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Huayan Numismatics as Metaphysics: Explicating Fazang’s Coin-Counting Metaphor
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1 Huayan Numismatics as Metaphysics: Explicating Fazang’s Coin-Counting Metaphor Nicholaos Jones Department of Philosophy, University of Alabama in Huntsville nick.jones@uah.edu 1 Introductory Remarks Fazang 法藏 (643-712) ranks among the preeminent Buddhists of medieval China. History records him as a court politician during the reign of Emperor Wu Zetian 武則天 (625-705), an adept shaman and wonder-worker, an accomplished engineer, a prolific translator, as well as a popular expositor of what we now refer to as Huayan 華嚴 Buddhism.1 While the Golden Lion (Jin Shizi Zhang 金獅子章) contains Fazang's most famous pedagogical example, the Treatise on the Five Teachings (Huayan Wujiao Zhang 華嚴五教章) is his most highly regarded work.2 The Treatise presents such well-known doctrines as the mutual identity (xiangji 相卽) and mutual inclusion (xiangru 相入) of all dharmas, of li (理) and shi (事), of one (yi 一) and many (yiqie 一切), of wholes (zong 總) and their parts (bie 別). Fazang’s Treatise also provides several provocative metaphors. Chapter 10 ends with the framed building, meant to illustrate the teaching of the six characteristics (liu xiang 六相). Indra’s net (Yintuoluo wang 因陀羅網), meant to illustrate the infinite diversity of reality and the 2 mutual inclusion of its inhabitants each within all others, appears on several occasions.3 Both of these metaphors are well studied.4 But there is also a third, less famous and less remarked upon, metaphor known as counting ten coins (shu shi qian 數十錢).5 This is meant to illustrate the mutual inclusion and identity of one and many dharmas, chief (shou 首) and retinue (ban 伴), primary (zhu 主) and secondary (ban 伴), hidden (yinmi 隱密) and manifest (xianliao 顯了). Antecedents of the coin-counting metaphor appear in the Avataṁsaka sutra as well as in treatises by the second patriarch of Huayan, Zhiyan 智儼 (602-668). Both the sutra and Zhiyan speak of counting ten in the abstract. It is only with texts by Ŭisang 義湘 (625-702), a Korean disciple of Zhiyan and peer to Fazang, that the metaphor becomes more concrete by referring to coins.6 Fazang, in turn, expands upon Ŭisang’s metaphor in the final chapter of his Treatise.7 This article explicates the coin-counting metaphor as it appears in Fazang’s Treatise. The goal is to transform Fazang’s more or less inexact and obscure mentions of the metaphor into something that is clearer and more precise. The method for achieving this goal is threefold: first, presenting Fazang’s version of the metaphor as culminating a series of written efforts to interpret a brief stanza in the Avataṁsaka sutra; second, providing textual evidence to support this interpretation; third, contrasting the interpretation with its main alternatives. The immediate purpose of explicating the metaphor in this way is to redress its relative neglect in discussions of Huayan doctrine. The broader purpose, pursued briefly in the conclusion, is to lay some groundwork for making insights from Huayan metaphysics available and more accessible to a wider audience of metaphysicians. 3 I begin with an historical review of the how the coin-counting metaphor develops from a stanza in the Avataṁsaka sutra to an illustration with multiple and convoluted layers in Fazang’s Treatise. I frame the review as a series of attempts to improve an originary example, with each successor correcting a flaw in its predecessor. 2 History of the Metaphor before Fazang 2.1 Avataṁsaka Sutra The Avataṁsaka (Flower Ornament) sutra presents the teaching that all things, by virtue of lacking inherent or substantial nature (svabhāva), are empty (śūnya). Nirvana cannot be grasped, but when spoken of there are two kinds, So it is of all things: When discriminated, they are different. Just as based on something counted there exists a way of counting, Their nature is nonexistent: Thus are phenomena perfectly known. It's like the method of counting (suan shu fa 算數法), adding one, up to infinity. The numbers have no substantial nature: They are distinguished due to intellect.8 Because real distinctions among things reside in differences of svabhāva, this teaching rejects ultimate distinctions among things. It entails, further, that there is a sense in which ultimate reality escapes conceptual understanding. Because concepts fundamentally mark differences, absence of distinctions among things entails that concepts cannot...


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