The Spread of Buddhism in China
Although Buddhism was not accepted when it was first introduced to China, it has its positive aspects and was later on respected. In these documents, the authors- whether they may be a Chinese scholar, Confucian scholar, or a Buddhist scholar- display either animosity towards Buddhism, enthusiasm and encouragement towards the teachings of Buddhism, or a neutral opinion of not only the Buddhist ways, but the Confucian as well. Undoubtably, when reading over the documents, there are several phrases that exemplify the authors negative ideas about Buddhism. In document four (doc. ) written by Han Yu- male Chinese Confucian scholar and official at the Tang imperial court- the first statement is, “Your servant begs leave to say that Buddhism is no more than a cult of barbarian peoples spread to China. ” In that statement alone, the authors thought of the religion is exposed. Referring to the Buddhist followers as barbaric people is an extreme lack of respect and is an insult.
The author also states towards the end, “… Buddha be given to the proper authorities to be cast into fire and water, and this evil be rooted out, and later generations spared this delusion. The creator of this document obviously wants the public to know how much he truly detests Buddhism. He refers to it as being evil, and that it is a delusion that future generations should not be exposed to. Likewise, document six (doc. 6) relates to doc. 4, in that they both share the characteristic of disapproval of the Buddhist teachings. Quite a few phrases of hatred can be found in doc. 6 such as, “… Buddhism has transmitted its strange ways and has spread like a luxuriant vine until it has poisoned the customs of our nation. This document written by Tang Emperor Wu- Chinese Confucian Scholar- is clear when stating its viewpoint on the spread of Buddhism in China. Although it may say Buddhism is a luxuriant vine, it is not calling its teachings beautiful. Empower Wu believes that Buddhism has POISONED China’s customs. He not only thinks of it as being poison, he also think it must be destroyed, “… there no longer remains the slightest doubt in Our mind that this evil should be eradicated. ” Again, Buddhism is referred to as being evil in a different document.
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On a slightly more positive note, there are people in China who have accepted Buddhism and respect it as an equal. Two documents seem to have a more neutral perspective when it comes to judging Buddhism and its influences among its followers. Document three (doc. 3) written by an anonymous Chinese Confucian Scholar, is not as obvious as the other five documents. It was written in a question and answer format that allows the impressions others may have of the religion to be compared to his responses.
One person asks, “If Buddhism is the greatest and most venerable of ways, why did the great sages of past and Confucius not practice it? In the Confucian Classics no one mentions it,” and his response was “All written works need not necessarily need be the words of Confucius… The records and teachings of the Confucian classics do not contain everything. Even if the Buddha is not mentioned in them, what occasion is there for suspicion? ” Basically the questioner is asking what is so splendid about Buddhism if it not mentioned in the Confucian classics or by Confucius himself.
Now the author is trying to defend Buddhism in a way, even tho he is a Confucius scholar he states that not everything written is by Confucius himself. Just because it is not mentioned, it does not change the importance or significance of Buddhism. In document five (doc. 5) written by Zong Mi- a leading Buddhist scholar, favored by the Tang imperial household- the feeling of respect towards not only Buddha but Confucius and Laozi is obvious in the first sentence, “Confucius, Laozi and the Buddha were perfect sages. Calling them perfect sages shows that he believes they were honorable and genius. The last sentence of this extremely small document is, “… all three teachings lead to the creation of an orderly society and for this they must be observed with respect. ” He clearly states that he RESPECTS the teachings of Confucius, Laozi, and Buddha. He understands that though the differ in various ways, they still believe in good deeds, punishments, and rewards. Ending on a positive note, Buddhism was accepted into China eventually and had many positives. Document one (doc. ) written by Buddha himself- Siddhartha Gautama, a middle aged prince that left his wealthy life behind to live in poverty and find the cure to suffering and desire- lists the four noble truths of the Buddhist tradition.
Of course a document written by Buddha himself would be a positive reflection of Buddhism. This document basically introduces the way Buddhism “works”. The last of the noble truths kind of sums up the purpose of Buddhism with a short sentence, “The Fourth Noble Truth is the Noble truth of the Way that Leads to the Stopping of Sorrow. Essentially, Buddha is telling the public that the way to stop sorrow is to follow him, go by his rules, and you will stop the need to desire and sorrow.
Document 2 (doc. 2) written by Zhi Dun- A Chinese Scholar and confidant of Chinese Aristocrats and high officials- is another document that is a positive reflection of Buddhism and can also appeal to possible Buddhist followers. In this excerpt, Zhi Dun speaks of Nirvana, the extinction of desire and individual consciousness, in a way that it will appeal to potential followers, “He will behold the Buddha and be enlightened in his spirit, and then he will enter Nirvana. Primarily, Nirvana is made to be viewed by Buddhist followers as what Christian believers view heaven. A place where the world is right, and you shall get there by doing good and following your leader, Buddha. In final analysis, Buddhism’s spread through China had contrasting perspectives. Whether they be positive and persuasive such as docs. 1 and 2 or negative and harsh such as docs. 4 and 6. The views altered greatly throughout the years and became more accepted and recognized seen in docs. 3 and 5. Buddhism now has a place in China.