The Chinese possess a
history of over five thousand years. An important component, which had
yielded fruitful results on Chinese culture, is Indian Buddhism. One
will realise this enormous influence when reading the cultural History
of China. If one tries to talk about Chinese culture without touching on
Buddhism, one will be in the position of a blind man as told in the
story of the Blind Men and the Elephant.
been established some twenty-five centuries ago. It had been transmitted
to China during the Ch'in and Han Dynasties some five hundred years
after the Parinirvana of Sakyamuni Buddha. Buddhism in China had risen
and fallen according to the law of constant changes during the past two
thousand years. Nevertheless it had been well established in China. In
the past it had not been greatly affected by the upheavals and chaos of
political changes. For me the Chinese have been open-minded in their
nature and have been capable of absorbing foreign culture. That is why
Buddhism, when introduced into the well-cultured land of China, has
flourished abundantly and developed fruitfully.
The golden age
of Chinese Buddhism was from the age of the Three Kingdoms to the T'ang
Dynasty. During this period the various Schools in Buddhism evolved
their irreproachable and infallible theories based on the doctrine of
speaking the rise and fall of the various schools had been closely
connected to the evolution of cultural thoughts and current events in
China. For the past fifty years, the social system of China had been
changed from Absolute Monarchy to Constitutional Monarchy, Republicanism
and then to Socialism.
A student of
Chinese Culture therefore cannot neglect Buddhism otherwise his progress
will be handicapped as a wheel without an axis. It is the duty of a
lover of Chinese culture to shoulder the responsibility of fostering the
study of Buddhism so that the culture will again radiate its splendid
encouraging to see at this chaotic moment of multiple ideologies that
Buddhism still flourishes in various countries. Now I would like to
introduce briefly the ten schools of Chinese Buddhism as follows:
The Ten Schools
of Chinese Buddhism:
School or Kosa School or Abhidharma School.
School or Cheng-se School.
3. Three Sastra
School or San-lun School.
4. The Lotus
School or T'ien-t'ai School (absorb the Nirvana school).
5. The Garland
School or Hua-yen School or Avatamsaka School.
Dasab-humika School and the Samparigraha-sastra school).
School or Ch'an School or Dhyana School.
School or Lu School or Vinaya School.
School or Chen-yien School or Mantra School.
Dharmalaksana School or Ch'u-en School or Fa-siang School.
School or Sukhavati School or Ching-t'u School.
of all the above schools are based on the partial doctrine of Sakyamuni
Buddha. In the beginning there were no such things as schools in
Buddhism. The disciples of Buddha, however, took up what had been most
beneficial and most practicable for them. Thus ten schools have evolved.
Buddhism in China may also be divided into thirteen schools, but the
other three have been absorb within the ten.
1. Kosa School:
The foundation text is the Abhidharma-kosa-sastra by Vasubandhu. The
Sastra was translated and introduced to China from India by
Shuan-chuang. His disciples Yu-kuang and Fa-pau who wrote these and
other commentaries on the Sastra propagated this school. The Sastra
classifies all phenomena of the cosmos under seventy-five categories. A
student o this school learns the way of liberating oneself from the
passions and attains subsequent annihilation of suffering. He bases his
learning on the Four Noble Truths, viz, 1. Suffering. 2. Cause of
suffering. 3. Cessation of Suffering. 4. The Noble Eightfold Path. This
school teaches Theravadin Buddhism. It was popular in China during the
T'ang Dynasty only. Modern Chinese scholars of this school are the late
Ven. Fa-fang and Mr. Chang-si-shen.
School: Based upon the Satyasiddhi Sastra by Harivarman (4th century
A.D.) translated into Chinese by Kumarajiva (5th century). This School
flourished during the six-Dynasty and T'ang Dynasty (5th & 6th
century). It teaches one to look upon the cosmos in realms: the worldly
realm and the supreme realm. A student is to meditate on the unreality
of self and the unreality of things in order to enter Nirvana.
3. Three Sastra
School: Based its tenets on the Madhyamika Sastra, Dvadasanikaya Sastra
by Nagarjuna and the Sata Sastra by Aryadeva. These three Sastras were
translated by Kurnarajiva (5th century). It teaches one to dispose of
the Eight Misleading Ideas (birth, death, end, permanence, identity,
difference, coming, and going) and establish correct thinking. One will
discover the truth between the relative sense and the absolute sense,
for the truth lies between them. Rev. Yin-sun propagates this school,
and has published a modern commentary on the Madhyamika.
4. The Lotus
School: It is also called the T'ien-t'ai school. This name is attributed
to the Tien-tai Mountain in Che-chiang Province. The school was founded
by Chih-che during the Sui Dynasty (6th century). The chief text is the
Lotus Sutra (the Law-flower Sutra). Others are the Commentary on the
Prajnaparamita Sutra, the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, etc. This school
divides each of the ten realms of existence (hells, ghosts, animals,
asuras, men, devas, sravakas, pratyeka-buddhas, bodhisattvas, and
buddhas) into ten divisions and each division has ten qualities making a
total of one thousand qualities. These qualities are further multiplied
by three (past, present, and future) making a total of three thousand
qualities. This school teaches one to visualise these three thousand
qualities in an instant. The hundred divisions of realms and the
thousand qualities form the sphere of visualisation. It teaches one to
rest the physical body in three aspects and to gain a clear insight into
truth from three views. Chih-che also divided the gospel of Buddha into
five periods and the doctrine into eight kinds. The late Ven. T'isien
and Shing-ch'e propagate this school.
School: Founded by Tu-shun in the T'ang Dynasty (7th century). The
foundation work is the Garland Sutra. This school was expanded by
Chih-yien, Fa-chang, Ch'en-kuan, Chung-mi and other patriarchs. It
treats Buddhism in five schools (Theravada, Proto-mahayana, Mahayana,
the Intuitive, and the Perfect). These five are differentiated into ten
schools of thoughts. It presents ten Metaphysical propositions and six
characteristics of things for meditation. To meditate on the fundamental
nature of the universe is the door to enlightenment. The theory is
profound. It is said that one will not appreciate the richness in
Buddhism until one has studied the Garland Sutra. The late Ven. Yue-shia
founded the Hua-yen College in Shanghai. The Ven. Ying-ch'ih, Win-chow,
Chi-shong are the modern expounders of this school.
Intuitive School: Bodhidharma in the Liang Dynasty established it in
China (6th century). This school does not rely on the use of letters. It
points directly to the mind and sees into one's own nature. This
special transmission outside the scripture was succeeded by Hui-k'o,
Shen-ch'an, Tao-sin, Hong-jen, and Hui-neng, the 6th Patriarch. After
the 6th Patriarch this school expanded into five and later seven
schools. It has been very popular over a thousand years and causes most
temples in China to acquire the name of Ch'an Temples. Ven. Shu-yun, the
one hundred and twenty years old monk who passed away in 1959, could
stay in meditation for ten to twenty days at one stretch. The Ven.
Lai-kuo of Kau-wen Temple in Yang-chou, Chiang-su Province has attained
identical level of achievement.
Discipline School: Based on the monastic rules laid down by the Buddha.
The rules have five divisions. Theravada and Mahayana have separate sets
of monastic rules. These rules are the basic moral code of the Buddha.
Tao-shuan promoted the Four-division Vinaya and founded this school in
the T'ang Dynasty. He wrote several treatises and volumes of
commentaries on the Vinaya. The essence of this school is to do good and
cease to do evil. One must follow strictly the code of ethics so as to
free oneself from the ocean of misery and prepare oneself for
Buddhahood. After Master Ling-chi of Sung Dynasty and Master Yuan-chau
of Yuan Dynasty, this school was dormant in China for nearly seven
hundred years until the revival of this school by the late Master
School: Based on the Vairocana Sutra, the Diamond Apex Sutra and
Susiddhi Sutra. This school was introduced to China during the T'ang
Dynasty by Subhakarasirnha, Vajramati and Amogha. The fundamental
concepts are the six elements (earth, water, fire, air, space, and
cognition) and four magic circles (pagoda, jewel, lotus and sword) which
symbolise the power of the Buddhas and the Bodhisauvas. One is to
attain self-realisation by the three mystic things of body (its posture
and signs), mouth (its voice), and mind (meditation). (The mystic body
is associated with earth, water and fire; the words from the mouth with
wind space; the mind with cognition). It maintains that there are two
aspects of the cosmos: the phenomenal or material and the absolute or
spiritual. After the T'ang Dynasty, it was debased in China proper. It
passed to Tibet and is known as the Tibetan Esoteric School. It also
passed to Japan as the Shingon School. The ceremonies and services of
this school are very complicated. One can hardly learn about it without a
Dharmalaksana School: The foundation works are the Sandhi-nirmocana
Sutra, Abhidharma Sutra, Yogacaryabhumi Sastra, and the
Vijnaptimatrasiddhi Sastra. This school aims at studying the nature in
relation to the phenomenal expression of the cosmic existence. It was
advocated by Maitreya and succeeded by Asang, Vasubandhu, Dharmaplala
Silabhadre in India. Shuan-chuang studied this school from Silabhadre at
Nalanda Monastery. On his return to China, he translated many sutras
and sastras in the Ch'e-en Temple built by the T'ang Emperor. There were
several thousand people including government officials engaged in
translating the Buddhist Scriptures into Chinese and thus Shuan-chuang
was helped to established this school in China. Wuei-chi, Hui-chau, and
Chih-chou succeeded him. It maintains that the three planes of existence
are merely the manifestation of the conscious mind and that all
phenomena are the reflection of the sub-conscious mind. This
mind-evolution teaching is a profound philosophy and it is radical in
the modern Buddhistic thoughts among the Chinese. In order to grasp the
gist, one has to spend a considerable amount of time in solid research.
The late Ven. Me-an, Tau-kie, Yuen-ying and Hui-ch'uang, Yan-wen-san of
Fu-chien Province especially the Ven. Vai-she were the modern exponents
of this school. There are many notable successors such as the Ven.
Ch'ang-sing, Ou-ysngu of Nanking and Han-ching-ching of Peking.
Pure-land School: Based on the Sukhavati Vyuha Sutra, the Great
Sukhavati Vyuha Sutra, the Small Sukhavati Vyuha Sutra. This school was
established by Hui-yuan of the Chin Dynasty (4th century). He set up the
Lotus Society at Chiang-si Province. There were one hundred
twenty-three distinguished members including the notable poets
Vau-yen-ming and Liu-wei-min. This organisation greatly incited the zeal
of studying Buddhism among the Chinese. San-tau and Kuang-ming of T'ang
Dynasty undertook to popularise this school and were succeeded in
spreading it to almost every household. It teaches one to set the mind
solely on Amitabha, to recite the holy name and to recite the holy name
repeatedly, and one may gain salvation to the Pure-land of Amitabha. The
method employed is simple thus it is suited to everyone who has faith
in Amitabha, and who resolves to be reborn in the Pureland. The late
Ven. Yin-kuang greatly promoted this school. He persuaded people to do
good at the same time so as merits may be brought to the Pure-land, the
ideal final resort.
schools may be further classified into Mahayana and Theravada; esoteric
teachings and open teachings, and the easy way as contrasted to the hard
way of salvation. The Kosa and Satysiddhi schools belong to Theravada
whereas the other eight belong to the Mahayana. The Mantra School
belongs to the esoteric teachings whereas the other nine are open
teachings. The Pure-land School is the easy way of salvation as compared
to the other nine schools, which are the hard way. This is just a
general view of classification on the Buddhist Schools in China.