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Reception History and Limits of Interpretation: The Belgian Étienne Lamotte, Japanese Buddhologists, the Chinese monk Yinshun 印順 and the Formation of a Global ‘Da zhidu lun 大智度論 Scholarship’
University of Groningen
Keywords: Da zhidu lun 大智度論, Étienne Lamotte, Yinshun, Nāgārjuna, Japanese Buddhology, textual study, Umberto Eco
Abstract: One of the most well-known accomplishments of Étienne Lamotte (1903–1983) was the unfinished French translation of Da zhidu lun 大智度論. Da zhidu lun is also a very popular text in East Asia, because it is attributed to Nāgārjuna, the so-called ‘patriarch of the eight schools’ (bazong zhi zu 八宗之祖) in East Asian Buddhism. Lamotte, however, claimed that Nāgārjuna might not have written Da zhidu lun.
Lamotte’s argument led to various debates that gave rise to a wide array of hypotheses on who the author of Da zhidu lun could have been. The theory that Da zhidu lun could have been a text not (or not only) written by Nāgārjuna reached Chinese Buddhist monks and scholars as well, including the monk Yinshun 印順 (1906–2005).
This paper will show the impact of Western scholarship on East Asian Buddhism, highlight the (pluri)directionality of knowledge transfer, and demonstrate relevance and potentiality of the dialogue between East and West for the advancement of Buddhist learning. Finally, Umberto Eco’s concepts of ‘empirical reader’ and ‘model reader’ will serve to understand this Buddhist textual debate from the wider perspective of textual interpretation and reception history.