University of Calgary

Numata Chair in Buddhist Studies Colloquium

Submitted by brele on Thu, 2017-01-05 10:01.
2017-03-10 15:00 - 16:30

Numata Chair in Buddhist Studies Colloquium

Vasubandhu’s Theory of Memory: A Reading based on the Chinese Commentaries

Chen-kuo Lin (National Chengchi University)

Location: SS 541

In this talk I will take an exegetical approach to the philosophical issue of memory treated in Vasubandhu’s Refutation of the Theory of a Self (Ātmavādapratiṣedha), an appended chapter in the Treasury of Knowledge (Abhidharmakośa), and Twenty Verses on Consciousness-Only (Viṃśikā). Unlike Janet Gyatso’s edited volume, In the Mirror of Memory in 1992, which is indeed a milestone for its studies on the theory of memory (smṛti) in the tradition of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, this lecture deliberately reads these texts from the perspective of Chinese commentaries composed by Puguang (普光, died in 664) and Kuiji (窺基, 632-682), two eminent disciples of Xuanzang (602-664). The main thrust in this paper is to show how Vasubandhu argues against certain forms of the realist theory of memory, claiming that memory can be explained without presupposing the existence of the self (ātman) and the external world. This study concludes that an internalist turn taken by Vasubandhu in the Abhidharmakośa and the Viṃśikā might foresee the memory argument in Dignāga’s theory of self-awareness.


Chen-kuo Lin 林鎮國 is a Distinguished Professor in both the Department of Philosophy and the Graduate Institute of Religious Studies at National Chengchi University. He earned Ph.D. from Temple University in 1991. His research interest includes Buddhist philosophy (Buddhist logic and epistemology, Mādhyamika, Yogācāra), Chinese philosophy (Neo-Confucianism, Daoism), and comparative philosophy. Currently he is conducting two research projects, “Cognition and Mind: A Study and Annotated Translation of Huizhao’s Treatise on Two Means of Valid Cognition” and “The Encounter of Chinese Buddhists with Indian Yogācāra Texts: A Comparative Study of Indian and Chinese Commentaries on Vasubandhu’s Twenty Verses (Viṃśikā).” In addition to several book chapters and journal papers, he published three books: Emptiness and Modernity: From the Kyoto School, Modern Neo-Confucianism to Multivocal Hermeneutics (Taipei: New Century Publication, 1999) and A Passage of Dialectics (Taipei: New Century Publication, 2002), and Emptiness and Method: Explorations in Cross-Cultural Buddhist Philosophy (Taipei: The NCCU Press, 2012). All are in Chinese. Recently, A Distant Mirror: Articulating Indic Ideas in Sixth and Seventh Century Chinese Buddhism, co-edited with Michael Radich and published by the University of Hamburg Press, is accessible online at