Foreign in Name Only
Mouzi, in his Disposing of Error, counters attacks on Buddhism by champions of classic Confusion teachings as well as Daoist philosophies. In a back and forth in which naysayers ask questions and express doubts about Buddhism, Mouzi uses rhetorical devices to diffuse concerns and promote Buddhism. These arguments include metaphor and simile to relate foreign ideas to natural observances, allusions to the Chinese Classics, and the logical argument that just because something is not said by a particular person does not mean that it cannot be true. Through logos, metaphor, and allusion Mouzi finds a way to prove that accepting the foreign Buddhism does not mean one has to reject traditional Chinese teachings.
The first argument seen in Disposing of Error is in response to a question pertaining to the absence of any mention of the Buddha in Classical texts. The question posed is, “If the way of the Buddha is the greatest and most venerable of ways, why did Yao, Shun, the Duke of Zhou, and Confucius not practice it? In the Seven Classics one sees no mention of it.” (De Bary pg. 422) How could something that was never mentioned in the classical texts or practiced by the teachers of old be a basis for moral teachings? Mouzi responds with the fact that these four great men each had a teacher, but yet these teachers are not listed in the Seven Classics. “Did the Master have a permanent teacher? Yao served Yin Shou; Shun served Wucheng; the Duke of Zhou learned from Lu Wang; and Confucius learned from Laozi. And none of these teachers is mentioned in the Seven Classics.” (De Bary pg. 422) These four sage teachers are acknowledged and revered yet have no mention in the Seven Classics. Mouzi uses this fact as a platform to argue that just because the Buddha is not mentioned does not mean that he should be doubted and cast aside. If these four men, whom Mouzi says compared to the Buddha are “a white deer to a unicorn, or a swallow to a phoenix” (Da Bary pg. 422), are not doubted then how could the Buddha, “whose distinguishing marks are extraordinary and whose superhuman powers know no bounds!” possibly be ignored?
The questioner also brings up Mouzi’s own fondness toward some of the classical texts. “You, sir, are fond of the Classic of Odes and Classic of Documents, and you take pleasure in the Rites and “Music.” Why, then, do you love the way of the Buddha and rejoice in outlandish arts?” (Da Bary pg. 422) This brings up the idea that one cannot possibly enjoy and relate to the classic texts while showing reverence to the ways and practices of Buddhism. This paints a mutually exclusive picture of Buddhism and classical Confucianism. If someone can only pick one, it would be extremely difficult for Mouzi to convince or “convert” Chinese individuals of the ways of the Buddha. Mouzi attacks this argument by convincing doubters of the contrary; that these two schools of thought do not have to ex...