UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Exegesis-philosophy interplay : introduction to Fazang’s (643-712) commentary on the Huayan jing (60 juans) [Skt. Avataṃsaka Sūtra; Flower garland sūtra] — the Huayan jing tanxuan ji [record of investigating the mystery of the Huayan jing] Lin, Weiyu


Huayan Buddhism represents a pinnacle of Chinese Buddhist metaphysics, and it owed its metaphysical outlook to the Huayan jing [Skt. Avataṃsaka sūtra; Flower Garland Sūtra]. In fact, for the most of its history, Huayan Buddhism remained only a loose constellation of Huayan commentators without the self-consciousness as an independent sect. A watershed moment came when Fazang (643-712), the third Huayan patriarch, systematized the Huayan exegesis into a full-fledged metaphysical system, which scholars came to call the “Huayan philosophy”. This theoretical feat sent Huayan Buddhism to the cusp of emerging as an independent tradition. It could thus be said that the formation of Huayan sect and Huayan philosophy had its root in exegesis. However, scholars tend to study Huayan Buddhism without heeding its organic process of emergence; and analyze Huayan philosophy without referencing the exegesis. The result is the incongruous situation in which an exegetical tradition is being ignored of exegesis; and Huayan Buddhism is being studied without the Huayan jing. This thesis represents my effort to return our attention back to exegesis, and to use exegesis as the context to study the formation of Huayan Buddhism and Huayan philosophy. For this purpose, no work is more relevant than Fazang’s magnum opus: the Huayan jing tanxuan ji [Record of Investigating the Mystery of the Huayan jing]. I will systematically introduce this notoriously long and obscure work, laying out a rudimentary roadmap for navigating the text, in addition to extracting Fazang’s interpretations on several key issues. I also wish to demonstrate how Fazang created the “Huayan philosophy” through exegesis. In this process, we will observe not only the coherence, but also the divergence, between the Huayan philosophy and the Huayan jing; and come to see that it is through a creative, dynamic exegesis that the textual elements of the Huayan jing are extracted and integrated into the Huayan worldview. By investigating this dynamic process, we could appreciate Fazang’s philosophy in a fresh light; and detect the connections between the philosophy and the text that has given rise to it.

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