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A Brief Introduction on Chinese Assimilation of Buddhism

Autor:   •  March 18, 2016  •  Essay  •  1,278 Words (6 Pages)  •  235 Views

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A Brief Introduction on Chinese Assimilation of Buddhism

Mahayana in India

Buddhism arose in 6th century BCE in India with the enlightenment and teaching of Sakyamuni, and was gradually established to be a well-developed, philosophically sophisticated religion for the next following centuries. A number of divisions and schools arose during the development and were all claimed to be the “true teaching of Buddha”. In the first century of Common Era, Mahayana Buddhism emerged and became a major influence.

        “Mahayana” refers to the “Great Vehicle”. It was in competition with the so-called “Hinayana Buddhism”, which refers to the “Small Vehicle”. Mahayana Buddhism focuses on the understanding of the bodhisattva. Being different from Hinayana Buddhism followers who individually pursuing the way to nirvana, Mahayana Buddhism followers are more willing to “save the world” by spreading their teaching and inspiring laymen from their Buddhism inside.

        Among the numerous Mahayana philosophers who made great contribution to the development of Buddhism, Master Nagarjuna was the shiniest one. Nagarjuna lived in 2nd century CE. In his teaching, the “shunyata”, emptiness, was from the insentient causal relationship between everything in the universe. The interdependent origination of “shunyata” shows the interdependence of nirvana and samsara. Because there is “shunyata” existing in the world, the nirvana can exist in the world. Nagarjuna’s theory was innovative contrasting to the pre-existing idea which the nirvana is high above the suffering laymen’s world. His theory laid the foundation for the development of Mahayana Buddhism in China.

Entering China

        Mahayana Buddhism entered China during the Han dynasty at the beginning of Common Era. Confucianism at that time was legislated as the only socio philosophy. Confucianism is a school of philosophy founded by Confucian in East Zhou period. The ultimate goal of Confucianism is “the Dao”. “The Dao”, or “the Way”, is the concept of the harmonized socio-political-ethical order proposed by Confucian. Confucianists believed that the heaven (Tian) responded to the moral character of people and would award the people for being good. One of the key moral characters is Ren, which is humanity and reciprocity. To be human is loving each other, being filial, being loyal, and being resolute. From a Confucianist’s perspective, the most important capacity that a ruler can have is the capacity for recognizing that he must treat the people as he himself would want to be treated in their position. Another key moral character is Li, which is ritual propriety of how people behave and think. Li affords an ideal means for ordering one’s person life, also represents the ideal mode of governance because the rites are the vehicle through which the ruler expresses his own virtue or moral power and also encourages a sense of dignity and responsiveness among the people. Confucianism, as a very practical social functionalist school, provided the Han rulers with ideas and methods of ruling a country.

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