In John Makeham (ed.), The Buddhist Roots of Zhu Xi's Philosophical Thought. New York, USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 122-155 (2018)

Justin Tiwald
San Francisco State University
This article (1) offers a relatively comprehensive survey of criticisms of Buddhism made by the influential Chinese philosopher Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130-1200) with translations of key passages, and (2) proposes that these criticisms are best understood as targeting the implicit presuppositions and practical implications of Buddhist teachings, not so much the explicit doctrines of the Buddhists. The article examines three sets of criticisms. The first has to do with Buddhist soteriology, the fundamental priority of Buddhist salvation, which Zhu takes to be egoistic and a corruption of the more relationship-oriented nature of ethics itself. The second set of criticisms concerns Buddhist over-reliance on meditation as a form of mental discipline, which in Zhu’s view leaves Buddhists ill-equipped to take independent standards of right and wrong into account. He proposes instead that Confucian “reverential attention” (jing 敬) is the better means by which to reshape one’s intentions and emotions in light of objective standards. The final criticisms are of the Buddhist doctrine of emptiness. Here Zhu seems to be an uncharitable critic, suggesting that Buddhists treat all things as illusory and without a certain ethically significant relationship to the larger world. But a closer examination of the evidence shows that he was both aware of more defensible notions of Buddhist emptiness and, at the end of the day, unconvinced that Buddhist practices were conducive to realizing them.
Keywords Buddhism  Confucianism  Neo-Confucianism
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