14: East Asian Buddhism

Wed., Aug. 20th, 14:00-18:00


Gods Requiring Buddhist Ordination: Chinese Buddhist Acceptance through Thaumaturges (shenyi) in the Gaoseng Zhuan.

Son, Jin (Dongguk University, Seoul, KOR)

In this paper, I review articles about thaumaturges (shenyi 神異) and treat the characteristics of gods as described in the Gaoseng Zhuan. The Gaoseng Zhuan contains the biographies of nearly 500 monks who were active in China from 67 to 519 CE. Understanding the characteristics of gods as described within this collection is to know what Chinese people expected of gods and wanted of gods until the sixth century. I will also treat the relations between Buddhism and gods, based on a gods-Buddhism amalgamation paradigm (syncretism of gods and Buddhas) in those times. In China, gods were devoted to Buddhism and to rid themselves from agony, moved to other places from the god’s place or remained in the mountains as guardian deities of temples and monks. The example of a god who asks Buddhism to help out is also found in Korea and Japan after the middle ages and it represents the trend of a dual structure of acceptance of Buddhism in East-Asia. In other words, the dual structure of Buddhism’s acceptance can be identified through Gaoseng Zhuan’s thaumaturges. Thus the Buddhism introduced to China under the Han dynasty shows two sides depending on the double, hierarchical social organization, clearly divided into the dominator and the dominated. One of them is pedantic Buddhism. Focused on the prajna thought among nobles and represented as ‘geyi’ Buddhism, it was propagated to elites in China and connected with the traditional knowledge of the classical history of China which is called Lao-Tzu and Chan-Tzu. The other is shamanistic Buddhism, attracting with supernatural powers or divine immortals an impoverished and ignorant public, and Taoistic Buddhism pursuing health and longevity. Although those two types of Buddhism did not have any definite shape, I assume that the aforementioned situations naturally made these demands of Buddhism. After that, the development of Chinese Buddhism could be based on those two types of Buddhism's constantly changing shape. Basically, this double trend has not been changed throughout the ages. The Gaoseng Zhuan was a rare historical book very devotedly reflecting the status of the early acceptance of Buddhism in China. It speaks of a supernatural phenomenon called thaumaturges (shenyi) shown among 60% of the described eminent monks. It is difficult to conclude that Huijiao (497-554) had in mind the keyword “god” when making a sharp distinction between “eminent monks” and “virtueless monks”. But the existence of eminent monks generated myth and legends showing unbelievable miracles before and after death. In other words, it is assumed that Huijiao would determine that revered and worshipped Buddhist monks like that must be called “eminent monks”.


King Mu of Zhou in Buddhist Apologetic Thought

Jülch, Thomas (Ghent University, Ghent, BEL)

King Mu of Zhou (traditional dating: 1001-946 BC) is a figure enjoying great prominence in Buddhist apologetic thought. As a king ruling during the early Zhou dynasty, he was subject to many legendary traditions. Two of them were taken up and re-interpreted to serve Chinese Buddhist apologetic purposes. The first of these traditions goes back to the Mu tianzi zhuan (Biography of the Heaven’s Son Mu) and the Zhushu jinian (Bamboo Annals), the second one to Liezi, chapter 3.

In the Mu tianzi zhuan and in the Zhushu jinian we read that King Mu embarked on a journey to the West in order to see the Xiwangmu (Queen Mother of the West). The Buddhist apocrypha Zhoushu yiji takes up this tradition, but re-interprets it in saying that the reason for the journey were natural phenomena appearing as omens connected with the birth of the Buddha in India. Based on the now lost Zhoushu yiji, the account of King Mu having travelled to the West in connection with the birth of the Buddha is quoted widely in Chinese Buddhist apologetic writing.

In the Liezi we read about a magician who took King Mu along on a mysterious journey to heavenly abodes. In various Buddhist apologetic scriptures, the legend of King Mu and the magician is explicitly referred to, and it is said that the magician was in fact Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī and the Buddha’s disciple Maudgalyāyana, who appearing in one person to win King Mu for Buddhism.

In medieval China, Buddhism was constantly exposed to attacks by the Confucian elites claiming that Buddhism did not match the refined Chinese high culture, as it had come to China from the lands of the “Barbarians”, and did not have its roots in the unparalleled wisdom of the sages of the so-called “golden age of classical Chinese antiquity”. The Buddhist versions of the legends of King Mu serve to demonstrate that Buddhism had in fact been an important part of the ancient Chinese wisdom treasury.

The legendary account developed in the Zhoushu yiji, plays yet another role in Buddhist apologetic thought, as it also serves to date the birth of the Buddha. As Buddhism in medieval China stood in a fierce competition with Daoism, it was important for Buddhist apologetic thought to demonstrate that the Buddha lived earlier than Laozi. The tradition of the omens defining the birth of the Buddha as an event of the time of King Mu, enabled to ascribe a sufficiently early birth date to the Buddha.


Buddhist Apocryphal Scriptures Written in the Late Goryeo and Early Joseon Dynasties

Kim, Suah (Tongmyong University, Busan, KOR)

The aim of this paper is to investigate three Buddhist apocryphal scriptures written in the late Goryeo and early Joseon dynasties: the Hyeonhaengseobanggyeong (現行西方經) and the Samsippalbungongdeoksogyeong (三十八分功德疏經) in the Goryeo Dynasty, and the Yeombulinyugyeong (念佛因由經) in the Joseon Dynasty. These scriptures are relatively short because they only show why and how to practice to be born in the Pure Land. The Hyeonhaengseobanggyeong was written by Woncham, an Esoteric school monk. It recorded the religious dialogues between him and the divine monk Nakseo in January 1298. In it, he emphasizes invoking Dharani rather than chanting to Amitabha Buddha. The Samsippalbungongdeoksogyeong was written by a Hwa-eom school monk in December 1331. The Yeombulinyugyeong was written by the Zen Masters who inherited Bojojinul (1158-1210).

The main teachings of the aforementioned apocryphal scriptures are that Pure Land Buddhism is the only way to salvation for the people in the period that saw the end of the Buddhist teachings. They recommend that people practice chanting to and invoking Dharani because the authors of these scriptures shared the awareness of the period that saw the end of the Buddhist teachings, such as the apocalypse. For this reason, these scriptures are very important historical materials for clarifying the situation of Korean Buddhism in the 13th and 14th centuries. Up to now, however, they have not received any attention.

This study involves three steps. First, it investigates the philological approach of the scriptures. It deals with gathering all information regarding the apocryphal scriptures and analyzing the textual information, such as the authors, date of publication, and relations with other Buddhist sutras compared to the different published woodblock versions. Using this approach, the outline of the scriptures is grasped.

The second aim of this study is to examine the historical background related to the main ideas, and the method of practice used in the scriptures. The ultimate goal of writing the apocryphal scriptures in East Asia Buddhism was to awaken the authors’ contemporaries and to offer a direction by using the formation of the Sutra literature and the Buddha’s teachings. Thus, the apocryphal scriptures were the product of the times and the output of the times’ demand. Without considering the historical situation and consciousness, it would be impossible to identify the fundamental necessity of writing the apocryphal scriptures.

Finally, the relationship between the Pure Land School and the other Buddhist schools is revealed. In spite of the fact that Pure Land Buddhism is emphasized in the scriptures, the authors belonged to the Esoteric, Hwa-eom, and Zen schools, respectively. Regarding this matter, two questions are examined: (1) Why did the Esoteric, Hwa-eom, and Zen schools accept the idea of Pure land Buddhism and integrate it into their respective practice systems?; and (2) What important role did Pure Land Buddhism play in inventing a new practice style for the Esoteric, Hwa-eom, and Zen schools? This approach will reveal the belief system of the masses in the 13th and 14th century in Korean Buddhism, and the method of interaction among the different Buddhist schools to save the people.


Chinul’s Hwaŏm Thought in the Hwaŏmnon chŏryo

Koh, Seunghak (Dongguk University, Institute for Buddhist Culture, Seoul, KOR)

Pojo Chinul (1158–1210) is considered a great harmonizer of the conflicting Buddhist trends in the late Koryŏ period. Although diverse philosophical and soteriological aspects of his texts have been examined, the Hwaŏmnon chŏryo, a seminal text that demonstrates his effort to mitigate the tension between the Sŏn and Kyo schools, has not been given due scholarly attention.

By revealing the drawbacks in the previous scholarship on Chinul, this paper emphasizes the importance of correct understanding of Li Tongxuan’s (635–730) Xin huayan jing lun, the primary text that exerted enormous influence on the formation of Chinul’s thought. Chinul’s text, however, sometimes omits the affluent symbolism as represented in Li’s text. Moreover, the Hwaŏmnon chŏryo does not adopt indigenous philosophical frameworks for the explication of the Flower Garland Sūtra as introduced in its source text Xin huayan jing lun. Chinul, instead, faithfully accommodates Li’s fundamental philosophical and soteriological theses in this abridged text.

Although Chinul does not accept every detail of Li’s exegesis and his text shows the characteristics of selective abridgement, he has a critical attitude toward the contemporary Buddhists just as Li does. This attitude may explain his adoption of this “unorthodox” text which was written by a layman and disregarded by both of the mainstream Sŏn and Kyo schools.


The Poison of Impermanence in Kumārajīva’s Zuochan sanmei jing

Vihan, Jan (Charles University, Prague, CZE)

The Sutra on the Concentration of Sitting Meditation 坐禪三昧經 (or Bodhisattvadhyāna 菩薩禪) is the first text produced by the Tocharian scholar and translator Kumārajīva after his arrival in Changan. While the first scroll of this influential meditation manual is a compilation of traditional techniques, most notably the practice of the three gates, the second scroll takes the form of questions and answers that bring in new points of view. In my presentation I focus on one such exchange, in which impermanence is presented not as the antidote to the poison of ignorance, but as the harmless form of that same poison itself. I compare Kumārajīva’s terminology here to that of the earlier translator Dharmarakṣa and show the degree to which it reflects a novel understanding of the Mahāyāna doctrine and practice. I then go on to explore the manner in which “毒 (poison)” is made to carry both negative and positive connotations in Chinese thus tracing a foundation for the key concept of non-duality to a particular strand of classical Chinese exegesis.


Buddhist Influence in Medieval Chinese Literature – Based on Jiang Zong's Poems

Wang, Meihsiu (Department of East Asian Studies, Taiwan Normal University, Jiayi, AUT)

Buddhist buildings appeared as part of the landscape in medieval China when Buddhism was accepted widely in Chinese society. As religious places, Shansi (山寺), Buddhist temples or monasteries in the mountains not only served Buddhist monks for religious practices but were also open to some particular literati for short periods of visiting and experiencing temporary hermit life. Many of them left their writings to record recluse lives. The writings were cataloged later as Shanju wenxue, literature of mountain life and became an important literary genre in the Tang dynasty.

However this paper will focus on the earlier stage of the development of Shanju wenxue by analyzing a group of poems regarding a famous pre-Tang poet Jiang Zong (519-594), hoping to reveal the depth of Jiang’s Shanshi poems and its significance. This attempt not only adds content regarding a given figure, but also reveals a sense of how Shansi and its abstract religious content replaced the beauty of nature to attract poets from their secular life. Shansi, as a third space, is not only a part of the landscape throughout  the time but also a destination of the poet’s journey, a journey seeking the pure land. This paper hopes to make another contribution in diverging Jiang’s poems from the tradition of Shanshui wenxue (literature of mountain and river) and bring a clearer picture of Buddhist influence on medieval Chinese literature. 


IABS 2014 | Universitätsring 1  | 1010 Wien