How It All Depends: A Contemporary Reconstruction of Huayan Buddhism

In Oxford Handbook of Chinese Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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Few would deny that something ontologically depends on something else. Given that something depends on something, what depends on what? Huayan Buddhism 華嚴宗, a prominent Chinese Buddhist school, is known for its extensive thesis of interdependence, according to which everything depends on everything else. This intriguing thesis is entangled with seemingly paradoxical claims that everything is not only identified with everything else but also contained within it. Moreover, the radical thesis of interdependence entails that dependence is pervasive and symmetric. In this paper, I first develop a contemporary interpretation of Huayan interdependence by employing the definitional account of essence and the essence-based account of dependence. Through these contemporary resources, I elucidate and unify the theses of interdependence, mutual identity, and mutual containment within Huayan Buddhism. I then propose a unique framework of ontological dependence that suggests varying degrees of ontological dependence, aimed at accommodating and explaining away our intuitions against pervasive and symmetric dependence. By contemporizing Huayan Buddhism, I explore its potential and facilitate engagement between contemporary metaphysics and Huayan Buddhism.

Author's Profile

Li Kang
Washington and Lee University


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