Buddhist Arts-Culture
Traditional cultural beliefs on the decision of Venerable Yin Shun
Liu Cheng-You
27/05/2010 21:08 (GMT+7)
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  Since 1840, being faced with the so-called “greatest change of Chinese history and civilization in the millenniums”, Chinese intellectuals strived hard for the reconstruction of social order and cultural value. Against this background, the traditional religion cultures like Confucianism and Buddhism had been revived, and foreign trends of ideas imported into China, Christianity as one of them. A particularly interesting phenomenon was that some intellectuals with a Buddhist background were later converted to Christianity, while some with Christian background later become Buddhist. Yin Shun (1906-2005, his name was Zhang Lu-qin before becoming a monk) is also a very representative figure. When he was a child, Yin Shun began to read lots of books; he got enlightened education in a primary school in Haining, of Zhengjiang province. After finishing school at 13, Yin Shun started to study Chinese medicine. He preferred essential medical principle to medical technology. At 16, he became a teacher in the local primary school. In the process of teaching, he had more time to study a variety of ideas and kept thinking about the significance of life. At last, he became a monk in Putuo Mountain when he was 25.
1. Understanding the Theories of Laozi and Zhuangzi
  Because Chinese traditional medicine has something with Taoism and its academic school, at the beginning, Yin Shun chose some classic books as readings such as Laozi, Zhuangzi, attempting to find a seat for his own studying.  However, he found Laozi and Zhuang’s theories can’t solve one’s psychological confusions before long. In his opinion,
The philosophic theory in Laozi and Zhuangzi is profound argument, but it fails to compass its own limits. Their thought did not fit to the human nature because they put the nature to the No.1 between nature and human. Their ideal was to go back the nature state in which every thing would be sample, including human’s life. The well-known social psychology seems to be reasonable, while it lacks the spirit of active forward-going.  Living alone far away from society always brings negative life view.  Although the theories of Taoism, to some degree, contributed me to enter Buddhist world and the philosophy of Taoism Academics and the ways of their cultivating oneself got my partial sympathy, I had determined not to be a Taoist and to wake up from the virtual dream. 
  His basic understanding of the philosophy of Taoism is not only expressed by his mature thinking, but also provides theoretical support for his awareness. The style of Taoist academics is more suitable for the elders or the hopeless life.  At that time, the social requirement is to save nation and the poor people.
2. Confucianism Academics Upbringing
  After a while, he picked up the Confucianism Academics Scriptures that he had read in his childhood in private school.  Although there was the slogan “put down the Confucian shop” in the society, Confucianism Academics had a series of fine Kong fuand ambitions, which are full of passion for real life. The Four Books is fundamental classic of Confucian. San Gang and Ba Mu in the Great Learning was usually regarded as the Confucian core. Its simple and practical feature, without doubt, could guide people’s life according to Yin-Shun’s views at that time. Its social concerning is totally different from the negative and self-closing Taoism.
   However, the philosophy of the Confucian Academics is still unable to reach his requirement.  In his mind,
  Common, practical, people-esteem and reason are exactly the mainstream of Chinese nation culture. I can pay sympathy to it and speak highly of it.  Anyway, it could not release my sense of emptiness and confusion.  
  In his eyes, Confucian thinking is not only over worldly, but also imperfect itself especially, it is short of something similar to the Taoism’s compass.
When his thinking style was set later, Yin Shun once combed this slim realization systemically.  He argued that as the founder of Confucianism Academics school, Confucius over emphasized the real political and education, which is considered as non-religious elements.  Hence Confucius attached to sacrificing ceremony, but never referred to the existence of God.  Yinshun said,
  To respect ghost and god but keep distance is exactly the spirit of Confucianism academics since Confucius found it.  “Sage arranges culture and education through setting some church and other temples” fully indicated the ancient Chinese did not know what exactly the religion is, but they were quite sure about making use of it as control tool over people. 
    In addition, Confucian scholars from Song dynasty to Qing Dynasty followed this tradition and gradually developed into refusing religion.
    Yin Shun did not think Confucian academic culture lacking life-compassing was a blessing of our Chinese nation.  In the book China religion Ups and Downs and Confucianism Academic School, he wrote:
  Times has changed greatly, western civilization is following the step of their strong and sharp weapons.  Confucianism academic culture failed to adapt to this situation, so it fell behind rapidly.……This is obvious and strong proof that upper-class culture without religion and belief is unavailable.
Such thinking, no doubt, couldn’t establish itself. In other words, Yin Shun could’t accept Confucianism wholesale.
3. Learning Christianity for 2 Years
  Summer vacation in 1926, a teacher at a church primary school in Yin Shun’s hometown was sick.  The founder of the school got to know that Yin Shun would back to hometown.  So the founder invited him to teach in his church school.Yin Shun agreed. The church service caught Yin Shun’s attention in his teaching process.  Under a friend’s recommendation, he got to know Christianity and became more interested in it. 
At this time, Yin Shun found that the theories of Taoism academic school and Confucianism academic school were both short of religious emotion. One is over weak, another is over secular, and While Christianity is different from them.  It is sociable and you can feel the devout and pure religious confidence.  Yin Shun who has been focusing on life-compassing, now seemed to find what he needed from the Christianity with confidence, hope and love. Thereby, he devoted himself into Christianity with great enthusiasm, such as praying, reading the Bible, and some magazines such as True light, spiritual Light and Christian etc. He even once joined the Spiritual Revival Conference.(SRC)
  As the more knowledge of Christianity he got and the higher degree of the research he did, at the end of 1927, he finally got to know that Chinese anti-Christianity movement had nothing with doctrine itself, but with the suspicion of “culture invading” because of the international background of Christianity. Surely, the basic factor causing Yin Shun’s conversion in belief lied on his understanding Christianity doctrine itself. He acknowledged that he could not accept some Christian doctrines. He said,
  For example, believing will obtain eternal life or not believing will is eternal death. Obeying me, survive; rebelling me, die.  The standard is only belief, without human’s behavior. This concept is strong exclusiveness according to his opinion . All will be damaged except for God and God’s believers.  Under God’s love, we feel more cruel hate like the feel of opposite class.  Another reason is the soul coming from God. If soul coming from the God meets fresh together, one person is coming.  According to the doctrine (only rebirth can be saved) , most people will go to hell.
  In 1960s, he clearly pointed out his view that Basic Standing of Christianity is master-slave relationship and its main method is to make people unknown and scatter.  According to his own scripture reading experience, God Jehovah possesses Life and Death power of all things including human since God created human beings and things.  Once the created people stove and ate the Witness Apple, he could judge what is true or what is wrong. Then God would force the person to leave the Garden of Eden.  Why does the God do that?  Yin Shun wrote:
  In short, know nothing is a kind of cheating-citizen policy.  The purpose is to blind people, control their mind and finally form a strong faith. Dispersion without organization which would lead to argument, conflicts, revenge and fighting and so on, belong to dispersion policy.  These means can weaken unity power of people and make God become unique gradually.
  The Christianity scriptures and all related magazine brought him into deep consideration about his faith. All Christianity believes it as truth without any suspect.  While, Yi Shun who once worshiped Laozi, Zhuangzi, Confucious and Mengzi, didn’t believe “God Love Us”. Therefore, he made a claim firmly: “I am a Chinese. I have no idea to make myself to be a slave by God’s will.  I have never minded to be a master, as well not to be a slave.”
4.Enjoying  the  Buddhism
  After a few years reading, Buddhist sutra gradually let him realize,
  Buddha judges some body being a layman or sage through one’s deed,  not only one’s belief wishes.  Buddha not simply emphasizes oneself enlightenment but much likes to profit everyone.  Buddha pays more attention to thorough awareness. Thorough awareness means thorough freedom.  Buddha is the sum of conviction, witness and charity.  The cultivation of heart and soul not only takes advantages of Confucian and Taoism but also develops more.  Christianity believes the confession and correction of guilt, so Buddha does.  Buddha possesses all religions merits including basal principle and flexible methods. It is tolerant so that it can adapt to various situation.
  Yin Shun’s sure that the view about three-life is most reasonable which guide people to be kind and thus can elevate somebody to be a sage.  Even though he can not enlighten himself or even degrade, at the end, he will make progress and free himself in the end.  It is not just the absolute destination but also the procession can encourage, comfort and guide us to go through the journey with hope.
  Under this circumstance, Yin Shun devoted himself to Buddha in 1930. He became a monk in Putuo Moutain, Zhejiang province in 25 years old.  Since then,  he began his 75—years Buddhist life.  During this period, he asked for learning, read great number of scriptures taught and explained Buddhism sutra and wrote books from Zhengjiang to Chongqing, then go to Taiwan taking path of Hong Kong.  The long journey tempered his will and also his Buddhism theoretic system become much clearer and gained great success.
5. The Significance of Yin Shun’s view on religions
  1)At that time, the religious reality function was the Chinese intellectuals’ starting point in their theory.After 1840, the Chinese people faced the realistic crisis together. This crisis enabled almost China's intellectuals generally to pay attention to the path of saving both the nation and rescuing people's suffering at that time. Each thought's real value, including all kinds of religion, first should satisfy whether it can relieve the reality Chinese people's misery. The religion demand of Yin Shun embodied on the similar concern yet.
  2)About Individual Extrication Question. Corresponding, Yin Shun hold the denial standpoint on the external redeem. Whether somebody will become Buddhahood in the sociality, they emphasized on the intrinsic consciousness of human. Actually, it is an important view that human will become sage basing one’s thinking and hard-working in the real life. The sage of Confucian or the immortal of Taoism, is achieved through the manner above in the realistic life. Buddhism had been an important part of the Chinese beliefs world since it was spread to China. I think that one of reasons lies in the similar between Buddhism and Confucian. As we know, both the Bodhisattva spirit in the Mahayana Buddhism and the Confucian concern on the social, for example, managing state affairs, making peace in our world maybe reach the same goal or conclusion from different approaches.
  However, the Chinese intelligentsia who had read the Four Books had the ingrained thought in which Confucius said respecting the ghosts and gods but keeping distance. Moreover, becoming a Saint with practicing moral culture also nearly is a subconscious-like life pursue in their mind.
  Although the Yin Shun’s views on Christianity, Confucianism and Buddhism maybe be subjected various appraisals, his thinking manner about the question has obviously a Chinese character. In my opinion, his thinking manner is both individual and universal significance

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