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The Impact of Traditional Chinese Culture on Buddhism
编辑:管理员 来源:闽南佛学院 时间:2019/10/25 17:19:28 浏览次数:

  Good morning! Abbot, judges, venerable masters and fellow students.

  Today, I stand here, now, besides being nervous, I also feel very proud, for our motherland has been 70 years old since it was founded. Why? The reason is that though I am a monk, first I am a Chinese, and a Chinese citizen.

  During the period of the last 70 years, China has been stronger and stronger year by year in almost every respect, including, of course, the soft power of culture with Buddhism being its significant part.

  Maybe you would say that Buddhism is a religion from outside of China and not our native culture. Here, I want to tell you, you are definitely wrong. Possibly, at the beginning, it was a totally different culture comparing with ours. As the time went by, it did not disappear and lasted nearly two thousand years. From this we may want to know how it survived, the reasonable answer is its sinicization, that is, it gradually got used to native Chinese cultural elements, like Confucian school, Taoism and so on. An ordinary non-believer may say that he has nothing to do with Buddhism for he is not a Buddhist. Thinking carefully viewpoints like this, you will find it one-sided. How to explain it to you? Perhaps we can make a metaphor: culture and custom are just like water of which every drop is mixed with Buddhism, and we are the fish living within it, so we never deviate from it. Furthermore, we can also illustrate with small instances known by public, such as the words “世界”、“单位”、“涅槃”so on and so forth in Chinese, they all come from the Buddhism and entered into our daily life and are used by you and me.

  So here I want to share something with you about Buddhism which is an integral part of today’s Chinese culture. But the most important thing is that as Buddhists we should conclude the past, see clearly the present actuality and develop it well in future. However, standing at this point of time, we are badly in need of seeing traditional Chinese cultural impact on Buddhism, because it has involved in too many basic aspects, even adjusting the tendency to keep it social function, which directly determines its future.

  At the same time, we cannot bypass the notion of Sinicization, for it determines whether everything generated in or diffused to China in the long river of time can or cannot survive. So what is Sinicization? In brief, it means that an alien needs to adapt the Chinese environment, material or cultural, to weaken the contradictions between itself and the Chinese culture. There is no doubt that Buddhism’s Sinicization is successful all the way with the effort of ancient masters, making it not only keeping its own core connotation of cultivating for liberation, but also being harmony with the side of worldly culture. In other word, to the latter aspect, we should know the embodiments of traditional Chinese cultural impact on Buddhism. It seems to be a big subject, but maybe we can simply observe it from three points, viz. doctrine, the affiliation with society and the special lifestyle of the Buddhist Order.

  First, let’s talk about the impact of the doctrines of Chinese Buddhism. As you know, the stages of Buddhist development in India can generally be divided into four, namely, original Buddhism, sectarian Buddhism, early Mahāyāna Buddhism and later Mahāyāna Buddhism (including Tantric Buddhism), the lineages of Chinese Buddhism mostly belong to Mahāyāna Buddhism, yet the relation between them is not a cloning one, but a continuous and developing one. You know, Mādhyamika and Yogācāra were the two main schools of Mahāyāna Buddhism in India. After it spread to China, however, it still hold the core teaching of emptiness—the doctrine of conditioned arising, but customarily, we call it tathāgatagarbha which emphasizes the possibility of gaining enlightenment and becoming a Buddha and is interpreted as that every sentient has the nature, virtues and wisdom of Buddha, and just because it is covered by the dust of delusion, so the way of cultivating is sweeping the dust while going along the boddhisattva’s path. While in ancient Chinese philosophy, of which one of the mainstream form is Confucianism, philosophers stress the theory that man is an integral part of nature and benevolent by nature. In addition, the Taoist school, another tradition of ancient Chinese philosophy, hold the notion of Dao “道”, “the way”, which means to let things take their own course. If analyzing them, we will find out some consubstantiality amongst them. None other than this consubstantiality made a bridge between the two different cultures, thus formed Tiantai, Chan, Huayan and Pure land schools. The Chan School even developed into five branches.

  Second, I would like say a few words on the relationship between Buddhism and society. Opening the ancient texts, it is not difficult to see the word shaman, of course containing Buddhists, was projected to keeping away from worldly society, instead of seeking to stay solitude. In fact, this original characteristic is still held by monks of the southern tradition in Southeast Asian countries. Nevertheless, under the impact of native Chinese culture, Buddhists in China became more and ore positive, accepting the idea as their basic cultivating guideline or direction that achieving the goal to become a Buddha a boddhisattva must be with sentient beings in this secular world, just like that lotus followers grow out in the mud. So temples will undertake the mission to teach public and purify soul, caring such sufferings of sentient beings as sickness and collecting social scattered resources to solve problems. In other words, Buddhists are not recluses of forests who just consider their own extrication. In a word, everywhere is ashram.

  Let’s turn to the special lifestyle of the Buddhist order. Buddhists live on the alms offered by lay people, however, there is no wont base among public of giving foods or something else to stylites, so Buddhists in ancient China must cultivate prallel with agricultural production, like the Chan monks did. Nowadays they feed off the giving of lay Buddhists and get rewards by doing Buddhist ceremonies including funeral service.

  Secondly, the design of the temple is entirely in accordance with Chinese culture, so is the pagoda. Taking the structure of the Nanputuo temple as example, when you entering it, you find it consists of three courtyards leaning close to the Wulao peak and almost each building mixes masonry structure with timberwork with full of patterns of Chinese elements on windows and doors. These you would never see in Indian Buddhist temples, past or present.

  Thirdly, the robes worn by Chinese monks in daily life are in fact kept in the form of Hanfu and become the iconic garments of Chinese Han Buddhism.

  Fourthly, the way of cultivating has changed a lot, even drinking tea or calligraphy is thought to reflect the inner of stylite. Moreover, the notions of new approaches seem to be emerging constantly.

  In short, from every detail, Chinese Han Buddhism has been reshaped by Chinese local culture,making the former a part and embodiment of traditional Chinese culture. As monks in the new era, what we have to maintain is the essence of Chinese Han Buddhism culture, and to further adapt to the changing social culture so as to make Buddhism live for a long time and benefit all living beings.

  That’s all. Thank you for listening.


 
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