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Dr. Ilkwaen Chung

Lecturer at Peniel Theological Seminary (Korea)
Post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, 2009-10
Dr. theol from the University of Innsbruck, Austria.

post-doctoral research fellow at the Institute of Systematic Theology and interdepartmental research-
platform 'World Order - Religion - Violence' at the University of Innsbruck, Austria.
Member of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion (COV&R) and the European Society for Intercultural
Theology and Interreligious Studies. My research focuses on the social anthropological approach to Buddhism,
René Girard's mimetic theory, the dramatic model for interreligious and intercultural hermeneutics and
cultural encounters and Girard's theory in the context of the postmodernism and poststructural theory

Ilkwaen Chung, Paradoxie der weltgestaltenden Weltentsagung im Buddhismus
Ein Zugang aus der Sicht der mimetischen Theorie René Girards (Beiträge zur mimetischen Theorie 28)
(Münster: LIT Verlag, 2010).

      Differentiation and Undifferentiation in Lévi-Strauss, René Girard and Buddhism

        In his essay Differentiation and Undifferentiation in Lévi-Strauss and Current Critical Theory,
Girard criticizes Claude Lévi-Strauss who asserts that myth embodies a principle of differentiation
identical with language and thought and ritual, on the other hand, tries to retrieve an
undifferentiated immediacy. Girard don´t agree that rituals are committed to this “undifferentiated”
once and for all. All great traditional interpretations, notably the Hindu and the Chinese, attribute to
ritual the end which Lévi-Strauss would reserve to myth alone: differentiation. Buddhist logic of
nonduality can be grasped by this ritual logic of the undifferentiated. Girardian notion of
“undifferentiated” corresponds to Buddhist world-renouncer’s specifically ritual and initiatory logic
of nonduality for or before the (re-)differentiation of Buddhist enlightenment.
         Buddhist world-renouncer as founding victim seems to play the differentiating role for the
Buddhist world order. For Girard, the end result of ritual undifferentiation is the regeneration of
differences. The undifferentiated presents itself as preliminary to (re)differentiation and often as its
prerequisite. Buddhist undifferentiated logic of nonduality represented by the wild and forest
world-renouncer has to be thought of as preliminary to (re)differentiation. In fact, a radically
anthropological close reading seems to indicate that this Buddhist allegedly deconstructive logic of
undifferentiating nonduality and emptiness can be understood as a kind of la pensée sauvage
referring to forest, undomesticated and 'untamed' world-renouncing thought of Buddhas in his
tragic existence of tropical wildness. At the end of Tristes Tropiques Lévi-Strauss proposes
Buddhism as an alternative to the model of knowledge as destruction of the other. In my view, Lévi-
Strauss does not know the strong sacrificial roots of this Buddhist forest and tropical logic of
violently undifferentiating nothingess and emptiness represented by world-renouncing tragic
heroes (Buddhas). If fire and cooked food are symbols of culture and raw food of nature, as Lévi-
Strauss has suggested, then the world-renouncer in relinquishing fire has, in a sense, relinquished

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