7 Nov 2014

Priest (P10) One, ‘Buddhist Philosophy II: China’, summary


by Corry Shores
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[The following is summary. All boldface, underlying and bracketed commentary are my own.]


Summary of

Graham Priest

Being an Investigation into the Unity of Reality and of its Parts, including the Singular Object which is Nothingness


P.10 Buddhist Philosophy II: China

Brief Summary:

In China and Japan, Buddhism changes by means of the influence of other schools like Confucianism and Daoism and also by original contributions of Chinese and Japanese Buddhists, including Fazang and Dōgen.




Buddhist ideas in China diverged notably from their Indian origins (xxv).

They were influenced by Confucianism and Daoism. Confucianism comes from Confucius’ Lunyu (Analects), and Daoism from the Dao De Jing of Laozi and the Zhuangzi of Zhuangzi. Daoism had more influence on Buddhism than Confucianism did.

According to Daoism, there is a principle behind the flow of events, the Dao; and the Daoist sage is someone who does not cling, but “goes with the flow” of the Dao. (xxvi)

In China, Buddhism was misunderstood until good translations became available around the 4th century AD. What came to prominence were Chinese forms of Mahāyāna Buddhism. (xxvi)

Of these schools, the most philosophically sophisticated was the Huayan school, which provided a view of the world as made of interpenetrated and co-encoding phenomenal objects.

Philosophically the most sophisticated was Huayan (Skt: Avataṃsaka; Eng: Flower Garland), named after the sūtra which it took to be most important. The founder of the school is traditionally taken to be Tuxun | (557–640 AD), but philosophically more important is Fazang (643–712 AD), who parlayed the Indian notion of emptiness into a picture of the world in which all phenomenal objects interpenetrate and mutually encode each other.

In the 9th century AD, the Huayan school fades out and is absorbed into the Chan school, which was interested in practical more than theoretical matters.

A distinctive feature of the school is that enlightenment can be sudden, and occurs with a conceptually unmediated, and therefore indescribable, encounter with ultimate reality (Buddha nature).


In the eight century Buddhist ideas enter Japan.

Perhaps the most important period in Japanese Buddhism was the thirteenth century AD, when thinkers such as Dōgen (1200– 1253 AD) imported Chan, or Zen, as it is called there. When it entered Japan, Buddhism encountered the indigenous animistic view, Shinto. Shinto certainly coloured Japanese Buddhism, but it did not have a profound impact in the way in which the indigenous Chinese ideas had done, the general perception being that Shinto and Buddhism are quite compatible.



Priest, Graham. One: Being an Investigation into the Unity of Reality and of its Parts, including the Singular Object which is Nothingness. Oxford: Oxford University, 2014.

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