chapter  2
Undoing the Hīnayāna Onto-epistemological categories: A semiotic approach to the list of eighteen points about emptiness
Pages 40

We are now going to consider a list that came from the Mahayana doctrinal system: the eighteen points about emptiness. The Taisho Tripitaka preserves two commentaries on this list. One is section 48 (= fascicle No. 31), chapter one, in the Dazhidu Lun (1509), a great Madhyamaka compendium translated/edited by Kumarajlva and his disciples, and the other is a self-contained treatise trans­ lated/edited by Paramartha: Treatise on the Eighteen Points about Emptiness (T1616). Although these commentaries on the list are perhaps the most explicitly theoretical accounts of the notion of emptiness provided by the same writers who were instrumental in formulating, translating and disseminating the doctrine of emptiness, they have been neglected in modern Buddhist studies. Lamotte’s French rendition of the Dazhidu Lun thankfully covers the chapter on the eighteen points about emptiness. It is rich in ter­ minological and intertextual information, but it does not explain the list as a coherent text. Ui’s study of Paramartha’s Treatise on the Eighteen Points about Emptiness was published in Japan in 1930, but it is not now readily accessible to the Western reader. Yinshun has conducted many specialist studies of this subject, the most sys­ tematic of which is his Xingkongxue Tanyuan (The Origins o f the Doctrine o f Emptiness, 1992), but he gives this list only a cursory glance. Contemporary scholars have contributed various accounts of the Mahayana notion of emptiness, but few of these modern inter­ pretations are based on any canonical treatises where the notion of emptiness is not only deployed but logically developed in a systematic fashion.