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Quaternary Discourse

in Nagarjuna and Derrida


Chad Lavimoniere

It has been claimed that Buddhism is not a religion but a philoso-


phy.1 This paper will not delve into the intricate and confusing realm
of religious definition; indeed, for Buddhism, concrete definitions
are not of much use, as shall be seen. Regardless of the label applied
to it, Buddhism is a discourse, a rhetoric. I will explore affinities be-
tween the discourse called “Buddhism” and another discourse that
bends the conventions of modern philosophical topoi, the discourse
called “Derrida,”2 by following a quaternary organization of exam-
ples: emptiness; samsāra (and) the text; karmavipāka and writing;
and death (and) writing, in hopes that, in the folds between the four
quarters, an appreciation of the similarities between the two philoso-
phies can be achieved.3
Ian Mabbett, an historian at Monash University specializing
in the history of Buddhism, and Roger Jackson, a specialist in the
religions of Southern Asia at Carlton College, have written briefly
in connection with Buddhism and Deconstruction; both, however,
have focused their efforts mainly on Buddhism and have paid little
attention to Deconstruction. It is my intention here to give a fairer
treatment and exploration of the Derridean discourse in comparing
it to Buddhism.
Emptiness
The Buddhist conception of “emptiness” is not a form of nihilism;4
rather, it is the assertion of the dependent nature of apparently in-
dependent elements of being (or, perhaps, Being5). In his article
Nāgārjuna and Deconstruction, Ian Mabbett explains: “to be void

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[empty] is not to be either determinately existent or nonexistent,


but to be, in a particular sense, relative”6; that is, emptiness in the
Buddhist sense is a necessary non-origin and dependence, an empti-
ness of inherent and independent existence. In a way, this Buddhist
concept of emptiness matches the family of terms in Derrida that
includes différance, brisure, trace, and pharmakon7; for these terms
reflect a sense of the non-origin and necessary interdependence of
signifiers in Derrida’s thought. That is, just as all things are empty of
inherent being and origination in Buddhist thought, all things are
non-originary in Derrida’s. Or, as Mabbett states: “both [Buddhism
and Deconstruction] celebrate emptiness.”8
Chief among the “deconstructionist Buddhist thinkers,”9
Nāgārjuna uses a tetralemmic10 logic to show the intrinsic empti-
ness of things. His tetralemma negates four possibilities for a subject
S and a predicate P: that there can be S with P, that there can be S
without P, that there can be S both with and without P, and that
there can be S neither with nor without P.11 Let us quote an example
of Nāgārjuna’s tetralemma given in Jackson’s article on the play of
Deconstruction and Foundationalism in Buddhism, taken from the
twenty-fifth chapter of the Madhyakakakārikā:
If nirvāna is said to exist [if S with P], then it must be an
entity subject to production and destruction, but this con-
tradicts the definition of nirvāna as unconditioned. If it is
said not to exist [if S without P], then its very possibility as
a human attainment is being denied, and this is contrary to
the “gospel” of Buddhism to the effect that enlightenment
is possible. If it both exists and does not exist [if S both
with and without P], then contradictory properties are
being asserted of the same concept. If it neither exists nor
does not exist [if S neither with nor without P], then no
meaningful statement is being offered.12

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In this example, Jackson shows the crucial operation of Nāgārjuna’s


emptiness: it is not the denial of S (in this case, nirvāna), but the
denial of relationship SP—that is, Nāgārjuna’s emptiness is the emp-
tiness of (absence of ) a logical relationship between subjects and
predicates, or, as we might gloss from Saussure,13 between signified
and signifier, insomuch as the signified is predicated by the signi-
fier. Nirvāna cannot be taken as the subject of any predicate in any
way that can be called unequivocally true; it cannot be signified ex-
clusively. I will return to this later; in the meantime, it is sufficient
to note that the Buddhist program of emptiness is an “ontological
and epistemological deconstruction,”14 aimed at demonstrating that
nothing can be inherently existent or original.
In a similar way, the operation of a deconstructive praxis reveals
the inconsistencies of “logocentric” statements. In the Circumfession,
Derrida “discovers” what might be compared to the tetralemma: a
four-fold thing he calls PaRDeS (an acronym, but also from the
Hebrew pardes, “orchard”), the model of rabbinical interpretation.15
First, there is the Pshat, or the literal meaning, which we can com-
pare to S with P; it is a statement of literal meaning, the tradition-
al relationship signified is signifier, or: S with P. Next, there is the
R’emez, the “crypt, allegory, secret, diverted word”;16 this we can,
with some explanation, compare to S without P. For, just as the logi-
cal term S without P means that S is signed by something other than
P, R’emez means that what is said is not the real meaning (is not S
with P), but is a kind of negative definition, an intimation – but not
a statement – of meaning: R’emez is the statement of what is not the
predicate P of S; or: signified is not signifier. Next is Drash, more a
“synthetic attribution than an analytic clarification of meaning,”17
which is similar to S both with and without P; it is the bringing to-
gether of different meanings, the depiction of harmony between ap-
parent opposites; it is S both with and without P, or: signified is and
is not signifier. Finally, there is Soud, the “profound, cabbalistic”18
meaning, which correlates to S neither with nor without P, for Soud
is the intimation of a secret and seemingly impossible meaning, or
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the allusion to a third category that is outside of those considered,


i.e., signified is neither signifier nor not-signifier, or: S neither with nor
without P. The four terms of Derrida’s PaRDeS correspond to the
four terms of Nāgārjuna’s tetralemma, with only the slight difference
that Derrida speaks of the PaRDeS as an example of non-logocen-
tric interpretation, while Nāgārjuna’s tetralemma is more straight-
forwardly a praxis for teasing out the inconsistencies of logocentric-
ity;19 however, I should note that for Derrida, too, the quaternary is
a practice of illuminating logical inconsistencies. What is important
to note in this regard is that for both Nāgārjuna and Derrida, this
quaternary unfolding (what Derrida might call dédoublement) shows
the emptiness (that is, inherent inconsistency) of conventional sym-
bolic orders.
Samsara (and) the Text
Samsāra is the continuous cycle of existence in Buddhism.20 It can
only be escaped by disengaging from the apparent order of meaning
and causality, shown to be faulty by the tetralemma of Nāgārjuna.
That is, samsāra is a circle that only the deconstructing of logo-
centrism can break. And so the link to Derrida becomes apparent;
samsāra is “a monster text ripe for deconstruction.”21 There follows
here a comparison of the Buddhist idea of samsāra and Derrida’s idea
of the text.
The cycle of samsāra is carried out by the continual becoming
and un-becoming of beings.22 There is no isolatable origin; all things
depend, both in their becoming and un-becoming, on other things
– they are empty of intrinsic or independent originality and exis-
tence. Samsāra, then, is rather like a network of interdependent and
inter-referential items, held together by the relationships assumed
between those items – Samsāra, as an item, is itself dependent on
the beings within it.
In Derrida’s idea of the text, signifiers “have a self-referential re-
lationship among themselves – the meaning of each signifier is de-
termined by its relationship with other signifiers.”23 In other words,

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Derrida’s concept of the text is that of a “system of relations,”24 rather


like the Buddhist concept of samsāra with signifiers instead of be-
ings. But Derrida’s text is also something that obscures. Let us quote
the opening of “Plato’s Pharmacy”:
A text is not a text unless it hides from the first comer, from
the first glance, the law of its composition and the rules of
its game. A text remains, moreover, forever imperceptible.
Its law and its rules are not, however, harboured in the
inaccessibility of a secret; it is simply that they can never be
booked, in the present, into anything that could rigorously
be called a perception.25

That is: the text hides something; it implies but does not immedi-
ately disclose. And so Derrida’s text is, in a way, a Gnostic text,26 a
system of secret knowledge, but secret only in as much as the “laws
of its composition and the rules of its game” cannot be perceived
in the present, cannot be conceptualised as a presence. And so, for
Derrida, deconstructively reading a text means to uncover the “silent
complicity between the superstructural pressures of metaphysics and
an ambiguous innocence about a detail at the level of base.”27 That
is, reading is a process of presenting examples, small elements in texts
that can tell the reader something unexpected – and not entirely
intended – about a text, or about texts generally (e.g., the sponge in
St. Augustine’s Confessions, the pharmakon in the Phaedrus, the sup-
plément in Rousseau); examples that can illustrate part of the hidden
truth of the text.
This illumination is comparable to the enlightenment of nirvāna
in Buddhism; for nirvāna is “to see the state of things as they are,”28
to break out of ignorance about samsāra and into knowledge of it,
to know that all things are empty of intrinsic existence or original-
ity – to see, in other words, the hidden truth of the text of samsāra.29
And so the Buddhist practitioner “reads” samsāra for examples, small
objects within the weave of samsāra that, when properly considered,

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can illustrate part of its hidden truth. An example this practice is


Nāgārjuna’s tetralemma, discussed above.
Karmavipaka and Writing
In Buddhism, karma is volitional action, and not – as is com-
monly thought – the result of that action, which is rightly called
karmavipāka.30 Karmavipāka is the mark left in samsāra by karma.
It is, then, in a sense, a kind of writing, a “trace which survives the
[karma]’s present.”31 But karmavipāka is more than a mark subse-
quent to karma, just as writing is more than a hypomnesis32 subse-
quent to speech for Derrida; since “each action is pregnant with its
consequences,”33 karmavipāka is already present in karma – that is,
consequence is already present in action.
There is, then, an arche-karmavipāka present in karma, just as
there is arche-writing present in speech;34 moreover, as the arche-
writing of speech is writing in a sense divorced from physical writ-
ing, writing in the sense of “the possibility of sustained, repeatable
representation,”35 such that speech is possible, we can consider that
the arche-karmavipāka of karma is a karmavipāka divorced from the
usual sense of the physical effect of karma and, rather than following
it, is a facilitating factor prior to karma. In other words, consequence
(karmavipāka) is not only already present in action (karma): it is a
facilitating factor that is prior to action.
I should pause to note briefly that this line of reasoning func-
tions parallel to Nāgārjuna’s tetralemma—inasmuch as we have just
shown that the effect comes before the cause and have “emptied”
causality of its intrinsic existence. However, it seems more impor-
tant in relating Buddhism and Derrida to note that the relationship
between karmavipāka and karma that has been provisionally stated
here is the same as that between writing and speech as offered by
Derrida: writing is not only present in speech (and, for that mat-
ter, conventional writing), but it is a facilitating factor prior to it.36
As a final consideration on the affinity between karmavipāka and
writing, I should point out that writing is, for Derrida, a praxis, a

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practice, an action; it is thus by definition a karma, an action, just as


much as physical writing is a karmavipāka, the result of an action.
More importantly, writing in the general sense is the only means by
which we can perceive any action, as it is the possibility of meaning-
ful iteration of signs via differentiation.
Death (and) Writing
And yet it is this iteration of signs that signs death, an idea to which
we will return shortly. For the moment, let us quote from Rahula on
the Buddhist definition of death:
We have seen earlier that a being is nothing but a combi-
nation of physical and mental forces or energies. What we
call death is the total non-functioning of the physical body.
Do all these forces and energies stop altogether with the
non-functioning of the body? Buddhism says “No.” Will,
volition, desire, thirst to exist, to continue, to become more
and more, is a tremendous force that moves whole lives,
whole existences, that even moves the whole world. This is
the greatest force, the greatest energy in the world. Accord-
ing to Buddhism, this force does not stop with the non-
functioning of the body, which is death; but it continues
manifesting itself in another form, producing re-existence
which is called rebirth.37

A being, then, is in a way a mini-samsāra, a collection of aggregates


that is dependent in its existence on the coming into being and going
out of being of individual elements within it; it is dependent on, we
can say, the karma and the karmavipāka of its individual elements.
And so we can say that a being’s death is equally dependent on its
karma and karmavipāka. Already, this would suggest the connection
between writing and death that Derrida discusses; karmavipāka, the
organizing structure and effect of action, is, in a sense, responsi-
ble for death, inasmuch as death is necessarily an action, a karma.
Moreover, the death of a being is the end of the interplay between

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its physical constituents and represents the dispersal of its mental


constituents; it is a death, that is, “that only an immortal can die,”38
i.e., that can only be experienced and survived by the “will, volition,
desire” etc., the karmic elements that could be called immortal in a
constantly repeating samsāric world, inasmuch as they are the facili-
tators of that constant repetition and do not die.
For Derrida, death is (a part of ) writing. That is, “representa-
tion,” which is the legacy of arche-writing, the ability to repeat signs
meaningfully, “is death.”39 And so the relation between writing and
death for Derrida is quite like that between karmavipāka and death
in Buddhism.40 We should also note that Derrida, in his reading of
the Phaedrus, spends a considerable amount of time discussing the
fact that the Egyptian god Theuth, giver of the pharmakon that is
writing, is also the god of death.41 For example, he says:
In all the cycles of Egyptian mythology, Thoth [i.e.,
Theuth] presides over the organization of death. The master
of writing, numbers, and calculation does not merely write
down the weight of dead souls; he first counts out the days
of life, enumerates history…. He behaves like a chief of
funeral protocol, charged in particular with the dressing of
the dead.42

And so in this way Derrida again connects writing to death, for


Theuth, who is the sign of writing, is also the sign of death. More-
over, he is the performative sign of death: he behaves in a certain
regard towards death, even as he enumerates – tells, writes – history.
And so we can say that Theuth, mascot of writing/death, is also the
representation (death)43 of a certain karma. Death, like writing, is
performed, is acted; more importantly, in the person of Theuth, they
are acted simultaneously. Aside from the consideration that this sym-
bolic multi-tasking fits nicely into Derrida’s conception of the false
nature of direct and exclusive relationships between signifiers and
signifieds, it suggests that, perhaps, writing and death are more than
connected, but are symptoms of one and the same phenomenon for
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Derrida –that they are not two. Like the figure of Theuth, which “is
opposed to its other…as that which at once supplements and sup-
plants it,”44 Derrida sees (descriptively, negatively, as a problematic
symptom of Western Metaphysics) both writing and death as figures
opposed (here, in the passive voice) to their others (speech and life,
respectively), and as actions, karma, that must be performed in a
way that supplements their “others” (that is, is not coterminous with
them) and replaces them. Writing and death are the same, they are
the action that supplements and supplants.
And we see this relationship between writing, life, and death
mirrored in Buddhist thought on life, death, and karma. Let us read
the continuation of the quotation above from Rahula:
Before we go on to life after death, let us consider what this
life is, and how it continues now. What we call life…is the
combination of…physical and mental energies. These are
constantly changing; they do not remain the same for two con-
secutive moments. Every moment they are born and they die. 45

And now let us end this quotation and consider the following brief
quote from Derrida:
Traces thus produce the space of their inscription only by acced-
ing to the period of their erasure. From the beginning, in the
“present” of their first impression, they are constituted by
the double force of repetition and erasure.46
In the quote from Rahula, we see that life is a constant changing, a
vacillation from birth to death, from becoming to unbecoming. This
becoming and unbecoming is karma, action, and is dependent upon
karmavipāka, the effect of karma. In the quote from Derrida, we see
that traces, which are in a sense another kind of writing,47 follow the
same sort of existence that Rahula describes: they constantly become
and unbecome. And so writing participates in a vacillation between
life and death just as karma does. Derrida states later: “writing…

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is technē as the relation between life and death”;48 that is, writing is
a craft, art, or practice that works as the relation between life and
death, just as Theuth, the sign of writing, is a technician, a crafts-
man, an artisan, a practitioner at the ritual boundary between life
and death. Writing is action across life and death, but not action
that transcends it, as writing itself becomes and unbecomes, lives
and dies. Writing is karma that brings about the samsāra of the text,
constantly becoming and unbecoming, constantly dying.
I have attempted to produce a consideration of the affinities be-
tween Buddhism and Derrida, following a quaternary unfolding, a
PaRDeS, a tetralemmic argument: first, through an examination of
emptiness in Buddhism—specifically in Nāgārjuna—and in Der-
rida, including a consideration of Nāgārjuna’s tetralemma and Der-
rida’s own PaRDeS; then, by a consideration of samsāra and the text,
which work in analogous ways; then, by a consideration of the cor-
respondence between writing and karmavipāka; and finally by con-
sidering the similarity in the concepts of death in Buddhism and
Derrida. Our work here has been brief and, it must be admitted,
multa prætereo, quia multim festino.49 Certainly, it should be remem-
bered that Buddhism and Derrida’s ideas come from very different
geopolitical and historical loci (there is a spatial-temporal différance
between them), and so these similarities are just that: more properly
points of similarity in distinct discourses than “proofs” of philosoph-
ical or ideological convergence, Derrida not having been conversant
in Buddhism, and Nāgārjuna certainly not having been conversant
in twentieth-century discourses like Deconstruction. Their shared
use of quaternary discourse to oppose logocentric views of Being
and action may ultimately suggest, then, as Mabbett notes, “the op-
eration of common social or cultural forces in a way that transcends
the differences between civilizations,”50 specifically as regards ontol-
ogy and other systems of signification. In the end, then, this will
have been “the crossing between…two phantoms of witnesses who
will never come down to the same”:51 two examples of examples of

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four, used against the establishment of logocentric truths based on


the apparent nature of Being.

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Endnotes
1
cf., for example, Dorothy Figen, “Is Buddhism a Religion?” http://www.
buddhistinformation.com/is_buddhism_a_religion1.htm)and Narada Thera’s
“Buddhism in a Nutshell” http://www.buddhanet.net/nutshell03.htm.
2
The terms “Buddhism” and “Derrida” are of course not precise. Though their
functionality as labels is limited, I use them here as a sort of shorthand to sig-
nify the discourses they evoke.
3
This paper, originally written in a seminar on Derrida, mirrors in many ways
the idiosyncratic features of his discourse, with the intent that allowing Der-
rida’s discourse to govern the description of his ideas will give the reader a bet-
ter insight into his philosophy than a strictly descriptive, logical overview. For
such an overview, I recommend Geoffrey Bennington’s “Derridabase” in his
collaborative work with Derrida, Jacques Derrida. An example of Derridean-
ism:, the paper follows Derrida’s tendency to use examples rather than logo-
centric arguments to illustrate a thesis. The reader should note, too, that the
use of the first person plural functions rhetorically in Derrida’s writing to break
down the dichotomy between author and reader. I borrow it here in hopes of
giving the reader a sense of the commitment and work Derrida demands from
a reader. A final caveat: the reader should note that to begin with an idea and
return to it after a long discursion is another Derridean tactic, mirroring the
deferral inherent in writing and the organization of linguistic signs.
4
cf. Ian W. Mabbett, “Nāgārjuna and Deconstruction,” Philosophy East and West
45 (1995): 211, note 39 on p. 223 of the same text, and Nathan Katz, “Pras-
añga and Deconstruction: Tibetan Hermeneutics and the yāna Controversy,”
Philosophy East and West 34 (1984): 187 for more discussion of the charge of
nihilism levelled against the Buddhist concept of emptiness.
Being, with a capital “B,” (G. Sein) is Heidegger’s term, as used in Sein und
5 

Zeit, for absolute Being itself, as distinguished from any individual beings.
Heidegger claims in this seminal work that Being is directly intelligible;
Derrida opposes Heidegger’s ontological project. My objective in calling on
Heidegger here is simply to compare the usual conception of “apparently in-
dependent elements of being” that can be known directly – which Buddhism
refutes – to Heidegger’s Being. (cf. Bass’ note on Heidegger’s terms on pg. xvii
of his English translation of Writing and Difference.)
6
Mabbett, “Nāgārjuna and Deconstruction,” 211. My italics.
7
It is difficult (especially in the space of a footnote!) to explain these terms
without the addition of several pages of commentary. To be brief: différance is
a word Derrida coined (playing on the French for “difference,” différence, and
the French for “to defer,” différer) which signifies both a spatial and a temporal
difference between things; Derrida suggests that this différance characterizes
the effect of writing on the communicator and the communicated (cf. Bass’

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note on pg. xvi of Writing and Difference for more on différance). Brisure is
the French term for “hinge,” but can also mean “joint, crack, fold, breach,
fragment.” Derrida uses the term in Of Grammatology to denote the copulative
nature of writing (cf. 65-73). “Trace,” says Derrida, “is the différance which
opens appearance and signification” (Of Grammatology, 65. Emph. Orig.)—
that is (to an over-generalization), the trace is the evidence of a difference in
communication, which gives insight into apparent nature (we should recall
Heidegger’s Sein) and signification, the semiotic/linguistic concept that signs
and their signifieds have a direct relationship. Pharmakon is the Greek term
for “drug,” and can mean “poison, cure, medicine, amulet,” and “antidote,”
depending on its context. Derrida explores the concept of the pharmakon in
great depth in “Plato’s Pharmacy.” Cf. also Spivak’s Translator’s Preface to Of
Grammatology, p. lxxii.
8
Mabbett, “Nāgārjuna and Deconstruction,” 211.
9
Roger R. Jackson, “Matching Concepts: Deconstructive and Foundationalist
Tendencies in Buddhist Thought,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion
57 (1989): 568.
10
Tetralemma comes from the Greek for “four premises.”
11
I am indebted to Mabbett, “Nāgārjuna and Deconstruction,” 213 for this
elegantly simple explanation of the tetralemma.
12
Jackson, “Matching Concepts,” 573.
13
Derrida’s work on Saussure in Of Grammatology problematizes Saussure’s
direct relationship of the signified and the signifier. For more on this see Ben-
nington’s “Derridabase” in Jacques Derrida, 23-42.
14
Ibid., 574.
15
Jacques Derrida, “Circumfession,” in Jacques Derrida, tr. Geoffrey Bennington
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 110.
16
Ibid.
17
Phillip Culbertson, “Pee(k)ing into Derrida’s Underpants: Circumcision, Tex-
tual Multiplexity, and the Cannibalistic Mother,” The Journal for the Society of
Textual Reasoning 10 (2001) http://etext.virginia.edu/journals/tr/archive /
volume10/peeking.html (Accessed 6 Dec. 2007).
18
Derrida, “Circumfession,” 110.
19
Logocentricity for Derrida is a term with a wide range of possible meanings; in
this respect, it is itself an attack on logocentrism via the ambiguation of lin-
guistic concurrence, as it is a signifier with a range of signifieds. As used here,
it means more directly an adherence to hierarchical, Heideggerian conceptions
of Being.
20
Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught (New York: Grove Press, 1974),
146.
21
Mabbett, “Nāgārjuna and Deconstruction,” 207.
22
That is, birth and death.

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23
Xiaoying Wang, “Derrida, Husserl, and the Structural Affinity between the
‘Text’ and the Market,” New Literary History 26 (no. 2, 1995): 261.
24
Derrida, “Freud and the Scene of Writing,” in Writing and Difference, tr. Alan
Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), 227.
25
Derrida, “Plato’s Pharmacy,” in Dissemination, tr. Barbara Johnson (Chicago,
University of Chicago Press, 1981), 63.
26
Edward W. Said, “The Problem of Textuality: Two Exemplary Positions,” Crit-
ical Inquiry 4 (no. 4, Summer 1978): 675: “to say that the text’s textual inten-
tion and integrity are invisible is to say that the text hides something, that the
text implies, perhaps also states, embodies, represents, but does not immediately
disclose something. At bottom, this is a gnostic [sic] doctrine of the text.” (his
emphasis).
27
Ibid., 678-79.
28
Rahula, What the Buddha Taught, 40 n. 1. It is important to note that, despite
popular misconceptions to the contrary, samsāra and nirvāna are not different
things in Buddhism; samsāra is not equivalent to the world and nirvāna is not
equivalent to heaven. Cf. also Nāgārjuna’s Madhyamakakārika XXV.19 in this
regard.
29
cf. also Mabbett, “Nāgārjuna and Deconstruction,” 208: “Deconstruction,
which employs a special type of contemplative thought—Denken, we might
call it—gives us the eye of insight to see that this is what is happening. It is
really like the Buddha eye, which sees all things, and the enlightenment it
promises is really like bodhi.”
30
Rahula, What the Buddha Taught, 32.
31
Derrida, “Freud and the Scene of Writing,” 224.
32
Hypomnesis comes from the Greek for “outside the memory.” In the Phaedrus,
Plato distinguishes between “true memory” (mneme) and “false” memory
(hypomnesis), the former being, for Plato, a form of access to the true forms
(eidos); the latter being equivalent to implements of reminding, such as writ-
ing and sophistic mnemonic devices (Phaedrus 274e-275b).
33
Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, (San Francisco:
Harper, 1993), 96.
34
Arche-writing refers to the organization and spacing of language (its differenti-
ation) prior to speech and conventional writing. Cf. Of Grammatology 56, 61,
69, and the section from 44 quoted here in note 37.
35
Said, The Problem of Textuality,” 690.
36
cf. Of Grammatology, 44: “If ‘writing’ signifies inscription and especially the
durable institution of a sign… writing in general covers the entire field of lin-
guistic signs.”
37
Rahula, What the Buddha Taught, 32-33.
38
Derrida, “Circumfession,” 208.
39
Derrida, “Freud and the Scene of Writing,” 227.

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Q u a t e r n ar y D is c o u r s e in Nagar j una and D e r r ida

40
The attentive reader may already have noticed that many sentences in this
paper begin with “and.” This is not simply a neglect of stylistic advice to the
contrary; it mirrors Derrida’s tendency to do so, which itself exemplifies the
supplementary nature of writing as an addition to speech, esp. for Plato and
Saussure. (For more on writing and supplement, cf. “Plato’s Pharmacy,” 73-74,
76, 83, and 93 and “Freud and the Scene of Writing” 206 ff.)
41
Derrida, “Plato’s Pharmacy,” 91.
42
Ibid., 92.
43
Derrida, “Freud and the Scene of Writing,” 226: “Representation is death.
Which may be immediately transformed into the following proposition: death
is (only) representation.” For more on representation and death, cf. “Plato’s
Pharmacy,” 90-94.
44
Ibid. 92-93.
45
Rahula, What the Buddha Taught, 33. My italics.
46
Derrida, “Freud and the Scene of Writing,” 226. My italics.
47
cf. Harold G. Coward, “‘Speech versus Writing’ in Derrida and Bhartrhari,”
Philosophy East and West 41 (no 2, April 1991): 146, and “Plato’s Pharmacy,”
p. 149.
48
Derrida, “Freud and the Scene of Writing,” 228.
49
Lat. “I pass over many things, for I am in a great hurry.” Orig. from St. Augus-
tine’s Confessions, IX, viii, 17. Qtd. In Derrida, “Circumfession,” 147.
50
Mabbett, “Nāgārjuna and Deconstruction,” 218-19.
51
Ibid., 315.

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