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The Emergence of Essence-Function (ti-yong) 體用 Hermeneutics in the Sinification of Indic Buddhism: An Overview

A. Charles Muller 1

1University of Tokyo

Candidate

ABSTRACT

The essence-function 體用 (Ch. ti-yong, K. che-yong, J. tai-yū; in non-Buddhological studies in Japan, tai-yō) paradigm can be seen as the most pervasively-used hermeneutical framework in the interpretation of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese religious and philosophical works ranging from as early as the 5th century BCE up to premodern times. It developed in richness during the course of its application in Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism, first in China, where it was applied extensively in the sinification of Indian Buddhist doctrine, and formed the basic framework for the philosophy of the Chinese indigenous schools of Buddhism such as Huayan, Tiantai, and Chan, often in analogous forms such as li-shi 理事. It was then further transformed and expanded in its usage in Song Neo-Confucianism, especially in the form yet another analogue li-qi 理氣. As both Buddhism and Neo-Confucianism took root in Korea, Korean scholars made extensive use of the che-yong paradigm, both in the interpretation of the individual religions of Confucianism and Buddhism, as well as in interreligious dialog and debate. This paper seeks to revive discussion of this vitally important philosophical paradigm, which has been almost fully ignored in Buddhological studies, both East and West, by examining its early appearances in Chinese Buddhist commentary, and then its role in the Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith, as well as some examples of its usage in Korean Buddhism, in the writings of Wonhyo and Jinul.

Citation status

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