DISCUSSION> Rendering of the term 廢詮談旨 in DDB

A. Charles Muller's picture

In the DDB, the term 廢詮談旨  is glossed by the entry's author as " to discuss the essence of Buddhism while rejecting the use of language ." One  our colleagues has sent in a comment as follows:

I differ in my understanding, and don't feel that "to discuss the essence of Buddhism while rejecting the use of language" is quite right. I think 談 is best rendered here as "expressing" or "revealing." If one "rejects language," then discussion is out of the question. The reference seems to point to something akin to Vimalakirti's famous lion's roar of silence, which of course Vimalakirti followed by accusing Shariputra of using silence to "point to" reality. Vimalakirti was not intending his silence (rejection of language) to be a "discussion." Perhaps "revealing/expressing" is even too affirmative, but a good alternative is lacking.

I wonder if any of  our learned colleagues has an opinion on this point?




Categories: Discussion

Dear Prof. Muller,

The objection seems to be about the paradox of "rejecting language to discuss the (ineffable) principle" 廢詮談旨. One can circumvent this paradox by tinkering with the semantics: "rejecting discursiveness to deal with the (ineffable) principle." (I don't think translating tan 談 as "expressing" or "revealing" would actually get one out of this jam, since no one can directly "express" or "reveal" the ineffable by the very same logic, according to which one cannot even point at the ineffable with Mañjuśrī's silence.)

But I don't think this is necessarily an elegant solution. Another possibility would be to embrace the paradox. (I guess that here the recent publication titled What Can't Be Said : Paradox and Contradiction in East Asian Thought might be pertinent.) The ineffable reality is beyond language, but all we can do is to talk about it in spite of that. This specific term has generated quite some discussion in the Faxiang-related literature, and I think Zhizhou 智周 specifically points out the existence of a paradox:
問非安立者。廢詮為義。言無作者。無後可作。名為無作,然可施設。二義既差,云何相即?(X0636 法華經玄贊攝釋)
Even the term not-creating (無作) is self-contradicting, because this very term attempts to create a meaning with language. Zhizhou's response is quite complicated, but his position seems to be that a phrase can entertain two different meanings at the same time and, by doing so, a paradox is tolerated. (答非安立名。通於二義。一唯廢詮。與無作別。即瑜伽論。非安立諦。唯是一也。二言非者即是無義。安立是作。名字有別。義諦無差...)

In sum, I happen to think your original translation is perfectly fine: if the Chinese is paralogical, the English translation may or should stay paralogical.

Best wishes,
Allan Ding

From Richard John Lynn

another meaning well attested to in the sources for 詮 is 真理 or 規律

From the Huainanzi 15: Overview of the Military 淮南子·兵略

發必中詮,言必合數。where 詮 is glossed as 真理 (true principle/truth) or 規律 (rules) (also unending arguments in the commentary tradition about 詮 as a wrong textual variant for something else; no need to go into that here; Hal Roth et al. go for the textual variant 權 authority, power = heft) (don't think this is right): "initiatives surely accord with the heft; his words surely correspond to the measure." My version: "Initiatives must be done according to/center on the rules . . . ."

Now, as for 廢詮談旨, I suggest "Do away with the rules (fixed parameters of discourse, etc.) in talking about real meaning"

Cheers, RJL

Dear colleagues,

There are several ways to address how to interpret a phrase like 廢詮談旨. One is to fiddle with English (etc.) translations until they accommodate our sensibilities, but probably a more instructive approach is to look at how the term was understood by its earliest users, and take note of whether/how its meanings and applications changed over time and place.

The phrase appears to have been invented by Kuiji, Xuanzang’s successor. As far as I can tell, it never appears in any Chinese translation of an Indian text, but appears numerous times in several of Kuiji’s works. It appears seven times in Kuiji’s 大乘法苑義林章 (T. 1861), which is his own original composition, not a commentary on other texts as the most of his other works are. We don’t have a good reliable chronology of Kuiji’s works, so we don’t know in many cases which came first, so let me begin with his commentary on the Vimalakīrti. As in most of the other appearances of the phrase, it concerns the two truths, and the phrase appears in the discussion of paramārtha-satya. In this text he uses it to characterize the highest level of paramārtha-satya, portraying how the aśaikṣas, the ones who are fully realized having completed the training, teach. I will offer a tentative rendering of the phrase which, I think, captures its meaning in that context.

Kuiji’s Commentary on the Vimalakīrti Sūtra:
《說無垢稱經疏》卷1〈1 序品〉:「是故此經雖具談二諦。勝義深故。以為義主。故以空為宗。依後大乘護法等義。雖說二諦。世俗諦有四。通空及有。勝義諦有四。唯有非空。空者無也。遍計所執。唯妄執有。體實空無。故非勝義。二諦皆有四重不同。世俗諦四者。一世間所成。法體未必有。一切世間共所言說。執之有故。即實我法。瓶盆等是。二道理所成。世間有情。有尋思者。所說道理。體用俱有。即蘊處界有無為法。三證得所成。世間學者。方便修學。除惡務善。證聖果故。即四諦理等。四真義所成。世間學者。既修學已。以此殊妙。為所證得。即二空真如。此四之中。初一體空。後三體有。勝義四者。一世間所成。諸有學者。世間言說。以此為有。即蘊處界。有[6]為無為法。二道理所成。即諸學者。共立道理。四諦理等。三證得所成。諸有學者。以此方便。能證聖果。謂二空如。四真義所成。諸有學者。既修學已。以此深妙。為所證得。廢[7]詮談旨。一真法界。論其二諦。並通人法。中智所知。名世俗諦。上智所知。名勝義諦。」(CBETA, T38, no. 1782, p. 999, b16-c6)

Even though the [Vimalakīrti] sutra fully discusses (談, tan; Skt. *kathā) the two truths, since paramārtha is profound, and its principle meaning is the tenet of emptiness, later Mahāyānists like Dharmapāla, and others based on that meaning [parsed it so that] vyavahāra-satya has four [aspects] and paramārtha-satya has four [aspects]. [When viewed from perspectives in which things] exist and there is no emptiness, emptiness [is mistaken to be] nonexistence. That is parikalpita, which only erroneously [interprets] existence, in which the reality of emptiness is nonexistent, and hence that is not paramārtha.

Each of the two truths is fourfold and not the same. The four vyvahāra-satyas are:

1. What’s established by worldly [convention] (*loka-prasiddha). This is not yet the reality of things (dharmas), since people attach to all that is commonly said in the world [i.e., conventionalisms], which is that self and dharmas are real, as are pots, etc.
2. What is established by logic (*yukti-prasiddha). What is expressed logically by those who investigate by reasoning (*tārkika) the worldly [experience] of sentient beings. Ti and yong [reality and activity] both exist [in this aspect], which are the skandhas, āyatanas, dhātus, and saṃskṛta-dharmas.
3. What is established by realizations. Those worldlings studying [the Dharma], since they realize the noble fruit by practicing and learning upāyas, abandoning evil and striving for good; [they realize] the principles of the four noble truths, etc.
4. What is established [based on] reality [真義, lit. the “real meaning,” a pre-Xuanzang rendering of paramārtha, which he replaced with 勝義]. Once the worldling student has fully trained, he realizes this extraordinary [aspect], which is the two emptinesses [of self and things] and tathatā.

Among those four, the first is devoid of the reality (ti) of emptiness, while there is reality in the latter three.

The four paramārtha-satyas are:
1. What’s established by worldly [convention; loka-prasiddha]. Those [still] in training (śaikṣa), what they take to exist concerning worldly expressions are the skandhas, āyatanas, dhātus, saṃskṛta and asaṃskṛta dharmas.
2. What is established by logic, which is what those in training establish logically in common concerning the four noble truths, etc.
3. What is established by realizations. The trainees, by these upāyas are able to realize the noble fruit, i.e., the two emptinesses as such.
4. What is established [based on] reality. Once the trainee has fully trained he realizes this extraordinary [aspect], ABANDONING DISCURSIVENESS AND DISCUSSING (談, tan; Skt. *kathā) NONDISCURSIVELLY (廢詮談旨) the one true dharma-dhātu, discoursing on its two truths both permeating people and things.

What is known by middling knowledge is called vyavahāra-satya. What is known by higher knowledge is called paramārtha-satya.
{End of translation}

[Cf. the beginning of the Tattvārtha chap. of the Bodhisattvabhūmi: sa punar eva tattvārthaḥ prakāra-prabhedataś catur-vidhaḥ. loka-prasiddho yukti-prasiddhaḥ kleś'āvaraṇa-viśuddhi-jñāna-gocaraḥ jñey'āvaraṇa-viśuddhi-jñāna-gocaraś ca.
Xuanzang’s tr. 此真實義,品類差別。 復有四種、一者、世間極成真實,二者、道理極成真實,三者、煩惱障淨智所行真實,四者、所知障淨智所行真實。]

The DDB entry on 旨, the fourth tern in the phrase, reads in part (somewhat based on fundamental Japanese Hossō text):

Nondiscursive teaching. In some traditions of East Asian philosophy of mind — including, but not limited to Consciousness-only 唯識, 旨 is used in the pair of 詮旨 — wherein 詮 refers to the discursive teaching of Buddhism contained in the sutras, and 旨 refers to the nondiscursive teaching that transcends the linguistic realm. 旨 is the highest stage in the doctrine of the four levels of the two truths 四重二諦. 〔觀心覺夢鈔 T 2312.71.83b2〕

That understanding derives directly from Kuiji.

There is a similar discussion in Kuiji’s 成唯識論述記, one of his commentaries on the Cheng weishilun. Cf. T42.1830.243c26-244a27. There, again, it appears at the fourth level of paramārtha-satya. The key differences in this discussion is that he maps the vyavahāra satya levels largely in terms of what sort of prajñapti (whether bogus or accurate gloss) is at play, and the paramārtha level concerns understandings of causality. Another difference is that here Kuiji’s label for the fourth level is precisely our phrase:

“4. Abandoning discurseness and discussing nondiscursively, i.e., one reality (一實如). The ti that is wondrous and already apart from language is called paramārtha. To go past conventional and ultimate referent is again called ultimate referent.” (四廢詮談旨諦。謂一實如。體妙離言已名勝義。過俗勝義復名勝義)

See also Kuiji’s 成唯識論了義燈 T 43.1832.714b11-18 真如無為。約廢詮談旨故 依瑜伽五十三立二。謂虛空及非擇。約世共知故。


789b15-20 無相行者。謂即於諸行中。眾生無我性可得。及法無我性可得。及於滅中滅.靜.妙.離行 此意觀如及擇滅為無相。二無我性即真如故。約廢詮談旨離滅.靜等別說二如。若詮.旨合明。即靜.妙等攝.

Finally, Chengguan, who never missed an opportunity to plagiarize Kuiji without attribution, and did so profusely (and thereby entered Kuiji’s definitions and models into mainstream E. Asian Buddhist discourse without crediting their Yogacara origins), reiterates Kuiji’s two truths with four aspects for each truth in his Huayan commentary:

《大方廣佛華嚴經隨疏演義鈔》卷9:「又真俗各四。便成八諦。[8]一世俗四者。一[9]名假名無實諦。二[*]名隨事差別諦。三[*]名方便安立諦。四[*]名假名非安立諦。謂二空理依詮而說。但有假名不得體故。勝義四者。一體用顯現諦。二因果差別諦。三依門顯實諦。四廢詮談旨諦。然上八諦名則小異。義不殊前。」(CBETA, T36, no. 1736, p. 64, a19-25)

Dan Lusthaus