Buddhism Comes to China
PHILOSOPHY OF
RELIGION
FALL 2004
1
WHAT THE BUDDHA TAUGHT
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“Buddha” (awakened one) =
Shakyamuni Gautama
Siddartha, Hindu reformer in
north India, c. 500s-400s BCE
Inherited an ancient Hindu
worldview:
Cyclical existence of endless
rebirth (samsara)
Conditioning of rebirth by moral
results of one’s actions (karma)
Presumption of eternal self
(atman) underlying transitory
physical forms
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Buddha’s central insights =
the “Four Noble Truths”:
Life is suffering (duhkha)
Self-centered attachment based
on permanent selfhood (atman) is
the root of suffering
Suffering can be ended (nirvāna)
There is a path by which to end
suffering
Each “Truth” asks us to
respond to reality as it truly is:
Understand suffering
Let go of its origins
Realize its cessation
Cultivate the path toward its
cessation
2
THE SELF THAT IS
NO SELF
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An atman (“self”) has a body,
emotions, ideas, biases, and
consciousness.
Actually, there is no “self”
(anatman) – only an
assemblage of components.
In rebirth, conditioned by
karma these components are
removed and rearranged,
creating a different self (yet not
disconnected from “this” self
now).
Just as one both is and is
not“oneself” from life to life, so
one neither is nor is not
“oneself” from life to life.
3
CONSEQUENCES OF
NIRVĀNA
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The true self is interdependent
and impermanent
There is no basis for ego
Realizing the truth of
anātman (no permanent self)
entails:
Awakening to suffering
Compassion in suffering
Liberation from suffering
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One who seeks to realize this
truth takes the “Three
Refuges”:
1.
The Buddha (the teacher)
The Dharma (the teaching)
The Sangha (the taught)
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3.
4
SECTARIAN DIVISIONS IN THE
SANGHA
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By 100s BCE, Buddhism
has gained powerful
political support in India
Official endorsement
facilitates the luxury of
doctrinal debate and
speculation, as well as
canon formation
Three distinct sectarian
traditions emerge shortly
before introduction of
Buddhism to China
5
THERAVADA (“Way of Elders”)
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Sole survivor among earliest
Buddhist sects
Views itself as custodian of
authentic tradition
Regards Shakyamuni as
unique historical Buddha,
fully human, now vanished
Emphasizes individual
rational effort
Goal: arhant (being that
attains enlightenment after
much striving over many
lifetimes)
Maintains strong monasticlay distinction
6
Not found in China today
MAHAYANA (“Great Vehicle”)
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Sees Theravada as Hinayana
(“Lesser Vehicle”) and itself
as inheritor of complete
tradition
Regards Shakyamuni as one
of infinite number of
Buddhas
Focuses on mysticism and
compassionate action
Goal: bodhisattva (being that
voluntarily defers liberation
from samsara in order to
help other beings attain
liberation)
More open to laity, women
Dominant in China
7
VAJRAYANA
(“Thunderbolt Vehicle”)
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Arises from Mahayana
interaction with Hindu tantra
(esoteric ritualism) and
bhakti (devotional
polytheism)
Views itself as guardian of
esoteric tradition
Emphasizes unity of wisdom
and compassion through
visualization, ritualization,
and philosophical rigor
Goal: bodhisattva
Reasserts strong monasticlay distinction
Present in Tibetan and
8
Mongolian communities
BUDDHISM AND THE
DECLINE OF THE HAN
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“Silk Road” merchants and
missionaries from India and
Central Asia transmit
Buddhism to China by 65 CE
As Han 漢 dynasty (202
BCE-220 CE) declines and
period of disunity (220-589
CE) ensues, Chinese elites
turn away from Confucianism
to Taoism and Buddhism,
often combining the two
By Tang 唐 dynasty (618-907
CE), Buddhism reaches zenith
of its popularity in China
From China, Buddhism
spreads to rest of East Asia
9
CHALLENGES TO
BUDDHISM IN CHINA
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Geographic: difficulty of IndiaChina travel
Linguistic: translation of
foreign texts and concepts
Political: conflicts between
rulers and sangha; separation
between north and south
Religious: competition with
and/or dilution by
Confucianism and Taoism
Social: Chinese distaste for
foreign ways
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The Chinese synthesis
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Chinese Buddhism reconciles variant Indian schools of
Buddhism
– Buddha taught with upaya
• Teachings differ accordingly
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organized scriptures into a progression from elementary to
refined
– Systematized order of Buddhist Canon
– Each school emphasized certain scriptures
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Chinese Buddhist schools tended towards ecumenism
rather than sectarianism
– Claims made to highest truth but not exclusive
– Different schools are in accord to the expedience of the upaya
doctrine
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The Chinese Synthesis
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Developed around 6th ct. CE at end of the
period of division
– The Six Dynasties (220—581 CE)
• From Fall of Eastern Han to beginning of the Sui
– Golden Age of Buddhism in Tang dynasty
(618—907 CE)
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Four indigenous Chinese Buddhist schools
– Huayan, Tiantai, Pure Land and Chan
13
Tiantai School
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Tiantai (天台) Buddhism
– Japanese: Tendai
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Chinese Buddhist school (6th ct.)
– not Indian in origin
– Most important school of Buddhism in early Tang
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Founded by Chinese monk and meditation master
– Zhiyi (Chih-i) 538—597
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Named after sacred mountain in Zhejiang
– Heavenly Terrace
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Tiantai
Organized comprehensive Buddhist
doctrines and practices into grades from
elementary to advanced
 Organized canon with Lotus Scripture at
apex
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Buddhist suppression in China
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Late Tang opposition to Buddhism as a foreign religion
emerged among influential intellectuals
In 845 the Tang emperor began a full-scale persecution of
the Buddhist establishment.
– Destroyed more than 4,600 monasteries, 40,000 temples and
shrines, and more than 260,000 Buddhist monks and nuns were
forced to return to secular life.
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Although the suppression was lifted a few years later, the
monastic establishment never fully recovered
Later became most influential school in Japan
– Founded in Japan by Saichoo in 9th ct.
– Established center at Mt. Hiei
– Opened way to Zen, Pure Land and Nichiren
16
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Pure Land
Pure Land School
– Chinese: Jingtu (凈土)
– Japanese: Jodo
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Indiginous Chinese school (5th ct CE)
– Founded by the monk Huiyuan (334—416 CE)
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Spread from China to Vietnam, Korea and Japan
Practical approach to universal Buddha-nature
– Salvation for all not just monastic community
– Reaction against scholastic preoccupation of Tiantai and Huayan schools
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Salvation through faith, merit and vows by rebirth in a Pure Land
– Became intermediate goal to Nirvana
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A Pure Land originally the place where a buddha or bodhisattva appeared
Came to mean a world system purified by the power of a Bodhisattva’s
vow and subsequent awakening
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Major Buddha of Pure Land
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Āmítuó fó (阿彌陀佛)
– Transliteration of Sanskrit:
• Amitābha Buddha (無量光)
– Buddha of Limitless Light
• Amitāyus Buddha (無量壽)
– Buddha of Limitless Life
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Amida (Japanese)
– Common Buddhist greeting or exclamation
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Legendary king who renounced throne to become a
Buddhist monk named Dharmakāra
– 48 vows resolved to become a buddha and create paradise
realm to help all sentient beings become awakened
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Those unable to achieve awakening in this life
– Vow to be reborn in Western Paradise
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Pure Land School
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Resides in Western Paradise
– “Happy Land of the West” or Sukhavati
– Perform merit-producing deeds, including pilgrimage
– Rebirth by calling his name with complete faith
• Especially at death
– Practice of recitation of the name of the Buddha (Chinese: nianfo;
Japanese: nembutsu)
– “Hail Amitabha Buddha” (na-mo a-mi-tuo-fo)
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Scripture of the Pure Land (sukhāvatī)
– Translated into Chinese 3rd — 5th ct.
– Conversation between historical Buddha and Ananda
– Describes paradise realm of Buddha of Infinite Light
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Pure Land Meditation in Japan
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After suppression of 845, Pure Land in China becomes
universalized
Founded in Japan as Jodoshu (Pure Land School) in 1213th ct.
By Honen, an ordained Tendai monk from Mt. Hiei
Emphasized practice of nembutsu:
– Namu Amida butsu (Hale Amitabha Buddha)
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Oral recitation of Amitabha’s name produces vision of
Amitabha’s paradise and Amitabha himself
– Both sound AND sight
– Cf. Honen’s diary
20
Buddhist Ritual Music
Tiantai and Pure Land
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A Tiandai Mantra and Mudra:
used in the Matrix Mandala ritual
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Sudden Awakening
Mantra:
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– “Rising Diamond”
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Japanese:
– Kyoogakushinden
(きようがくしんでん)
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Interlocked little fingers
Thumbs under middle
fingers
Index fingers touching to
form Diamond
Chinese:
– Jīngjué zhēnyán
– (驚覺真言)
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Sanskrit:
– Om vajrottistha hum
22
Pure Land Buddhist Jodo
Ritual Music
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Yǎyuè (雅樂)
– Lit. “Refined Music.”
• Ceremonial/Court music of China
• Preserved in Japan but now lost in China
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Brought to Japan by the monk Enin in 9th ct.
– Ennin’s Travels in T’ang China by Edwin Reischauer (1955)
– Arrived Yangzhou summer of 838
(4 centuries before Polo)
– 9 year pilgrimage to Buddhist centers
• Popular Buddhist practice
• Persecution of 845
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Portrait of Ennin
Idealized portrait from 12th ct.
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Chinese Empire under the Tang
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32 Marks
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Jodo (Pure Land) court music
– Recorded 1964 at the Tiandai Music Research Institute,
Mt. Hiei
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Meditation on the 32 characteristics of the body of
Amida Buddha
Sanjuuni Sou honkyoku
さんじゅうにそうほんきよく (三十二相本曲)
– Listed praises of 32 primary marks (80 secondary)
26
32 Marks of a Buddha (lakshanas)
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His feet have level soles
*His soles are marked by wheels with a thousand
spokes, felloe and hub
He has projecting heels
He has long fingers and toes, sometimes even in
length
He has soft and tender hands and feet
His hands and feet are webbed
He has high-raised ankles
His legs are like an antelope’s
Standing and without bending, he can touch and
touch his knees
His male organs are enclosed in a sheath
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Marks 11-20
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* His complexion is bright, the color of gold
His skin is delicate and so smooth that no dust can adhere to
his body
His body-hairs are separate, one to each pore
* His body-hairs grow upwards, each one bluish-black,
curling in rings to the right
His body is divinely straight
He has seven convex surfaces
The front part of his body is like a lion's
There is no hollow between his shoulders
He is proportioned like a banyan-tree
(the height of his body is the same as the span of his outstretched arms, and conversely)
His chest is evenly rounded
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Marks 21-32
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He has a perfect sense of taste
He has jaws like a lion's
He has forty teeth
His teeth are even
There are no spaces between his teeth
His canine teeth are very bright
His tongue is very long
He has a Brahma-like voice, like that of the karavika bird
His eyes are deep blue
He has eyelashes like a cow's
*He has a whorl of hair between his eyes, white and soft like cottondown, [urna]
* 32 His head is like a royal turban: cranial bump [ushinisha]
29
“White tuft”
Urna
“Snail-shell”
ushinisha
Wheels on feet
(reclining Buddha)
Elongated or even fingers
30
Long arms