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An Early Chinese Commentary on the Ekottarika-āgama

An Early Chinese Commentary on the Ekottarika-āgama
《分別功德論》與《增一阿含經》譯經史考

作者:Antonello Palumbo

出版社: 法鼓文化

出版日期:2013年12月01日

語言:英文

系列別:法鼓佛教學院論叢

規格:15x21 cm / 平裝 / 424頁 / 單色印刷

商品編號:1111270071

ISBN:9789575986377

定價:NT$460

會員價:NT$414 (90折)

心田價:NT$359 (78折)

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Introduction

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Few scholars seem to have noticed it, but the last two decades of the 4th c. A.D. usher in a radically new stage in the history of Buddhism in China. Since its early sightings around the turn of the Common Era, the Indian religion had slithered along unobtrusively, a muted, exotic orchestra playing catchy tunes in the backstage that then it was often for Chinese literati to croon. What has been touted as its ‘conquest of China’ is probably best seen as the serendipitous appeal that some clusters of ideas available in translation, notably prajnāpāramitā thought, happened to have on sectors of the cultured elite. If a conquest it was, however, very few generals and hardly any army are visible behind it.
Things do change from the 380s. Starting from Chang’an 長安, at the eastern terminus of the Silk Road, a sudden wave of Buddhist texts and missionaries introduces, as an ideological package of sorts, a set of doctrines and traditions that were to alter the religious landscape of early medieval China in deep, long-lasting ways. With the first instalments of monumental vinaya codes and scholastic treatises, large scriptural corpora, extended narratives of Buddhist kingship and more, an ecclesial view takes shape wherein ‘Buddhism’ finally claims its due as the thing out there, a separate social body of monks and nuns with their own identity, rules and history.
The Chinese translation of the Ekottarika-āgama, the Zengyi ahan jing 增一阿含經 (T.125), is probably the most powerful emblem of this change. One of its sūtras famously warranted the immediate adoption of the common clan name Shi 釋, an early medieval transcription of Śākya, for all Buddhist monks in China, a practice that continues to the present day. The notion that the Buddha had entrusted Mahā-Kāśyapa and Ānanda with the leadership of the saṃgha after his nirvāṇa, the related idea of lineages of scriptural transmission, the making of Buddha-images, eschatological views on the millennial duration of the Law, the cult of Maitreya and that of the past Buddhas, this and much more would find canonical sanction within it.
Buddhologists have long been intrigued by such a large, composite collection. As one of the four āgamas, discussing factors in numerical progression, it should stand as a parallel to the Pāli Aṅguttara-nikāya, and therefore attest to a canonical literature that has been variously labelled as ‘Hīnayāna’, ‘Mainstream’ or just ‘ancient’, but in fact may well be none of the foregoing in the case at hand. For throughout and especially in its Prefatory Chapter (Xupin 序品), the Zengyi ahan jing presents doctrinal formulations such as those mentioned above, and a diffuse Mahāyānist terminology, that are seen to be incompatible with the oldest layers of that literature. A favoured hypothesis has then been to assign the Chinese Ekottarika-āgama to the Mahāsāṃghika, in view both of a number of parallels with texts of that school and of the tradition that sees it as a forerunner of the Great Vehicle. However, in the absence of the original text, it is not at all clear what sort of Indic counterpart the Zengyi ahan jing should reflect, also in view of the fact that some sūtras in the collection appear to result from an artificial compilation of discourses separately attested in other canonical streams.
An assessment of these features has to reckon with the uncertainty that still lingers about the identity of the translator of the received text (T.125), whether it was the Indo-Bactrian monk Dharmananda 曇摩難提 (fl. 383–391) in 384–385 or the Kashmiri monk Saṃghadeva 僧伽提婆 (fl. 383–398) several years later, and the role of other participants in the translation process, notably the Chinese interpreter Zhu Fonian 竺佛念 (fl. 379–413). Briefly put, the Buddhological anomalies of the Zengyi ahan jing can be variously construed as mirroring an idiosyncratic Indic text behind it, or as the result of this or that translator’s interference, or even of further revision and tampering.
In this study, I will consider the Zengyi ahan jing chiefly as the product of historical actors, three-dimensional human beings engaging their own world, rather than the putative witness to some ill-defined sectarian tradition that it is usually taken to be or not to be. In the first part, I zoom in tightly on the background and circumstances of its translation, the men who took part in it and its obscure aftermath. I also briefly survey the earliest evidence attesting to the knowledge and circulation of the Ekottarika-āgama in and around China. These discussions will prepare the ground for the second part, which is entirely focused on the Fenbie gongde lun 分別功德論 (T.1507), an old, unfinished commentary to the Zengyi ahan jing. An enquiry into the nature, date and authorship of this document will hopefully shed full light on the Chinese translation of the Ekottarika-āgama, and explain its perceived anomaly as the outgrowth of a context in the history of Buddhism that, so far, we may just not have paused long enough to consider.