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3 rd century BCE lasting to the 11 century CE – Central Asia earliest evidence – Afghanistan or Avaganasthana. Kushana and king Kanishka – Silk Road Yogatantra practiced in Khotan. Tun-huang – major translation center

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3rd century BCE lasting to the 11 century CE – Central Asia

earliest evidence – Afghanistan or Avaganasthana


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Kushana and king Kanishka – Silk RoadYogatantra practiced in Khotan


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  • Tun-huang – major translation center

  • Tibet’s rise in the 7th century – capture of Tun Huang, Tibetan translations and conversion to Buddhism

  • oldest printed book, a Chinese translation of the Diamond Sutra dated at 868 CE



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End of Buddhism in India and Central Asia

  • Turkish Islam begins to takeover central Asia

  • Destruction of Indian Buddhism – and “budh” as Muslims call an idol

  • Mongols are next in line of invasion – no effort to impose religion so Central Asia remained Muslim Buddhism no longer traveled the Silk Road


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Nepali developments

  • From the Licchavi, Mallas, Gurkha

  • “Hybrid” Hindu-Buddhist developments

  • Only remnant of classical Buddhist India

Patan Durbar Square:

Origin of the pagoda style


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Chinese travelersto India

  • Fa-xian/ Fa-hsien – ca. 400 CE

  • Xuanzang/Hsuan-tsang and

  • I-ching / I-tsing

Master Hsuan-tsang


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Buddhism in China

Master Lao

Master K’ung


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The “Indianification” of China and a “kinetic” approach to Buddhism through Taoism

Lao-tzu: balance and harmony of seemingly opposing elements

= wu wei or “non-action”

Confucius: a Hierarchy of Six Relationships

= stable society = the figure of the “gentleman”

1.Ruler- 2.Teacher- 3.Friend

4.Subject 5. Student 6. Friend


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Transformation of China approach to Buddhism through Taoism

  • Buddhism not deemed more refined “civilizing” influence as it had been seen by the “barbarians” to the west and north

  • Emperor Ming-ti – 58-75 CE – dreamt of Buddhism; more likely, Central Asian traders


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Critical Conflicts approach to Buddhism through Taoism

  • The Samgha: a threat to the family?

  • Shared features of Taoism: Buddha the rebirth of Lao-tzu

  • Role of the Sage now open to men and women of all classes

  • “Sudden” interpretation of the classics influences Buddhism


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The Ko’i Period: Exchange and transmission approach to Buddhism through Taoism

  • How to translate Buddhist terms? Start with Taoist ones – a patterned repeated in the West

  • Tao = bodhi,yoga, Dharma marga (cf. “Law” as early Western translation)

  • Fifth Century standardization

  • “Religion of Images”


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New Thought and Translations: approach to Buddhism through TaoismBuddho-Taoism

  • Lo yang: Capital of Buddhist New Thought in China

    • An Shih Kao – Persian translator ca. 148 CE

    • Lokaksema – Mahayana missionary Prajnaparamita sutra ca. 168 CE

    • Kumarajiva – greatest of all early translators and Madhyamaka scholar ca. 344 – 413

      • Only MMK and PPS enter China – very simplified Madhyamaka tradition, unlike Tibet et. al.


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Buddhism “goes native” approach to Buddhism through Taoism

  • Hsuan-tsang (Xuanzang) – 596-664 CE

    • New, authoritative translation and Yogacara doctrine systematized

  • Empress Wu – ca. 625-706 CE

    • – the mirrored hall of Fazang

    • - First (and really only) woman ruler of China

    • Consolidates power under Buddhist auspices


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The Sangha approach to Buddhism through Taoism

  • Still a haven for the dispossessed – often a home for orphans

  • Bhiksunisangha 317 – Chu ching-chien – first ordained bhiksuni and founded a convent in Ch’ang-an – she was the first – but Theravadin bhiksunis in 434 CE established the formal order

  • Again, as in India, the first time women can acquire literacy and attain to great scholarship


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“Conversion” of China approach to Buddhism through Taoism

  • South China: conversion of elites – early fourth century

    • Versed in Chinese classics and art, these take to Buddhism as an aesthetic retreat

    • Signs of Buddhist themes in art, poetry

    • Not required to defer to emperor from 3-5th centuries

  • Lower classes – education in classless Sangha

  • Three distinguishable features: 1. large literate monasteries patronized by elites 2. small sometimes illiterate village monasteries and 3. forest monasteries characterized by “Buddho-Taoist” meditative practice


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“Conversion” of China approach to Buddhism through Taoism

  • The North – old patterns persisted

    • Lack of class connections and persistence of tribal/ethnic divisions made for lack of cohesion

    • Emphasis on “magic” – fortune-telling etc.

    • Volatile culture – edicts suppressing Buddhism alternate with a new government’s support of same

      • 446 and 574: edicts commanding total suppression of Buddhism

      • Appointment of a government “Sangha advisor” became the norm thereafter


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Buddho-Taoism approach to Buddhism through Taoism

  • Taoist ideal of an underlying “non-being” – the “unmanifest Tao” – is the cause of being, the “manifest Tao” – words are incapable of rendering this reality

  • “Two truths” of Madhyamaka are understood in this manner

  • Yogacara consciousness doctrine – interpreted along the lines of “One Mind” of the universe rather than at the Individual level


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The Many Schools of Chinese Buddhism approach to Buddhism through Taoism

1. The Vinaya School (Lu-tsung)

2. The Realistic School (Chu-she)

3. The Three Treatises School (San-lun)

4.The Idealist School (Fa-hsiang)

5. The Mantra or Tantric School (Mi-tsung or Chen-yen)

6. The Avatamsaka or Flower Adornment School (Hua-yen)

7. The T'ien-t'ai or White Lotus School (Fa-hua)

8. The Pure Land School (Ching t'u)

9. The Dhyana School (Ch'an)


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1. The Vinaya School (Lu-tsung): approach to Buddhism through Taoism

  • As the name suggests, this school concentrated upon the monastic discipline (Vinaya) of the Buddhist monks and adhered strictly to do's and don'ts prescribed for them in the Vinaya Pitaka. This school was said to have been founded by Tao-hsuan  in the 7th Century AD.  


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2. The Realistic School (Chu-she): approach to Buddhism through Taoism

  • This school derived its inspiration from the Abhidhamma Kosha of Vasubandhu (316-396), a Peshawar based Indian monk who was originally a Sarvastivadin and was faithful to the original teachings of the Buddha. In course of time it became a part of the latter day Idealist school.


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3. The Three Treatises School (San-lun): approach to Buddhism through Taoism

  • Madhyamaka - Kumarajiva  (549-623)  translations expounded in the form of commentaries by Chih-Tsang (549-623).

  • Based on “Three Treatises” – the Mulamadhyamakakarika, the Catuhsataka (of Aryadeva) and the apocryphal “12 Topics”

    • No later Indian Madhyamaka scholarship makes it to China

    • Chih-tsang - metaphysical truths only through negation of things in view of the limitations of the mind to understand transcendental reality.

    • With the emergence of the Yogacara school, this school suffered a decline.


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Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana – Mahayanasraddotpadasutra

  • Enormously influential China fabrication or pseudepigraphal text

  • Doctrine of “One Mind” from which things spring

    • Especially influential on Ch’an and Hua-yen schools

    • Theravada – deemed insufficient – it could not accommodate Mahayana traditions

    • Madhyamaka – incompatible with tathagatagarbha doctrine

    • Yogacara – focus on the individual left the “masses” out of the picture – not universal enough


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A “turn to the sutras” in China Mahayanasraddotpadasutra

  • Sutras espousing universal Buddhahood became pospular

  • First ordering of doctrines: Hui-kuang 468-537 – four periods of Buddha’s teadcing

    • 1. abhidharma

    • 2. satyasiddhi – phenomena are mere names for inter-related phenomena

    • 3. Madhyamaka – even names are “empty” – no substantial basis for them

    • 4. Tathagatagarbha doctrine – Buddha-nature pervades all as taught by Nirvana and Avatamsaka sutras


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The Mind-only School ( MahayanasraddotpadasutraFa-hsiang):

  • Yogacara school of Vasubhandu

    • Hsuan-tsang – converted Emperor Tai-tsung to Buddhism (ca. 626 CE)

      • New and more accurate vocabulary developed

    • studied under Master Dharmapala in India.

    • Imported a huge collection of about 650 Buddhist texts and some Buddha relics.

    • His Fa-hsiang or Yogacara school lasted only a century

      • Unpopular doctrine that not all would become Buddhas in part responsible

      • Died out with An Lushan rebellion in 755-764


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The Mantra or Tantric School (Mi-tsung or Chen-yen): Mahayanasraddotpadasutra

  • Chen-yen – “True Word” i.e., Mantrayana, Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism

    • Flourished in China for less than  a hundred years, starting with the arrival of Subhakarasimha (637-735) from India during the reign of T'ang dynasty.

      • translated the Mahavairocana Sutra which expounded the Tantric teachings.

      • Vajrabodhi (670-741) introduced the concept of Mandalas to the Chinese


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The T'ien-t'ai or “Heavenly Terrace”School Mahayanasraddotpadasutra

  • Chih-i (538-597) formed his doctrines on the basis of the Saddharma-pundarika sutra, Truth operated from three levels or aspects. Ongoing serach for a comprehensive framework to address the variety of doctrines from India

    • Chih-I – doctrine should be studied in the context of practice

  • Truth lies beyond words – so three discernments:

  • 1. Abhidharma dharma doctrine – focus on the conventional truth

  • 2. The extreme end of Madhyamaka doctrine – focus on the ultimate truth

  • 3. 3rd level is a middle state, 'middle' for our understanding, unites the two and presents them together as the one Highest Truth as the discernment of the dharmadhatu of the Lotus, Avatamsaka and Nirvana sutras – following the Samdhinirmocana sutra’s classification.

  • Harmonious doctrine of ekayana- tremendously important in Chinese culture. These three levels of truth are also not separate or different from each other. They are the aspects of the same reality, that is universal as well as ubiquitous. The school advocated the practice of concentration and insight (chih and kuan) to understand the transience of things and attain the Buddha Mind in which the above mentioned three aspects of Truth reside in perfect harmony.


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The T'ien-t'ai or “Heavenly Terrace”School Mahayanasraddotpadasutra

  • Three categories for doctrinal and meditational approaches

    • Sudden – pointing to Dharmadhatu –

      • doctrines that point directly to the non-dual awareness of the Dharmadhatu

    • Gradual – non-ultimate, expedient approaches

      • Breath meditation, liturgy, contemplation

    • Variable – mix of above in a variety of methods


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The T'ien-t'ai or “Heavenly Terrace”School Mahayanasraddotpadasutra

  • Nirvana sutras “milk metaphor”

    • 1. milk – earliest texts;

    • 2. cream – Sutra Pitaka

    • 3. curds = Mahayanasutras

    • 4. butter – Prajnaparamita sutras

    • 5. Ghee (clarified butter) = Nirvana Sutra, Lotus Sutra

    • Shallow and profound truths, also all truths are expressions of the Awakened mind, so the view that entities are different, the same, both and neither are all true expressions


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The T'ien-t'ai or “Heavenly Terrace”School Mahayanasraddotpadasutra

  • Did not disparage “gradual” approaches as Ch’an scholars often did.

    • Complete medical course

    • Chan-jan 711-782: a reformulation

      Five Periods and the Eight Teachings : a formal tsung or school

      Five Periods = chronology, method and doctrinal classifications


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The MahayanasraddotpadasutraAvatamsaka or Flower Adornment School (Hua-yen):

  • Hua-yen

    • flourished in China for about 200 years, starting from the 7th Century AD and attracted the attention of the famous Empress Wu (690-705).

    • Fazang, and the mirrored hall – a symbol of the interpenetration of all dharmas

      • The Ninth Consciousness – “Amalavijnana” and Tathagatagarbha doctrine


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The MahayanasraddotpadasutraAvatamsaka or Flower Adornment School (Hua-yen):

  • Second great multi-system school Fazang 643-712: ekayana = sravaka, prayeka-buddha and bodhisattva

    • One viehicle is superior to all individually

      • Avatasmaka – all phenomena are unimpededly interpenetrating all other phenomena – a holographic vision of the universe

        • Symbology of Indra’s many jeweled net: jewels reflecting jewels

        • One Mind, two aspects – principle and phenomena

        • Through all, One Mind is awakened even in delusion

          • Phenomena pratitya samutpada principle – phenomena are empty as expressions of the interpenetration of all with all.

          • 1. all phenomena interpenetrate

          • 2. all phenomena are identical in the sense that each functions in the same way – according to sunyata

          • 3 totality of parts reflect each element in the totality at all times

          • Each part contains the whole, so each is the also the sole cause of the whole

          • Entire cosmos – identical with mind and body of Buddha Mahaviarocana-

          • All parts of samsara attain nirvana together


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The MahayanasraddotpadasutraAvatamsaka or Flower Adornment School (Hua-yen):

  • Tsung mi (cont’d)

    • Five Divisions

      • 1. Teachings of divine and human beings (e.g. Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism)

      • 2. Mainstream teachings undercut the above via dharma theory

      • 3. Yogacara Fa-hsiang School of the three svabhavas correct #-2

      • 4. Madhyamaka doctrines – reveal emptiness of projecting alaya - just as unreal as subject/object dualism

      • 5. Revelation of Buddha nature - e.g. Lotus, Garland and Awakening of Faith sutras – these “positive” expressions are entered into after the “negative” expressions of paths 2-4


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The Great Systematization Mahayanasraddotpadasutra

  • The Sui and T’ang dynasties (ca. 581-907)

    • Flat fees to ordain monks led to wide-spread tax-dodging; by 830 CE twice the number of bhiksus/bhiksunis as in 730

    • Emperor Wu-tsung 840-846: Seeker of Taoist immortality – Taoist advisors suggested “black” (Buddhist monks) were to blame for his failure

    • 4600 temples destroyed, quarter million monks defrocked and sent back to lay life.


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T’ang persecution of Buddhism Mahayanasraddotpadasutra

  • 842-843 CE – Emperor Wu-tsung:

    • Wiping out “black” from China

    • Destruction of over 4600 temples and 40,000 shrines; quarter million bhiksus and bhiksunis forced back into lay life

    • Only the Ch’an and “Pure Land” traditions remain


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The Pure Land School Mahayanasraddotpadasutra(Ching-te):

  • The “Easy Way” or “Peasants’ Way”

  • Never a formal school but a broad movement

  • T’an-luan 476-542: vision of heavenly gate – turned to Taoism – Indian Bhiksu Bodhiruci turned him to a better method of immortality!

  • Nien-fo – dharani – a recitation of the Buddha’s name Sanskrit: Namo ‘mitabha Buddha

    • Concentration, meditation 2. length of

    • Recitation of Amitabha’s name evil deed doers can enter the Western paradise if they desire it

      • Revilers of the Dharma are excluded


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The Pure Land School Mahayanasraddotpadasutra(Ching-te):

  • T’a-li and Tzu-li – “other” power versus “self power”

    • Faith becomes the prime directive towards nirvana – reliance on the vow of Dharmakara

    • Latter days of Buddhism had arrived – sixth century view Degenerate Dharma

    • So diffused broadly, survived the T’ang persecution along with Ch’an sect

    • Viewed as vulgar peasant belief by Confucian elites


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Pure Land: Three Periods of practice Mahayanasraddotpadasutra

  • Development of the “Inexhaustible Treasury”

    • Three periods of practice emphasized:

      • 1. True Dharma

      • 2 Semblance dharma

      • 3 Degenerate Dharma


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The Dhyana School (Ch'an) Mahayanasraddotpadasutra:

  • Bodhidharma ca. 520 AD

  • Peak of Buddho-Taoism - rejected book learning as the basis of enlightenment, set aside all notions and theories of suffering and salvation, and relied upon day to day events, simple thinking and ordinary living as the means to enlightenment.

    • free themselves from opinionated intellectuality and scholarly affectations to emerge into a world of notionless observations.

  • Wu-hsin: the development of an unfettered and detached mind, that would not cling to anything and would not rest anywhere and would flow. [ video ]


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The Dhyana School (Ch'an) Mahayanasraddotpadasutra:

  • “Sudden” versus “Gradual” debate Hui-neng and Shen hsiu 606-706 (recounted in the Platform Sutra)

    • Shen-hsiu: Yogacara expression in Ch’an

    • This body is Bodhi treeThe Mind a mirror bright Let us clean it untiringlyAnd on it let not dust alight

    • Hui-neng: Madhyamaka expression in Ch’an

    • Wisdom knows no tree to growThere is no mirror brightThere was nothing from the beginning,On what could dust alight?


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Northern and Southern Ch’an Mahayanasraddotpadasutra

  • Shen-hsiu: continued popularity in the south, Hui-neng’s sudden school, in the North

    • Shen-hsiu’s Ho-tse School did not survive the persecution

    • Wu-hsin or “no-thought” doctrine of Hui-neng’s northern school following Shen-hui became the mainstay over gradualist and “complete” approaches


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The Dhyana School (Ch'an) Mahayanasraddotpadasutra:

  • Increasing use of paradox as teaching method

    • The “public case” or koan

      • One-hand clapping

      • If you see the Buddha, kill him!

      • Buddha is a shit-cleaning stick

      • Does a dog have Buddha nature? Woof!

      • Beatings with a stick (scarred hand Son school)

      • Provincial, northern school lineage –avoiding the capital – survived the persecution

      • Became known as “a special transmission outside the scriptures”


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The Figure of Kuan-yin Mahayanasraddotpadasutra

  • “Mother Goddess” of China

  • “She who hears the cries of the world”

    • Exile due to desire to join bhiksunisangha

    • Loss of arms for father

    • Male to Female metamorphosis during Sung dynasty 970-1279

    • Avalokitesvara – male in Tibet, female in China, neutral in Japan


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Neo-Confucianism Mahayanasraddotpadasutra

  • Merger of Buddhist thought with Confucian ethics

    • Public clinics became part of Confucian concern for society

    • Buddhism lost the battle doctrinally

    • Ming dynasty 1368-1644 – combination of Ch’an kung-an and Pure Land nien-fo practices combined in a synthesis for the masses