The awakened lord: the name of the Buddha in East Asia.

Author:Pellard, Thomas

    The Japanese word for 'Buddha', Modern Standard Japanese hotoke, Early Middle Japanese (EMJ) fotoke 3.4, Old Japanese (OJ) [poto.sub.2][ke.sub.2] [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], (1) is probably at least as old as the introduction of Buddhism in Japan, which happened in the sixth century according to the official records of the Nihon shoki [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Annals of Japan, 720). This is confirmed by the existence of Ryukyuan (2) cognates for this word, which usually also refer to dead spirits and ancestors, as well as to Buddha statues and figurines in general: Yoron putui (Kiku and Takahashi 2005: 501), Shuri [??]utuki (Kokuritsu kokugo kenkyujo 1963: 224), Ishigaki putugi (Miyagi 2003: 957), Yonaguni mutugi (Uwano 2009: 24)

    The first vowel of the OJ word is indeterminate, since there is neutralization of the opposition between [o.sub.1] and [o.sub.2] after p- in OJ. Nevertheless, no OJ root contains both [o.sub.1] and [o.sub.2] (Arisaka 1934), and we can thus infer that the first vowel was originally the same [o.sub.2] (

    This word has no accepted internal etymology in Japonic, and most of the traditional etymologies, like those relating hotoke

    Though OJ [poto.sub.2][ke.sub.2] is often compared to Chinese [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] EMC * but, a shortened form of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] EMC * but-da 'Buddha', this spelling was not commonly used before the Tang dynasty (618-907). The earlier Chinese renderings of Sanskrit Buddha (Pelliot 1906: 373) like [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] or [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] LH * bu-da > EMC * buw-do are better matches for the first two syllables of pj * [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 3.4 than EMC * but. Since neither OJ nor pj probably distinguished between voiced and unvoiced consonants, (6) * bu-da would have been borrowed with voiceless stops. The vowel correspondences are less clear, but the back quality of the second vowel * a might have sounded closer to pJ * [??] than to pj * a, especially since at the time of the borrowing the shift * a > * [??] > * o had probably already started in Chinese. If borrowed as * put[??], the form * [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] could be the result of assimilation, since pj * u and * [??] do not usually coexist within the same root (Arisaka 1934). This form does not belong to a clearly defined stratum of Chinese loans, and it is not a conventional reading associated with a Chinese character but a nativized word, and in all likelihood it was borrowed during prehistoric times. (7)

    Still, the last syllable of the Japonic word has no clear Japonic nor Chinese origin, which weakens the above proposal of a borrowing from Chinese. The hypothesis identifying the final * k[[??]la]i with the OJ word [ke.sub.2] 'signs, appearance, spirit', a loan from Chinese [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] EMC * khij.h, is not particularly compelling. Another source must be sought besides Chinese for the Japonic word, which seems logical if we recall the origins of Buddhism in Japan.


    According to the official records of the Nihon shoki, Buddhism was introduced in Japan in 552 from the Korean peninsula when the king Songmyong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of Paekche [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] sent Buddha statues and sutras to Japan. Other records indicate the date of 538, but in any case this only means that Buddhism acquired an official status in the sixth century, though it may have been known earlier through Paekche immigrants. (8)

    Although it seems that the Koguryo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] kingdom was also to some extent involved in the formation of Japanese Buddhism, with for example the introduction of the Three Treatise (Jp. Sanron [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) school, we know that Paekche was the main source for it (Sonoda and Brown 1993, Best 2005, Grayson 1980). The very first Buddhist schools of Japan (the Satyasiddhi, Jp. Jojitsu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and Discipline, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Ritsu W-, schools) originate from Paekche, and there are records of Paekche monks teaching in Japan and of Japanese converts traveling to Paekche in order to study Buddhism in the late sixth century. The first temples are also said to have been built at the initiative of Paekche immigrants and with the help of Paekche artisans. Overall, Paekche has played a key role into the formation of the culture of the early Yamato state.

    On the peninsula, Koguryo was the first kingdom to adopt Buddhism in 372, closely followed by Paekche in 384. On the other hand, Silla [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] did not convert until 527, a date comparable to that of Japan, though here again it may have been in contact with Buddhism before that time. Buddhism was imported directly from China to Koguryd and Paekche, while Silla, which did not have an easy route to China, may have received it through Koguryo. (9)


    Since Japanese Buddhism first came from the Korean peninsula and since the Japonic word for 'Buddha' is likely to be a loan, the first place to look for the source of this word is Korean, the only surviving language of the peninsula. The similarity of the Japonic word [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 3.4 with Korean puche

    The Korean word for 'Buddha', like its Japanese counterpart, has no internal etymology, and several scholars (e.g., Kim 1971: 99-101, Yu 1996: 868-69) consider MK pwuthye to be a borrowing from Chinese [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] LH * but-thei? > EMC * but-thej' > LMC * f[??]ut-thiaj' 'body of Buddha', a word attested in the Pohydn sibwon ka 'SPUR (Songs of the Ten Great Vows of Samantabhadra) composed by the monk Kyunyo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (923-973). (12) The existence of a variant MK form pwuthyey makes this hypothesis look plausible (Miller 1996: 181), but in that case the loss of the final -y in pwuthye requires an explanation. Since none seems to exist, the reverse hypothesis is therefore more likely, namely that the form pwuthyey is just another case of incorporation of the suffix -i, a phenomenon well attested in Korean (Martin 1992: 553, Lee and Ramsey 2011: 173-174).

    This Chinese etymology suffers from other problems which cast reasonable doubt on it. First, MK pwuthye is not a regular Sino-Korean reading, which should be pwulthyey according to the colloquial, non-prescriptive, readings of the Hunmong chahoe [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Collection of characters for training the unenligthened, 1527). Since the introduction of Buddhism in the peninsula goes back to the fourth or sixth century CE, we can expect MK pwuthye to perhaps date from that period. It thus predates the formation of Sino-Korean during the Unified Silla period (668-935, Lee and Ramsey 2011: 68-69, Miyake 2003: 110-17), which might explain the discrepancy between the tones of pwuthye and those of the expected SinoKorean pwulthyey.

    Still, the use of both Chinese aspirates and unaspirates without distinction to transcribe the same words in the Samguk sagi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (History of the Three Kingdoms, 1 145) and the Samguk yusa [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Vestiges of the Three Kingdoms, 1285) indicates that aspiration was most likely not distinctive in the language(s) of the Three Kingdoms (Mabuchi et al. 1978, 1979, 1980, Eom 1994, Miyake 2000), and MK pwuthye should thus not have an aspirate th. The...

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