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Comments on Deconstructing the Buddhist Philosophy of Nothingness Ren Girard and Origins of Buddhist Culture by Ilkwaen Chung (http://www.scribd.

com/doc/88516537/DeconstructionBuddhism )

Prof. Dr. John D'Arcy May Visiting Research Fellow, Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin Adjunct Professor, Centre for Interreligious Dialogue, Australian Catholic University Hon. Research Fellow, MCD University of Divinity Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Studies in Religion and Theology, Monash University

This is a truly remarkable piece of work: you seem to have read everything on Buddhism and its Indian origins, from the German classics to contemporary postmodernists, and synthesised it all in the framework of Girards powerful hypothesis. Let me say from the outset that Im wary of theories that purport to explain everything, especially when they culminate in an apologia for the uniqueness and superiority of Christianity; but Im excited about the social-anthropological approach to which Girard leads you. I think this sort of work is sorely lacking in studies on religion and interreligious dialogue, and it amounts to a drastic deconstruction of many favoured ideas about the sublimity of Buddhism. I often wondered how Girards thesis would apply to Buddhism, without having had the opportunity to go into it; now I know! Again, whether everything can or must be traced back to a founding sacrifice is another matter, but the wealth of material you present together with your critique of the textualisation and idealisation of Buddhism by Western scholarship provokes a reassessment of the way Buddhism has been received in the West. In particular, your account of the associations of Buddhism with violence, way back to the violent ascetics of ancient India, adds powerful evidence to the critiques already proposed, e.g. of Zen in imperial Japan. Your contextualisation of anatman and su nyatain the violence of world-renunciation and your suggestion that the resulting non-dualism entails the impossibility of ethics strengthens my impression of Buddhisms remoteness from the sphere of time and history and consequently its vulnerability to political and moral manipulation (the fascism of Nishida, Nishitani alongside Heidegger, Tucci shocking!). Yet one has to account for movements like Socially Engaged Buddhism inspired by figures like Buddhadasa: are these reflex Western influences, or a rediscovery of Buddhisms innate ethical potential? I was brought up on the Theravada (because I studied in Munster at Hackers institute), so I have a strong sense of the ethical standards of the Patimokkha. Is there perhaps a fruitful tension between the social-anthropological strata you unearth, especially in the Tantra, and the idealistic elements in the dharma, even if these were seen one-sidedly in the West? You quote many authors I am familiar with and many more besides, and you refer to far more of their works that I have ever had access to. You quote them so regularly, though, that the differences between them tend to become invisible, as if they were all just providing corroboration of your Girardian thesis. Im surprised you dont quote my friend Joseph OLeary, one of the few Christian theologians to engage deeply with both Nagarjuna and Derrida, Nishida and Heidegger. Towards the end I felt that the

book was becoming repetitious and even rambling at times; I think a publisher would want to see it trimmed back and focussed on your underlying theme. You are obviously at home in both Sanskrit and German, but you will understand when I say that the English needs thorough correcting, grammar, spelling, punctuation, the lot, line by line, otherwise a publisher wouldnt accept it and scholars would pounce on so many unclear statements. You need a native speaker to go through it in detail, something I cant do for you. But congratulations once again on a groundbreaking piece of work.