When Lu Xun 魯迅 (1881–1936) sows in “Gudu zhe” 孤獨者 (The Misanthrope) the analogy of a seed in a conversation about the nature of children, he alludes to the epistemic seedbed other than evolutionary thinking: Buddhism. This study probes into this moment of double conjuration as religion encounters science and soteriology confronts natural law. It unravels the significance of the Buddhist reference by tracing the seed to its Yogācāra provenance and implanting it in a twentieth-century debate between the Yogācārins and the advocates of the Tathāgatagarbha doctrine across East Asia. The author situates Lu Xun in a shared intellectual horizon with the contemporary lay Buddhist scholar, Ouyang Jingwu 歐陽竟無 (1871–1943), whose critique of Dasheng qixin lun 大乘起信論 (Treatise on the Awakening of Faith in the Mahāyāna, or the Awakening of Faith) in 1922 furnishes a Buddhist exemplum of the “obsession with China.” In spirit both Ouyang and Lu Xun anticipate the Critical Buddhism movement of late 1980s Japan, in which hongaku 本覚, or original enlightenment thought, is censured for latent ideological complicity with Japanese ethnocentrism. Lu Xun, the author suggests, turns out to be the most critical of all Critical Buddhists. This is evidenced by his “Sihuo” 死火 (Dead Fire), which features a ghastly twist in its retelling of the burning house parable from the Miaofa lianhua jing 妙法蓮華經 (Saddharma-puṇḍarīka-sūtra; Sūtra of the Lotus of the Wonderful Dharma, or the Lotus Sūtra). Having undergone a Buddhist vita contemplativa in the preceding years of the literary revolution, Lu Xun came to personify a profound “consciousness of darkness” (youan yishi 幽暗意識) in dwelling on the karma of modernity.

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