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Understanding Prajñā

Sengzhao’s «Wild Words» and the Search for Wisdom


John M. Thompson

Can enlightenment be attained through words? Understanding Prajñā addresses this perennial issue in the study of mysticism through the work of Sengzhao (374-414), a Buddhist scholar-monk whose essay on prajñā («wisdom») created a sensation in early medieval China. Drawing on contemporary hermeneutic theory, this book presents a close reading of Sengzhao’s work, placing it in proper context while highlighting his masterful techniques for conveying «wisdom» beyond ordinary language. Understanding Prajñā includes translations of Sengzhao’s essay and his correspondence with Liu Yimin, a «hermit-scholar» who yearned to grasp the Buddha’s sage wisdom.