Funayama Toru: "'Thusness' (zhenru): A Case of the Sinicized Interpretation of Buddhist Terms"
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 as 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.
Funayama Toru is Professor at the Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University. His research mainly covers medieval Chinese Buddhism, especially in the Six Dynasties period, on the one hand, and scholastic tradition of the Yogācāra school of Indian Buddhism during the sixth through tenth centuries, on the other. His recent works include Kōsōden, 4 vols. (Japanese translation and annotation of Biographies of Eminent Monks by Huijiao), co-authored with Yoshikawa Tadao (Iwanami shoten, 2009-2010), Shintai sanzō kenkyū ronshū (Studies of the Works and Influence of Paramārtha), edited by Funayama Toru (Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University, 2012). He has just finished the draft of a book in Japanese on a detailed history of Chinese Buddhist translation and its significance in Chinese Culture.
Shinnyo-en Lectures in Buddhist Studies