Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

Indian Disciplinary Rules and Their Early Chinese Adepts: A Buddhist Reality

Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

Indian Disciplinary Rules and Their Early Chinese Adepts: A Buddhist Reality

Article excerpt

This study focuses on the various attitudes of Chinese Buddhist masters toward the introduction of Indian disciplinary rules in a Chinese reality, more particularly in the Chinese society of the fifth to the eighth centuries, a period that saw the full development of Chinese monastic discipline (vinaya) and that continues till today to be the basic reference point for this subject. Many influential vinaya masters date from this period, but two stand out prominently. The first is Daoxuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] (596-667), founder of what came to be called the Nanshan luzong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] or "vinaya school of Nanshan." This school promoted the vinaya rules, and in particular the Dharmaguptakavinaya, seen as the tradition on which the first Chinese ordinations were based. As abbot of the Ximing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] monastery near the capital Chang'an, Daoxuan wrote several influential vinaya commentaries, and actively promoted Buddhism at the imperial court. (1) The second notable vinaya master in this period is Yijing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] (635-713), who apart from the many other works he produced, is known as the translator of the Mulasarvastivadavinaya, and as the author of a detailed report on Indian monasteries, the Nanhai jigui neifa zhuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], or "Account of Buddhism Sent from the South Seas," T.2125. (2)

The present article aims at improving our understanding of the position of these vinaya masters toward the practical implementation of vinaya rules into Chinese monastic life. How far can rules attributed to the Buddha, or rules considered to be the core of the ordination transmission, be applied in a pragmatic way? Or, from a different angle, how absolute or fundamental are these rules? In order to throw some light on these questions, we shall start with an overview of the vinaya background of Chinese monasteries and the reactions to it by Daoxuan and Yijing. In the second section of this study, we focus on the crucial term, lue jiao, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] or "abridged teaching," a concept that allows an actualization of many rules. Finally, the different attitudes of the masters toward the implementation of vinaya rules will be discussed. As we shall see, the same masters adopt very different attitudes when confronted with the reality of the Chinese context in which Buddhist monasteries function. A strict interpretation of discipline is not always as strict as first announced. On the other hand, pragmatism clearly has its limits.

1. VINAYA BACKGROUND OF THE CHINESE MONASTERIES

In the first centuries of Chinese Buddhism, monasteries had to function without a Chinese translation of a full vinaya text. This deficiency prompted the monk Faxian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] to undertake in 399 a trip from Chang'an to India. In his travel account he explains that his main purpose was to obtain an original version of the vinaya. (3) When he finally sailed back to China, he had obtained copies of the Mahisasaka- and Mahasamghikavinayas, as well as extracts of the Sarvastivadavinaya. In the meantime, however, other full vinayas had already reached China via the northern land routes, and it is in the north that full vinayas were translated for the first time into Chinese: (4) the Shisong lu[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] (T.1435), Sarvastivadavinaya, translated between 404 and 409 by Punyatrata/Punyatara, (5) Kumarajiva, and Dhramaruci, and revised by Vimalaksa, (6) and a few years later, the Sifen lu[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] (T.1428), Dharmaguptakavinaya, (7) translated by Buddhayasas and Zhu Fonian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] between 410 and 412. A bit later, vinaya translations were produced also in the southern part of China, namely in Jiankang, the capital of the Liu-Song dynasty. There, Buddhabhadra and Faxian translated the Mohesengqi lu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] (T. …

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