History of Buddhism
Venerable Master Taixu
11/02/2010 10:29 (GMT+7)
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  Venerable Master Taixu (1890-1947), Chinese Buddhist reformer, founder of the Wuchang Buddhist Institute and the Buddhist journal Haichaoyin, and active participant in various Buddhist movements., He advocated the reform and renewal of Buddhism in China.

  Taixu was born in Hǎin岥ng in Zhejiang province. His lay name was Lǚ P岢il岥n. His parents died when he was still young, and he was raised by his grandparents. At 16 he was ordained into the Linji school of Chan Buddhism in Xiao Jiǔhuá Temple in Suzhou. Not long after being ordained he was given the Dharma name of Taixu, meaning Great Emptiness. In 1909 he traveled to Nanjing to join the Sutra Carving Society established there by the lay Buddhist Yang Renshan.

  As a result of being exposed to the political writings of Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao, Tan Sitong and Zhang Taiyan, Taixu turned his mind to the reformation of Buddhism. In 1911 while in Guangzhou, he made contact with the revolutionaries plotting to overthrow the Qing dynasty and participated in some secret revolutionary activities. Taixu would later describe the formation of his political thinking during this time in his Autobiography:

  "My social and political thought was based upon 'Mr. Constitution', the Republican Revolution, Socialism, and Anarchism. As I read works such as Zhang Taiyan's "On Establishing Religion", "On the Five Negatives", and "On Evolution", I came to see Anarchism and Buddhism as close companions, and as a possible advancement from Democratic Socialism."

  He tried to put his reform programs into practice by founding the Fojiao Xiejin Hui (Association for the Advancement of Buddhism) in 1912, which lasted only a short time due to resistance from conservative Buddhists. Unable to convince the Buddhist community of his ideas, and shocked by the outbreak of the First World War and the sufferings in China, Taixu went into seclusion on Putuoshan for three years from October 1914. In 1917 Taixu visited Taiwan and Japan. Later, he established the Enlightenment Society (Jueshe) at Shanghai with the help of some eminent Chinese. The society organized public lectures and disseminated knowledge of Buddhism through its own publications. Taixu next made a preaching tour of several cities in China and in Malaya. In 1920 he founded the Buddhist periodical Haichaoyin. He established the Wuchang Buddhist Institute in 1922, the first modern Buddhist seminary in China. In 1923, Taixu and a few followers founded the World Buddhist Federation, which included among its members Inada Eisai and K. L. Reichelt. Two years later he led the Chinese Buddhist delegation to the Tokyo Conference of East Asian Buddhists. In 1927 he became the head of the Minnan Buddhist Institute. During that year, he associated with the Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, who financed Taixu's world tour in 1928. The Chinese Buddhist Association was founded by Reverend Yuanying (1878—1953) at Shanghai in 1929, but Taixu's early relation with it was not cordial, though he was on its standing committee. In 1930 he founded the Sino-Tibetan Buddhist Institute in Chongqing; this became the headquarters of the Chinese Buddhist Association in the war years, 1937 to 1945. During the war, Taixu led a Chinese Buddhist mission of goodwill to Burma, India, Ceylon, and Malaya to win support and sympathy for China, and he was awarded a medal by the Chinese government for his contributions to the war effort.

  Taixu's attempts to reform and modernize Chinese Buddhism were to some extent successful. A number of prominent scholars and religious leaders were trained at the academies and libraries that he founded, and his lectures and writings helped create a more positive public attitude toward Buddhism. But his larger dream of a worldwide Buddhist movement, and his plan for reorganizing Buddhist institutions throughout China never materialized during his lifetime. His ideas were often viewed by the conservative Buddhist establishment as radical and unacceptable. They cooperated with him reluctantly in times of crisis but were always opposed to his ideas on monastic affairs. Yet, viewed from a historical perspective, his program of reform and modernization (the establishment of Buddhist academies, journals, foreign contacts, and so forth) can be seen to have created new patterns for Chinese Buddhism.

  The religious thought of Taixu falls in the mainstream of Chinese Buddhism. It recognizes that all sentient beings possess the Buddha nature and are subject to the law of causation. The operation of cause and conditions is universal and incessant, and all worldly phenomena are based on that operation. If one follows the five Buddhist precepts, a happy life in this world is achievable. This happy life is, however, not lasting; it is subject to change. One must therefore strive for a higher wisdom and thus attain nirvāṇa. When one realizes that there is neither self nor object and that only the mind is universal and unlimited, one will work for the salvation of all sentient beings so that they too may become Buddha. Taixu's contribution is his adoption of a new terminology and a modern style of writing, thus tuning the old philosophy to the new thought in China. He often used words like revolution, evolution, science, democracy, philosophy, and freedom, as well as other concepts popular in his time. Although he may not always have used these terms with a clear understanding of their modern meaning, by incorporating them into the context of Buddhism he made the tradition continue to appeal to young people at the beginning of the twentieth century.

  Source: http://www.bookrags.com;     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taixu

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