouse some special theories of Reality, such as the theory of the real existence of dharmas in the case of the Sarvaastivaadins, the theory of universal nothingness in the case of the Satyasiddhi-`saastra, the theory of ideation-only in the case of the Yogaacaarins, and so forth.(24) Ideas and practices in conflict with these theories are rejected by them as definitely false, whereas ideas and practices in agreement with these theories are embraced by them as definitely true; and "refuting falsehoods" and "revealing truths" appear as two distinct functions in their teachings. The Madhyamaka, on the other hand, admits nothing other than nonattachment to be the truth, and nonattachment, as we have just explained, is understood in the Madhya make as the nongrasping of any form of idea and practice, up to the very idea and practice of nonattachment. Consequently, "revealing truths" in the Madhyamaka consists not in establishing the validity of certain doctrinal and behavioral patterns, but rather in demonstrating the untenability of any such attempt, that is, in "refuting falsehoods"; and "refuting falsehoods" and "revealing truths" are actually two sides of the same coin in the Madhyamaka's case.
This explains why Chi-tsang would fault the other schools for "aggravating the error of acquisitiveness" and for "being incapable of refuting falsehoods" in practicing "refuting falsehoods" and "revealing truths" in separate. This also explains why Chi-tsang, while proffering "refutation of falsehoods" and "revelation of truths" as the dual concerns of the Three Treatises, would declare at the same time that the Madhyamaka "only refutes and never establishes." In Chi-tsang's opinion, just because the Three Treatises do not establish any truth, they establish most perfectly the truth of nonattachment.
C. The Two forms and Three forms of Truth. In thus making nonattachment the sole criterion of truth, Chi-tsang empties the concept of truth of any determinate content. And if he still describes some statements and beliefs to be true, he makes it perfectly plain that his primary consideration is their efficacy in refuting false views and cultivating nonattachment. We can see this from his analysis of truth into the two aspects of "substance" (t'i) and "function" (yung):
The terms "supreme" and "mundane" in the passage above refer to the "supreme truth" and the "mundane truth," the former pertaining to the realm of the enlightened and the latter pertaining to the realm of the nonenlightened. We shall deal with Chi-tsang's interpretation of these two forms of truth in detail later. Meanwhile, for our present purpose, it is significant to observe that Chi-tsang maintains that the "truth qua substance," that is, truth-in-itself, is neither supreme nor mundane, that is, is not tied to any specific truth, be it of the supramundane or of the mundane order.
Chi-tsang duly notes the need to resort tentatively to the supreme and mundane truths in order to reveal the "truth qua substance." For instance, in order to make his followers give up the belief in a permanent self, which he considered to be the most serious impediment to the realization of nonattachment, the Buddha disparaged this belief as a notion of the mundane world, and lauded the doctrine of five skandhas, which he put forward to undermine the belief, as a case of supreme truth.(26) In like manner, the Praj~naapaaramitaa-suutras apply the epithet "mundane" to the AAbhidharmika theory of the real existence of self-sufficient dharmas and append the description "supreme" to its own teaching of emptiness.(27) Yet, it should always be borne in mind that such judgments of "mundane" and "supreme" derive their validity entirely from their effectiveness as means to make known the "truth qua substance"; that is, they are "truths qua function." As such, they enjoy no independent status as truth outside the function of eradicating false beliefs, and should not be held onto irrespective of change in circumstances.
Chi-tsang goes on to give another analysis of truth into three forms:
The first form of truth, "truth in contradistinction to one-sidedness," earns the title of "truth" for its potency to eliminate the error of one-sidedness, and is equivalent to "truth qua function." Its successful application results in the "complete clearance of one-sidedness," which is enumerated as the second form of truth. Yet, if one grasps at the complete clearance of one-sidedness as the truth, that would also be a kind of one-sidedness Hence, one has to get rid of the thought of the distinction between one-sidedness and truth before the real abolition of one-sidedness can be achieved. The consummate state of nonattachment thus attained, in which reliance on every category of thought and action has disappeared, is presented as the third form of truth and is given the name "non-conditioned." It is equivalent to "truth qua substance."
D. The Concept of "Truth as Nonattachment" as a Hermeneutic Principle. Chi-tsang's highly negativistic conception of truth and pragmatic view of the truth of propositions are clearly reflected in his opinion about the purpose of Buddhist teachings and scriptures. Chi-tsang reports these words of Fa-lang on the significance of Buddhist teachings:
In the opinion of Fa-lang and Chi-tsang, Buddhist ideas and theories are not formulated as eternal truths depicting the constituents and essence of the ultimate reality, but are invented as instruments to check errors. Consequently, they should be abandoned right away once they have fulfilled their intended role. Chi-tsang is hotly hostile to any tendency to divorce scriptural teachings from their original function of refuting falsehoods and to treat Buddhist doctrines as fixed dogmas. Commenting on those Buddhists who, having missed the critical intent of Naagaarjuna's system of eight negations,(30) construct various positive theories based on their surface meanings, Chi-tsang writes:
He who reifies the provisional remarks of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and looks upon the sayings of the suutras and `saastras as eternally valid "cannot be converted, " for whatever advice is addressed to him will be taken up by him forthwith as another object to adhere to, and will become another cause of attachment as a result. Thus, it is asserted that "to this person, whether suutras or `saastras, both Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, all are poisons."
But if what are originally beneficial will turn harmful when they are 'being approached in an acquisitive frame of mind, what are judged harmful by the common standard would become beneficial when they contribute to the realization of the state of nonattachment. Hence, after criticizing miscellaneous theories about the central theme of the Saddharmapu.n.dariika-suutra, Chi-tsang turns around and observes:
Chi-tsang considers the central theme of the Saddharmapu.n.dariika-suutra and, as a matter of fact, of all Buddhist suutras to be "awakening" (wu), which means, in the concext of his teaching of nonattachment, the liberation from all adherences to and reliances on definite patterns of thought and behavior. So long as an exposition of the scripture serves this end, it should be adopted even if it seems to go against the outward meaning of the text. On the other hand, an explanation which appears to be truthful to the text should be rejected, when its promulgation produces the opposite effect. Chi-tsang goes so far as to suggest that diverse interpretations of the same scripture can all be judged "not wrong" when they lead similarly to awakening, and should all be deemed "not right" if they give rise alike to delusion:
To sum up what has been said, there are altogether three ways (of looking at these diverse explanations]: first, if their objects [of instruction] all achieve awakening [on listening to them], then these various explanations are not wrong. Second, if on hearing them, [the objects of instruction] all become deluded, then these diverse theories are not right. Third, there may be occasions [when an explanation is conducive to] awakening at one place and produces delusion at another place. Then, it is called "true" at one place and is named "false" at another place.(33)
All in all, practical religious consideration has superseded consistency and accuracy as the guiding principle of Chi-tsang's hermeneutics.
Chi-tsang's Teaching of Two Truths
An examination of Chi-tsang's theory of truth would not be complete without some discussion of his interpretation of the important Buddhist concept of "two truths," an interpretation so innovative that it is commonly regarded as Chi-tsang's most important achievement as a Buddhist thinker.(34)
A. Theories of Two Truths before Chi-tsang. The Sanskrit original of the term "two truths, " satyadvaya, suggests the existence of two levels of Reality and their corresponding states of knowledge: the first, pertaining to the common world of everyday discourse, is named "mundane truth" (sa.mv.rti-satya, su-ti, shih-ti) ; the second, understandable only to the transcendental wisdom of the enlightened, is called "supreme truth" (paramaartha-satya, chen-ti, ti-i-i ti).(35) The notion of two levels of Being and knowledge, one inferior and one superior, was already present in Early Buddhist writings.(36) It later found its way into various Hiinayaana texts, such as the Abhidharmamahaavibhaa.saa-`saastra and the Abhidharmako`sa-`saastra,(37) and was touched upon in such early Mahaayaana works as the Praj~naapaaramitaa-suutras.(38) We find in early Madhyamaka writings constant reference to the concept. The best-known case by far is the following, in chapter 24 of Naagaarjuna's famous Muulamadhyamaka-kaarikaa:
The Madhyamaka-`saastra, the earliest extant exegesis on the Muulamadhyamaka-kaarikaa, comments thus on these verses:
The "mundane truth" is truth by the standard of the world. For example, ordinary people do not realize that dharmas are conditioned in nature, and erroneously look upon them as real. This view of the real existence of dharmas is a "mundane truth." The "supreme truth" is truth as known to the saints. For example, recognizing the conventional belief of real existence to be erroneous, the saints deem all dharmas to be in essence empty and nonoriginating. This view of the emptiness of dharmas is a "supreme truth." According to the Muulamadhyamaka-kaarikaa and Madhyamaka-`saastra, the distinction between "mundane truth" and "supreme truth" is postulated by the Buddhas in order to instruct sentient beings, and we can never come to see the true meaning of the Buddha Dharma without first comprehending its real significance.
It is important to note that the Madhyamaka does not dismiss the "mundane truth" offhandedly as worthless, despite the intimation of its being the truth of the worldly realm. This can be seen from the next stanza of the Muulamadhyamaka-kaarikaa and the Madhyamaka-`saastra's exposition of it:
Here, the Madhyamaka-`saastra goes further to identify the "mundane truth" with speech, which is generally considered in Buddhism as an outgrowth of the worldly belief in the real existence of dharmas. Now, although the "supreme truth, " being the negation of the belief of real existence, has basically nothing to do with speech, it cannot be communicated to the noninitiated without the aid of speech. Hence, it is said that without the "mundane truth" (now understood as "speech"), people cannot obtain the "supreme truth." And without obtaining the "supreme truth," people naturally cannot realize nirvaa.na.(43)
The translation of the Madhyamaka-`saastra, as well as of the Davaada`samukha-`saastra, the `Sata-`saastra, and the Mahaapraj~naapaaramitaa-`saastra, into Chinese by Kumaarajiiva in the first decade of the fifth century marked the beginning of the Chinese Madhyamaka movement. Since most of the aforementioned texts contain remarks about the two truths,(44) it was not surprising that the attention of Kumaarajiiva's followers would become drawn to the concept. Both Seng-tao and Chu Tao-sheng (ca. 360-434) had written special treatises on the two truths,(45) and T'an-ying and Seng-chao (374-414) cited the terms "supreme truth" and "mundane truth" a number of times in their Writings.(46) While the influence of Madhyamaka texts was on the wane by the mid-fifth century with the ascendancy of the Satyasiddhi-`saastra and the Mahaayaana Mahaaparinirvaa.na-suutra, the interest of Chinese Buddhists in the two truths did not subside, since discussions about the two truths also figure prominently in these two newly revered scriptures.(47)
By the early sixth century, the "two truths" had established itself as a cardinal Buddhist theme in the minds of most Chinese Buddhist thinkers A considerable amount of information about the various interpretations of the two truths in circulation at that time, mostly of a piecemeal, secondary nature, has been passed down to us, from which we learn that the idea had been analyzed from a variety of perspectives and had been correlated with other currently popular Buddhist ideas, such as the "misddle path, " "Buddha-nature," and so forth. However, since most of the presently known exponents of the idea of two truths of that period had left behind no comprehensive, systematic philosophical writing,it is impossible for us today to place their fragmentary observations about the two truths in the context of their overall teachings in order to apprehend their precise import. On the whole, it is safe to assume that with respect to the two main Chinese Buddhist doctrinal traditions of the sixth century, commonly referred to as the Ch'eng-shih School and Ti-lun School, the former, basing its teaching upon the Satyasiddhi-`saastra (Ch'eng-shih lun) , took over the `Saastra's interpretation, considering the notion of the real existence of everyday objects and dharmas to be the "mundane truth," and regarding the knowledge of the nonexistence of all forms of beings to be the "supreme truth."(48) As for the latter, we shall take the opinion of Ching-ying Hui-yuan (523-592), a leading Ti-lun master of Chi-tsang's time, as representative.
In his monumental work, the Ta-cheng I-chang, Hui-yuan devotes a special section to the topic of the two truths, where he considers the relation between the "mundane truth" and the "supreme truth" from the two aspects of "dependence" (i-ch'ih) and "origination" (yuan-ch'i):
In this passage, the "supreme truth" is equated with the true consciousness, which constitutes the ontological ground of both sa.msaaric and nirvaa.nic existence in the Ti-lun picture of Reality; and the "mundane truth" is identified with false phenomena which arise from the true consciousness, also known as the tathaagatagarbha, when the latter comes under the influence of ignorance. The aspect "origination" indicates that the false phenomenal order originates from the true consciousness; the aspect "dependence" indicates that the false phenomenal order is sustained by the true consciousness. All in all, in the Ta-cheng I-chang, the concept of "two truths" has been assimilated into the Ti-lun metaphysical framework, and is used to illustrate the teaching of consciousness-only 'espoused by the School.(50)
B. The Two Truths qua Instruction (Chiao-ti). The preceding sketch of the early Chinese interpretations of the "two truths" has shown that there existed a general tendency to associate the "supreme truth'' and the "mundane truth" with two ontological levels of Reality, one actual and the other illusory. Chi-tsang devotes a large part of his exposition of the two truths to demonstrating the untenability of this approach. Quoting Naagaarjuna's statement that "the Buddhas have recourse to the two truths on preaching the Dharma for sentient beings, " he asserts that the distinction between "supreme truth" and "mundane truth" is postulated by the Buddhas as a "means of instruction," and that the two truths do not stand for two objective "realms" and "principles":
To take the two truths as indicating two separate realms and principles is an instance of dualistic thinking; and dualistic thinking is synonymous with attachment in Madhyamaka thought. Being a Maadhyamika and strongly opposed to attachment of any form, Chi-tsang naturally deems it impossible that the Buddhas would conceive the two truths as referring to two separate realms and principles:
Pivotal to Chi-tsang's teaching of the two truths is the concept of "two truths qua instruction," which is defined as follows:
Given the centrality of the precept of nonattachment in Chi-tsang's teaching, the "true principle" mentioned here should be none other than the principle of nonattachment. As nonattachment is the abolition of all thoughts of duality, it is said that "the true principle is originally nondual." However, sentient beings cling to all sorts of beliefs, and to make them abandon their clingings, the Buddhas disparage the beliefs they cherish as "mundane" and extol the opposite beliefs as "supreme." Hence, it is said that "it is for the sake of the objects of instruction that the true principle is spoken of as dual." In Chi-tsang's opinion, the duality of "mundane" and "supreme" is invented by the Buddhas purely as a pedagogical device to uproot attachments, and does not reflect the Buddha's true state of knowledge, which is absolutely nondiscriminating. This opinion is reflected in Chi-tsang's rejection or the popular understanding of the "mundane" as "void and fleeting" and of the "supreme" as "real and solid." It is also implied in the following remarks, which assert that "mundane" has "nonmundane" and "supreme" has "nonsupreme" as meaning:'"
According to Chi-tsang, only when one gives up the idea that the terms "supreme" and "mundane" indicate specific "supreme" and "mundane" objects will one truly come to comprehend the real significance of the Buddhas' usage of the terms "supreme" and "mundane."
C. The Two Truths qua Standpoints (Yu-ti). If "supreme truth" and "mundane truth" do not denote two distinct levels of Reality, the question then arises as to why the Madhyamaka-`saastra cites the popular belief in the real existence of dharmas as a case of "mundane truth" and gives the holy man's perception of the emptiness of dharmas as an instance of "supreme truth." Are "real existence" and "emptiness" not two levels 'of Reality? Are their cognitions not two levels of knowledge? Chi-tsang answers these queries by postulating another form of "two truths," the "two truths qua standpoints." The concept "two truths qua standpoints" is derived from the Madhyamaka-`saastra, which, as we have seen, says that everyday objects are considered as real "from the standpoint of the world" but are recognized as empty "from the standpoint of the holy man":(56)
As Chi-tsang sees it, when the Madhyamaka-`saastra puts forward the idea of real existence as the "mundane truth" and the idea of emptiness as the "supreme truth, " it is relating two opposite "standpoints" concerning the nature of Reality, standpoints which the Buddhas bring up on preaching the Dharma without actually endorsing either of them. Thus, in order to counteract the everyday man's realistic standpoint, the Buddhas have recourse to the contrary standpoint of emptiness, disparaging the former as "worldly" and "mundane," and praising the latter as "holy" and "supreme."
However, it should be remembered that the standpoint of emptiness is brought in by the Buddhas solely as an antidote to the standpoint of real existence. When the Buddhas picture "real existence" as a "mundane" concept and "emptiness" as a "supreme" concept, they are not asking their audiences to exchange "real existence" for "emptiness" as the true ontological idea. When the role of "truths qua standpoints" to eliminate attachment to every standpoint is properly comprehended, it would be perceived that the "truths qua standpoints" actually function in the Buddhas' teaching as "truths gua instruction."
Judging from the fact that "existence" and "emptiness" are two conflicting opinions about the nature of Reality, they are "truths qua standpoints." Judging from the fact that "existence" and "emptiness" are propounded by the Buddhas for the sake of guiding sentient beings and not for the sake of establishing a specific metaphysical position, they are "truths qua instruction." To perceive that "truths qua standpoints" serve in the teaching of the Buddhas mainly as tentative devices to negate standpoints is highly important, for failing to do so has resulted in the erroneous identification of some metaphysical standpoints as the Buddhas' standpoints. It is in order to guard against misunderstanding of this sort that Chi-tsang differentiates between two types of "truth qua standpoints": "truths qua standpoints [the Buddhas] have recourse to" (so-i yu-ti) and "truths qua standpoints missing the heuristic [intent] (mi-chiao yu-ti) [of the Buddhas]":(59)
According to Chi-tsang, the two ideas of "existence" and "emptiness" were already a part of the popular conceptual apparatus before `Saakyamuni's appearance in the world,(61) and they were adopted by `Saakyamuni as expedient teaching devices from the very beginning of his preaching career. So they are called "truths qua standpoints the Buddhas have recourse to," Those practitioners of dull faculties could not discern the soteriological intent behind `Saakyamuni's discourses on "existence" and "emptiness, " and regarded `Saakyamuni's references to the former notion as "mundane" and to the latter notion as "supreme" as judgments about ontological primacy. They mistook provisional ideas for definite opinions, and so their definite opinions of "existence" and "emptiness" are called "truths qua standpoints missing the heuristic intent of the Buddhas."
Since the "truths qua standpoints the Buddhas have recourse to" inaugurated `Saakyamuni's mission of universal salvation, they are said to be "original." Since the "truths qua standpoints missing the heuristic intent" came about due to the misconceiving of the real purpose of the "truths qua standpoints the Buddhas have recourse to," they are said to be "derivative." Chi-tsang goes further to distinguish "three alternatives" (san-chu) in connection with the correct comprehension and the incorrect comprehension of the "two truths qua standpoints":
There are three alternative [judgments] with respect to the "[two] truths qua standpoints": first, they are both correct, second, they are both incorrect, third, they are [one] correct and [one] incorrect.
The alternative of "one correct and one incorrect" is exemplified by the initial propagation of the two truths by `Saakyamuni, when the standpoint of existence was dismissed as "mundane" and "incorrect" and the opposite standpoint of emptiness was proffered as "supreme" and "correct." It is the same as the "truth qua standpoint the Buddhas have recourse to." The alternative of "both incorrect" points to the fallacious interpretation of `Saakyamuni's reference to the standpoint of existence as "correct" and to the standpoint of emptiness as "incorrect" as an injunction to discard one ontological standpoint in favor of another ontological standpoint. It is none other than the "truths qua standpoints missing the heuristic intent of the Buddhas." Lastly, the alternative of "both correct" is the correct knowledge of `Saakyamuni's method of making use of one standpoint to undermine another standpoint, the final goal being the transcending of all specific standpoints, that is, the realization of the truth of nonduality. It rightly recognizes the role which the standpoints of existence and emptiness play in `Saakyamuni's teaching, that is, as "truth qua instruction."
D. The Three forms and Four Forms of Two Truths. The foregoing discussion of the "two truths qua instruction" and the "two truths qua standpoints" underscores Chi-tsang's pragmatic view of truth. To be sure, pragmatism had already played a significant part in discussions of the two truths before Chi-tsang, in the form of affirming the necessity of resorting to the mundane truths in order to reveal the supreme truth. But pragmatism had seldom been extended to the reading of the very distinction between mundane truth and supreme truth. White the remark of the Muulamadhyamaka-kaarikaa that "the Buddhas have recourse to the two truths on preaching the Dharma for sentient beings" does suggest that the duality of "mundane truth" and "supreme truth" is adopted by the Buddhas to cater to the needs of ordinary sentient beings, this meaning is hinted at and is not directly expressed. The same is true of the reference to the duality of "existence" and "emptiness" to throw light upon. the relation between the two truths in the Madhyamaka-`saastra. Chi-tsang's ability to make explicit the implicit, thereby turning the theory of two truths into a powerful illustration of his conception of truth as nonattachment, bespeaks keen intellectual acumen.
In conclusion, we shall take a brief look at Chi-tsang's schemes of three forms and of four forms of two truths. They are good illustrations of Chi-tsang's idea of two truths as means of instruction. The three forms of two truths are:
The passage above can be summed up in a table (Table 1).
Chi-tsang gives the following explanation of how teaching the three forms of two truths helps to free the minds of sentient beings from clinging to determinate ideas:
Seeing that sentient beings cherish their bodily forms, their minds, and the objects of the external world, the Buddhas teach the first form of two truths, upholding "emptiness" as the supreme truth in order to refute the mundane belief in real "existence." On hearing the Buddhas' words, those sentient beings of sharp faculties see right away the Buddhas' real objective to cultivate nonattachment, and would give up the standpoint of "existence" without retaining the standpoint of "emptiness." The majority of listeners, however, being of dull intelligence, are prompted by their ingrained habit of discriminative thinking to consider the ideas of "existence" and "emptiness" as two opposite ontological standpoints, the former to be discarded and the latter to be accepted. They abandon the standpoint of "existence," only to grasp at the standpoint of "emptiness.'' Noticing this, the Buddhas go on to bring in the second form of two truths, pointing out that their dualistic conception of "existence" and "emptiness" is still a case of mundane truth, and that the supreme truth is the foregoing of the standpoint of "emptiness" as well a; the standpoint of "existence" ("neither being nor emptiness").
Yet, the listeners' proclivity for grasping at standpoints persists. Although they forsake the "duality" of existence and emptiness following the instruction of the second form of two truths, they take up the "nonduality" of existence and emptiness as the standpoint to be endorsed. Consequently, the Buddhas preach the third form of two truths, which tells that to oppose "nonduality" to "duality" is itself a form of dualistic thinking pertaining to the realm of mundane truth, and that only the abolition of the duality of "duality" and "nonduality" ("neither duality nor nonduality") is the true nonduality characteristic of the supreme truth. Theoretically, this negative dialectic of successive cancellation and production of contradictions could go on ad infinitum;(66) practically it would stop once the roots of attachment of the listeners have been eradicated.
The scheme of four forms of two truths brings into focus the heuristic function of the teaching of three forms of two truths by introducing an additional form of two truths, in which the three forms of two truths are bracketed together as "mundane":
The thesis of each of the four forms of two truths is illustrated in Table 2. Comparing Table 2 with Table 1, we can see right away that the first three of the four forms of two truths correspond to the three forms of two truths. The adding of the fourth form makes it clear that the three forms of two truths are "all means of instruction," that is, they are distinctions invented for the purpose of eliminating distinctions. Hence, they belong to the group of mundane truths to be transcended. The supreme truth is the "nondifference of the three forms of two truths," that is, it is the true principle of nonattachment which rises above all distinctions, including the distinction between three forms of two truths.NOTES
This essay is a part of an ongoing research on the development of Madhyamaka thought in China. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Professor Kenneth K. S. Ch'en for kindly agreeing to read over my research manuscript and offering many insightful comments. I am indebted to the Hsu Long-sing Research Fund administered by the University of Hong Kong for a grant which defrayed part of,the cost of producing this manuscript.
1 - On Chi-tsang's life and contribution to the Chinese Madhyamaka movement, consult Tao-hsuan (596-667), Hsu Kao-seng chuan, T 50.513c-515a, and Hirai Shunei, Chuugoku hannya shisohi kenkyuu (Tokyo, 176), pp. 60-79, 345-352.
12 - The Buddha traced the origin of desire to the identification of one's self with the five skandhas (body, feeling, perception, activities, and consciousness), which are the five main aspects of sentient existence:
13 - The A.s.tasaahasrikaapraaj~naaparamitaa-suutra mentions among the objects to be abandoned not only the Hiinayaana fruits of Arhatship and Pratyekabuddhahood, but also the Mahaayaana fruit of Buddhahood:
14 - Fa-hua hsuan-lun, T34.391b16-20.