Journal of the International
Association of Buddhist Studies
Volume 29 Number 1 2006 (2008)
Between translation and interpretation - Cases in the
Chinese Tripitaka - (Presidential address at the XIVth
Conference of the International Association of Buddhist
Studies, London, August 29 - September 3, 2005). . . . . . . . . . . . .. 3
. Crossing thousands of Li of waves: The return of China's
lost Tiantai texts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 21
William CHU
Syncretism reconsidered: The Four Eminent Monks and
their syncretistic styles. . . . . . . . . . . . . ... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 43
The Mongolian Big Dipper Siitra. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 87
Fasting Buddhas, Lalitavistara, and KarUlJiipu1Jljanka . . . . . . .. 125
The Bhikkhunf-ordination controversy in Thailand. . . . . . . . . . .. 155
Notes on the contributors. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 185
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Association of Buddhist Studies, Inc.
Joint Editors
CHEN Jinhua
Cox Collet
JAINI Padmanabh S.
LOPEZ, Jr. Donald S.
MAcDoNALD Alexander
SHARF Robert
Print: Ferdinand Berger & Sohne GesmbH, A-3580 Hom
(Presidential address at the XIVth Conference of the International Association
of Buddhist Studies, London, August 29 - September 3, 2005)
My colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honour and pleasure for me to deliver an address here in
my capacity as the president of the lABS.
At the same time, however, I am afraid that my address is unwor-
thy of the title given here, as I could not prepare sufficient materials
in advance. I gave here the title "Between Translation and Interpreta-
tion" aiming to clarify the characteristics of the Chinese translations
of Buddhist texts as far as known to me in the course of my research
on them. My choice of this title was rather tentatively made. When
requested from the IABS office to present this address, I was en-
gaged in translating the Bussho-ron (Fo-hsing-Iun 1 ~ t H A 1 l *Buddha-
dhiitu-sastra) into Japanese. (To this 'Japanese translation,' I will
refer later.) As I had trouble understanding the text when its Sanskrit
counterparts couldn't be found, I felt it necessary to find rules for
translating Indian texts into Chinese. In any case I immediately an-
nounced the address title in reply to the office without due considera-
tion and preparation. So the materials I'm going to use are limited to
the Fo-hsing-Iun and some other texts translated by Paramartha.
Before entering the main subject, I would like to refer to the two
groups of scholars who are currently doing research on the Sanskrit
and Indian Buddhist manuscripts newly discovered in Central Asia
(Afghanistan) and in Tibet, respectively.
The first group consists of those scholars who are working on the
Buddhist manuscripts in the so-called Sch0yen Collection. The col-
lection contains about 10,000 Buddhist manuscripts, mostly discov-
Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies
Volume 29' Number 1 • 2006 (2008) pp. 3-20
ered at the Bamiyan caves in Afghanistan. They were sent to London
via Pakistan and appeared on the antiquities market in 1996. This
information soon reached scholars at the lABS conference held in
Leiden, after most of the manuscripts had been purchased by the
wealthy Norwegian collector Mr. Martin Schl2lyen. Prof. Kazunobu
Matsuda, together with Prof. Jens Braarvig, University of Oslo,
asked for Mr. Schl2lyen's permission to do research on the collec-
tion's manuscripts, finally receiving his permission and starting the
work in November 1997 with a project group of scholars including
Prof. Matsuda, lead by Prof. Braarvig.
So far the group has published two large volumes as the result of
their research, with the title: BUDDHIST MANUSCRlPTS IN THE
SCH0YEN COLLECTION I (Oslo, 2000), & IT (2002).
Prof. Matsuda has told me that the third volume will appear soon and
that as the number of manuscripts studied so far is only ten percent
of the collection, the group members will be able to enjoy the con-
tinued research for ten more years.
There is no need to explain the significance of the collection,
which contains materials of the Sectarian Buddhism as well as Ma-
hayana scripts. I greatly admire the efforts of the group and expect
further fruitful research results for Buddhist studies internationally.
The second group of scholars I wish to refer to here is affiliated to
the Institute for Comprehensive Studies of Buddhism at Taisho Uni-
versity, Tokyo. They have conducted research for more than a dec-
ade on the Buddhist manuscripts preserved by several organizations
in the People's Republic of China, the first result of their work hav-
ing been published in 1994 as the "Facsimile Edition of the Srtivaka-
bhami Sanskrit Palm-leaf Manuscript."
In the ensuing years, the group, lead by Prof. Y. Matsunami, fur-
ther approached the Chinese government, including the Administra-
tive Department of the Potala Palace, requesting permission to allow
them access to the Buddhist Sanskrit manuscripts kept there. They
finally received permission in 1997. After two years of research in
other palaces in Lhasa, they were allowed to enter the Potala Palace,
which is said to hold about one hundred bundles of manuscripts of
Buddhist Sanskrit scriptures.
·On July 30,.1999, Prof. Hisao Takahashi, a member of the group,
came across a manuscript on which he foUnd the title lfiiiniilokii-
larrtkiira. As it intrigued him, he took a closer look at the bundle and
found that it contained complete versions of the Vimalakfrtinirdesa
(VKN) and the lfiiiniilokiilarrtkiira (JAA), both very important Maha-
yana scriptures. He told his colleagues that his finding was made
purely by chance, but Prof. Matsunami called it 'serendipity', using
the word coined by Horace Walpole.
They decided to work first on these two scriptures, completing the
transliteration of the texts into Roman script and preparing the fol-
lowing volumes:
VIMALAKiRTINIRDESA, Transliterated Sanskrit Text Collated with Tibetan and
Chinese Translations
. JNANALOKALA¥KARA, Transliterated Sanskrit Text Collated with Tibetan and
Chinese Translations and with an Introduction to VKN and JAA
Both were edited by the group mentioned above and published
together as a set by the Taisho University Press, Tokyo, in 2004.
The significance of thisfmding is somehow different, I think,
from the Buddhist manuscripts from the Bamiyan caves. In the case
of the Bamiyan manuscripts, they were excavated from the ruins of
Buddhist temples where monks once lived and perhaps recited and
wrote scriptures. That is to say, the excavated manuscripts are s i m ~
ply the scriptures that were used there on a daily basis. By contrast,
in the Tibetan case, the manuscripts found by the TaishO group had
been stored in a temple as sacred treasures, probably worshiped
daily, but not recited at all. Rather they were kept in secret, no one
being allowed to see them. (Their existence had been revealed to
foreigners who had visited Lhasa earlier, such as Rev. E. Kawagu-
chi, but the Dalai Lama never gave permission for them to be seen.
Remember that this time permission was given by an administrative
authority, not by the Dalai Lama!)
But why were these manuscripts stored secretly? They are no
doubt the scriptures (siitras, vinayas, and siistras) that were used as
the so.urce texts for the Tibetan translations. After the translations
were completed, the Sanskrit manuscripts became of no use and
were kept in a storehouse. In their place, the scriptuTes that had been
translated into Tibetan must have been used to recite, read and inter-
pret the Buddhist doctrines. We can expect many more manuscripts
to be 'found' in Tibetan monasteries, considering great numbers of
scriptures contained in the Tibetan Tripi!aka!
How, then, was the case in China, where another big collection of
Buddhist scriptures exists, namely the Chinese Tripitaka, the Bud-
dhist Tripi!aka in Chinese translation. So far we haven't· heard that
Sanskrit manuscripts have been found anywhere in China. This may
be another problem to be dealt with in relation to our main subject.
The Dharma should be taught in a vernacular language
Asking disciples to propagate his dhamma, the Buddha told them:
may it be that the dhamma be taught in the vernacular language of
the respective land.
Following this principle, disciples scattered allover India to teach
the dhamma. One of these groups settled perhaps in the Magadha
area, later collecting their dhamma as taught in the Magadhyan ver-
nacular, Pali or the Holy Words, and still later (?) writing it down.
Thus was the genesis of the PaIi Tipitaka. And once its authority was
established, this Tipi!aka remained basically unchanged, spreading
allover India along with the order, which regarded this Tipi!aka as
sacred. Finally, it spread via Sri Lanka or SiIphala outside of India,
reaching the Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Cambodia,
.. Burma and others, where it is still used today. Here it should be
noted that in these countries the PaIi Tipi!aka is used untranslated,
being only transcribed into the respective script.
Other groups moved towards north-western India, e.g., the Gan-
dhara area, establishing orders there and compiling their sacred texts
in Gandhari However, they later changed their principles and
changed their sacred language to Sanskrit, retaining certain vernacu-
lar elements peculiar to Buddhism. We now call this Buddhist Hy-
brid Sanskrit. It was used by the orders of the Sectarian Buddhism
and also by a new group who called themselves Mahayana.
The groups in north-western India also spread their power outside
of India, but the transmitted scriptures remained the same since the
areas being reached could be termed a part of the Indian cultural
sphere, where Indian languages, primarily Sanskrit, were commonly
used or at least culturally understood. Bamiyan is located within this
area. The common language of Buddhist texts gradually changed to
Sanskrit, in accordance with the so-called Sanskritization of Indian
society after the unification of India by the Gupta Dynasty.
For the further propagation of Buddhism beyond the Indian cuF
tural sphere, however, the scriptures had to be translated into the lan-
guages of respective areas. This corresponded well to the principle
laid down by the Buddha. There may be cases of their translation
into languages of Western countries in the ancient period, but as far
as we know, the only important case in ancient days (apart from the
later Tibetan translation) was the advance of Buddhism into the Chi-
nese cultural sphere. This was accompanied by the translation of the
scriptures into Chinese, beginning in the first century A.D., five hun-
dred years after Buddha's Mahaparinirvfu.1a.
Now I should return to today's main theme, the problems of the Chi-
nese translation.
Characteristics of the Chinese letters or characters
First of all, we must recognize that the Chinese language is an iso-
lating language, that is to say, it has no inflections as in the Indo-
European languages nor does it have postpositions as in Tibetan and
Japanese. Moreover, Chinese characters are usually classified as
ideograms or ideographs, resulting in each character having a
meaning independent of its pronunciation. In other words, a change
of pronunciation does not affect its meaning. These characteristics
caused various problems in the translation of Buddhist texts.
Translation of the Buddhist concepts and idioms
To begin with, I will offer the term triratna, i.e., Buddha, Dharma,
and Sangha, as an example (see Table no. 1).
term 'buddha' was quite a new concept for the Chinese. They
provisionally accepted it with transliterations, such as Juto (ju-t'u
1*-111) butsuda (fo-t'o or butsu (fo 1iJt), finally settling on the
latter, butsu (fo 1iJt), for buddha, just as the Sanskrit word buddha is
commonly used in modem Western languages. The Chinese grasped
the term's meaning quite well and translated it with kakusha (chueh-
che or chiao-che "the awakened one." Interesting is the Chi-
nese character they selected. The character butsu (fo) consists of two
parts, nin (jen), a sign for a human being, and pu (fu), a sign of nega-
tion (5i). The original meaning was a human being wh<;>se appear-
ance or features are vague or unclear. It was applied to the Buddha,
probably because he is a human being, but, at the same time in a
common sense, is not. The wit and originality of the Chinese as
shown here is particularly appealing.
The term butsu (fo) came to be well adapted in the Chinese con-
text, and is widely used not only for denoting the Buddha himself,
but also as an adjective for things and concepts concerning Bud-
dhism, just like the Western term 'Buddhist' (e.g., bukkyo (fo-chiao,
1iJtf&) for 'Buddhist teaching' (*buddha-Siisanii, dharma).
The second term, 'dharma,' was translated with ho (fa rt), except
when used as a part of proper names, e.g., Bodhidharma (:g::J'fil:J¥m).
The Chinese gave the Sanskrit word dharma an exactly identified
meaning, namely "a principle rule to be followed." Once established,
they applied the same term ho (fa) to various other cases, in spite of
the difference of meaning (e.g., buppo, ftt-fa 1iJtrt for buddha-
dharma, "Buddha's teaching"; shohomuga, chu-Ja-wu-wo
for "all phenomena are without a self'). This introduced another
problem for understanding Buddhism in its Chinese translation.
The third term, 'sangha,' was first transliterated, like buddha, by
two characters, so (seng 1Wi!!) and ga (chia 1fJO), both newly created
characters for transliterating Sanskrit words. The term's meaning
was interpreted as a group of people (shu, chung assembled with
the purpose of attending the Buddha's teaching, but in the end the
Chinese settled on another way of transliterating sangha, namely by
abridging it to the first character so (seng 1Wi!!). Although it started as
a collective noun, soon it came to mean the individual monks who
belong to the sangha, except when indicating the third part of the
triratna .
. Next I will refer to some idiomatic expressions or stock phrases
used in the Buddhist scriptures. As one example, let me examine the
beginning portion of the Saddharmapw}¢arfka (see Table no. 2).
eva'!1 maya srutam / ekasmin samaye bhagavan Rajagrhe viharati sma
Grdhraka{e parvate mahata sardhaJ?1. dvadasabhir
sataiJ:t sarvaiJ:t -. (Saddharmapw}rj.arfka)
CPo =f}..
For the first sentence, Kumarajlva shows the commonly accepted
formulation, which follows the Sanskrit wording (ju shih for evam,
wo for maya, and wen for srutam), while Dharmapala omits the term
for maya. This omission is said to be true to the Buddhist doctrine of
anatman, no-self. However, if a word denoting the first person were
put at the beginning, DharmapaIa's translation would show the nat-
ural style of a Chinese sentence. It is said that Kumarajlva finally
fixed the present wording.
As for the second long sentence, both translations are quite literal,
showing a correct meaning in accordance with the originaL
The point of the sentence is found in the phrase 'yo dai-bi-ku-shu
gu (yu ta-pi-ch'iu chung chu,' in Dharmapala's
translation, which is equivalent to the Sanskrit 'mahata
ghena sardham.' (The character chu iJ!. is, together with the charac-
ter yu functioning in the instrumental case, equivalent to the San-
skrit sardham in the sense of 'together with' or 'accompanied by.')
In the Sanskrit original, following the phrase mentioned above are
terms that explain the number and qualifications of the monks who
are part of the sangha. These terms are all in the instrumental case
ending. Dharmapala's translation follows the meaning of the terms
faithfully, but does not show the case. Thus it would be possible to
read this portion as a separate sentence, with bi ku sen ni hyaku (pi-
ch'iu tsien er po .l::tli"f = as the subject, although an inconspi-
cuous one.
Kumarajlva, however, through his own ingenuity, rearranges the
first group of terms explaining the number of (which he
carelessly miscounts) within the phrase. Ending the sentence after
the phrase, he starts a new sentence explaining the qualifications of
the with the heading kai ze (chieh shih, 'all of them are'
Ci-ts'i --so in Dhamiapiila's tr.). This expression was quite com-
fortable and understandable for the Chinese, and after Kumarajlva,
this stock phrase became established by Buddhist translators.
Additional interpretation and insertion of commentary words -
Cases in Paramartha's translation
When any language tries to accept a foreign language in translation,
it may need certain explanations in addition to the direct, literal
translation. In Chinese Buddhist translations, too, we observe many
cases of explanations that were provided especially for Chinese
readers. Particular to Paramartha's translation are his insertions of
sentences explaining his own doctrinal interpretation as well as
quotations from other texts to support this interpretation.
Tripi!akacarya Paramartha, Chen-ti (Shindai in Chinese
translation, was a Yogacara-vijfianavadin active in the fifth to sixth
century AD who contributed to the transmission of many texts of the
Yogacara school, including the Mahiiyiinasaligraha of Asanga and
In his translation of Vasubandhu's (Shih-chin/Seshin -tJttll.) com-
mentary on the Mahiiyiinasaligraha, it is well known that at some
places he added interpretations that are not found in other transla-
tions such as that of Hstian tsang. I myself have established that these
inserted sentences are basically identical with sentences found in the
Ratnagotravibhiiga, an important basic text for understanding the
Tathagatagarbha doctrine. I thus realized that Paramartha was a Ta-
thagatagarbhavadin who wished to combine the Tathagatagarbha-
vada with the Vijfianavada. I will quote here one or two examples of
his interpretation.
1. About 'aniidikiiliko dhatu!]' (see Table no. 3)
This famous verse of the so-called Abhidharma-Mahayana-Satra, of
which the Sanskrit original is attested in the Ratnagotravibhaga
(RGV) and Sthiramati' s commentary on the Vijfiaptimatrata- TriY[L-
sika, is quoted in the Mahiiyanasangraha (MS) as the proof for the
existence of alaya-vijfiana, which is the basis for objects to be
known (ouchi-eji/ying chih i chih It is indicated here in
terms of 'aniidikaliko dhiituJ:t' (the basis without beginning). While
the RGV quotes it as the proof for the 'tathiigatagarbha' serving as
the basis, Paramartha adopted the interpretation of the MS,
developing his unique doctrine of the adhiinavijfiana.
Now the first question is how to read the sentence kai i-ge wi-sho
(chieh i-chieh wei-hsing This sentence, stating that A i
B wei C, is to be read: A with B constitutes its C, i.e., A's C is B.
Thus C, the nature (hsing) of A, 'dhiitu' (kai, chieh JY.), is B, 'ge'
(chieh (understanding, interpretation). Thus traditionally this
nature was called 'understanding nature' (ge-sho/chieh-hsing
but its actual meaning is quite uncertain. According to other transla-
tions of equivalent passages as well as in Paramartha's second inter-
pretation, the term 'dhatu' is explained as 'hetu' (cause) (see Table
no. 3,1). I wish to suggest the following manner to read the sentence
in question: '" dhatu' should be understood as nature (svabhava
(hsing/sho 'ri) (the nature of the Buddha, as well as of sarvasat-
tvas)." (It is equivalent to the first meaning, 't'i-lui' (fti[) , of the
five meanings next listed by Paramartha.)
Another point that I wish to mention here is his clear and literal
translation appearing in the quotation of a passage from the Srfmala-
sutra (no. 3 in Table no. 3). The quotation is used as proof for the
phrase 'sarvadharma-samasrayaJ:t.' In comparison to the RGV trans-
lation, one sees that Paramartha's translation is far more under-
standable and doctrinally correct (especially noteworthy is the
translation of the term 'amuktajfia' or 'amuktajfiana' as an adjective
of asaY[Lskrta-dharma; a comparison with the translation of the Srf-
mala-sutra is also worthwhile).
According to Paramartha's translation, the meaning of this pas-
sage can be understood as follows:
As is said in the scripture:
o Lord, this nature of consciousness (shiki-kai is the basis (nisraya
{;fx:), the support (adhara f¥), and the standing place Yl:s'z:) for
those qualities of Buddha (dharma that are always connected with
(it) (samhaddha t§E!\\), inseparable from (it) (avinirhhiiga 7Ft§l!lfE), not
rejected wisdom of the. asalJ'lskrta
character and greater in number than the grains of sand in the Ganga. 0
Lord, also for those dharmas of the salJ'lskrta character which are not
connected, separated, or rejected wisdom is it the basis, the support, and the
standing place. Thus the verse says, 'support of all the dharmas.'
(The Chinese translation is problematic in that it doesn't show the
case relations. 'For' is emended above. To do this, we must base
ourselves on the Sanskrit.)
2. What is the Buddha nature (buddha-dhiitu)?
In connection with Paramartha's deep knowledge of the RGV, I will
refer next to the Fo-hsing-Iun (Bussho-ron) (FHL) , another work
that he translated.
The text is an explanation of the buddha-dhatu, otherwise called
tathagatagarbha. It consists of four parts, but the main section, the
Nidana-parivarta or Introduction, the third portion of the third part,
which discusses the nature (svabhava) of the tathagatagarbha, and
the entire fourth part, on the ten characteristics of the tathagatagar-
bha, are all based on the RGV. The introduction is equivalent to the
RGV's desana-prayojana-parivarta, the section on the purpose of
the teaching, and the RGV's verse 1,27 and its commentary are used
to explain the nature of the tathagatagarbha in terms of dhannakaya,
tathata, and tathagatadhatu. The fourth part, on the characteristics of
the tathagatagarbha, is based entirely on the first chapter of the
RGV into which passages from other chapters of the RGV have been
inserted. The only differences are occasional references to the Vi-
jfianavada (esp. of asrayapariv[tti, the change of the basis). The pur-
pose of the FHL's composition may have been to insert these refer-
ences after a rearrangement of the RGV.
. Now I will consider a few passages that show signs of being com-
mentary by the translator and some sentences that were inserted to
explain certain technical terms for the Chinese readers (see Table no.
1. The first example is in a passage in the first chapter of the fourth
part, which teaches the nature of tathiigatagarbha. The introductory
phrase 'shaku-yetsu (shih-yueh *' B)' marks the beginning of a com-
mentary passage, but there is no sign showing how long the passage
continues. From the context, I have judged it to be a maximum of six
lines (796c, 9-14). Whether the character 'ko (ku belongs to the
commentary is uncertain. It is possible. that it should be considered
part of the original source, indicating the ablative case ending of· a
Sanskrit word in the original. It is also possible to regard the whole
paragraph, including the quotation from the Anfinatviipiir,!atvanir-
deia, as being a commentary. If this were the case, the passage
would show a closer affinity to the passage I discuss below. In any
case, the commentator, probably Paramartha himself, was well
versed in the RGY.
2. The second example shows a sample of a definition of a term. The
term in question, 'nyun-katsu (jun-hua is the translation of
the single Sanskrit word snigdha, meaning wet or moist. But the
definition explains the two characters individually. Cases of a single
concept being translated with two characters of similar meaning are
often observed. One reason is that the Chinese are fond of con-
structing words with two characters, so that the phrases and sen-
tences are rhythmical. In any case, according to the interpolated
definition, 'jun' denotes the meaning of commitment or penetration,
while 'hua' means averting fault and asking for virtue.
3. The third example is again a definition of a technical term. The
term 'nyonyo (juju is Paramartha's unique translation of the
Sanskrit word tathatii, which is usually translated as 'shin-nyo (chen-
ju j'j;.ftO).' The latter translation is also used by Paramartha. The def-
inition explains that worldly 'suchness' or truth (su-ju {1tftO) is noth-
ing but true 'suchness' (chen-ju j'j;.ftO) and vice versa, because the
two kinds of 'suchness' are not different. If this definition were
reall:y written by hili, it would be very important. But the content is
doubtful. The parallel use of the characters 'chen ( ~ ) ' and 'su (f1:t)'
reminds us of the paramiirtha-satya and the sarrwrti-satya, and their
advayatii may be all right. But to apply them to each character is
rather nonsensical.
4. To conclude, I will consider two cases where the Fo-hsing-lun
(FHL) utilizes verses from the ROV (see Table no. 5). The Fo-hsing-
lun is mainly written in prose, and its verses are mostly quotations
whose sources are clearly mentioned in most cases. Among the
verses I found two cases that are similar to verses in the ROV. In the
first case the verse is said to be from the Ge-setsu-kyo (Chieh-chieh-
ching i91fi11P*&) , and in the second case there is no mention of the
a. The first case is a commentary verse in the ROV preceding the
passage on the unchangeable character of the tathiigatagarbha or
tathiigatadhiitu, the verse being a summary (pilJt!iirtha) of the fol-
lowing explanation. The position of the verse in the FHL parallels
this exactly. While the title of the Sutra said to be the source is the
same as that of the basic Sutra of the Vijfianavada (Sandhinirmo-
cana) , neither this verse nor the name of the attending Bodhisattva
(Kai-chi, Hai-chih $ ~ can be identified with Sagaramati) can be
found there.
b. The second case is also parallel in the two texts. Both passages
refer to the four kinds of people who cannot understand the real na-
ture of the tathiigatagarbha, this nature being shown in the verses.
The verses in the ROV are based on the Srfmiilii-sfitra, as shown in
the quotation that follows. In contrast, the FHL summarises the con-
tent of the verses in prose, probably by consulting the ROV as well
as the quotation from the Srfmiilii-siltra. In this doctrine, the concept
tathiigatagarbha or tathiigatadhiitu is always identified with the
tathatii. Here, its nature is defined as being empty (silnya) of pollu-
tions and non-empty (asilnya) of Buddhas' qualities, as shown in the
first example of the Mahiiyiinasangraha.
Here too, the Chinese of Paramartha's translation is far more
comprehensible than the translation of the RGY. But why is the.
source not mentioned in the FHL? Was it a direct borrowing of the
oiiginal text, or was it perhaps the work of the translator? We cannot
deny the possibility of the latter. It is even not impossible to imagine
that Paramartha himself was the real author or composer of the FHL
and that it had no original source from which it was translated.
The Chinese Tripitaka, i.e., the Buddhist scriptures translated into
Chinese, together with commentaries on them and independent texts
written by the Chinese, spread gradually all over the Chinese cultural
sphere of East Asia, including Korea, Japan and Vietnam, lands
where Chinese characters and its writing system were officially
used. Until today, there has been no attempt in these areas to
translate the Chinese Tripi!aka into the vernacular languages. Rather
the attempt was made to write articles and books in Chinese. The
situation has not yet changed.
For example, in Japan Buddhism was first introduced via Korea
early in the sixth century AD and then directly from China during
the Sui and the T'ang Dynasties. After the invention of Japanese let-
ters based upon Chinese characters in the early ninth century, the
Japanese started to interpret Chinese texts using Japanese, inventing
a way of reading and writing sentences that combines Japanese let-
ters with Chinese characters. (Japanese letters or syllabary are called
'ka-na' 'provisional letters,' in contrast to Chinese characters,
which are 'ma-na' 'original, true letters.') This method is
applied when reading Chinese texts as well. It is a unique way of
translating, called yomikudashi in Japanese. It is practised even to-
And even today the Japanese write their Japanese sentences with a
mixture of Chinese characters and Japanese kana syllabaries. Chi-
nese characters are sometimes read with the Chinese pronunciation
(but in a Japanese manner) (on if), and sometimes according to their
meaning with the Japanese pronunciation (kun It is quite easy to
catch the meaning of Chinese ideograms.
Now my lecture has returned to. the subject that introduced it.
Pleas·e let me close my lecture here. Thank you for your attention.
Table No. 1: triratna (ratna-traya) =.
Buddha {till
Table No.2: Stock phrases at the beginning of siitras (example from
the SaddharmapU1:ujarfka)
evarrz mayii srutam I ekasmin samaye bhagaviin Rajagrhe viharati sma, Grdhra-
kute parvate mahatii siirdharrz dviidasabhir sar-
vair arhadbhi/:l ni/:lkle§air vaSfbhiitai/:l suvimuktacittai/:l suvimukta-
prajfiair ajfiiineyair mahiiniigaih, krtakrtyai/:l krtakarGlJlyair apahrtabhiirair
anupriiptasvakiirthai/:l samyag-iijfiii-suvimuktacit-
tai/:l sarvacetovasitiiparamapiiramitiipriiptair abhijfiiiniibhijfiiitair mahiiiriiva-
kai/:l II
(tr. by Kumarajlva)

(tr.by Dhannapala)
J;tli=f=so -iW1!¥,
0 13i:EJt
Table No.3: A Comparative table of Paramartha's translation of the
Mahiiyiinasmigraha on the verse of the Abhidharmamahiiyiinasu-
tra, 'aniidikiiliko dhiitu!:t' and the commentary on it, and a parallel
passage in the Ratnagotravibhiiga
(P) 156c-157a
(RGV) pp. 72. 13-73. 8
aniidikiiliko dhiitu/:l sarvadharmasam-
iisraya(l I

1. 't':L .
... ...
2. 0

... J;1:;.fi:, 7k

3. 0 r ;I'lk {t(,
;I'lk$o :>F:fll/!JjE:>F:Jti

0 r ilt., IE:>F
'Iff, mfjg'lff J 0
0 r ilt.,

tasmin sati gatiJ:z sarvii nirviilJiidhiga-
mo 'pi call
2. (after 1) dhiitur iti I yad iiha I
yo 'yam bhagaval]1s, tathiigatagarbho
lokottaragarbhaJ:z pralqtiparilLfddha-
garbha iti I
1. tatra katham aniidikiilikaJ:z
yat tathiigatagarbham eviidhikrtya
bhagavatii piirvakopr na prajiiii-
iti desital]1 prajiiaptam I
3. sarvadharmasamiiSraya iti I yad
iiha I tasmiid, bhagaval]1s, tathiigata-
garbho nisraya iidhiiraJ:z
sal]1baddhiiniim avinirbhiigiiniim amu-
ktajiiiiniiniim asal]1skrtiiniil]1 dharmii-
IJlim I asambaddhiiniim api, bhagavan,
vinirbhiiga(dharmiilJiim) muktajiilinli-
niil]1 sal]1skrtlinlil]1 dharmiilJiim; nisra-
ya iidhiiraJ:z tathiigatagarbha
iti I
4. tasmin sati gatiJ:z sarveti I yad iiha I
sati, bhagaval]1s, tathiigatagarbhe,
sal]1sara iti parikalpitam asya vaea-
nam iti
5. nirviilJiidhigamo 'pi eeti I yad iiha I
tathiigatagarbhas eet, bhagavan, na
sylit, na syiid duhkhe 'pi nirviilJeeehii
priirthanii pralJidhir veti vistaraJ:z II
(Pao-hsing-Iun, p. 839a-b) PHL

2. 130
1. m i3 "tiJ l'", 0

13 13" 89:0
3. l'"o i3 0
/FlilfL /Flilt
!§\" /FIWi< /Fnlt,
<iff1'ri!tIT, nlt, 5'1-, IilfL lilt!§\" <iff1]\;, <iff:f,f, <iff{:±:f,f, <iffJl
.sL, 1]\;:frD "/iy:o
4. l'",
5. l'", i3 0
1'r 1:.%0
l'", 89:0

Table No.4: A comparative table of the Fo-hsing-Iun (FHL) and the
Ratnagotravibhiiga (RGV /PHL)
1. An example of the basic textual construction
J:j=l 13 H:t§J',,*-1llk,
)$:3;00 13+t§l'"o
- 13 H:t§o =l2SIt§o ..
- 13 H:t§l'", 1'r =flo -l'"JJlJt§o =l'"@
i3 .'.


dasavidhiirtha: v.29. (p.26)
svabhiiva, heftt, etc.
(1) svabhiiva: v.30ab, 31.
svalakljalJa: prabhiiva, ananya-
thiibhiiva, snigdhabhiiva, ... cintii-
ananyathiibhiiva: Prthagjaniirya-
sambuddhatathatiivyatirekatab /
(v.45ab) (6) vrtti
taddoljagulJaniljthiisu vyiipi sii-
miinyalakljalJam / (v.50ab) (8)

41r, f;iJ
1i!\J 41r, &P1f "-'MAo f J
. 41r,
J1:t&P8±llIlkfLxo wlllllk"-'OjI3\


JiI J1:t

(p. 41; 14)
(of iikiisa, exact source unknown,
textual position unfixed)
*Q. from the Am7natviipLlrl}atva-
tasmiic chiiriputra niinyaf:t sattva-
dhiitur niinyo dharmakiiyaf:t / ...
advayam etad arthena / vyaiijana-
miitrabheda iti / (p. 41,15-17) (cf.
p. 41, 18-19)
Vtzo 9='

PHL 832b for RGV, (8) sarvatraga

Notzo *9J!. , -to


o%flJ 5i, 0
o%fU5i, J1:t=

2 & 3. Examples of interpolated explanations of technical tenus
2. FHL 797a, 11.12-15
fil'41ytJ 41r, fytJ for Skt
Vtz07.kW, $11=9130 (=)i!l1t/FiiIJE snigdha(tii)
$:0 913110 JiI¥t$:, /Fiit 81t41r

3. FHL 805c, 11.23-24
rtwtwJ 1!f,

for Skt
Table No.5: A Comparative table ofRGV verses in FHL and PHL
a. RGV, v. 1,51: ayarrz ca te!fiirrz pj,:uf-iirtho veditavyaJ:t I
dO!fiigantukatiiyogiid gU1)apralqtiyogataJ:t I
yathii piirvarrz tathii pa!ciid avikiiritvadharmatii II 51
FHL806c PHL832b


b. RGV, v. I, 154-5:

tatra katamaJ:t sa tathiigatagarbhasiinyatiirthanaya ucyate I
niipaneyam ataJ:t kirrzcid upaneyarrz na kirrzcana I
dra!ftavyarrz bhiitato bhiitarrz bhiitadarsfvimucyate 11154
siinya iigantukair dhiituJ:t savinirbhiigalak!fa1)aiJ:t I
aSiinyo 'nuttarair dharmair avinirbhiigalak!fa1)aiJ:t II 155
FHL 812b
a 0

a 0

i3 .
** i3
In 953, the ruler of the small independent kingdom of Wuyue wrote
a letter requesting the return of a collection of Chinese Buddhist
texts that had been lost in China but were rumored to exist abroad.
The ruler was particularly interested in texts from the Tiantai tradi-
tion which had been destroyed during the wars and rebellions that
precipitated the fall of the Tang dynasty a century earlier. The letter
was delivered to the captain of a merchant ship who was scheduled
to set sail that year on a trading mission overseas. This captain was
to serve as the ruler's envoy conveying the letter and hundreds of
gifts to foreign leaders in an attempt to regain the lost texts.
When the ship returned in the fall of that same year, the Chinese
crew counted a foreign monk among their ranks. After arriving in
the port city of Mingzhou ~ J H i ' I (present Ningbo $rEl), the monk,
along with the hand-copied manuscripts in his charge, was escorted
to the capital of Wuyue where he was honored by the court and cele-
brated throughout the kingdom. Like the reintroduction of Aristotle's
work to Europe from the Middle East in the twelfth century, the
reintroduction of these core doctrinal texts reinvigorated a flagging
philosophical tradition. The second half of the tenth century wit-
nessed a surge of economic development and intellectual output cen-
tered on Mount Tiantai and radiating outward through the kingdom
of Wuyue. These developments culminated a generation later with
the great Tiantai exegetes of the early eleventh century.
• This essay has benefited from the comments of Bernard Faure, Carl Bielefeldt, Fabri-
zio Pregadio, Raoul Birnbaum, Yang Zhaohua, and an anonymous reader. I gratefully ack-
nowledge their help.
Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies
Volume 29' Number 1 • 2006 (2008) pp. 21-62
The story surrounding the return of the lost Tiantai texts is intrigu-
ing not just as a turning point in the history of Chinese Buddhism,
but also because it is set against the broader backdrop of cultural
exchange in East Asia. The conditions necessary for the successful
completion of such an exchange were exceedingly complex. The
diffusion of Tiantai texts was carried out in large part through
international pilgrimage which played a critical role in both the
spread of the Tiantai tradition and the re-invigoration of that tradi-
tion within China. Furthermore, in addition to the diplomatic
relationships that existed· between the courts of China,. Korea, and
Japan, this series of events also necessitated a high level of coopera-
tion between monks of various religious affiliations, indeed various
kingdoms, as well as close ties between the clergy and the court. It
was this international, eclectic culture of Wuyue that created the
conditions necessary for the re-vitalization of Chinese Tiantai.
While all of these factors suggest a tightly interwoven set of
relationships both in China and abroad, this storyjs complicated by
yet another factor: there are two opposing historical accounts which
describe the return of the lost Tiantai texts to China. The first and
most widely accepted of these holds that the texts were sought and
returned from the Korean kingdom of Koryo, with the monk Cheg-
wan ~ * U (dates unknown) acting as emissary. The second narrative
claims that the Tiantai texts were purchased from Japan and subse-
quently delivered to the kingdom of Wuyue. Recent scholarship in
the United States and, to a lesser extent, China and Japan has
recapitulated the Korean narrative while dismissing or ignoring the
Japanese account. I am by no means the first to take note of the dis-
crepancies in the source materials however. Both Japanese and Chi-
nese scholars have discussed various aspects of these events and my
own work is greatly indebted to their careful studies.
This paper
builds on the insights of a number of these scholars and offers a re-
1 In particular, see Kimiya Yasuhiko for a detailed account of cultural exchange be-
tween Wuyue and Japan during the Five Dynasties. On China's efforts to retrieve texts
from overseas see Wang Yong (1996). See Shen Haibo for an argument against a Korean
provenance for the Tiantai texts. For an excellent review of the primary materials and a
slightly different reading than that provided by Shen, see Zhang Fenglei.
view of the various sources pertaining to these events with the hope
of· shedding more light on this critical period in Chinese Buddhist
The case for Koryo
The Comprehensive History account
Chegwan's biography in the Comprehensive History of the Buddhas
and Patriarchs (Fozu tongji hereafter Comprehensive His-
tory) is the locus classicus for the story of the reintroduction of the
lost Tiantai texts to China from the Korean kingdom of Koryo. It
Dharma Master Chegwan was from Koryo. Early on, the king of Wuyue was
reading the Yongjia Collection [Yongjiaji He could not understand
the phrase "[The stage of Buddhahood according to the Tripitaka Teaching]
is the same [as the Complete Teaching] in removing the four levels of
attachment," so he asked National Teacher [De]Shao who said, "This is
about doctrine. You can ask Xiji from Tiantai." The king summoned him
immediately. [Xiji] responded by saymg, "This phrase is from Zhizhe's The
Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra [Miaofa lianhuajing xuanyi
(The Profound Meaning had been scattered and lost and was no
longer extant. Having never examined it, how could he know this? It must
have been that Master [Xi]ji had once seen an incomplete manuscript). Since
the end of the Tang, the [Tiantai] texts have been scattered abroad. None of
them are available now." Thereupon the king ofWuyue sent an envoy with a
·letter and fifty kinds of treasure to Koryo to seek the scriptures.
The king of Koryo ordered Chegwan to go and present the teachings [to the
court of Wuyue]. But [the king] prohibited the transmission of the Commen-
tary on the Great Peifection of Wisdom Silstra (Zhilun shu Com-
mentary on the Benevolent King Sutra (Renwang shu f=x:iEJ1t), Essential Con-
tents of the Huayan Sutra (Huayan gumu §), Five Hundred Gates
(Wubai men ), and others. Furthermore, he ordered Chegwan to
search for a teacher in China and to ask him difficult questions. If the teacher
could not answer them, [Chegwan] would have to return home without
transmitting the scriptures. When Master Chegwan arrived in China he heard
that Luoxi [Xiji] was a skilled teacher and went to see him immediately. At
first glance he was deeply impressed and revered him as his master.
[Chegwan] had already written the Outline of the Fourfold Teachings [Sijiao
yi and had hidden it in a chest. Nobody knew of it. Master Chegwan
stayed with Luoxi for ten years. One day he passed ,away in a sitting posi-
tion. Later, people saw a light coming out of the chest and upon opening it
only saw this book, nothing else. Since then, it has been widely circulated
among various countries and has the reputation of being an important aid for
instructing beginners.
Chegwan's biography succinctly recounts a series of events leading
to the return of the lost Tiantai texts and subsequent production of an
important textual synopsis of Tiantai doctrine, the Outline of the
Fouifold Teachings.
Since it was first published some eight hundred
years ago, this biography has been central to understanding the
changes that were taking place in China and abroad during the tenth
century. And yet, a close examination of this brief passage reveals a
number of historical contradictions. As I will try to show, portions of
this narrative appear to be willful fabrications. In what follows I
would like to reconsider the people and places mentioned in Cheg-
wan's biography in an attempt to separate historical fact from
Qian Chu (r. 947-978)
Aside from Chegwan himself, the first person to appear in the
biography is the king of Wuyue Qian Chu was the last of
five rulers to reign over the kingdom of Wuyue. The small kingdom
was established by Qian Chu's grandfather Qian Liu (r.907-
932) in 907, after the collapse of the Tang dynasty (618:....907). With
the dissolution of the Tang, China was divided into a number of
small sovereign states, collectively known as the Five Dynasties and
2 Taisho shinsha daizokyo, volume 49, number 2035, page 206, lines a18-28; hereafter
titles from this work are abbreviated as follows: T49n2035:206a18-28; My translation
here is modified from David Chappell, pp. 28-29. Here and in other translations through-
out this paper my own additions are placed within brackets while commentaries found
within the passage itself are placed within parentheses.
3 The background of the Outline of the Fouifold Teachings is discussed in Chapell's
introduction to his translation and in John Jorgensen's unpublished conference paper, "The
'History' of the T'ien-t'ai ssu-chiao i."
Ten Kingdoms. Although small in size, Wuyue was one of the most
stable and wealthy of all the kingdoms of the Tang-Song inter-
The Qian family, who controlled Wuyue for eighty-five
years, was a' .great patron of local religious traditions. This was
especially true of Qian Chu who developed close relationships with
several Buddhist and Daoist clerics. The combination of economic
affluence and political support made Wuyue an attractive destination
for Buddhist monks throughout China.
Yet, as dramatized in Cheg-
wan's biography, the inability of the king and two leading monks to
interpret a passage in Yongjia Collection, an important text that drew
on a wide range of Buddhist thought, suggests that the once flourish-
ing Buddhist tradition had been severely damaged during the fall of
the Tang dynasty and the tide of violence that followed in its wake.
How exactly the Tiantai tradition was affected during this period
is difficult to determine. According to some accounts, the majority of
Tiantai texts were destroyed during the An Lushan rebellions
(755-63) and, to a greater extent, the Huichang persecutions
(845-46), but this may be only partially true. Guoqing Temple
the headquarters of the Tiantai tradition, was destroyed during
the Huichang era and then rebuilt in 851. Just one year later, when
the Japanese monk Enchin (815-891) was on pilgrimage in the
Tiantai mountains, the monastic establishment was fully functioning.
Enchin's catalogue of texts acquired in China, the Catalogue of the
4 Wuyue consisted of thirteen prefectures and eighty-six sub-prefectures. At its height,
its territory corresponded to present Zhejiang as well as Jiangsu south of the mouth of the
Yangzi and east of Lake Tai, and the northeast quadrant of Fujian, including Fuzhou (ap-
pended in 947). Wuyue's population totaled approximately 550,700 households, many of
whom lived in active commercial centers and major seaports. See Edmund Worthy, p. 19.
5 Historically the Jiangnan region (comprised of southern Jiangsu, Anhui, and northern
Zhejiang), had long been a stronghold of Buddhist culture in China. During the early
Tang, before the An Lushan rebellion, more monks and nuns lived in this area than any
other. During the later Tang, while the population of monastics in every other region of
China was reduced to nearly half of their prior numbers, in Jiangnan alone their numbers
continued to increase. See Li Yinghui.
6 The Yongjia Collection was written by Xuan Jue :tJl; (665-713) who, legend has it,
briefly studied with Huineng the sixth patriarch of the Chan tradition. For his
biographies see T50n2060:758a-b and T48n2014:397a.
Japanese Monk Enchin's Journey to the Tang in Search of the
Dharma (Nihon bikuEnchin nitta guM mokuroku f3
fl makes it clear that at the time of his visit there was still a
substantial library of Tiantai texts housed at both Guoqing and
Chanlin Temples f-,-*#, two of the largest monasteries on Mount
Tiantai at the time.
Local histories record further military activity
on that mountain in 859 which coincides with the peasant rebellion
of Qiu Fu in Zhejiang.
Qiu Fu's uprising was quelled in 860
but was soon followed by the rebellion of Huang Chao :;: '*
(874-884). The Huang Chao rebellion also resulted in heavy political
and cultural losses throughout China and particularly in eastern Zhe-
jiang which was directly attacked by rebel forces. It is likely that
Tiantai's libraries were destroyed during these uprisings.
Tiantai Deshao :Rii1!$ (891-972)
While the precise details regarding the loss of Tiantai texts during
the late Tang remain unclear, historical sources agree that by the
reign of Qian Chu the textual tradition of Tiantai had been virtually
7 T55n2172:1097b6-1101c26.
8 Tiantai xianzhi bianzuan weiyuanhui, p. 3. On Qiu Fu's rebellion, see Somers, pp.
9 The loss of Tiantai texts was just one aspect of the destruction of literary collections
during this period. The scholastic Huayan tradition also suffered a serious blow from
which they would not fully recover until key texts were returned from Korea by Uich'on
late in the eleventh century. Other texts were also returned to China from the Korean
kingdom of Koryo during the Five Dynasties period. According to the 110'h fasic1e of the
Jiu Wudai shi, "Zhou shu: Gongdi ji )1!iJ ii : $**2": In the eighth month of the sixth year
of Xiande reign of the Later Zhou (959), "The kingdom of Koryo sent a tribute of the texts
Biexu xiaojing Yuewang xiaojing xinyi Huangling xiaojing
and Xiaojing citu (See Qing Xitai, p. 414).While in the north the Later
Zhou kingdom was replenishing their depleted stock of texts, Wuyue in the south was also
trying to restore its once celebrated collection of Daoist texts housed at Tongbai Abbey on
Mount Tiantai. This was accomplished through the support of Qian Chu for the efforts of
the Daoist master Zhu Xiaowai *.:71-. In 952, Qian Chu is said to have donated 200 cases
of books and supported the construction of a new hall to house them (See "Chongjian
daozangjingji" in Tiantai shan zhi kiJ'i1J0; CT 603, pp. 14335-14344).
Yet in spite of the poor state of Tiantai' s libraries during
the first half of the tenth century, the monastic institution was on the
rise. This was due in part to the activities of another figure in Cheg-
biography, National Teacher Deshao.
Tiantai Deshao was born and raised in Wuyue. He became a monk
in his thirties and studied with various teachers until fmally complet-
ing his training under Fayan Wenyi ¥:t;HJt3tiiit (885-958). He later
settled on Mount Tiantai and attracted the attention of Qian Chu,
who was then the governor of the region. Deshao is said to have im-
pressed Qian Chu by predicting his eventual enthronement.
the event came to pass and Qian Chu was installed as the king of
Wuyue, Deshao was subsequently appointed National Teacher. Al-
though Deshao is typically described as the second patriarch of the
Payan house of Chan (the flfth and fmal of the s.o-called Five Chan
Houses), he spent much of his life restoring the Buddhist institution
of Mount Tiantai. He is credited with establishing more than a dozen
temples on Tiantai and serving as the abbot of Guoqing Temple.
During his .lifetime Deshao was said to have been the reincarnation
of the founder of the Tiantai tradition, (538-597), because
they shared the same surname (Chen il*) and both developed Mount
Tiantai through imperial support. Furthermore, his position as the
personal teacher to Qian Chu made him the most influential cleric in
the kingdom. In Chegwan's biography, Deshao is the first person
Qian Chu turns to with questions on Buddhist doctrine. Deshao's
own biography, published in the Jingde Era Record of the Transmis-
sion of the Lamp (Jingde chuandeng lu hereafter Trans-
mission of the Lamp) about thirty years after his death, also recounts
the story of Deshao' s role in the revitalization of Tiantai:
In the first year of the Qianyou era of the [Later] Han [948], the ruler
inherited the throne. He dispatched an envoy to greet Deshao and expressed
10 In addition to the community based at Mount Tiantai, there were also substantial
Tiantai communities in Chang'an and on Mount Wutai but there is no evidence that the
texts existed in either the north or the south of China. See Linda Penkower, p. 320.
11 Song gaoseng zhuan *iiifi\1fi T50n2061:789a
12 Ibid., See also Ding Tiankui, p. 254.
his desire to become Deshao's disciple. [At that time] the transmitter of
Zhizhe's teaching, Xiji, repeatedly spoke with the Master saying, "Zhizhe's
teachings have gradually been scattered and lost. The !dngdom of Silla still
has the original texts. If not through the power of your compassion, then
how will we be able retrieve them?" The Master thereupon spoke with
Zhongyi [Qian Chu] and the ruler dispatched an envoy to retrieve the texts.
He departed for that kingdom and returned after copying a sufficient number
of the texts. They have prevailed in the world up until the present.
Luoxi Xiji (919-987)
According to Deshao's biography in the Transmission of the Lamp,
he intervened on the behalf of a monk named Xiji to encourage Qian
Chu to seek the lost texts overseas. This is similar to the passage in
Chegwan's biography which notes that when Deshao was unable to
answer Qian Chu' s question he recommended that the ruler speak
with Xiji, who had a greater knowledge of Tiantai doctrine.
succeeded Deshao as abbot of Guoqing Temple and is convention-
ally identified as the fifteenth patriarch of the Tiantai school. Yet,
according to the accounts quoted above, in his early years he could
do no more than identify the origin of the passage, explaining to
Qian Chu that the texts themselves had been lost.
The state of Tiantai would have been well-known to Xiji. Accord-
ing to his own biography in the Song Biographies of Eminent Monks
(Song gaoseng zhuan hereafter Song Biographies) Xiji had
grown up in the town of Y ongjia, near the southern coast of present
Zhejiang province. He was first instructed in the Lotus Satra after
becoming a monk at an early age. Following his reception of the
complete precepts, he traveled north to Kuaiji ltii' (present Shao-
xing to study the Nanshan Vinaya. Xiji next went south to
13 T51n2076:407c4-9. Another biography of Deshao is found in Hui Hong's
(1071-1128) Chanlin sengbao zhuan tljLj;H!!lW{\!j: (Dainippon zoku zokyo, volume 79,
number 1560, pages 505b22-506a22; hereafter titles from this work are abbreviated as
follows: X79 n1560:505b22-506a22) reproduces the Transmission of the Lamp version.
14 In Chegwan's biography however, it is stated that the lost texts could be found in
Koryo, while the above biography of Deshao erroneously places them in Silla, which had
surrendered to Koryo in 935.
Mount Tiantai in order to study calming and contemplation medita-
tion (zhiguan ll:::D). At Tiantai, Xiji discovered that while Tiantai
meditation was still being practiced, Tiantai's doctrinal texts were no
longer extant. IS He thereupon resolved to collect the foundational
works and re-establish the textual tradition for which Tiantai had
once been famed. To this end, he set out for the ancient library at
Jinhua (also located in present Zhejiang) but even there he
could find no more than a single commentary to the Vimalakfrti
Wuyue and Koryo
It was after this failed attempt that Xiji indirectly urged Qian Chu to
seek the lost texts overseas. According to Chegwan's biography,
Qian Chu sent a letter and various gifts to the kingdom of Koryo in
an attempt to procure the lost texts. This was not the first diplomatic
exchange between the two kingdoms. During the Five Dynasties and
Ten Kingdoms, Wuyue had official relations with the leaders of sev-
eral kingdoms in what is now Korea. Even before the fall of the
Tang dynasty, the soon to be founding patriarch of Wuyue, Qian Liu,
had bestowed titles on Kyon Hwon ¥mw, the militarist who ruled the
state of Later Paekche (892-935) on the southwestern tip of the Ko-
rean peninsula. As early as 900, Kyon sent an envoy to Wuyue and
Qian Liu responded by promoting him to the titular rank of Honor-
. 15 The Comprehensive History also notes that from the Huichang persecution to the time
of Xiji and the return of the lost texts from overseas, Tiantai masters only taught calming
and contemplation (zhiguan) and not doctrine (T49n2035:l89c24-l90a3). One of Xiji's
contemporaries, his nephew in the dharma Wuen (912-986), was also initially fru-
strated in his attempts to study Tiantai doctrine. His biography reads, "After the Huichang
persecution, the doctrinal writings of the Tiantai school were fragmented. The texts that
had discussed the marvelous [teachings] had fallen into obscurity. [For this reason], Wuen
delved into the doctrine of the 'ten subtleties,' (shimiao +t£rJ» and researched the essence
of the 'five levels' (wuzhong ji.lll.:)." Yet later in life Wuen was noted for his frequent
lectures on key Tiantai texts (T50n2061:752a23-29).
16 T50n206l:752b4-l4. Xiji originally settled along Luoxi stream at Mount Tiantai and
is thus also referred to as Luoxi Xiji (also occasionally written as Yiji I have fre-
quently and gratefully made use of John Kieschnick's unpublished translation of the Song
Biographies, though all errors are my own.
ary Grand Protector. In 918, Kyon presented horses to Wuyue and
Qiari Liu conferred another promotionY Sometime after 921, when
Qian Liu declared himself the "King of Wuyue,",he sent envoys to
the kings of Silla and Parhae (Bohai) to initiate tributary relation-
ships.IS Prior to this there had been a long history of cultural ex-
change between the two regions and this was especially true in the
case of Buddhism. Both before and during the tenth century several
Korean monks traveled to Wuyue to study with various Chinese
masters, resulting in the gradual transmission of Buddhist traditions
from China back to Korea. 19
While some aspects of this transmission are well understood, the
transmission of Chinese Tiantai texts to Korea and the early stages of
Tiantai in Korea (Kor. Ch'ont'ae) remain unclear. Briefly recounted,
monks of Korean origin studied what would later come to be called
the Tiantai tradition from its very inception with Huisi . , ~
(515-577) and his disciple Zhiyi. The first of these was the Korean
monk Hyon'gwang :!Z."Jt (dates unknown) who traveled to China in
the sixth century, eventually meeting Huisi on Mount Heng 1lrUJ.
After some time studying under Huisi's guidance, Hyon'gwang is
said to have returned to his native country and subsequently attracted
numerous disciples. Although Hyon'gwang returned to Korea,
unlike many Korean monks who remained in China, his reputation
continued to linger. When a hall was built for the patriarchs of
Nanyue (Mount Heng), Hyon'gwang's portrait was hung among
twenty-seven others. Also, in the early Song dynasty another portrait
was placed in the Ancestor's Hall at Guoqing Temple. It may be for
these reasons that Hyon'gwang is sometimes credited with establish-
17 Worthy, p. 34.
18 Ouyang Xiu, p. 568.
19 An overview of Chinese-Korean Buddhist relations can be found in Chen Jingfu
(1994). For a convenient listing of international exchanges between China, Korea, and
Japan see Taigai kankeishi s6g6nempy6 henshu iinkai.
20 Various sources give Paekche or Silla as his kingdom of origin. His biography is
found in the Song Biographies T5On2061:820c-821a. For more on Hyon'gwang see Jona-
than Best, pp. 139-197.
ing a nascent form of the Tiantai in Korea even though he never
studied with Zhiyi.2l
. Hyon'gwang was followed by a mollk from Koguryo (37
BCE - 668 CE), P'ayak iSZ;g: (562-613), who did study under Zhiyi
on Mount Tiantai. His biography relates that at Zhiyi's behest,
P'ayak practiced austerities for sixteen years on Mount Tiantai.
P'ayak never returned to Korea, having died at Guoqing Temple at
the age of fifty.22 Since most of the texts which formed the founda-
tion of the early Tiantai school were edited by Zhiyi's disciple Guan-
ding (561-632) in the years after Zhiyi's death, it would have
been impossible for either Hyon'gwang or P'ayak to have conveyed
any of these works to Korea at this early date.
The beginning of the Tang dynasty marked a shift of imperial fo- .
cus away from the Tiantai tradition, which had been so favored by
the preceding Sui dynasty (581-618). As a result, little is known
about the century that preceded the life of Zhanran (711-782),
the great systematizer of Zhiyi's legacy, and his master Xuanlang 3K
AA (673-754). According to the Orthodox Lineage of the Buddhist
Tradition (Shimen zhengtong hereafter Orthodox Lineage)
and the Comprehensive History, three Korean monks studied under
Zhanran: Pomyling lung and Sunyong Aside from
these rather late records, written nearly four hundred years after their
deaths, nothing more is known about these men. Although they are
often credited with the transmission of Tiantai to Korea, there is no
discernable Tiantai movement in Korea that can be traced back to
this period.
According to the Samguk yusa = a history of the Three
Kingdoms written by the Korean monk lryon (1206-89) in the
thirteenth century, collections of Buddhist texts were brought to Ko-
rea first in 565, later in 851, and again 929.24 One can only speculate
21 See for example He Jinsong and Chih-wah Chan (2005).
22 For P'ayak's biography see Xu gaoseng zhuan T50n2060:570c-571a.
23 See Fozu tongji T49n2035:188b and 444c. See also Young-ja Lee, pp. 121-177.
24 Samguk yusa T49n2039:994b17. See also Lewis Lancaster, p. 173.
about the contents of these texts since neither the collections
selves nor their catalogues are extant. The first transmission in 565
would have occurred before the Tiantai texts had been written and
the last in 929 would have been after the Chinese editions had been
lost. The 851 transmission is of particular interest because the Ko-
rean monk Poyo -'W-lIi (dates unknown) is specifically said to have
retrieved the texts from the kingdom of Wuyue during a period in
which it is fairly certain that the texts were still in circulation. This is
the strongest evidence of a transmission of Tiantai texts to Korea
before the tenth century but it is not without problems. In the same
passage that mentions Poyo's role in bringing the Buddhist canon to
Korea, it is noted that another Korean monk, Uich'on
(1055-1101),discussed below, was responsible for introducing the
Tiantai teachings to Korea. Furthermore, the first section of the pre-
sent Korean canon (Kl-1087) reproduces the Kaibao canon that was
transmitted to Koryo in 991.
Even though this project was initiated
after the lost texts had been returned to China, the works of Zhiyi
and Zhanran had not yet been canonized and were not included.
There is also no reason to believe that Tiantai was popular with
the community of Korean emigre monks in China. Ennin IE f=
(794-864), the Japanese Tendai monk who had traveled to China in
order to visit Mount Tiantai and study with prominent Chinese Tian-
tai masters, was waylaid for some time at Pophwa Temple (Fahua
yuan at Mount Chi 7ffi f.lj, Shandong province, where a large
community of Korean monks was living. Ennin notes in his
mid-ninth century travel diary that there were twenty-nine resident
monks and up to 250 laypeople present at Lotus Sutra lectures. Be-
.cause of the community of Korean monks and laypeople it served,
the temple was also known as the Silla Fahua Temple. The name of
the temple, coupled with the large Lotus Sutra lecture assemblies that
were held there suggest that it was a possible center for the propaga-
tion of Tiantai doctrine. Yet Ennin does not engage in any study at
Fahua Temple. In fact, it is clear from his diary that he is anxious to
25 The Kaibao zang 00 }!fit engraved under imperial supervision between 971 and 983
in 130,000 blocks, was the first printing of the entire Buddhist canon.
leave and as soon as he obtains permission to travel he sets out for
Mount Wutai in search of the Tiantai teachings. If Koryo had by this
time developed a Ch'ont'ae tradition, it was not reflected in re-
sources at Shaildong's Fahua Temple.
Of course, the fact that there is no evidence for a large scale trans-
mission or study of Tiantai texts by Koreans does not mean that
these texts and teachings had not found their way north to the Ko-
rean peninsula, but it does make it more difficult to corroborate this
portion of Chegwan's biography. Chegwan's role as not only the
transmitter of texts but also as the personal instructor to the leaders
of the Tiantai community implies a developed Ch' ont' ae tradition in
Korea. And yet, if such a tradition did exist its imprint on the histori-
cal record has been remarkably faint.
It is clear that the kingdom of Koryo was at the very least cogni-
zant of the Chinese Tiantai tradition. The Comprehensive History
contains a brief record of a monk from the Tiantai area who engaged
in missionary activities: "Dharma master Zilin -=f M was from
Sirning. During the second year of the Qingtai era (936), he traveled
to Koryo, Paekche, and Japan to spread the teachings of Zhizhe
[ZhiyiJ. Koryo dispatched Yi Inil $1= S to accompany him on his
return journey west. [QianJ Liu, the king of Wuyue, built a temple in
the capital for [ZilinJ and his disciples."27 Unfortunately, nothing
else in known about this monk.
Zilin's visit to Koryo took place in the same year that the kingdom
of Silla surrendered thereby uniting all three Korean kingdoms under
Koryo's rule. Around this same time the first king of Koryo, T'aejo
*t£l. (r. 918-943), was advised to adopt the Tiantai tradition in an at-
tempt to establish unity among Citizens of the previous three king-
When our king, T'aejo, established the state of Koryo, Haenggul, Pokchon,
and Nunggung submitted a memorial, saying: [We] heard that in the Tang
empire the profound teaching of unifying the three vehicles into one vehicle,
26 See Chen Jingfu (1994) pp. 105-9 and Edwin Reischauer, pp. 282-3.
27 T49n2035:246b.
the Lotus SCUra, and the meditation teaching of three contemplations of one
riIind advocated by Zhizhe of the Tiantai tradition were taught. These teach-
ings coincide with your majesty's achievement of ul}ifying the three king-
doms into one country. The situation of the country is in harmony with those
teachings. If we adopt those teachings, then the coming generations of the
royal family will prosper. The duration of our country will be prolonged and
the imperial authority will not be terminated. The country will always be
Zilin's proselytizing may have provoked a new interest in Chinese
Tiantai. It is also possible that an existing Ch'ont'ae group had found
support with these ministers. The impetus and outcome of this move-
ment remain obscure in part because the king did not heed his minis-
ters' advice and Ch'ont'ae was not recognized by the state for
centuries to come. The dubious honor of state-sponsored ideology
went instead to Fayan Chan, known in Koryo as Pobon Son. This
paralleled developments in China where Chan masters were closely
aligned with political leaders, and particularly in Wuyue, where De-
shao and his students were becoming the most influential monks in
the kingdom.
Fayan Chan and Koryo
The relations between leading Wuyue monks and Koryo monks shed
new light not only on the cultural exchange between the two king-
doms, but also on the influence of Fayan and his disciples in both
kingdoms. The Fayan school was popular among the rulers of Wu-
yue in part because of its syncretic approach to the Buddhist teach-
ings. In a time when China was bitterly divided, Fayan Wenyi
preached harmony between the various Buddhist factions of his time,
particularly the mutual importance of Chan and doctrinal traditions,
much like Zhiyi had done centuries earlier. The political applications
of such a syncretic approach may also be responsible for the new
Pbban school's quick rise to prominence in Koryo during the reign
of Kwangjong 7\:;* (r. 949-975), who was ruling over a country that
had been unified for less than fifteen years.
28 See Kim Chang Seck (1978) p. 21, translated in Chih-wah Chan (2005) p. 238, n. 30.
.Fayan Wenyi had dozens of disciples. Among them was a Korean
monk named Hyeko ftm (dates unknown).29 According to his short
biography in the Transmission of the Lamp, word of Hyeko' s accom-
plishments in China reached K wangjong, the fourth king of Koryo,
who sent envoys to invite him to return home.
In Koryo, Hyeko
was elevated to the position of National Teacher and subsequently
set up a center for the propagation of Fayan's teaching at Yongguk
Temple located on Mount Tobong **. By 971, Hyeko's
temple was one of only three imperially recognized "Immovable
Monasteries" (Pudong in all of Koryo, making the
Pobanschool one of the most powerful of its day.3! Hyeko's disciple,
ChiSgyon Yongjun (930-1018), also traveled to China to
study within the Fayan lineage. By the time he arrived, sometime
before 972, Fayan had already passed away and Deshao was in the
final years of his life. ChOgyon became the disciple of Y ongming
Yanshou 7kfj,FJJJf8 (904-975), the most prominent of Deshao's stu-
After his return to Koryo in 972, ChOgyon was appointed
abbot of Pongnim Temple ti;j;t=ij: and went on to develop close rela-
tions with the royal family during the reigns of Hyonjong iJX;* (r.
975-981) and Songjong mi* (r. 981-997). ChOgyon was not the
only Korean Poban monk to study with Yanshou. One of Yanshou's
earliest biographies states:
[Yanshou's] teachings were spread outside the country. When the king of
Korea read the teachings expressed through the Master's words, he dis-
patched an envoy bearing a letter in which [the king] humbly assumed [the
position] of the Master's disciple, and presented [Yanshou] with such gifts
29 T51n2076:414b. Another monk from Koryo said to have studied under Fayan was
Ryongkam (dates unknown) T51n2076:420a. Biographies for both these monks are
extremely brief and provide little historical information.
30 According to Kim Tu-chin, Hyeko returned to Korea no later than 968. My analysis
of the development of the Korean Poban school is based in part on Kim's study and I am
indebted to Se-Woong Koo for his help in reading the original Korean.
31 The other two were Hiiiyang Temple and Kodal Temple (Ibid. 31). All
three monasteries were affiliated with the Son tradition.
32 At least one other Korean studied under another of Deshao' s disciple. The Korean
Chinkwan Sokch'o Ji::ilH'I'tl. is said to have received transmission from Longce Xiaorong
Ibid. 32.
as a robe woven of gold thread, numerous [rosary] beads made of purple
crystal, and a gold pot for washing. [The Master] personally received
thirty-six monks from the king's country [i.e., and [provided them
with] stamped documentation [verifying their realization]. Each and every
one of them returned to their country of origin to spread [the Master's teach-
ings] in their areas.
It is likely that the Koryo monk Chijong (930-1018) was one of
the thirty-six who were dispatched by Kwangjong to study with Yan-
shou in 959. Although he is primarily honored as one of the founding
monks of the P6ban school, after two years with Yanshou, Chijong
went on to study under Xiji from whom he received instruction in
the Great Calming and Contemplation (here given as Da dinghui lun
probably a variant title for the Mohe zhiguan) and other
Tiantai teachings. By 968 he had sufficiently mastered the material
to the extent that he was asked by Zanning to lecture at Xiji' stemple,
Chuanjiao on the Great Calming and Contemplation and the
Lotus Satra. He returned to Koryo in 970 after eleven years of study
and was received by Kwangjong. Chijong was thereafter supported
by successive kings and appointed to various official positions. After
his death in 1018, he was posthumously awarded the title of National
Teacher. 34
Chijong's study with Xiji would have preceded and then coincided
with Chegwan's activity. Yet from his biography it appears that the
Tiantai teachings were not well known to Chijong previous to his
trip to China. It was only after his tenure with Xiji that he was able
to sufficiently master the Tiantai teachings. This may simply be due
to his lack of earlier exposure or interest. More troubling is the fact
that he received doctrinal instruction from Xiji before the arrival of
Chegwan, suggesting that the Tiantai texts were already present in
China at that time.
33 T50n2061:887a-b; translated by Albert Welter, p. 197.
34 "Zengshi Yuankong guoshi shengmiao zhi ta beiming bingxu"
in Chosen sotokufu lji;Ijffif,f,%t'%f (ed.) Chosen kinseki saran
For a study of the biographical material on Chijong and a reproduction of the inscription,
see Chen Jingfu (1998). Some information is also reproduced in Kim Tu-chin, p. 29, and
UIt'ong (927-988)
While the Payan-Koryo connection is easily traced, the history of
early Ch'ont'ae monks in Korea is more difficult to ascertain. How-
ever, the activities of several other Korean monks associated with
Chinese Tiantai are well documented. Among these was the monk
Uit'ong, one of the most prominent Tiantai masters after Zhahran.
Vit' ong was of royal Koryo birth and traveled to China sometime

\ ,

, \
, \
, \
, \
, \
I \
I \
I \
, I
I \
-----'--...... ', \',----'----......
Figure 1: Relational chart of Chinese and Korean monks (Korean monks indicated in bold)
35 Materials pertaining to Uit'ong's life are collected in Siming zunzhe jiao xing lu II9I¥l
T46n1937:856-933. A second version of his biography is found in the Com-
prehensive History T49n2035:191b.
between 936 and 944, initially studying with Tiantai Deshao.
later also studied the Tiantai teachings with Xiji. After completing
his studies of Tiantai doctrine, Uit'ong set out to return to Koryo
with the intention of transmitting the Tiantai tradition to, in his
words, "all those who have never heard about it.,,37 But along the
way he was waylaidby Qian Chu's son and convinced to remain in
China. One of the ruling family's residences in Mingzhou, later
named Chuanjiao Temple (Temple for Transmitting the
Teachings) after his teacher Xiji's temple at Mount Tiantai, was do-
nated to him and thus became his center for the propagation of
Tiantai. By the time of his death in 988, Uit'ong had produced two
of the most influential Tiantai monks of the Northern Song: Zhili
jjll (960-1028), traditionally recognized as the seventeenth patriarch
of the tradition, and his equally prominent contemporary Zunshi Jt:J:t
While there is much that is remarkable about Uit'ong's life, here I
would only like to draw attention to the fact that he, like Chijong
before him, initially came to China to study Fayan Chan and was
only later introduced to Xiji and the Tiantai teachings. The fact that
Uit' ong wanted to bring those teachings back to his native country
implies that they were not yet widely known or well established in
Korea. It was the Chan school that dominated the religious culture of
Koryo during the tenth century, eclipsing attempts to establish the
Tiantai teachings. Yet Chegwan's biography suggests, if not an
established tradition of Tiantai learning, at least a substantial collec-
tion of texts, but the existence of such a collection cannot be verified.
As we have seen, there are some suggestions that Chinese Tiantai
may have been introduced to Korea in the eighth or ninth century,
but the first real evidence for an established Ch'ont'ae tradition does
not surface until the end of the eleventh century through the life and
work ofUich'on.
36 The Comprehensive History places these dates later, between 947 and 960.
37 "Wu yu yi ci dao zhu wei wen" (T46nI937:930a6).
38 On Zhili see Chi-wah Chan (1999) and Brook Ziporyn. On Zunshi see Daniel Steven-
tJich'on (1055-1101)
'The prominent position of the Poban school of Son in Koryo, which
drew heavily on Huayan metaphysics, was partly responsible for the
rising interest in Huayan (Kor. Hwaom) studies in the eleventh cen-
tury. Uich'on, the fourth son of the Koryo king Munjong X* (r.
1046-1083), traveled to China in 1085 with the intention of deepen-
kg his understanding of Huayan, but once in China also became
mterested in the doctrinal traditions of Tiantai.
He began collecting
texts from both traditions and by 1090 had assembled nearly 5000
scrolls. Later he used travelers and monks to gather another 1740
scrolls. In China Uich'on was based out of the capital of Wuyue,
Hangzhou, at Huiyin Temple a monastery known for its
lIuayan learning. Not only is Uich'on honored, along with his
teacher Jingyuan (l011-1088), with the revival of the Huayan
tradition in China, but he is also recognized as the first patriarch of
Korean Ch'ont'ae.
The wooden blocks used to print the texts that
Uich'on sent from China to Korea were later destroyed in a fire and
all that remains today is his catalogue, the Sinp 'yon chejong kyojang
ch'ongnok This catalogue contains a substan-
tial number of Tiantai commentarial texts. Indeed, the very text
whose loss was said to have spurred the effort to retrieve the entire
collection, Zhiyi's Miaoxuan (or Fahua xuanyi was
among the texts brought to Korea by Uich'on. Perhaps these texts
already existed in Koryo and Uich'on was simply gathering other
editions, but this is the first concrete evidence of the existence of
39 biography is recorded in the "Epitaph of National Teacher Taegak: of
Yongt'ong-sa," the "Epitaph of National Teacher Taegak, the Founder of Korean
Ch'ont'ae School of Sonbong-sa," and in the record on the memorial stone at
Hilng-wang-sa (see Lee Yong-ja, p. 143). For a study of Uich-on's activities in China see
Huang Chi-chiang, pp. 242-276.
40 After his return to Korea Uich'on sent large quantities of texts to Jingyuan thus
reviving the textual study of Huayan during the Song. For Huiyin Temple see Wei Daoru,
pp. 222-230 and Bao Zhicheng. For a thorough treatment of Uich-on's life and work see
Chen Jingfu (1994) pp. 400-649.
41 T55n2184. See also Lancaster, pp. 173-199.
Tiantai texts in Koryo. Furthermore, in the Song Biographies several
of the texts that Xiji was known to have lectured on are noted:
Xiji lectured on the Scripture of the Lotus of the Law (Fahuajing to-
gether with the Profound Doctrine (Xuanyi more than twenty times. He
also spoke several times each on scriptures such as the [Golden] Light ([lin]
guangming the VimOalaklrti (Jingming and Brahma's Net
(Fanwang J-t*Jl'J); treatises such as the Calming and Contemplation (Zhiguan
JJ:iJ[) and the Golden Pin (Jingang bei works on
such as the Dharma Realm and the Return to the Source (Huan-
yuan guan as well as the Explanations on the Origins of Chan
(Chanyuan quan and the Yongjia Collection (Yongjiaji His
compositions included abridgements of [Zhanran's] Examples of the Doc-
trine of Calming and Contemplation (Zhiguan yili and the Unique
Doctrine of the Ten Marvelous Gates of the Lotus (Fahua shimiao buer men
in several fascicles.
From this list it is evident that later in his life Xiji had access to sev-
eral texts that were unavailable to him in his earlier years. Many of
the commentaries mentioned here were sought out and brought back
to Korea by Uich'on, raising the suspicion that they had not yet been
introduced to that country.43 Another text that was brought back to
Korea from China and is found in Uich'on's catalogue is a commen-
tary to the Renwang jingo This was one of the texts that, according to
the Comprehensive History, was forbidden to Chegwan to transmit to
China. Vich'on's notes next to his entry for this text in his catalogue
read: "At Tiantai, they say this text came from Japan. Awaiting fur-
ther investigation.,,44
42 T50n2061:752c.
43 These are, with their corresponding notices in Uich-i5n's catalogue: Fajie guan
(1166bI4), Huanyuan guan (1l66c07), fingang bei (1168b12), Shimiao buer men
(1168c22), and the Zhiguan yili (1177c27).
44 T55n2184:1170b22. The record of Zhili provides some details regarding the difficulty
in acquiring this text: "Early in the Song the Tiantai teachings were gradually brought to
Wuyne by sea. These included the three great works that are transmitted today. The copy
of the commentary to the Renwang jing that was brought was not the real text. First there
were two volumes but everyone rejected them as fakes. Earlier Fazhi [Zhili] had been sent
the hair of a Pratyekabuddha from the Japanese Zen master [Gen] shin. He answered his
[Genshin's] twenty questions and then requested a copy of the commentary to the Ren-
wang jing, which [Gen]shin then sent. [But] the boat could not stay on course through the
After returning to Korea in 1086, Uich'on lamented the domi-
nance of Son and began laying the foundations for doctrinal study.
He was supported by his mother, Queen Inye, and his brother, King
j'i*. (r. 1095-1105). It has been suggested that this shift
in imperial focus from Son to Ch'ont'ae mirrored the shifting politi-
cal allegiances of King Munjong (r. 1046-1083) and his successor,
King Sukchong.
Whatever the case, the rapid rise to power of the
new Ch'ont'ae school was clearly linked to imperial support. A new
temple for Uich'on was built in 1097 and named Kukch'ong Temple
(Ch. Guoqing si) after the monastery at Mount Tiantai.
The newly
established Ch' ant' ae school started its own examinations for monks
in 1099 and higher exams in 1101. From the late eleventh century
on, the Ch'ont'ae tradition became a significant force in Korean
Buddhism. With Uich'on the history of Korean Ch'ont'ae comes into
focus but Chegwan's role remains obscure. How did Chegwan ac-
quire such a thorough knowledge of Tiantai more than a century ear-
lier? What do we know of Chegwan's life and legacy?
Chegwan (dates unknown)
Chegwan's name is well known for at least two reasons. First, he
authored the Outline of the Fouifold Teachings, an influential Tiantai
primer; and second, he is said to have returned the lost Tiantai texts
to China. Yet Chegwan himself remains a shadowy figure. His birth
and death dates are unknown, as is his background. The only per-
great winds and terrifying waves. The sailors chanted [sutras] but this did not quell the
dragon's fury so they threw the commentary into the sea which then became calm. Fazhi
then sought two monks with strong memories to go to the place where [Gen]shin lived in
order to memorize the text and then return. Unfortunately those two monks died in Japan."
(Siming zunzhe jiao xing lu T46n1937:916a). The Orthodox Lineage
.. reproduces this story exactly but adds: "Early in the Yuanfeng era (1078-1085) sea mer-
chants came to Siming carrying the present commentary to the Renwang Uing] in two
fascicles." (X75n1513:268c19-20) The three great works (san dabu are the
Miaofa lianhua jing xuanyi Miaofa lianhua jing wenju
and the Mohe zhiguan
45 Kim Chang Seok (1980) pp. 41-50.
46 For more information on the history of this temple see Kwon Sangno, pp. 182-187.
This was one of at least four temples with this name within Korea.
sonal information conveyed in his Comprehensive History biography
is that he was from Koryo, went to study with Xiji at Tiantai, and
wrote the Outline of the Fourfold Teachings. This biography gives
the date of Chegwan's arrival in China as 962, some three hundred
years before the biography itself was written.
There is no mention
of Chegwan in any Chinese biographical collection pre-dating the
Comprehensive History and all later biographical accounts are based
on this biography. Although he is said to have died in China, there
are no surviving memorial inscriptions and no mention of where his
body or relics were interred. Other figures involved in the Tiantai
revival, such as Deshao, Xiji, and Uit'ong, were eulogized after their
deaths by the rulers of Wuyue and prominent officials, but no such
honors were accorded Chegwan.
The earliest references to Chegwan are in the works of Uich' on
and his master Jingyuan. In Uich'on's catalogue of texts collected in
China he lists Chegwan as the author of the Outline of the Fourfold
Also, in his vow made in front of Zhiyi's reliquary
Uich'on notes that Chegwan's work had essentially disappeared
from Koryo. Jingyuan, on receiving three commentaries from
Uich'on, remarked that "his eminence Chegwan of your country re-
corded the Outline of the Fourfold Teachings, which is current in
China and which Zhiyi's descendents seek as a guide." 49 Although
Chegwan is consistently mentioned as the author of this important
Tiantai text, there is nothing to suggest Chegwan's role in the actual
transmission of texts from Koryo to Wuyue. Since there is no surviv-
ing information linking Chegwan to the reintroduction of Tiantai
texts prior to the biography in the Comprehensive History, this text
warrants closer examination.
47 T49n2035:0249b.
48 T55n2184:1l78a.
49 See John Jorgensen (2005) p. 123 n. 86,
The Comprehensive History account revisited
The Comprehensive History was published by Zhipan (dates
Ji1known) between 1258 and 1269. Zhipan's extensive history of the
Tiantai school was based in part on Zongjian's (d. 1206) Ortho-
dox Lineage of the Buddhist Tradition (Shimen zhengtong
hereafter Orthodox Lineage), posthumously published in 1237.
The text of the Comprehensive History is composed of several
Clverlapping narratives. The various layers of this text are clearly
seen in Xiji' s biography:
Previously the Tiantai teachings had been scattered since the time of An and
Shi. (This was the last year of Tianbao J;:J'f [756]. An Lushan 'iCw!kr.L! and
Shi Siming were both fomenting rebellion.) More recently [texts]
were destroyed in the Huichang [persecutions] ([Emperor] Wuzong's iEt*
Huichang reign lasted five years. Monks and nuns were secularized and tem-
ples were destroyed). Master [Xiji] deeply regretted this and made a great
effort to collect [the texts]. First he went to the ancient library at Jinhua but
was only able to obtain one commentary to the Vimalaklrti [Sutra].
The ruler of Wuyue, Qian Chu, was looking over the Yongjia Collection
which said, "[The stage of Buddhahood according to the Tripitaka Teaching]
is the same [as the Complete Teaching] in removing the four levels of
attachment. In this regard, they are identical. But as for overcoming
fundamental ignorance, the Tripitaka [Teaching] is inferior [to that of the
Complete Teaching]." He asked National Teacher Shao (Transmitter of the
Flame, National Teacher Tiantai Deshao had the family name Chen. He was
the heir of Chan Master Qingliang Wen[yi]. [Deshao]went to Mount Tiantai
looking for the traces of Zhizhe. It was just as if he had lived there in the
past. He also had the same family name as Zhizhe and [people of the] time
suspected that he was [Zhizhe's] reincarnation.). [De]shao said, "The
meaning of this is found in the [Tiantai] teachings. You can ask Tiantai
Master [Xi]ji." The ruler summoned [Xiji] and the master went out to
Jinmen [to greet him]. [Qian Chu] had him lecture and then asked about the
aforementioned passage [of the Yongjia Collection]. The master said, "This
comes from Zhizhe's Miaoxuan f;j;;tz;.. Since the end of the Tang [his
teachings] have been scattered and destroyed. Now they are all overseas."
50 For the background of the Comprehensive History and Orthodox Lineage, see Koichi
Because of this the ruler of Wuyue sent out eighteen emissaries to travel to
Japan in search of the texts. When they returned, the ruler built Luoxi temple
for [Xiji]. He was called Dinghui :<i:7Il and awarded t4e title Dharma Master
Jingguang f¥J't;.51
[Xiji] requested that titles be posthumously awarded to all the Tiantai patri-
archs (up to the siXteenth). Because of the Master's effort, .the study of
[Tiantai] doctrine flourished and the school was revived. (According to the
Ershi kouyi "The ruler of Wuyue dispatched emissaries with fIfty
different types of precious goods to travel to Koryo in search of [the lost]
texts. The [court of Koryo] sent Chegwan to come and make an offering [of
these texts]." But the Commentary of the Great Perfection of Wisdom Siistra,
Commentary on the Benevolent King Sutra, Essential Contents ojthe Huayan
Sutra, Five Hundred Gates among others were not to be transmitted. Accord-
ing to this we know that emissaries were sent to two overseas countries. If
the treasured teachings and commentaries were returned to China, this is
certainly because the Korean Chegwan was sent to present them.)52
The fIrst biographical layer states that emissaries were sent to Japan
to retrieve the lost texts; no mention is made of Korea or Chegwan.
In addition there is Zhipan' s commentary, shown above in parenthe-
ses, where the variant narrative of Koryo and Chegwan is set forth.
Zhipan was basing his biographical material on one source, the
Orthodox Lineage, and adding his commentary based in part on the
Ershi kouyi (OraZ Instructions of the Two Masters), an eleventh cen-
tury Tiantai history written by Jizhong (1012-1082). This text,
which now only exists in fragments, may be one of the earliest
sources for the role of Chegwan in these events. Koichi Shinohara
has demonstrated that Jizhong played a pivotal role in the schisms
that plagued the Tiantai community in the eleventh century. He was
a grandson disciple of Zhili, through Shangxian [t,jJf (dates un-
known), and one of the primary editors of Zhili's texts and a great
reviver of the works of Zhili's master, Xiji's student Uit'ong. It was
51 The letter Qian Chu sent to Xiji awarding him his new title and a purple robe is pre-
served in the Luoxi zhenzu ji (X56n94:6780c2--4). Xiji's temple, Chuanjiao,
was completed in 964. The founding of this temple is also described in the Luoxi zhenzu ji
(780c2l-782a13), though the origin of the returned texts is not mentioned. The name was
changed to Dong dinghui yuan JIil:li::ttlliG in 1008 (Chen Qiqing, j. 28).
52 T49n2035:190c-191a.
"through Jizhong's efforts that the "orthodox Tiantai lineage" was
to Zhili and his heirs in Mingzhou (the shanjia faction) rather
than Qingsong and his followers in Hangzhou (the shanwai faction).
:It'thus seems that Jizhong had a vested interest in establishing
importance of at least one Korean master, Uit'ong, and perhaps
Chegwan as well.
The Orthodox Lineage account
:Mule one can only speculate about the contents of the Ershi kouyi,
biography of Xiji found in the Orthodox Lineage mirrors that of
the one reproduced in the Comprehensive History with one signifi-
cant difference. In this earlier version, it is clearly stated that the lost
texts were sought and returned from Japan:
... King Qianzhong [Qian Chu] was reading Buddhist scriptures but failed to
, understand the relations between the [various] teachings. He called on Na-
tional Teacher [De]shao, who said that Master [Xiji] had a thorough under-
. standing of the [Tian]tai path. The King called on Master [Xiji] to give a talk.
[Xiji suggested] that he send envoys to Japan in search of the lost texts.
Later [the king] built a temple for [Xiji] and awarded him the name Jing-
.,This is the earlier layer used by Zhipan in his work. In Zongjian's
: history, there is no mention of emissaries being sent to Koryo. Fur-
thennore, the Orthodox Lineage makes no mention of Chegwan's
; tole as the transmitter of lost texts; he is only listed elsewhere as the
author of the Outline of the Fourfold Teachings. The Orthodox Line-
,age biography of Xiji also quotes from a eulogy by Zha'an
(dates unknown) stating that Japanese monks had come to study with
Xiji. It further states that he trained ten Korean (Haidong stu-
'pents but mentions only Uit'ong by name. Xiji appears to have in-
structed a very international group of disciples but his biography
suggests that prior to the Comprehensive History account that credits
. with the return of the Tiantai texts, there was an earlier
S3 X75n1513:278c3-5.
tradition which held that the texts were originally sought and ob-
tained from Japan. 54
The case for Japan
Earlier accounts
The Orthodox Lineage account of the Japanese provenance for the
lost texts is in fact supported by a number of earlier texts which are
briefly reviewed below. According to his entry in the Song Biogra-
phies, Xiji "asked Chan Master [De] shao to urge someone to take a
boat to Japan and purchase the texts there. In this way, Xiji's knowl-
edge was broadened."55 Not long after the publication of that biogra-
phy, Yang Yi t £ { ~ (974-1020), an influential lay figure in early
Song Buddhism, noted that
The Qian dynasty that ruled the kingdom of Wuyue had friendly relations
[with Japan] through [commercial] delegations. [At that time] many of the
more than five hundred volumes known to have been written by Zhizhe of
the Tiantai sect no longer existed [in China]. After a merchant reported that
these books could be found in Japan, Qian Hongchu [Qian Chu] wrote a let-
ter to the ruler of that country and, offering five hundred ounces of gold,
54 The Orthodox Lineage elsewhere mentions the return of the lost texts to the kingdom
of Wuyue but the text is ambiguous about the country of origin, leaving the reader
uncertain if they came from Silla, Japan, or both countries:
Jingxi [Zhanran] transmitted the teachings to three Silla monks named Pomyung ¥ t : ~ ~ ,
lung mlJi! and Sunyong {f;i[:;R. Earlier these teachings had been established in Japan and
were flourishing overseas. Due to the disorder in the Central Plains the textual corpus
had been destroyed. But these teachings could not be eliminated and survived through
the difficulties. Like when dawn breaks and reddens the rising clouds, the true· men
were destined to see [the works] of civilization. During the early Song period these
texts were gradually brought to Wuyue by boat. These are the three great works of
Master Zhiyi that are transmitted today. (X75n1513:268c7-12)
55 T50n2061:752bl4-15. Zanning, the editor of this collection, also composed Deshao's
stupa inscription. Yet in Deshao's previously mentioned biography in this same collection,
it is stated that the texts came from Silla.
asked to have copies made. He thus obtained the books, and today the teach-
ings of the Tiantai school are widespread in the Jiangzuo region. 56
Moving forward chronologically, there is also Chen Guan's Il*Ii
·(1060-1124) inscription for Yongming Yanshou entitled "True
Praise for Chan Master Zhijue" (Zhijue chanshi zhenzan
Jr) which states, "In the past, the teachings of Tiantai Zhizhe from
Wuyue were incomplete. Master [Desaho] said to Qian [Chu], 'The
kingdom of Japan has [the complete texts].' Qian [Chu] followed the
master's advice and sent a letter along with a gift of gold to seek out
and copy the original texts. The fact that these teaching are flourish-
ing in Jiangzuo, creating faith and establishing true practice, is due to
the effort of the master."57 Again, in 1203, with the publication of
Zongxiao's (1151-1214) volume on the life and work of the
Xiji's disciple Ui'tong, we find a recounting of Xiji's biography that
initially relies on the Song Biographies account. Then, after recount-
ing the devastation of the Tiantai texts and Deshao's urging that the
56 Yangwen gongtan yuan (cited in Shen Haibo, pp. 187-205). Yang Yi had
personally met at least two of the Japanese monks who had traveled to China from Hieizan
in Japan several decades after the re-introduction of the lost Tiantai texts. The Yangwen
gongtan yuan notes that in the third year of the Jingde era (1004-1007), when Yang Yi
was serving in the Memorial-forwarding office, the Japanese monk JakushO ;J1i( Bg
(962-1034), or Entsu Daishi p:J im7dill, came to pay tribute. The monk reported that he
Was from Enryaku-ji on Mount Hiei (which he refers to as "Mount Tendai"), where 3000
monks were in residence. J akushi5 was the monk who was sent by the Tendai establish-
ment on Mount Hiei with a list of twenty-seven questions to ask Zhili. Yang Yi questioned
him about matters of Japanese religion, state and possession of Chinese texts. Jakusho
informed him that, in addition to a large quantity of secular texts, Japan preserved "Bud-
dhist treatises, commentaries, compendiums, biographies, and collections too numerous to
enumerate." (This same passage is reproduced in the Zenrin kokuhoki a fif-
teenth century Japanese chronicle of relations with China from the seventh through the
thirteenth centuries. See the translation of the entire text by Charlotte von Verschuer
[1999]). Yang Yi also met the Japanese Tendai monk ChOnen (938-1016) who
traveled in China from 983-6. Chonen met with the Song Emperor Taizong and was later
awarded the purple robe. Chonen' s summary of his visit to China, including his
pilgrimage to Wutai, was sealed away in a sandalwood statue of the Buddha that he
brought back with him to Japan for installation at his Kyoto temple, Seiryo-ji
where it was discovered in 1954. For more on ChOnen see Tsukamoto Zenryu. An English
translation of that account is found in Henderson and Hurvitz. See also Robert Gimello
and Wang Zhenping.
57 Qiandao siming tujing fz:i!i:I11:IIJIlIil*!! (cited in He Yongqiang, pp. 412-413).
lost texts be retrieved, it states that "The ruler also sent eighteen men
to travel to Japan. They obtained the Tiantai canon and then re-
turned. The master was awarded the name 'Great Master Pure Radi-
ance'. The posthumous naming of the nine patriarchs [of the Tiantai
school] is due to the work of the master. It is because of this that the
master is regarded by all to be the reviver of the school.. And it was
because [De]shao had the same surname as Zhizhe that he was able
to lend support to our school."58 Finally, thirty-five years later with
the publication of Zongjian's biography of Xiji in the Orthodox Line-
age the same version of events is again recounted.
Tiantai and Japan
While Japanese historical sources provide little specific detail
regarding this tenth century diplomatic exchange, the possibility of a
textual transmission from Japan is made more probable in light of
the substantial collection of Tiantai texts that are known to have ex-
isted in Japan at that time. The formative years of Japanese Tendai
have been well documented and I review it here only in brief, focus-
ing on the importation of Chinese Tiantai texts. 59 The process
spanned more than a century, beginning in the eighth century when
the Chinese Vinaya master Iianzhen (688-763; J. Ganjin),
along with fourteen of his disciples arrived in Nara.
Jianzhen is primarily known as the man who brought the Four Part
Vinaya (Sifenlii Dharmagupta-vinaya) to Japan, he also
58 Siming zunzhejiaoxing lu T46n1937:929b16-19.
59 Paul Groner has provided a detailed examination of the establishment of the Japanese
Tendai tradition in his Saicho: The Establishment of the Tendai School, and Ryogen and
Mount Hiei: Japanese Tendai in the Tenth Century. My recapitulation of early Japanese
Tendai relies on Groner's work.
60 See his biographies in Song gaoseng zhuan T50n2061:0797a, and You fang
ji chao ilifj)fE',fY, T51n2089:988a. The earliest source for Ganjin is To daiwajo tosei den
composed by Mahito Genkai Jl;.A5cim (a.k.a. Omi Mifune )3tiliE:=.mf!;,
722-785) in 779. This account was based on the (now lost) biography written by Ganjin's
disciple Situo Da Tang chuanjieshi sengming ji Daheshang lianzhen zhuan
(also known as "Da Heshang zhuan" *5fOJ::.{f, or "Heshang xing-
ji" fDJ::.fT§C.). For modern studies of Ganjin, see Ando, Kuranaka, and Wang Xiangrong.
introduced a collection of Chinese Buddhist texts, among them were
the lectures and writings of the Tiantai patriarch Zhiyi. 61
SaichO ;;:¥1t (767-822) first became aware of the Tiantai teachings
through the texts left behind by Jianzhen. He later traveled to China
where he spent a total of nine months, primarily in Taizhou il'1'I'/
where Mount Tiantai is located. In addition to receiving transmission
in different Buddhist traditions, SaichO spent several months copying
works from libraries with the help of a team he had assembled. Upon
SaichO's return to Japan in 805, his first task was to submit biblio-
graphies of the works he had collected to the Japanese court, who in
tum ordered that copies be made and distributed to the seven great
temples of Nara. The list of texts collected from the Tiantai area, the
Dengyo daishi shOrai Taishu roku totaled 120
\Yorks in 345 fascicles.
Saicho quickly rose to prominence and
established a new center for the propagation of Tendai on Mount
Hiei, outside of Kyoto.
One of Saicho's prominent disciples, Ennin iH= (794-864), trav-
eled to China together with Ensai /IIttJ: (d. 877) in 838. Although
Ennin was denied permission to travel to Mount Tiantai, the main
goal of his pilgrimage, he was able to collect a number of Tiantai
texts during his nine years in China.
While Ennin was confined to
northern China, Ensai had been granted permission to travel to
Mount Tiantai where he studied the Tiantai teachings at Guoqing
Temple under Guangxiu (771-843), conventionally hailed as
the eleventh patriarch of the Tiantai school. Ensai remained in China
for forty years and sent at least thirty texts back to Japan.
6( Groner (2000) pp. 6-10.
62 T55n2159.
63 Ennin collected over 500 fascicles of texts in China. His three catalogues are Nihon
kokujawa go nen nitta guhO mokuroku S fI (T55n2165), likaku
daishi zaita sa shinroku (T55n2166), and Nitta shingu shOgya moku-
roku fI (T55n2167).
64 Groner (2002) p. 26 (citing Tendai Kahya, Dainihon Bukkya zensho (Suzuki ed.), 41,
Another Japanese Tendai monk, Enchin ~ ~ (814-91), traveled
to China in 853. He met Ensai at Guoqing Temple where he studied
Sanskrit and the Tiantai teachings.
Guoqing Temple was destroyed
during the Huichang persecutions but by 851 was rebuilt by the or-
der of Emperor Xuanzong 13* (r. 847-860).66 Not only was Enchin
able to study at Guoqing Temple, where he paid to have a hall for
visiting Japanese monks constructed, but he also found the monastic
libraries well-stocked. The catalogue of texts he brought back with
him to Japan, mentioned earlier, lists sixty-seven texts in 227 fasci-
cles from Guoqing Temple alone and 157 texts in 387 fascicles from
Guoqing Temple and Chanlin Temple combined. The works of both
Zhiyi and Zhanran are included.
These are in addition to further
Tiantai texts that he was able to collect from other locations in the
course of his travels. After Enchin returned to Japan in 858, there is
no record of any Japanese monks visiting or collecting texts from the
Tiantai area until the middle of the tenth century, when the lost texts
were returned.
Even without taking into account the various texts that may have
been unofficially transmitted to Japan, the catalogues of SaichO, En-
nin, Ensai, and Enchin alone are enough to establish that a substan-
tial collection of Chinese Tiantai texts was preserved in Japan by the
mid-tenth century. At that time, the Tendai community at Mount
Hiei had been established for more than 150 years. Given the trade
relations between Wuyue and Japan, it would have been a natural
move to seek the lost texts from the collections housed at Mount
65 Enchin left an extensive account of his travels but now only fragments remain:
Gy6rekishO il')j'jtl'Y (Travel fragments). The extant fragments along with a modem
compilation of his writings that includes his memorial (ChisM Daishi yoM hennen
zasshii), and his early biography (Tendaishu Enryakuji Zasu Enchin den) appear in Dai
Nihon Bukkyo zensho 72, 188-92, 198-224, and 145-52, respectively. For a detailed study
of the diary, see Ono Katsutoshi (cited in Borgen, p. 86 n. 6).
66 See Chen Qiqing, fascicle 28.
67 See T55n2172:1098c29-1101bI6 for a complete listing of the texts.
wuyue and Japan
he cultural exchange that allowed for. such large-scale importation
ofTiantai texts and teachings from China to Japan in the ninth cen-
tury was facilitated by the diplomatic relationship that had existed
between the two countries since the Sui dynasty. From the onset of
Japan's official diplomatic missions to China (known as the Ken-
and Kentoshi Jlm1!e) in 600 to their termination in 894,
approximately two dozen embassies were exchanged between the
twocountries.68 From the early ninth century on, the official trade
route was from KyiishU to Mingzhou, located 140 kilometers north-
east of Mount Tiantai. The close proximity of the port to Tiantai
made it easily accessible to the Japanese monks on board diplomatic
and merchant ships. After the Tang, no official missions were sent
from Japan until the fifteenth century, but this did not put an end to
economic and cultural exchange, particularly with the kingdom of
Wuyue. Throughout the tenth century, Wuyue continued to send
emissaries to the Japanese court to foster trade relations and gain
recognition as an imperial state. Though no official relationship,
tributary or otherwise, appears to have been established, the lines of
communication remained open. It was merchants rather than
ambassadors who served as the representatives of Wuyue's interests
in Japan. The court of Wuyue would deputize the captain of a ship as
an envoy or bearer of gifts and messages. Japan reciprocated these
gestures by using the same Chinese ships to deliver goods and letters
back to Wuyue.
According to Japanese historical records, at least
sixteen trips were made by Chinese merchants between Wuyue and
Japan from 909 to 959.
During the tenth century, most Japanese
were forbidden to travel to China. However, an exception was made
for monks and it is certain that some of those merchant ships re-
turned to Wuyue from Kyiishu with a cargo of Japanese clerics.
68 Verschuer, p. 3; Gimello, p. 74.
69 See Worthy, p. 35.
70 See Kimiya Yasuhiko, pp. 222-224. Also reproduced in He Yongqiang, pp. 267-271.
The Baoqieyin Pagodas
The Japanese presence in Wuyue can be traced through archaeologi-
cal evidence. Japanese coins dating from the year 859 have been
discovered in the central chamber of the Leifeng pagoda, built
along the southern edge of West Lake in Hangzhou by Qian Chu
between 972 and 976.7
This monument to the Buddhistfaith of the
last king of Wuyue finally collapsed in 1924, yielding a number of
treasures when it was fully excavated in 2000-2001. Among them
were two small pagodas which contained printed copies of the Yiqie
rulaixin mimi quanshen sheli baoqieyin tuoluoni jing -'----IW:tzo*,L.'fM
(hereafter Baoqieyin).72 The text of this
short dhiiral}-lsutra teaches that any devotee who places this stitra
within a stupa will enjoy the protection of all buddhas in the ten
directions. The printed text bears a preface which states that in 956
Qian Chu had 84,000 sutras printed and inserted into the same num-
ber of miniature metal pagodas.73 In imitation of King Ashoka, Qian
Chu distributed the pagodas throughout greater East Asia. They have
been found as far north as Hebei, as far south as Fujian and also in
Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Anhui, and Henan. An inscription from
a temple in Hangzhou entitled the Record of Shengxiang Temple
(Shengxiang si ji Jl91t§ states that Qian Chu also sent 500 pago-
das to Japan. To date, six have been found.
71 See Zhejiang sheng wenwu kaogu yanjiu suo #JirI'il'Jt!j&.):.i5il.liJf1Em.
72 The satra was translated by Amoghavajra (705-774) and can be found in Tl9nl022
(Sanskrit: Sarvatathiigata-adhisthiina-hrdaya-guhya-dhiitu-karawjamudrii-dhiira1Jf-sutra).
For a summary of the text see Eugene Wang, pp. 191-193 (who follows Soren Edgren, p.
144). On the Baoqieyin pagodas, see Yoshikawa Isao and Wang Li.
73 Preface reproduced in Zhejiang sheng wenwu kaogu yanjiu suo, p. 72. Another set of
prints was done in 975 and inserted into the hollow bricks of the pagoda to protect against
destruction and looting.
74 The inscription is transcribed in Zhu Zhao and reproduced in Wang Y ong (2004) pp.
224-235. The locations of the six Japanese pagodas are listed in Yoshikawa Isao, p. 29.
:Nichien 13}l!;
Details regarding Qian Chu's reasons for casting the pagodas and
printing the satras, as well as their transmission to Japan, can be
found in an account written by the Japanese monk Daki JH:@: in 965,
the Record of the Baoqieyin Sutra (Hokyoin kyoki Daki
nbtes that a Japanese monk by the name of Nichien traveled to China
during the Tengya era (938-947) and returned to Japan sometime
during the Tenryaku era (947-957) bearing various gifts, including
several Baoqieyin pagodas?5 The Fuso ryakki also contains
a passage which states that Nichien presented the provincial gover-
nor of Hizen (present Nagasaki) with a pagoda.
More than a
century later, when Jajin (1011-1081) set out on his famous
pilgrimage to China's Mount Tiantai and Mount Wutai, he men-
tioned several of his predecessors who had gone before him, recall-
ing that Nichien had been in China during the Tenryaku era.
Jajin finally arrived at Tiantai's Guoqing Temple, he recorded that
he saw some of Nichien's poems there.
A brief mention of Nichien
is also found in a Pure Land text which states that "In the fourth
month, ninth day of the second year of the Tiande era (945), the
monk from Enryaku Temple, Nichien, crossed the sea. (In the Wu-
yue prefecture of the great Tang he was called Great Master
Huiguang recipient of the purple robe.) He urged that the writ-
ten works be preserved and passed down.,,79
Nichien has been the subject of a number of studies by Japanese
scholars, yet only a few details of his life are known. so He was origi-
75 The relevant portion of the text is reproduced in Wang Li, p. 30.
76 See SaitO Tadashi, p. 121. Incidentally, recent research by Wang Yong has shown that
after the pagodas were delivered to Japan, another Japanese monk named Tenchi ifi;i'
,traveled to Wuyue on the return ship and subsequently built a large statue of Guanyin
which was later worshipped by several Song emperors.
77 The others are Kan'en JtJj£ in 938, Ch6nen in 978, and Jakush6 in 999.
78 Hirabayashi Fumio, p. 64.
79 Wangsheng xiJangjingtu ruiying zhuan j.t1:Wihi'¥±:£;'IjjJl\1* (T51n2070:108b).
80 On Nichien see Ono Genmy6, pp. 614-640; Nishioka Toranosuke; Takeuchi Riz6; T6
Yuki); and Wang Yong (1996).
nally from Hizen on the island of Kyushu and later studied at En-
ryaku Temple on Mount Hiei under the Vinaya master Ninkan
Nichien made his mark on Japanese history through his introduction
of Qian Chu's Baoqieyin pagodas, which would later be replicated
throughout Japan, and a new version of the Chinese calendar.
his return to Japan, he was awarded his own temple, Daiho
in the Dazaifu area.
For more than a thousand years, Ni-
chien has been recognized for his contributions to Japanese culture,
but the initial impetus for his journey to China had been forgotten.
However, new discoveries in the last fifty years have made it clear
that Nichien made an equally substantial contribution to Chinese
Buddhist culture.
In the 1950's, Takeuchi Riz6 discovered a text in a shrine in
northern KyushfI. Known as the Dazaifu jinja bunsho
iI=, it was written in the sixth year of the EishO era (1051).83 In addi-
tion to recounting Nichien's activities once he arrived in Wuyue,
such as being awarded the purple robe by Qian Chu and traveling to
Mount Tiantai, it also recounts the reason for his travel from Japan
to China:
Previously, the monk Nichien entered the Tang, leaving during the seventh
year of the Tenryaku era (953). He copied out the teachings and delivered
them [to China] for the great monk Jinen head of Mount Tendai's ;R.is
!-U [Hiei] H5d5in J($llm1c, [who was responding to] a letter from the great
Tang monk Tiantai Deshao. He boarded the return boat of a man from Yue
named Shi Chengxun ili*J,b and, crossing thousands of li of waves, visited
Mount [Tian]tai in Sizhou [Siming]. 84
Jinen is another name for EnshO (880-964), the fifteenth
prelate (zasu ,@I3=:) of Enryaku-ji, appointed in 946 and serving until
his death in 964. Emperor En'yu granted him the posthumous name
Jinen in 979. According to the Dazaiju text, Deshao sent a letter to
81 On Nichien within the broader context of the dissemination of the Tang calendar in
East Asia, see Wang Yong (2002).
82 The exact location of this temple is not known.
83 Takeuchi Riz5 reproduces the entire text with annotations.
84 Ibid, p. 59.
lMount Hiei requesting that a copy of the lost texts be sent to Mount
Nichien was then chosen by the head of the Japanese Tendai
fbstablishment, Jinen, to deliver the texts' to Wuyue .
. , '.. .
It is significant that the name of the man on whose ship Nichien
(:gailed is mentioned. Shi Chengxun was a merchant from Wuyue who
£admade the triP. between China and Japan many times. Japanese
records note his arrival in Japan from China in the years
936, 938, and 953.
The HonchO bunsui 7-js:ljiJl::>tW, written in
eleventh century, records that in 953 Shi's ship arrived in Japan
Wuyue and that Shi, functioning as an official emissary of Qian
!7ChU, delivered a letter along with various gifts to the Minister of the
fRight Fujiwara Morosuke (908-960).86 The same text
:hotes that in the seventh month of that same year, Shi returned to
'Chlna carrying with him gifts and a letter addressed to Qian Chu
from Morosuke.
The Dazaifu record of Nichien setting sail in 953
Shi' s ship provides strong evidence that it was at this time
Ithat the lost texts were returned to China from Japan.
after Nichien reintroduced the Chinese Tiantai texts
;fr:om Japan there was a flurry of building activity that was unparal-
in the history of the Tiantai range. At least ten new temples or
'snbtemples were built between the years 954 and 966. According to
'the Jiading Chicheng Gazetteer, the earliest local history for the re-
;tion, of these ten half are associated with Deshao, one with Xiji, one
!)Vith Qian Chu (three have no founders listed).88 Nichien's arrival set
;;85 See Kimiya, pp. 222-224 and Taigai kankeishi sogonempyo henshii iinkai, pp.
"100-110, for a listing of all known trade contact between Japan and Wuyue between 909
iand 959 .
. ;! .. 86 Fujiwara Morosuke was the most powerful man in government at the time and strong
supporter of the Tendai school through his relationship with Ryogen .&1Jili: (912-985). See
:Paul Groner (2002) passim.
"e 87 Taigai kankeishi sogonempyo henshii iinkai, p. 110.
88 These are: Shixiang yuan J!r:mlllt (954-960; Deshao), Huguo si (958; Deshao),
Jingrning (958; Deshao), Yongning yuan 7kl'fl1llt (958; Qian Chu), Jingfu
yuan :IlttRiIllt (960; Deshao), Zhenguo yuan (960), Zhengjiao yuan (960;
Deshao), Chuanjiao si (also known as Dong dinghui yuan Jlutlf.lllt; 964; Xiji), Xi
Anyin yuan (963), Dajue yuan *:l:1llt (966). See Chen Qiqing, j. 28.
in motion a revival which would restore the once faltering Tiantai
tradition to its past prominence.
Nichien's journey from Mt. Hiei across the East ChinaSea to the
kingdom of Wuyue was only the final act in a lengthy drama. The
texts he carried with him to China were copies of texts written nearly
four centuries earlier by the founding figures of Tiantai Buddhism.
Over the years, those same texts were reproduced, reorganized, and
reworked by later generations of monks. They were disseminated
throughout China and were later transported overseas eventually
reaching both Japan and Korea. From its original center on Mt. Tian-
tai, Tiantai Buddhism went on to spawn new centers in the cities of
Chang'an, Kyoto, and Kaesong. When the textual tradition was de-
stroyed in China during the ninth century, the community at Mt.
Tiantai had to look to Mt. Hiei for help in restocking their vacant
libraries. The request for the return of the lost texts circled through
many messengers: from the Tiantai monk Xiji to Deshao, from King
Qian Chu to the Wuyue merchant Shi Chengxun, from the Japanese
minister Fujiwara Monosuke to the head of Enryaku-ji, and finally
from Nichien back to Mt. Tiantai. The initial revitalization of Chi-
nese Tiantai resulted from the cooperation of broad range of
individuals in both China and Japan.
The reinvigoration of the Tiantai tradition in the later half of the
tenth century is also deeply indebted to native Korean monks, most
notably Vit' ong and Chegwan. The contribution of these men to
Tiantai learning in China is indisputable. What this paper has called
into question is Chegwan's role in the reintroduction of the lost Tian-
tai texts. Although Chegwan is unambiguously mentioned in contem-
porary sources as the author of the Outline of the Fouifold Teach-
ings, it is not until three hundred years later that he is linked with the
re-introduction of lost texts. Of course, there is always the possibility
that sources which would support Chegwan as the transmitter of
texts have simply been lost, but in the absence of such evidence ex-
tant records suggest a conscious effort to obscure the Japanese origin
of these texts and spuriously elevate Chegwan and Koryo as the soli-
tary revivers of Chinese Tiantai. With the acceptance of the Compre-
hensive History as the orthodox history of the Tiantai tradition, the
Japanese transmission was almost entirely eclipsed. If the story of
Chegwan's rolein the re-introduction was in fact a thirteenth century
creation, the motives behind it require further investigation. The
twelfth and thirteenth centuries were divisive times for the Tiantai
community. It is possible that the sectarian struggles for orthodoxy
led to the retrospective elevation of the Korean dharma-ancestors of
the Shanjia faction. Moreover, the lack of any evidence linking
Chegwan to these events does not necessarily preclude a Korean
provenance for a portion of the returned Tiantai texts. If an early,
undocumented introduction of Tiantai texts to Korea is posited, there
is the possibility of a dual transmission of texts to China. The pres-
ence of Korean monks in Wuyue and their role in the transmission of
Fayan Chan back to Koryo together with the near constant cultural
exchange between China, Korea, and Japan may be enough to sug-
gest that the Tiantai texts were preserved in both Japan and Koryo. If
this were true, perhaps the earlier Japanese collection was incom-
plete and additional texts were later sought from Koryo. But this is
all mere speculation. If we limit ourselves to the surviving textual
record, we see a clear and singular line leading to Japan as the
source of the returned Tiantai texts. Our recounting of the respective
roles of Korea and Japan in the reintroduction of Chinese Tiantai
must be revised.
Finally, the fact that large quantities of texts were imported from
the Japanese Tendai headquarters at Mt. Hiei introduces the possibil-
ity, indeed the probability, that works of Japanese Tendai exegesis
were included among the native Chinese texts.
To what degree did
Japanese Tendai, especially its esoteric synthesis (Taimitsu), influ-
ence later developments in Song Tiantai? Questions regarding the
mutual influences between Mt. Tiantai and Mt. Hiei in the tenth and
eleventh centuries await further investigation.
89 We know that Japanese pilgrims did bring Japanese texts to China during the tenth
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The coexistence of and dynamic interactions between the three major
Chinese religious traditions have molded distinctive characteristics
of Chinese Buddhism in no less a way than the latter has indelibly
influenced Confucianism and Daoism.
Mter the Song Dynasty
(960-1276), with the philosophical maturation of Neo-Confucianism
iIl particular, a plethora of relentless inter-religious vilifications on
the one hand, and passionate defense of the inherent harmony of the
three religions on the other, became some of the most prominent fea-
tures on the Chinese religious landscape.
The apparent similarities between the religions notwithstanding,
the self-awareness of one's unique lineage paradoxically and increa-
singly asserted itself in the Song dynasty, when sectarian self-cons-
ciousness in both Buddhism and Confucianism gave rise to notions
of distinct "schools" and "lineages" on an unprecedented scale. The
conception of an inviolably intact transmission of Confucian ortho-
doxy (daotong Jiif0':) was echoed in the Buddhist flurry to construct
their sectarian "lines of patriarchs" (zupu * . [ ~ ) . 2
Most religious syncretists devised a dialectic strategy that as-
sumed both the positions that all religious traditions are inherently
compatible, and that at the same time their own tradition is still the
1 Wing-tsit Chan even went so far as to remark that the very Chinese character is one
that is predominantly represented by Neo-Confucianism modified by Buddhism and Dao-
ism. See A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, p. ix. Robert Sharf, too, in his Introduction
to Coming to Terms with Chinese Buddhism, argued that the confluences and interactions
between these religious traditions were so pervasive that the very idea of independent,
autonomous entities of religious traditions is quite problematic.
2 For a discussion on the notion daotong, see Julia Ching, "Truth and Ideology: The
Confucian Way (Dao) and Its Transmission (Dao-T'ung)."
Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies
Volume 29· Number 1 ·2006 (2008) pp. 63-86
most efficacious and/or the most comprehensive in scope. While
avoiding claims to religious exclusivity, they nevertheless retained
allegiance to a primary religion despite their universalistic proposi-
tions, using that religion as an interpretive frame of reference
through which the other religions were polemically assessed or
ecumenically appreciated. One of the earliest syncretists compared
Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism to the "sun, moon, and the
five stars," respectively, and praised their celestialluminosity.3 What
appeared to be a gesture at illustrating the resplendent merits of all
three was really not an equitable treatment of them at all, if we con-
sider the relative brilliance of these heavenly bodies and the partial-
ity implied in that order.
We could see many examples of such "unequal ecumenism" in the
works of the so-called Four Eminent Monks of the W anli Era (Wanli
si gaoseng - Hanshan Deqing
Daguan Zhenke 1543-1603; Yunqi Zhuhong
1535-1615; Ouyi Zhixu 1599-1655), whose syncretistic
styles will be the primary focus of this paper: Zhixu maintained that
both Buddhism and Confucianism advocat filial piety,6 but that this
virtue was fulfilled to the greatest extent only in Buddhism.? Zhu-
hong, too, pointed out that all three religions promote the ideas of
"commiserating with" and "protecting" livingcreatures,8 but when it
comes to the universality and thoroughness of compassion, no relig-
ion can be on par with Buddhism.
3 Cited in Edward Ch'ien, Chiao Hung and the Restructuring of Neo-Confucianism in
the Late Ming, p. 13.
4 For more on Hanshan's life and syncretistic efforts, see Sung-pen Hsu, A Buddhist
Leader in Ming China: The Life and Thought of Han-Shan Te-Ch'ing.
5 Zhuhong's life and contribution to Buddhist revival movement in Ming is covered in
detail in Chlin-fang Yli, The Renewal of Buddhism in China.
6 Ouyi dashi wenxuan, p. 182.
7 Ibid, p. 146-147.
8 Lianchi dashiji, p. 91-92.
9 Ibid. He also argued the same thing about the precepts or moral codes of the three
religions, with that of Buddhism to be the most outstanding.
Many scholars in comparative religions have failed to differentiate
ia . genuine synthesis or fusion of religious ideas from syncretism
because they did not fully take into account the two-pronged dialec-
t i ~ . It should be kept in mind that one of the most important elements
in the exegetical and syncretistic exercises on the part of both Bud-
'dhists and Confucians had been their insistence on the uncompromis-
ing distinctness of their own traditions. The ensuring of the
\.1nparalleled uniqueness of one's religion, always the primary
agenda in genuine syncretistic schemes, was never lost amidst the
ecumenical paragons, which often were just a subsidiary device serv-
ing the former. As we will see, the simultaneously donning a tolerant
posture while claiming the overriding-ness of one's religion was in
fact a distinct phenomenon from what could be called "synthesis,"
and has in actuality characterized many syncretistic endeavors in
Chinese history. 10
If Buddhism and Confucianism were represented as being situated
on the two opposite ends of an imaginary ideological spectrum, both
can be described as working consciously or unconsciously closer to
the middle in the course of their interactions. Timothy Brook, among
many others, had described what in scholarship now is almost a tru-
ism, namely, that there was a division of labor between Buddhism
and Confucianism before the Song, with Buddhism specializing in
the metaphysical and Confucianism in the ethicalY Let us entertain
this generalization for heuristic purposes just for now, and it would
Seem that the advocates of both traditions had consistently tried to
expand their "sphere of specialty" into the other's purported "turf,"
by actively incorporating those elements that they felt were in short
10 Some have argued that the Confucian Taizhou (t11'1'1) School was attempting synthe-
sis instead of mere syncretism. However, it did so largely through the hermeneutical frame
of Confucianism and with the intention of expanding the scope of Confucianism. Genuine,
unreserved synthetic movements that resulted in the emergence of a distinct new religious
organization were very rare. Some have argued that the best example was the "Sect of
Three as One" (Sanyi jiao .::: - ~ ) formed in the late Ming, though I still have reservations
about calling it truly synthetic. For a discussion on this Millenarian sect, see Judith Ber-
ling, The Syncretistic Religion of Lin Chao-en, and Edward Ch'ien, Chiao Hung and the
Restructuring ofNeo-Confucianism in the Late Ming, p. 11-15 & 21-22.
11 Praying for Power, p. 15-16.
supply in their own traditionY In this case, the Confucian's most ur-
gent task was to construct a metaphysical system strengthened in
sophistication and coherence, coupled with a systematic and worka-
ble approach for personal spiritual cultivation, worthy of challenging
Buddhism's near monopoly and undisputed appeal in these arenas.
And this they went to great length to accomplish much. In fact
Confucians were so successful in their endeavor, some scholars attri-
buted the consequent decline of Buddhism and Daoism to the Confu-
cian self-strengthening in precisely these regards. One of these
scholars observed that "by incorporating into it the best that was in
Daoism and Buddhism ... [Neo-Confucianism] succeeded in stealing
the thunder from its rivals, weakening them so much that they never
recovered.'* This could not have taken place without the accurate
diagnosis of the perceived weaknesses in Confucianism by the
Confucians themselves. Even the most staunchly sectarian of
Neo-Confucians such as Zhu Xi * ~ (1130-1200) - one of the most
12 In addition to the Confucians retrofitting itself in various metaphysical aspects such as
the mind's status, Frederick Mote has also observed that Confucian "efforts were made to
supersede Buddhist primacy in philanthropy, as in the maintenance of orphanages, in
providing primary education, in medical services and famine relief, in maintaining homes
to care for old people who had no family, and in offering free burials for the indigent." Im-
perial China 900-1800, p. 161-
13 Taylor in The Religious Dimensions of Confucianism explored the soteriological as-
pects of the said "religion" and maintained that they existed from its inception. However, I
must point out that the spiritual elements that pertained to personal cultivation and the
attainability of sagehood (comparable to the Buddhist idea of miirga and Buddhahood)
were not nearly as developed and emphasized before Confucianism's exposure to Bud-
dhist ideas. (Even though its nascent form was present in, say, Mencius' ideas. See Tu
Wei-ming's Humanity and Self-Cultivation, in the chapter "On the Mencian Perception of
Moral Self-Development.") Liu Wu-chi's observation that Neo-Confucianism "disposed of
the last few religious elements that had strayed into the K'ung system" (A Short History of
Confucian Philosophy) suggested a resultant sterilely rationalist Neo-Confucian tradition
that simply did not correspond to historical reality. Though some, for the lack of better
term, "religious" elements had been ferreted out by the Neo-Confucians intent on reifying
their tradition, the elements being "disposed of' were primarily the ritualistic and
shamanistic aspects of pre-Han Confucianism along with the tendency to deify Confucius.
As for the "religious" elements that involved notions like the attainment of enlightenment
and sagehood through a systematic soteriological/cultivational scheme, they definitely re-
mained a key feature of N eo-Confucianism.
14 Liu Wu-chi, A Short History of Confucian Philosophy, p. 164.
outspoken critics of Buddhism - was keenly aware of certain defi-
6iencies on the part of Confucianism that gave Buddhism an uncanny
appeal over his fellow co-religionists:
There are many adepts nowadays who turned to the heretic religions [Bud-
dhism and Daoism]. Why is that? It has to do with the fact that their endeav-
ors in our own tradition were flawed and proved fruitless, and that they could
[rod no viable means to set to peace their disquieted minds. They also thought
that the [theories of] our own tradition sounded barren and simplistic and
provided no good remedies to relieve their feelings of helplessness. The
teachings of the [Buddhist] Chanists, on the other hand, were touted to be
expedient and easy to put into practice, how could [these practitioners not be
tempted] to follow [the Chan teachings]?
§ § *ilir.l,
Wjl-, ...
::f[lj!i:!1 ?15
Propelled by the same logic to cover one's weakest bases, the Bud-
cihists, in response to the most cornmon invectives traditionally pillo-
ried at them, also had to address the ways in which Buddhism could
become, or at least represented to be, more socially responsible and
less antinomian and eremitic in outlook. The Buddhists, too, had in-
deed put much effort in steering themselves away from those reviled
stereotypes. Just as Confucianism was building up its soteriological
and philosophical arsenal to the ends of eschewing the impression
that it was primarily concerned with secular establishment and there-
fore decidedly less spiritual, Buddhism also tried to underscore its
more kataphatic and world-engaging doctrines in order to appear less
out of place amidst the supposedly pragmatic-natured Chinese.
Dahui Zonggao's *1l** (1089-1163) equation of the Buddhist
enlightened mind with the secular virtue of loyalty and righteous-
ness, and Zibo Zhenke's urging of his fellow Buddhists to compas-
sionately participate in the government, were all examples in this re-
gard. This shift towards the "middle" on the part of both religions
was a logical maneuver to avoid being intransigently pigeonholed in
a negative light, all the while to appeal to what was deemed the most
sensible values to the Chinese audience.
15 Cited in Jiang Yibin, Songru yUfojiao, p. 269.
The surge of syncretistic literatures after the Song could be seen
as partly a reaction towards the enmity and magnified contradictions
engendered by the Neo-Confucian controversy and its state-sponsor-
ed exclusive truth-claim. Most Ming Buddhist scholars of promi-
nence who spoke oithe subject of inter-religious relationship did so
in reference to the Song Neo-Confucians - an evidence of the
far-reaching impact of the purist legacy and divisive proposi-
tions. Though some scholars had characterized the Confucian criti-
cism of Buddhism as primarily based on ethical arguments, since the
Song dynasty Neo-Confucians had in fact mounted attacks from
philosophical, nativistic, soteriological, and other angies, the Ming
Buddhist apologists had to match the vigor and breadth of the Confu-
cians' standard-setting aspersions in a similarly comprehensive
manner. 16
Edward Ch'ien outlined two historical justifications that Chinese
syncretists used for asserting the fundamental congruence of the
three religions. One was based on the argument that the "Three
Teachings" shared "one source" (sanjiao tongyuan .::::.ti&fPJtJffi). The
other was based on the idea that "different paths" lead to the "same
goal" {shutu tonggui Based on my examination of
syncretistic literature of the Four Eminent Monks, I would like to
propose two more grounds on which the argument that the three
religions are inherently compatible can be presented. (Indulge me to
use literary Chinese idioms as Ch'ien did for continuity and rhetori-
cal purposes). One is that "the division of labor constitutes mutual
complement" (hufu gongcheng lLtfB*pj(;), and the other justification
appeales to the notion that different religions not only accomplish
the "same goal," but also do SO through comparable soteriological
venues (yiqu tonggong Ifu fPJ I).
The first category of justification - that all three religions are of
the same historical or spiritual provenance - was probably initially
16 Zhu Xi's mUlti-pronged attack On Buddhist epistemology, ontology, and meditation
theories, for example, were unique but not singular. See some of the criticisms he directed
at Buddhism in Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, p. 646-653.
17 Chiao Hung and the Restructuring of Neo-Confucianism in The Late Ming, p. 3.
employed by Daoists. In a spurious text that the Daoists composed to
besmirch Buddhism, Laozi Huahu Iing ::g-=r1r:Mr£, Laozi was re-
;created to be the teacher of the Buddha (who was the "hu" barbarian
'..ein this case).lS Ironically, this pejorative recast of Buddha's histori-
was used by later Daoists as a syncretistic strategy to point
tothe same source of Daoism and Buddhism in the person ofLaozi.
Interestingly, in the Ming, the "same-provenance" argument was
also put forth by the Buddhists for syncretistic purpose, except that
this time, the initially purported teacher-disciple relationship was re-
The legend of Laozi retiring himself to an identified west-
:Ward destination was reinterpreted as a deliberate measure on his
part to go west, that is, to India, to receive higher training from the
Buddha, who was historically roughly contemporaneous. Despite the
vagueness of the term "western region" used in the original mytho-
logical account, which covered a broad geographical region that
sloppily included everything west of China, Deqing was unequivo-
cally convinced that Laozi indeed went to India:
Laozi yearned for India, which was why he rode his blue ox [to travel west-
ward] ... He was humble and subdued-in-self, content with little and fully ob-
. serving moderation. He mingled with the ordinary while concealing his bril-
liance, and his real age was known to none. It was therefore that his nature
. was praised [by Confucius] 19 as resembling that of a dragon.
*.t:l1f4= ... €
Moreover, Laozi, being a person of the Central Kingdom, arrived at profound
insights without the benefit of knowing Buddhism; he surely can be called a
person of exceptionally keen faculty. If he had had the chance to meet our
Lord the Buddha on even one occasion, and allowed the Buddha to verify his
experience and resolve [his remaining doubts], it would be conceivable that
Laozi would have instantaneously attained the genuine
realization of the
'non-production [of all dharmas].' My opinion is that his journey westward
18 See Robert Buswell, "Introduction," in Chinese Buddhist Apocrypha, p. 10.
19 This fabled encounter of Confucius with Laozi was also initially a conjured-up tale by
the Daoists.
20 Hanshan dashi mengyou ji, vol. iii, p. 1879.
21 Deqing seemed to want to emphasize that the outlook of Daoist teaching may resem-
ble that of the Buddhist "emptiness," but it was still not the "genuine" Czhen) experience.
into the desert wa,s not without [such ulterior] reason. R:£-, 7J9='Im:z.A-lli.
€ - rmFMtz,

What might seem like laudatory remarks paid to Laozi at first sight
was, for all purposes, really a relegation of him to the status of a pu-
pil in comparison to the Buddha. Moreover, the host of virtues by
which Laozi was extolled was ostensibly in Buddhist terms - yet an-
other example of how syncretists evaluate other religions through the
conceptual framework of their primary tradition. By dissecting and
calibrating the rival religion through the prism of
Buddhist doctrine, Deqing fulfilled the dual-goal of showing how
both Buddhism and Daoism were grounded on compatible logic and
values, and of how Daoism, being the tradition of lesser scope and
profundity, could be fully gauged by and assimilated into the greater
Buddhist culture.
Zhenke provided another illustration of the "same provenance"
argument, in which all the various spiritual traditions were said to
have drawn from the same source of spiritual inspiration:
There was something that existed prior to the inception of the body and mind,
which was also something beyond the body and the mind, and was utterly
pristine and self-abiding (possibly referring to the Buddha-nature). It was
through the comprehension of this that [the sage] Fu Xi was inspired to draw
the Eight Hexagrams; and through the comprehension of the same thing,
Zhongni (Confucius) was moved to write a commentary on the Book of
Change; Laozi, too, comprehended this thing and proceeded to compose the
two Sections [of Dao and De of the Daode ling]; after realizing the same
thing, our Enlightened Lord the Great Ancient One (the Buddha) 'plucked the
flower and smiled to the audience on the Vulture Peak' (a Chan imagery of
the preaching Buddha).

:mIll'@'" 1:.,
The second form of justification upon which syncretistic arguments
were based pertained to the idea that "all religions lead to the same
22 Hanshan dashi mengyouji, p. 243l.
23 Zibo dashi ji, p. 6. I have corrected the original punctuation.
we may call a teleological convergence of all three reli-
1i6hs. Zhixu once proclaimed that all religions are but expedient
llfatagems, like the "willow leaves and empty fists" used to pacify
.,'{hle children/'24 and that their ultimate purpose is to help sentient
"untangle:' from and "g.eneral
ID:ents.,,25 In Deqmg's convIctIOn that "there IS not a thmg that IS not
and the [founders of all the] Three Religions were
:Without exceptions perfected sages
he also argued that all of them shared the common goal of
lielping to rid people of the "attachment to self':
'In response to the fact that everyone in the world invariably suffers from the
"sIckness of ego-attachment ... Laozi had taught that there is no greater
I[source of] troubles than one's self. Confucius the Sage was the founding
'patriarch of a tradition that elaborated on ethical human relations. He there-
fore [in his discretion] did not dare to casually preach about [the deep mean-
ing of] the eradication of ego-attachment to people of mediocre and inferior
qualities (i.e. whose quality reflected the nature of such religious traditions).
The only exception was Yanzi (supposedly the brightest of his disciples), to
'whom Confucius taught about the "restraining of the ego" ... about how not
:to be stubborn in one's intentions, how not to be fixated [to anything], and
how not to insist on what the self [pleases]. These very teachings are not
;different from the Buddhist and Daoist cardinal doctrine of 'no-self.' bl.:Jtiit
A, ... $::!t4'
Pftf,fMT, JJ.IJS:R:c, ... ... ]l.p

,24 The "willow leaves" (yangye the character yang could be interpreted to be a va-
;''I1ant of the similar character with the wood radical. An alternate reading of the compound
be "the leaves that have been tossed into air" if the yang is to be read as it is and ei-
(ther in adjectival or verbal form) resembled the shape of a form of ancient currency and
;'the undiscerning were said to be fooled into collecting them. Whereas the "empty fists"
\ (kongquan duped unsuspecting kids into believing that enticing toys are held in
;:them. These analogies were often used by Buddhists to refer to the duplicitous but
'ihell-intentioned expedient means (upiiya) resorted to by Buddhist teachers.
25 Ouyidashi wenxuan, p. 17-18.
, 26 Hanshan dashi mengyouji, p. 2416.
" T1 The first to take these four Confucian formulations as the equivalent to the Buddhist
'idea of no-self, was probably Yang Jian (1if'lli' 1141-1159). A brief description of his Juesi
:ji can be found in Edward Ch'ien, Chiao Hung and the Restructuring of Neo-Con-
in recognizi;ng a common objective of all three religions the
Buddhists did not fail to apply polemical recontextualization. In this
case, Daoist and Confucian teachings were reinterpreted through
Buddhist semantics. If in its formative periods Chinese Buddhism
had to resort to the of meanings" (geyi in order to
graft itself onto indigenous traditions, Buddhism in the Ming was
assertive enough to reverse the practice in many instance"s by
"matching" the others' meaning to Buddhist concepts. In this case,
Laozi's lamentation of the troubles physical bodies would bring was
read as an explicit description of the Buddhist teaching of "no-self."
It is not clear whether the Chinese character "shen" in the original
Daode Jing passage refers to the physical body or is used as the
reflexive referent "self;" judging from its context, it more likely re-
fers to the corporeal body. In any case, Deqing apparently found it
convenient to read it unequivocally in the latter sense.
The third group of Buddhist syncretistic argument was based on
the vision that the different supposed functions and specializations of
the three religions somehow complement each other and, together,
could provide a more holistic regimen for religious life. This usually
involved a hierarchical chart where Confucianism was almost
consistently ranked as the most elementary of the three religions by
the Buddhists. Daoism was either omitted altogether or evaluated as
an intermediate training leading to the highest tier occupied by Bud-
dhism. One example of this arrangement was proposed by Deqing:
Confucius was the sage belonging to the 'Vehicle of the Human Abode,' he
therefore upheld the Heavenly [Way] in instructing the people. Laozi was the
sage of the 'Vehicle of the Celestials.' He was untainted by desires and had
transcended the 'Human Abode' to enter the 'Heavenly Abode.' The Buddha,
in contrast, was the sage who transcended [the duality of] the sagely and
mundane altogether. He therefore was capable of [manifesting himself in
both the realms of] the sagely and the mundane. As for [the Buddha's]
capability [to manifest himself in both] the sagely and the mundane, how
could this be accomplished and matched by [other] sages and mortals? 1L-=f
jucianism in the Late Ming, p. 20.
28 Hanshan dashi mengyouji, voL iv, p. 2443-2445.
!I.ltLA.rmJ-..;R ...
Drieimplication of the "division of labor between the three relig-
ibis" was that they were perceived to mutually redress excesses and
fuake up for their respective deficiencies. Zhixu implored both Bud-
ahists and Confucians to tap into the other's spiritual resources in or-
;der to deepen their own experiences:
Those who aspire to become genuine Confucians should, as a side quest, also
strive to become genuine Buddhists. I have always said that anyone who is
less than a genuine Buddhist would be unable to competently regulate the
,world (traditionally perceived to be a Confucian undertaking). It is a fact that
the 'Three Gems [of Buddhism], have the capacity to constantly guard over
and aid the [people in the] world; and a true Confucian is also capable of
transcending the world (traditionally conceived to be a Buddhist undertaking)
... Those who are in possession of right wisdom, surely can penetrate the
meaning [of my words], and understand that this [mutual complementarity] is
where the welfare and collective good of the world lies.
... J33f:f1:E*.30
''the idea that somehow secular involvement could redress Bud-
'<il1ism's excessive eremitic proclivities was not a new one. However,
the issue of political reform and activism was rarely touched by Bud-
:dhist syncretists in the Ming. Zhenke was a notable exception, and
he paid dearly with his life for eventually incurring the ire of the
political authority. Very few pre-modern Chinese Buddhists
'broached the possibility of the ideal of a political bodhisattva, let
alone lived it. In the turmoil of the political situation of the late Ming
"",hen partisan intrigues and malicious conspiracies loomed large,
Zhengke envisioned a syncretistic scheme where Buddhism and
, Confucianism would complement each other in a joint force of right-
eousness, collectively exerting a purifying influence in the political
arena, which Zhengke felt neither religion could accomplish
29 Ibid, p. 2416.
30 Ouyi dashi wenxuan, p. 149 ..
Alas! When corruption ran amuck as people tried to 'institute policies
according to the whims of conditions,' it took governance based on principles
of benevolence and trustworthiness to rectify the situa,tion. When the rule en-
acted through benevolence and trustworthiness also became rife with corrup-
tion, then governance through wisdom and courage was needed to cure the
problem. By the time the rule through wisdom and courage also fell prey to
burgeoning corruption, the situation was beyond redemption, which has been
our situation for many years. When the Ming Emperor of the Han Dynasty
dreamt the propitious dream [of the Golden Buddha], and with the arrival of
Mo[teng] and Zhu [Falan]31 from the West, the [Buddhist] world-trans-
cending teaching was employed to salvage what was a unsalvage-
able situation. That was a logical course of action at the time. For if the
world-transcending teaching was not used to balance and supplement the
mundane teachings once [the latter] have reached their limit, [the latter]
would simply continue to deteriorate without end. [Similarly], if the trans-
mundane path became deviant and excessive, and the mundane teachings
were not taken to correct [the fQrmer], [the former] would also deteriorate
without end ... However, among the Confucians and Buddhists, there are few
who have the foresight and vision [to understand this]. My opinion is that if
the two religions do not complement each other in checking corruption, their
only alternative would lead to the undermining of one another and [political]
corruption would surely become more rampant. P1l3f! JtIH=

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By urging a unified front of the two religions, Zhengke tried to di-
vert some of the Confucian criticisms against alleged Buddhist
,,' escapism, transforming them into constructive rapprochement. His
.' frequent and highly charged apology that Buddhists could assertively
contribute to political amelioration only matched the prevalent Con-
fucian conviction that Buddhism was disassociated from and indif-
31 For the traditional account involving the Ming emperor of the Han (58-75) and his
dream, see Kenneth Ch'en, 29-31. Moteng .. JlI and Zhu Falan l't i!ili were
semi-legendary foreign figures who reportedly brought to China the first set of Buddhist
imageries and scriptures.
32 Zibo dashiji, p. 105. I have rearranged the punctuation in Chinese.
to Wang was most. blunt in
flaring the pomt: "Buddhists care about nothing. They are mcapable
the world" /FRJfAiir*T.33 In re-
to this Iqnd of diatribe, all four Eminent Monks and many of
bi6ir Song predecessors advocated a balanced approach to the
and "calmness" aspects in one's spiritual training.
hey were vehement in their insistence that the dimension of "calm-
automatically entailed the potential to spontaneous actions and
WJtality, which include the judiciousness and impassioned conviction
for active political participation. Apparently these apologet-
were a direct reaction to Neo-Confucians just like Zhu Xi and
Wang Yangming, who continued to characterize Buddhism as a form
6f idle quietism, utterly dysfunctional for advancing practical social

>The final group of dialectic grounds for syncretism, for our pur-
pose, had to do with the similar outlook, orientation, and focus of the
praxis between the three religions. Deqing and Zhixu both pointed to
tlie practice of "tranquility and insight" (zhiguan ll:ill) to be the hall-
hlark commodity shared by all three religions. As was expressly
in the following passage, Deqing was convinced that the spe-
i:ializations and spiritual functions of religions might differ prima fa-
but their respective training was connected by a noticeable com-
inon emphasis on the development of mental tranquility (samatha) as
to generating insight (vipatyana):
;f; We certainly should know that the teachings of Confucius and Laozi in re-
gard to the mind are not necessarily incongruous. It was due to the [Confu-
cian] need to maintain artificially installed sectarian boundaries and to safe-
guard and preserve the overriding national status of their religion that they
could not help but [insist on their irreconcilable uniqueness]. Confucius fo-
cused [his teaching] on managing the temporal affairs, Laozi's [teaching] fo-
cused on becoming obliviously carefree from worldly worries, while the
: Buddha predominately [taught] the transcendence of the world. Although
their ultimate fruitions are different, 34 the entry point [of the three] is all
33 Cited in Chen Rongjie, Wangyangming yu chan, p. 79.
'" 34 It is interesting to note that somewhere else in his anthology (p. 2443), Deqing added
;ia stipulation to his universalistic observation: "The respective systems of tranqUility and
about doing away with ego-attachment, and their cultivational techniques all
begin with the practice of tranquility and insight.
The practice of zhiguan (tranquility and insight) was a fundamentally
Buddhist motif. Moreover, what Deqing was referring to as the
Confucian version of "tranquility and contemplation" practice, was
from a passage in the Confucian Great Learning taken out of con-
Deqing explained the relevant passages of the Great Learning
in the following way:
Confucius then said, 'only by knowing tranquility and thereafter would one
know about stability.' He also talked about the 'elucidation of bright virtue;'
certainly we should understand the term 'elucidation' to mean 'enlighten-
Seen in traditional Confucian context, the term "zhi" 1.1:: comes from
an earlier line in the same section of the Great Learning. It referres
to the practitioner's "abiding" or "staying" in the "ultimate good"
once he has accomplished the designated virtue (zhiyu zhishan
This understanding of "zhi" as "residing" or "abiding" is
clearly conveyed in Zhu Xi's and numerous other pre-Song com-
Yet it was not only Deqing who read "zhi" as denoting a
kind of quasi-Buddhist tranquility practice. The greatest irony was
that even among Neo-Confucians, especially those of the idealist
camp, various attempts were made to interpret it as such, possibly to
insight of the three religions differ in their degree of profundity." IPJ)
35 Hanshan dashi mengyouji, voL iv, p. 2446. My emphasis.
36 One of the great ironies in syncretistic history was that, while the Four Classics were
most likely promoted by Song Neo-Confucians to corne up with an on-par soteriological
system and to reassert their doctrinal integrity, the Four Classics also became a favorite
among Buddhist syncretists for use of their own agenda. The Classics became the most
fervent ground for the practice of reversed "meaning-matching" as mentioned, and their
passages were freely and frequently conflated and recontextualized to the Buddhists'
exploitation. Examples abound in all of the commentaries written by the Four Eminent
Monks on these texts.
37 Ibid, p. 2443.
38 See, for example, Sishu Jijie, p. 6-8.
the soteriological content of the Confucian tradition as we
manipulation of meanings did not stop there. The expression
l'lning mingde".in the context of the Great Learning referres to the
!Confucians' desire to edify the world through promulgation of vir-
fues (ming mingde yu tianxia §!j §!j xT). "Ming" (the first of the
two mings) is a simple verb meaning something roughly like "to
kake known," or "to elucidate the meaning of." Through Deqing's
hnaginative reinterpretation, it became the equivalent for the Bud-
Inrist idea of "to become enlightened." The expression "ming mingde
tianxia" was as a whole read by him as "to become enlightened to
ilie [innate] luminescent virtue and then to teach the world about this
:enlightenment experience." Finally, instead of treating "luminescent
just as a virtue, Deqing rendered it as the highly Buddhistic
of the Mind," pure and "luminescent" from the beginning
,/l<.With no more subtlety than Deqing's play on semantics, Zhixu
hlso participated in this trend of "matching Confucian concepts to
'Buddhist meanings." It might seem hypocritical for Zhixu to point
but some of the more notorious instances of the misreading of the
1.iGreat Learning by Deqing - probably in deference to the shrill out-
f;cries of Confucian protests following Deqing's free rendering - only
rto interject yet another grossly 'buddhicized' reinterpretation of the
passage! To understand Zhixu's free-reading of the Confucian
a translation of the relevant passages of the Great Learning is in
The following is the beginning part of the Confucian text,
'.translated as closely as possible to the spirit of Zhu Xi's standard
{commentary on the text:
. The way of the Great Learning lies in the elucidation of manifest virtues ...
• f: and it lies in abiding in the Highest Good. Only by knowing how to abide in
the highest good one would be able to attain peace ... And only by realizing
proper contemplation one would know how to arrive at [the Way of the Great
39 Hanshan dashi Mengyo!tji, vol. iv, p. 2377-2378.
Focusing on this passage, Zhixu completely reconfigured its mean-
ing and came up with an interpretation that conformed neatly to the
Buddhist doctrinal scheme. Just like Deqing, he read the "manifest
virtue" as an ontological entity as expressed in Buddhist notions like
the "undefiled, luminescent mind substance" or "Buddha-nature." By
playing with the meaning of the sentence "Only by knowing how to
abide in the highest good and thereafter would one know about tran-
quility," he infused a distinctively Buddhist ethos in his rendering of
the same part
As for the term 'zhi' (ll::), it merely denotes the very essence 9f the 'luminous
virtue.' A point of utmost importance in this piece of instruction is encapsu-
lated in the word 'zhi' (!m). The Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment taught that,
'As soon as one realizes the illusory [nature of things, one immediately] tran-
scends [the illusion]. No further effort is required - the transcendence of what
is illusory is itself the enlightenment.' In [the Great Learning], zhi (!m) is the
equivalent of 'sublime enlightenment,' while ding, jing, an, and Iii (fl::, /W, '1i.,
Lt, respectively) constitute 'sublime cultivation.' And de (if!\) refers to 'sub-
lime attainment' ... which [has the capacity to] instantaneously transport [the
practitioner beyond all] (an expression from the Sura'!lgama-sutra that refers
to the 'sublime function' derived from spiritual attainment). ll::z-=F= ... .R
[§IJUli:\j3;-, :f:fpjJif
... ...
So much loaded ontological meaning was tortuously read into the
simple character zhi which is simply the verb "to know," or "to
be proficient at." Yet many Ming Buddhist syncretists indulged
themselves in freely associating Confucian concepts with Buddhist
ones through elaborately woven arguments. The categories of "en-
lightenment," "cultivation," "attainment," and "function" that Zhixu
employed to arrange the stages of Confucian practice also were
extracted directly out of traditional Buddhist soteric schema. The
ecumenical claim that different religious venues were of the same
orientation and principle was only made after they were already
completely reinterpreted and re-presented in Buddhist light. By first
demonstrating how Confucian practices could be readily and
smoothly translated into comparable Buddhist terms, the syncretists
40 Sishu ouyijie, p. 9
i.ofien would then proceed to argue a posteriori that indeed all the
'different religious praxis were largely analogous and compatible.
For many Buddhists, the Tathagatagarbha doctrinal formulation
'was equally useful for intra-religious engagements as well as in-
'ter-religious ones. In other words, not only was Tathagatagarbha to a
large extent the common currency for post-Tang Buddhist schools, it
was the common currency between Buddhism and Confucian ideal-
ism - ontological idealism as the hermeneutical frame to polemically
assess and interpret other religions was the same one employed for
the different Buddhist schools. One may even go so far as to argue
that one of the most discernible indication of decline in pre-modem
Chinese Buddhist scholasticism coincided with an intellectual cul-
ture that was homogenously Tathagatagarbha in outlook. This doc-
trinal conformity in the Ming also spelled lack of dissent and
self-critique in Buddhist scholarship, as should not be the case in a
truly diverse academic culture, and it had led to the observation that
. the Ming represented an unoriginal and monotonous period in terms
of intellectual vibrancy.
One of the distinguishing marks that set Ming Buddhist syncretists
apart from their predecessors was their preoccupation with using
Yogacara hermeneutics to classify, subsume, and make sense of
Confucian and Daoist practices. The Chinese Yogacara tradition -
the Faxiang School - had been in such a moribund and marginalized
state for many centuries, that its sudden rise in scholastic cynosure in
the Ming warrants further study. But one of the most obvious rea-
sons for this otherwise inscrutable revival was that the school pro-
vided the syncretists with a highly developed theoretical tool to
substantiate their syncretistic and panjiao outlines ( ~ f j ~ - the tradi-
tional Buddhist schemes to classify and rank the different strands of
teachings). As so many Ming Buddhists had lamented the abuses and
excesses of uneducated clergy, with several even specifically point-
ing out how government partiality toward Confucianism and the
resultant repressive policy had encouraged rampant corruption amid
Buddhist circles, many identified the re-establishment of a theoreti-
cally robust scholasticism as the only solution to remedy the "hol-
lowed" Buddhist practices.4i What better candidate was there than
the 'encyclopedic and meticulously technical Faxiang School? Some-
how the analytical language, technical taxonomies, and the precise
definitions of basic Buddhist tenets and soteric contents of Yogacara
scholarship had come to be viewed as signs of a tradition that Was
comparatively the h ~ a s t corruptible. While Buddhist, Chan practices
often fell prey to criticism that they were play of witty words and
that Chan masters often postured irrational behavior and flouted
conventions to attract attention, in contrast, Y ogacara' s demand for
meticulous canonical corroboration and rigorous exercises in the ra-
tional seemed a direct antidote to Chan's degenerate 'recklessness.
What might have at a different time been faulted as excessively cere-
bral and cumbersomely pedantic, Yogacara exegetical literature was
upheld by many MIDg Buddhists to be the most comprehensive con-
veyor of the most fundamental teachings - principles badly needed
to prop up Chan's style of subjective and often unbridled spontane-
ity. It is unrivaled in its meticulous methodologies and unambiguous
pedagogical style. It was no coincidence that even in the latter part of
the 19
century when Chinese Buddhism encountered unprecedented
difficulties, Y ogacara was looked upon once again as a corrective for
rampant doctrinal ignorance in the clergy and for the harsh
ideological challenges coming from outside the religion.
The Buddhist's nostalgia for the Golden Days of their religious
tradition and their grim appraisal of their own times were not com-
pletely a groundless fancy, either. The contacts with Indian Buddhist
scholarship had abruptly been severed with the Muslim devastation
of North Indian Buddhism in the eleventh century, and the transmis-
sion of learned Indian treatises to China was already declining sev-
eral centuries before that. 42 Many scholars understand the weaned
Chinese Buddhism as an increasingly self-assured tradition asserting
its independence and creativity, which in many respects is a valid
41 Zhang Zhiqiang' has outlined a detail account of the pessimistic assessment on the
Ming Buddhists' part on their own condition, and the political environment that had
contributed to that perceived condition. See "Weishi sixiang yu wanming weishixue
yanjiu," especially p. 356-362,
42 Mote, Imperial China, p. 162-163.
observation. But at least some of this independence and creativity
arose out of necessity rather than out of a deliberate choice to part
ways with the Indian host culture. In addition to the aforementioned
disruptive Indian factor, the ruthless and methodical persecutions
that Buddhism suffered in the late Tang extirpated much of its urban,
academic base and propelled the rapid displacement of the so-.called
"scholastic schools" (jiaoxia or jiao ~ r) by "practice-heavy
Schools" (zongmen or chan * F ~ ; wi). Contrary to the Chan School's
romantic, self-painted picture of its being voluntarily non-reliant on
scriptural tradition, it was at least partially due to its having few
other options that it consoled its followers with the assertion that
theirs was a tradition that could be transmitted "outside the [scholas-
tic] teachings."
In light of the Ming Buddhists' diagnosis that the degeneration of
their religion was caused by the vacuum left from its weakened
scholastic foundation, Yogadira and its repository of basic Abhi-
dharmic concepts and elaborated stages of spiritual transformations
(marga) must have stood out as a matchless candidate for salvaging
their plight. The Ming Buddhists saw in the school many useful tools
for constructing a doctrinally rigorous and soteriologically reliable
system, with the potential to bring substance to especially the Chan
practices that were seen as becoming increasingly unrestrained by
and deviant from normative doctrines.
This tendency to substantiate the praxis-oriented traditions with
the theory-oriented tradition in the Ming was evidenced by the fact
that all four Eminent Monks looked to Y ogacara for guideline in
their Chan regimens. It is conceivable that the detailed descriptions
of meditation and psychology in Yogacara compendiums had
brought more concrete standards of verification and more tangible
pointers to the highly elusive, concept-defying Chan experiences. It
was out of this consideration that Deqing tried to explain the impor-
tance of grounding spiritual enlightenment in rigorous doctrinal
learning as that transmitted in the Yogacara tradition:
"As for the five sense faculties within, and the six sensory objects without,
they all belonged to the category of 'perceived objects' (of the bipartite
distinction between the subject and object) of the Eighth Consciousness.
Those who practice Chan must first slough off the body and mind internally,
and eradicate the (attachment to the] world externally, the purpose of which
is precisely °the extinction of the two divisions [consiting in] 'perceived ob-
jects' and 'perceiving subjects' ... Therefore upfamiliarity with the
[Yogacara's delineation of] the body, mind, and the external environment
would always lead to impediments to [liberation from the cycles of] rebirth."
I*JliJlt ?1-Jl"t!t$f..1'f,
tEl, ...
Zhenke in the same vein also commented on the danger of doctri-
nally unmediated Chan practices and the pressing need to consult
Y ogacara scholarship in one's spiritual experimentations. In refer-
ring to a Yogacara commentary, he said:
"Idle sitting and quietistic introspection are unwholesome [forms of] Chan
meditation. [All the more reasons] that one cannot afford not to steep oneself
in the ocean of doctrinal learning ... And when one does intend to steep one-
self in the ocean of doctrinal learning, shouldn't this [Yogacara text] serve as
[the best] compass and steering oar for the impending journey?"
To its Ming proponents, Yogacara's usefulness in providing organi-
zation and coherence to religious praxis was not confined to Bud-
dhist schools. Its in-depth delineation of stages of spiritual progres-
sion, differentiation of nuances between enlightenment and quasi-en-
lightenment experiences, the rich vocabulary that enabled these func-
tions, in addition to all the other mentioned strengths, was also useful
for the Ming Buddhists in their critique, qualification, and mollifi-
cation of non-Buddhist traditions. The fastidiously construed typolo-
gies and hermeneutical structures in Y ogacara meant that Buddhists
could polemically assign rival religions on Buddhism's own clearly
delineated hierarchical pyramid (or spectral classification, depending
on what kind of hermeneutical structure was used). Deqing gives us
an example of how he came to rate the other traditions in such a
In regard to the Eighth Consciousness, heretics and non-Buddhists either
[wrongfully] attached to it as their nihilistic refuge, as the [uncaused] Na-
43 Cited in Shi Shengyan, Mingmo Jojiao yanjiu, p. 233.
44 Cited in ibid, p. 206.
ture,45 or as unfolding worldly conditions
... To speak in accord to the
truth, those who upheld Confucianism were entrapped in [the notion that the
consciousness is simply about] the unfolding worldly conditions; those who
'upheld Daoism were entrapped in [the notion that it is the same as] the un-
caused Nature. In a nutshell, they all failed to transcend from the [epistemic
confines of! consciousness,47 unable to fully penetrate into [the meaning of!
the One Mind."
.. , ttl.:'131!f1l:!!
Just as the Tiantai school revolved its hermeneutical taxonomy (pan-
]iao) around the rubric of the "Five Periods and Eight Teachings,"
the Ming syncretists found an equally, if not more, sophisticated
interpretive apparatus in Y ogacara expressions like the "Hundred
Categories of Dharmas," "Fifty Two Stages of Bodhisattvahood,"
and the "Eighteen Marks of Buddha's Wisdom Distinguishing [Him
from Non-Buddhists and Heretics]." Indeed, I would venture to say
that one of the most original doctrinal reinvention on the part of the
Ming syncretists lied in their employment of Yogacara concepts in
classifying and evaluating the teachings of other religions.
In all
45 Deqing is referring to an Indian philosophical tradition that was labeled in the Chi-
nese Buddhist tradition as the "Nature heretics" (ziran waidao i3 - probably refer-
ring to the AjIvakas whose thought system was associated with Makkhali Gosara. For a
discussion on these Indian "heretics" during Buddha's time, see the first chapter of Mi-
zuno K6gen, Genshi bukky6.
46 Clearly the term "yinyuan used here was not the same thing as the Buddhist no-
tion of "conditions" or "conditionality." Judging from the context, especially by its associ-
ation with Confucianism, it was most likely referring to secular accomplishments such as
those in governance and worldly successes.
47 Proponents of the Dharma-nature School traditionally faulted the Dharma-character-
istics School for dabbling in the doctrine of the [defiled] consciousness rather than being
able to realize the higher category of the immaculate Mind.
48 Hanshan dashi mengyouji, vol. iv, p. 2432-2433.
49 Ibid, p. 2435.
50 The Ming had had a long history of being relegated by scholars as an uninteresting
continuation of the Song intellectual developments. Michel Strickmann is among those
who insist that the research on syncretism of the early formative periods of Chinese Bud-
dhism is more worthy than the study of syncretism in the Ming. His reason is that "most of
the evidence adduced·in illustration of fIfteenth- and sixteenth-century syncretism can al-
ready be found together in scriptural texts written a thousand years earlier." He therefore
these aforementioned capacities the Ming syncretists truly had out-
done their predecessors. Contrary to the prevalent painting of Ming
Buddhism as a lackluster continuation of Song legacy, the Ming
Buddhists were creative, vibrant, and confident, conscious of the
original ways in which they argued for the syncretistic cause. Their
originality might not lie in their general conclusion that all religions
are compatible while Buddhism stands alone as the most complete
and efficacious revelation, but they stood peerless in the pre-modem
times in the methods and philosophical arguments employed to
prove that end.
English works
Baird, Robert. 1971. Category Formation and the History of Religions. The Ha-
gue: Mouton.
Berling, Judith. 1980. The Syncretistic Religion of Lin Chao-en. New York:
Columbia University Press.
Brook, Timothy. 1993. Praying for Power. Cambridge (Massachusetts) and Lon-
don: Harvard University Press.
Buswell, Robert. 1990. "Introduction." In Robert E. Buswell, ed., Chinese Bud-
dhist Apocrypha. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press pp. 1-30.
Chan, Wing-tsit. 1963. A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton: Prince-
ton University Press.
Ch'en, Kenneth. 1964. Buddhism in China: A Historical Survey. Princeton:
Princeton University Press.
Ch'ien, Edward. 1986. Chiao Hung and the Restructuring of Neo-Confucianism
in the Late Ming. New York: Columbia Press.
came to the conclusion: "Surely mixtures brewed of the same ingredients after such a
lapse of time ... can hardly have quite the same potency as when those [inter-religious]
elements first encountered each other so long before." "The Consecration Satra: A Bud-
dhist Book of Spells," p. 76. His observation that syncretistic maneuvers in the later peri-
ods somehow lack originality and are a mere extension of earlier polemical strategies
overlooks the development and renovations that took place. The sophisticated hermeneuti-
cal system the Ming Buddhists constructed in the rubric of Y ogacara language is but one
example of their original approach to syncretism.
'Ching, Julia. "Truth and Ideology: The Confucian Way (Dao) and Its Transmis-
. sion (Dao-T'ung)." Journal of the History of Ideas 35 (1974): pp. 371-388.
Greenblatt, Kristin. 1975. "Chu-hung and Lay Buddhism in the Late Ming." In
William Theodore De Bary et aI., ed., The Unfolding of Neo-Confucianism.
New York: Columbia University Press pp. 93-140.
Gregory, Peter. 1999. "Vitality of Buddhism in the Sung." In Peter N. Gregory
and Daniel A. Getz Jr., eds., Buddhism in the Sung. Honolulu: University of
Hawai'i Press pp. 1-20.
Hsu, Sung-pen. 1979. A Buddhist Leader in Ming China: The Life and Thought
of Han-Shan Te-Ch'ing. University Park: Pennsylvania State University
Lai, Whalen. 1983. "The Pure and the Impure: The Mencian Problematik in Chi-
nese Buddhism." In Lai, Whalen and Lewis R. Lancaster, ed., Early Ch 'an in
China and Tibet. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass pp. 299-326.
Liu, Wu-chi. 1964. A Short History of Confucian Philosophy. New York: Dell
Publishing Co., INC.
Mote, Frederick W. 1999. Imperial China 900-1800. Cambridge, Mass.: Har-
vard University Press.
Sharf, Robert H. 200l. Coming to Terms with Chinese Buddhism: A Reading of
the Treasure Store Treatise. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.
Strickmann, Michel. 1990. "The Consecration Satra: A Buddhist Book of
Spells." In Robert E. Buswell, ed., Chinese Buddhist Apocrypha. Honolulu:
University of Hawai'i Press pp. 75-118.
Taylor, Rodney. 1990. The Religious Dimension of Confucianism. New York:
State University of New York Press.
Tu, Wei-mingo 1978. Humanity and Self-Cultivation. Boston: Cheng & Tsui
Yli, Chlin-fang. 1981. The Renewal of Buddhism in China: Chu-hung and the
Late Ming Synthesis. New York: Columbia University Press.
Non-English works
Chen Rong 1984. Sishu Jijie Tainan: Zhengyan.
Chen Rongjie (Wing-tsit) 1984. Wangyangming yu chan
Taibei: Taiwan Xueseng.
Hanshan dashi mengyou ji, 4 volumes 1989. Re-
printed in Hong Kong: Puhui Lianshe.
Jiang Yibin 1997. Songru yufojiao Taibei: Dongda.
Lianchi dashi ji Compiled by Sengchan {!!!iii;. 1981. Reprinted in
Hong Kong: Zhonghua Fojiao Tushuguan.
Mizuno K6gen 7.k!llBLj[;. "Zoagonkyo no Kenkyu to Shuppan"
i±lJlffi:. Bukkyo Kenkyu, 17 (1988), pp. 1-45.
Ouyi dashi wenxuan Compiled by Zhongjing 1976. Re-
printed in Taibei: Fojiao Chuban She.
Ouyi Zhixu (1599-1655). Sishu ouyijie Reprinted in Tai-
bei: Xianzhi, 1973.
----. Zhouyi chanjie Reprinted in Taibei: Xinwenfeng, 1979.
Shi Shengyan 1987. Mingmofojiao yanjiu Taipei: Dong-
Zhang Ziqiang 5Jlt § 'liiL 2001. "Weishi sixiang yu wanming weishixue yanjiu."
In Zhongguo fojiao xueshu lundian, no. 7
7, 291-439, ed. Foguangshan Wenjiao Jijinghui. Kaohsiung:
Foguangshan Wenjiao Jijinghui.
Zibo dashiji Compiled by Sengchan {!!!i'IJt. 1978. Reprinted in Tai-
bei: Fojiao Chub an She.
Ever since the European discovery of Buddhism and the subsequent
development of Buddhist Studies, there has been an intense focus on
;:'the text" and its implied notions of authority. The origins of this
methodological propensity and its ramifications are now rather
well-known, and many scholars have begun to re-evaluate previous
categories that shaped the trajectory of this textual criticism. One
such category is the entire concept of the "canon" and its tandem
concepts of "apocryphal," "authentic" and ultimately "true/pure" -
that have shaped both Buddhist and academic discourse.
much the same way as East Asian Buddhists produced graded hierar-
chies of the Buddha's Dharma, scholars have produced graded scales
of value towards the "canons" that allow them access to the Dharma.
The Pali and Chinese canons (as well as the Tibetan, depending on
the topic) are recognized as essential and authoritative, while the
Tangut, Mongol and Manchu canons are relegated to the category of
secondary or tertiary importance. It also needs to be recognized,
however, that any intellectual mapping has an agenda and that it pro-
duces aporias with inevitable implications. In the case of Zhiyi 9@)!@i
and his Tiantai tradition, the result of this "theological"/intel-
lectual engagement with the Dharma was the elevation of the Lotus
Siitra to the pinnacle of the Buddha's teachings, a development with
profound consequences for the history of the Buddhist tradition.
While it is unlikely that the contemporary scholarly evaluation of the
Buddhist canon will have as much impact as did Zhiyi, it is still
necessary for scholars of Buddhist history to continually interrogate
I For a valuable introduction to issues surrounding the problem of Buddhist "canon(s)"
see Buswell, and more recently Freiberger.
Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies
Volume 29 • Number 1 • 2006 (2008) pp. 87-123
ourown canonical categorizations, in particular how they potentially
repress or distort the historical development of the Buddhist tradi-
tion. It is with this aim in mind that I present the following transla-
tion of the Mongolian Big Dipper Sutra with a discussion of its
theoretical and historical implications.
Overview of scholarship and translation history
This translation is based on the text of the Big Dipper Sutra as found
in the Kanjur, the Mongolian translation of the Tibetan bKa'-'gyur
(the collected teachings of the Buddha), with reference to two manu-
script copies housed in the Inner Mongolian Academy of Social Sci-
This is not the first translation of this Buddhist sutra. Scho-
lars have paid close attention to this work for nearly a century. The
first, Berthold Laufer, noted in 1907 that according to the colophon
of the Tibetan version of the sutra it had been translated into Uygur,
the Turkic language of northwest China. This claim was corrobo-
rated when German expeditions in the Tarim Basin discovered thou-
sands of fragments of Uygur Buddhist texts, several of which were
in fact translations of the Big Dipper Sutra. These fragments were
subsequently published by the Turkologist G.R. Rachmati with the
sinological commentary of Wolfram Eberhard (1937). Subsequently,
these fragments, their history, relation to other translations, cultural
implications, etc. have been the focus of numerous scholarly endea-
vors,3 culminating in the magisterial study of Herbert Franke, who
2 This translation is based on Ligeti's transcription (1963: 103-114) of the Mongolian
Doli/yan ebiigen neretii odun-u sudur found in the Beijing Kanjur (vol. 92 No. 1123
[Ligeti 1942-44: 303]), in addition to two manuscripts housed in the Inner Mongolia
Academy of Social Sciences, Hohhot, China (CMC #588 and 589 - 49.328 1403:1 and
49.328 1403:2). The two manuscripts do not differ in any substantial way from the Kanjur
version, except that both lack the important colophon. There are no early extant Mongo-
lian fragments from the Yuan period that would provide evidence of its translation history
(Cerensodnam and Taube 1993), particularly the relation of the Mongol text to the Uygur
fragments. Aside from the two manuscripts used in the preparation of this edition there are
extant manuscript copies in the Mongolian collections in Copenhagen (Heissig 1971: 221),
Germany (MHBL #287) and the library at the University of Inner Mongolia (CMC #590).
3 For a bibliography of studies on the Uygur fragments and related works, see
Elverskog (1997: 93-95).
V€()ropared the Chinese, Tibetan, Uygur and Mongolian Buddhist ver-
l%ions and showed their Daoist origins (1990). In the wake of his
:lWork, Jampa Panglung prepared an edition and translation of the Ti-
version "(1991).4 Henrik S0rensen translated a Korean ritual
for the worship of the Big Dipper and investigated the tradition
iliiKorea (1995). And most recently Charles Orzech and San-
[ford published three texts from the Chinese canon involved with the
of the Big Dipper (2000).
of new translations to scholarship
one may wonder what is the value of translating a secon-
or perhaps even tertiary, Mongolian text. Indeed, what is the
tpoint of exploring the Mongolian version of a work that was clearly
jproduced in a Chinese cultural context and is found in the Chinese

ii;, A valid point. However, our own theoretical suppositions make
'such a conjecture valid. The primary such supposition is that the
•. j:hinese canon is of paramount historical importance (a claim ampli-
;fled in this case with reference to the Daoist borrowings of the
}work). As a result, it is generally taken for granted that the Chinese
:version contained in the TaishO canon is the "ur-text" and thus it is
'the reference point for all others.
This may be true, but such an
; assumption is not without problems. Much may be lost in selecting a
text produced in Japan,6 and found in a canon compiled in Japan dur-
ing the 1920s over a text clearly produced in China and dated to the
early 14th century. While this is a philological problem beyond the
bounds of this paper, for our present concern, the modern focus on
. the Chinese canon and its perceived authority has had two ramifica-
4 The Tibetan text Sme-bdun zhes-bya-ba'i skar-ma'i mdo is found in the Peking
bKa'-'gyur (Suzuki 1955--61: vol. 40, p. 370-372, P286b6-290a8).
5 This text (Fo shuo beidou qi xing yan ming jing is found in vo-
lume 21 of the TaishO shinshu daizi5-kyi5, T 1307: 425b-426b.
6 The canonical version in the TaishO includes a picture of the Big Dipper, the "Ladies
of the Dipper" and the amulets corresponding to each star are labelled with a Japanese
.kana symbol (Orzech and Sanford 2000: 387).
tions. First, it has obscured the simple fact that the Taishi'i text and
the Mongolian siltra are not the same, thus affecting our understand-
ing of the development of this tradition. Second" the fixation on the
"Chineseness" of Big Dipper worship has obviated the fact that this
work was important among the Mongols, and thus has led us to ne-
glect what this worship among the Mongols tells us about Mongolian
Buddhism and the process by which new ideas and practices cross
both religious and cultural boundaries.
Regarding the first issue, the importance of the Mongolian text
and its history lies in the fact that it preserves a Chin!!se Buddhist
text for the worship of the seven starslBuddhas of the Big Dipper
that is not found in the Chinese canon. The opening passage of the
Mongolian text provides a history of its translation: it was translated
from Chinese into Mongolian, which in tum was used as the basis
for the Tibetan translation. The colophon also notes that an Uygur
translation was prepared and printed, but it never states explicitly
whether it was used as an intermediary in the translation from Chi-
nese into Mongolian. This fact, coupled with the fragmentary nature
of the Uygur pieces, has led to as yet unresolved speculation as to its
possible role in the translation process. Regardless, it is clear that
both the Uygur and the Mongolian texts are based on some Chinese
original, and the text always referenced in this regard is the Chinese
text found in the Taisho canon. If one compares the Chinese and
Mongolian versions, however, it becomes clear that there are promi-
nent differences between the two.
The Mongolian version is, first of all, twice as long. The narrative
of the Mongolian text can be broken down into six major sections:?
1. List of the seven Buddhas, their food offerings, relations to
cyclical birth signs and amulets.
2. Invocation of the Buddhas affiliated with each star and their
respective dhiiralJls.
7 This division is based on Franke's discussion of the text; however, he notes eight sec-
tions instead of six (1990: 86). For my analysis, the other two sections, the introductory
passage with the text's translation history and the colophon, are not relevant in terms of
the Chinese text.
. 3. Buddha's sermon to Mafijusrl on the benefits of this sutra.
4. List of the relation between the color of a person and the ele-
ment to which he belongs.
5. Hymn of praise to the seven Buddhas.
6. A list of days when lamps for worshipping the seven stars
should be lit.
Of these six sections, the canonical Chinese version (T 1307) con-
tains only the first three. The Mongolian version of these three sec-
tions is a nearly verbatim translation of the Chinese text, but the
Mongolian continues where the Chinese ends. Indeed, the Mongolian
text proclaims after section three, the end of the Chinese text, "One
chapter of the scripture of the God of Gods, Buddha's preaching of
The Satra on Prolonging One's Life Through the Big Dipper is fin-
ished." The final three sections also reflect a Chinese origin, most
strikingly the explanation found in section four of the connection be-
tween people's birth colors and their natural element. As a result, it
is clear that the canonical Chinese text (T 1307) is a truncated ver-
sion of what is preserved in the Mongolian translation.
Exactly how
this came to be is rather unclear, but, the popularity of the work, its
complicated development in China, and its translation history pro-
vide some avenues for investigation.
Aside from the Mongolian version studied here, there are also ex-
tant other texts and fragments of the Buddhist worship of the Big
Dipper that provide evidence of the existence and persistence of rit-
ual texts outside the canonical matrix. The 1651 Korean work, the
Pukdu ch'ilsong chong uimun includes sections
two and three of T 1307, as well as a lengthy introduction and sec-
8 Taking into account the differences between the texts it is important to re-evaluate
S0rensen's critique of Franke's dating of "the text" to the Yuan dynasty (1995: 74-79).
While it is clear there was an earlier version of the text produced during the Tang dynasty,
the time and place of the origin of the Sino-Mongolian text from the Yuan is far from
clear. Perhaps it was produced during the Yuan using the earlier text as a model?
Nevertheless, by ignoring the differences between the two works the complexity of its
transmission and historical development is overlooked.
9 This text is translated in S0rensen 1995: 97-100.
tion six of the "Mongolian" text. Uygur fragments from the Yuan pe-
riod and a text produced in Singapore in the 1960s also differ from T
1307. What is distinctive about these two texts is that both of them
contain the worship of nine stars of the Dipper, as opposed to the
seven of T 1307 and other Buddhist works (Franke 1990:96). This
variety points to the dear fact that multiple versions, or texts, of the
Buddhist worship of the Big Dipper. were being produced and used
in China and Inner Asia. Which is more "authoritative"? In tradi-
tional philological analysis and the production of textual lineages, it
is valid to highlight the importance of the Chinese version since it
appears to be the "original" core of later texts. Yet, mIght not this
Chinese version only be a later Japanese redaction from a/the fuller,
and certainly more Daoist influenced text, as found in the Mongolian
version? Where do the Uygur fragments and the Singapore text fit
into the genealogy? Are they a different tradition entirely? Perhaps.
However, while these questions are important and worthwhile, it
is also important to understand how this sort of textual criticism,
focusing on textual transmission and perceived categories of author-
ity, operates in the same manner as Buddhist lineage production to
obviate the most obvious question: how and why do Daoist concepts
and ritual practices become Buddhist? In the same way as modern
scholarship has focused on the Chinese text in lieu of the Mongolian
text because of constructed notions of authority, it is important to
investigate how and why medieval Chinese Buddhists appropriated
Daoist concepts and the process of legitimation that made them Bud-
. Chinese background of siitra
Of course, the cultural conflict that ensued upon the introduction of
Buddhism to China is well known. 10 Likewise it has been amply illu-
strated that the Buddhist and Daoist traditions developed within an
interface of mutual borrowing. Just as the Daoist Lingbao .1l tradi-
!O See for example Zurcher 1959, Gregory 1991, Teiser 1988, Sharf 2002, and Kiesch-
nick 2003.
tion adopted and transformed Buddhist concepts within a Chinese
sensibility (Bokenkamp 1990, 1997: 373-392), it is not surprising
that Buddhists incorporated Chinese concepts into their own reli-
gibus framewcirkY And one of the most prominent features of Chi-
nese religion that has continued from the earliest dynasties until the
present day is the worship of the Big Dipper. 12 Already during the
Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE), the Dipper was painted on the ceil-
ing of many tombs and its recognized power had reached such levels
that it was incorporated into the rituals of emperorship. In his at-
tempt to seize the throne, the usurper Wang Mang (r. 9-23 CE)
adopted the Dipper as a symbol of power and a protective talisman
against his enemies (S0rensen 1995: 72). At the same time a cosmo-
gonic dance attributed to the legendary hero Yti the Great of the Xia
dynasty also developed, intended to increase the life-span of the
practitioner and also help the state relieve the suffering of the em-
pire's people from various disasters.u In accord with these concep-
tions Emperor Huan tllw of the Han (140-187 CE), paralleling
Constantine on the Milvia Bridge, was advised by his court ritual
specialists (jangshi :1J±) to carry a standard bearing an image of the
Big Dipper (Robinet 1997: 43).
The imperial appropriation of the Dipper was grounded in
pre-Daoist cosmology, which saw the Pole Star as the abode of the
Supreme One, Tai Yi j:-. Thus as the Dipper circumambulates the
divine abode the rhythms of the universe are enacted. This concen-
trated visual representation shaped the subsequent Daoist conceptu-
liOn the early interface between Buddhism and Daoism, see Strickmann 2002.
12 The Big Dipper was venerated as a deity as early as !be late Shang p,;j dynasty
(13-1lth century BCE) (Little 2000: 128). In regards to its continuing worship, Schipper
notes in his study of contemporary Daoist practice in Taiwan !bat the most important ritual
the priest performs is !be worship of the Big Dipper (1993: 72-75). Franke (1990: 96) also
notes !bat !be worship of !be Big Dipper continues among !be Chinese Buddhist commu-
nity, as evidenced in the recent publishing of !be Miraculous Sarra of the Great Bear that
Dispels Calamaties and Prolongs Life in Singapore.
13 For a representation of this dance as found in the Taishang zhuguo jiumin zongzhen
biyao TT 987, see Robinet (1993: 223). On !bis practice see Robi-
net (1993: 221-225), and for its origins and development see Andersen (1989-90) and
Schafer (1977).
alization of the Big Dipper as the center of the Celestial Bureauc-
racy, where the cosmic order is put into place. This is an idea that is
echoed in Ge Hong's i5r# (ca. 284-363) Baa pu zi one of
the earliest collections of Daoist practices, where worship of the
Dipper is understood to protect against plague, avoid calamities, and
bestow blessings (Sorensen 1995: 73). Also in the 4th century Daoist
practice known as "Method of Holding the Three Ones" (shou sanyi
"'f -=--), the worship and meditation upon the Dipper played a piv-
otal role (Sorensen 1995: 73; Andersen 1980). By the 3rd-4th cen-
tury the basic shape of future Daoist understandings o,f the Dipper
was in place. The Dipper regulated the fate of one's life - not only
the nature of one's life, through its arbitrary fluxes, but more impor-
tantly, the length of one's life. Many of the Daoist texts that involve
the Dipper are concerned with the issue of asking for pardon of one's
sins and having one's name erased from the register of the dead.
Both of these areas are under the authority of gods resident in the
Big Dipper. Paralleling these related duties, in an early Daoist text of
the Shangqing J:rjlf revelations (364-370 CE), the Text of the Three
Diagrams That Open the Sky,I4 the Big Dipper is affiliated with death
and the hell realms. And yet, through proper practice and meditation
on the Dipper one can achieve the ultimate goal of immortality
(Robinet 1997: 146).
With this understanding of the historical importance of the Big
Dipper in China and the early Daoist textual explication of its wor-
ship in place, the question arises, why in the process of cross-
fertilization did the Buddhist tradition not· engage with these ideas
until several centuries later? Only at the end of the 7th and beginning
of the 8th century were Buddhist texts explicating the worship of the
Big Dipper produced. IS The answer lies in the important linkage be-
14 Kaitian santu jing IT 1027.
15 Vajrabodhi's (669-741 CE) Ritual Procedures for Invoking the Seven Stars of the Big
Dipper (Beidou qi xing niansong yigui T 1305, translated in Orzech
and Sanford 2000: 392-393), Yixing's (673-727 CE) The Method of Making aHoma
Offering to the Seven Stars of the Big Dipper (Beidou qixing humo fa T
1310), and Guiding'S (d.u.) The Secret Essentials for Performing a Homa Offering to the
Seven Stars of the Big Dipper (Beidou qixing humo mimi yao yigui
tween the Big Dipper and state power noted above, and its relation to
the political climate in China. Although Buddhism had a certain
political influenc.e post-Han it was a time of great
political and SOCIal mstabIhty and BuddhIsm never became a funda-
mental element in the production of legitimate emperorship. This
continued up through the Tang g dynasty (618-907), during which
the court held Daoism above Buddhism in all religious matters
(Weinstein 1987). In 684, however, Empress Wu Itt!§" seized power
and set about creating a Buddhist empire (Forte 1976), and it is then
that the earliest Buddhist ritual texts for the worship of the Big Dip-
per appear. This is likely not a simple coincidence. Instead, the
importance of the Big Dipper in Chinese statecraft mandated, or al-
lowed for, its incorporation into the Buddhist tradition at a time
when a Buddhist held the throne.
The Big Dipper and the Medicine Buddha
Another element that lends credence to this hypothesis is the
identification of the stars of the Big Dipper with the Seven Healing
Buddhas. This connection is not made in the three earliest Buddhist
texts for the ritual worship of the Big Dipper. However, in the later
canonical Chinese text (T 1307), produced in the second half of the
Tang dynasty, the connection is made (S0rensen 1995: 77). As a re-
sult, what factors can explain the appearance of the Seven Healing
tiL T 1306, translated in Orzech and Sanford 2000: 393-395).
16 A similar example of the Big Dipper continuing its relevancy in statecraft in the face
of a radical political shift is found in a tourist guide to Beijing prepared in 1957. This
guide was prepared shortly after the 1949 communist victory over Chiang Kai-shek's
nationalist government while Tiananmen Square was being created as the sacred center of
the new China.
T'ien-an-men is known to us all. Its beautiful features form an important part of
our state emblem. People tum to T'ien-an-men and see it as the people's Great
Dipper. The people of the entire world are very familiar with T'ien-an-men;
T'ien-an-men symbolizes magnificent new China (quoted in Wagner 1992: 392).
Although this was at the apogee of Marxist-Leninist thought in China the cultural map-
ping of the new ideology and its attendant nation building enterprise drew upon a well
recognized cultural symbol. Paralleling the phenomenon that occurred in the Buddhist
tradition during the reign of Empress Wu.
Buddhas and their respective (section 2) in T 1307? Again,
the political changes at the Tang court provide some clues. Empress
Wu died in 705 and the son whom she had sent into exile when she
seized the throne in 684 returned to rule as the Zhongzong r:p * em-
peror (r. 684/705-710). During his period of banishment he had
prayed to the medicine Buddha. Feeling .indebted to
this Buddha upon his return, he requested the learned monk Yijing to
translate a new version of the Satra into Chinese.
The monk completed the translation in 707, with the emperor acting
as recording scribe.17 Two important developments in this text from
the earlier versions of the SLitra were the expansion
of the Medicine Buddha into seven manifestations, and the inclusion
of protective given by the Seven Buddhas (Birnbaum 1979:
70). These are exactly the two elements that appear in the new Bud-
dhist ritual text for the worship of the Big Dipper.
The appropriation of the Seven Medicine Buddhas as the stars of
the Big Dipper fused the earlier Daoist concepts of the Big Dipper
with Buddhist ideas about As noted above, in the
Daoist tradition, the Big Dipper was the controller of one's fate, and
the ritual aim of these practices tried to erase one's name from the
registry of the dead thereby prolonging one's life. In the early Bhai-
Satra, one can pray to the Medicine Buddha for exactly
the same thing. In this work it is described that at death, Yama, the
king of the dead, sends out emissaries to collect the two inner spirits
17 Satra on the Merits of the Fundamental Vows of the Seven Buddhas of Lapis Lazuli
Radiance, the Masters of Healing (Yaoshi liuliguang qifo benyuan gongde jing
T 451, vol. 14). Translated in Birnbaum (1979: 173-216).
18 Franke (1990: 95) has identified the names of the Buddhas affiliated with stars 2, 3,4,
6 and 7 as the names of the Medicine Buddhas found in Yijing's 707 translation of
the Satra (Siltra on the Merits of the Fundamental Vows of the Seven
Buddhas of Lapis Lazuli Radiance, the Masters of Healing [Yaoshi liuliguang qifo benyuan
gongde jing T 451, vol. 14]. Translated in Birnbaum [1979:
173-216]). Why the names of the first and fifth Buddhas in the Big Dipper Satra do not
correspond to the Medicine Buddhas "Auspicious King" and "Thundering Sound of the
Dharma Sea" is unclear. Does the Big Dipper Satra reflect an earlier or different tradition
of the Seven Medicine Buddhas now lost? Did the difference arise in an attempt to pro-
duce a modicum of differentiation? Unfortunately, these questions cannot be answered
with the available sources.
of the deceased. These two spirits are brought to his tribunal and on
the basis of their deposition of all the person's deeds Yama decides
their destiny. If one prays to however, one can
change one's destiny and even overcome death (Strickmann 1990:
83). Similarly, the Big Dipper texts allow one to alter one's karmic
registry, which is controlled by the Big Dipper, thereby prolonging
one's life. Guiding's The Secret Essentials for Performing aHoma
Offering to the Seven Stars of the Big Dipper (T 1306) proclaims,
"On behalf of those who make the offerings, these deities will order
the appropriate natal star to remove them from the death records and
restore them to the life records" (Orzech and Sanford 2000: 394).
Vajrabodhi's text (T 1305) presents a parallel passage, "If you want
long life [they will] scratch out your karmic register and restore your
life register" (Orzech and Sanford 2000: 392-393). This represents a
dear parallel to the Daoist image of the Big Dipper and its worship,
and thus the linkage of the Seven Medicine Buddhas with the Big
Dipper fully coalesces these traditions - a development eloquently
captured in a visual representation from the important Scripture of
the Ten Kings that developed in the 7th-9th centuries. In this work,
. which ushered Chinese visions of hell and purgatory into the Bud-
dhist tradition, Yama is portrayed as wearing the mian an empe-
ror's hat decorated with the Big Dipper (Teiser 1994: 175).19 Bud-
dhist worship of the Big Dipper may have developed in a particular
.context, but, it continued in a multiplicity of ways.
Politics also served to fuse the worship of the Big Dipper with the
Medicine Buddha tradition and perpetuate its practice. As noted
above, the Dipper was not only linked to long life in the Chinese
tradition but also to imperial rule and the maintenance of harmony
19 S0rensen (1995: 73) argues that the most important Daoist text for the worship of the
Big Dipper probably dates to the second half of the Tang dynasty (The Perfect Scripture of
the Highest Arcane Marvel, the Great Dipper Fundamental Extension of the Length of Life,
Taishang xuanling beidou ben mingyan sheng zhen jing TT
622). In light of the growing Buddhist appropriation of Big Dipper worship in the begin-
ning of the 8th century, it is possible to conjecture that this Daoist text may have been
produced in reaction to these Buddhist texts.
within the empire:
Both the oldest version of the
&Ura and the version of the text found in the fifth century Consecra-
tion Satra (Guanding jing T 1331), articulate one idea re-
garding the worship of the Medicine Buddha: "By doing homage to
a consecrated king can resolve all problems in his
dominions: eclipses, drought, disease, demonic attacks, and the like."
(Strickmann 1990: 83) While this factor certainly played a role in the
development of this Buddhist ritual practice during the Tang, it was
the multivalency of Dipper worship that enabled its continued appro-
priation especially during the Mongol Yuan dynasty (j[; 1271-1368).
Big Dipper rites during the Yuan
As was the case with the later Manchu Qing dynasty 0'-1644-1911),
the Mongols were a foreign people ruling the predominantly Han,
though also multi-ethnic, Chinese empire. As a result, their systems
of rule entailed a multiplicity of rhetorics for political legitimacy.21
In both of these dynasties the notions of imperial identity explicated
in the Confucian-Daoist and Tantric Buddhist traditions were em-
ployed simultaneously, a policy which at times created tensions with
political and social implications. In such a climate, a practice which
fused both of these traditions, or at least the Chinese and Buddhist
conceptualizations, offered unique possibilities for ritual and ideo-
20 A fine example of the continued importance of worshipping the Big Dipper as a part
of Chinese imperial rule is found in the 1568 Marvelous Scripture of Salvation that Pro-
longs Life. This superbly illuminated manuscript written in gold is a collection of Daoist
texts for the worship of the Big Dipper and the gods of the Southern, Eastern, Western,
and Central Dippers for the benefit of the emperor and the nation. The colophon reads,
"Respectfully manifesting a sincere heart, [I] have inscribed in gold characters [these]
various Dipper Scriptures. [I] look up and pray that the great perfected on high bless [this]
august nation, and guard the path of the emperor so that it is enduring and prosperous, so
that all households and the nation enjoy prosperity, that the people be at peace, that all
things be abundant, and that all dwellings be in order, forever abiding in good fortune and
extended years" (Little 2000: 246-247).
21 The multiple identities of the Manchu emperors and the process of creating the Qing
emperorship has recently been the focus of extensive scholarship (e.g. Farquhar 1978,
Rawski 1998, Crossley 1999, Di Cosmo 1999 and Elliott 2001). However, it is important
to recognize that the Mongol rulers of the Yuan were engaged in a similar enterprise (e.g.
Franke 1978, Langlois 1981, Chan and de Bary 1982, Rossabi 1983).
l()gical innovation, especially since worship of the Big Dipper had
always been an element of Chinese imperial rule.
During the reign of Khubilai Khan, the founder of the Yuan dy-
hasty, Daoist masters of the Taiyi *- sect were commissioned to
perform the Big Dipper rituals. Franke writes:
Like other rituals for deities, those for the Great Bear stars were regarded as
a duty of the state. On the first day of the new moon in the eighth lunar
month of 1285 (September 1, 1285) the responsible officials were ordered to
worship the Great Bear for three full days. A similar edict was issued at the
end of the lunar year (January 25, 1286), presumably to pray for upcoming
good luck and prosperity (1990: 107).
Worship of the Big Dipper drew upon both Daoist and Buddhist
precedents, but it also allowed for the incorporation of Mongolian
religio-cultural concepts. This amalgam was of crucial political
importance as one of the perpetual divisions within the Yuan ruling
elite was between Confucian and Mongolian steppe theories of
And just as Big Dipper worship could mobilize Chinese and
Buddhist symbols and ideas, it also coalesced with Mongolian
cosmology and soteriology, for they too believed that the stars of the
Dipper were gods who controlled one's fate and therefore needed to
be offered animal sacrifices (Banzarov 1981-2: 55). The worship of
the Big Dipper therefore operated as a perfect medium in the crea-
tion of a multi-ethnic emperorship, incorporating disparate
conceptualizations in forms recognizable across cultural, linguistic
and religious boundaries.
The importance of the connection between the Big Dipper and
forging the emperorship through modes of cultural continuity is also
reflected in the appearance of these new and multiple translations
during the early 14th century. The only dated Uygur colophon is
from a text prepared in 1313 and then published in a thousand copies
(Zieme 1985: 161). The merit for this scriptural production is pre-
sented to the emperor, the empress-dowager and the empress. This
may be considered a standard supplication. But it is important to
22 The following discussion of the debate between Confucian and "Mongolia-oriented"
politics during the Yuan is based on the work of Dardess (1973).
keep in mind that the Renzong emperor (f=* r. 1313-1321) had
only taken the throne the year before and that his succession had
been marred by the escalating violence between the "Mongo-
lia-centred" and "China-centred" factions within the Yuan ruling
elite. The Renzong emperor, well-known for his filial devotion to his
mother, Confucian learning, and Chinese orientation, took the throne
after the death of his brother, an ardent anti-Chinese ruler and sup-
porter of "Mongolia-centred" policies. As a result, the course of
Yuan rule was radically shifted towards a "China-centred" focus.
Notably, in 1315 the Renzong emperor re-instituted the Confu-
cian-based civil service examination. In this volatile religio-cultural
and political context, the Uygur Big Dipper Sutra, with its embedded
multi-vocality, was produced in honor of the Renzong emperor.
After his death, however, the feud between these fac-
tions continued to shape the course of Yuan political culture. His
successor, the Yingzong emperor (g!f* r. 1320-1323), continued
with his predecessor's policies and advocated a Confucian-oriented
style instead of supporting the Turko-Mongol elite. Because of this
policy he was assassinated and replaced by the Taiding emperor
IE r. 1323-1328) who repudiated the coup, yet he made no attempt
to purge his administration of anti-Confucian elements. Rather he at-
tempted to force a reconciliation between the two factions, which,
instead of producing equanimity, culminated in the coup d'etat of the
"restoration" forces of 1328. The "restoration" consisted in the re-
turn to Mongolia-oriented policies by a powerful clique of Mongol
and Turkic elites who put the Mingzong emperor (1jJj* r. 1328) on
the throne. Shortly thereafter he was killed by his younger brother,
the Wenzong emperor (Jt* r. 1328-1332), and the restoration
continued. It is again in this chaotic period of shifting political winds
and the attendant vision of the emperorship that a high-ranking
Uygur official in the Wenzong court, Urug Bake, had the Big Dipper
Sutra produced in Mongolian in 1328 and two thousand copies
printed. At the same time, Alin Tam-lir, another Uygur official at the
Wenzong court, had a thousand copies of an Uygur version of the
sutra printed. That these texts appeared at two separate times in the
service of competing political wills, again underscores the power of
the worship of the Big Dipper to function as a medium of imperial
The Big Dipper and the Post-Yuan Mongols
The connection of Big Dipper worship to political power is further
.fe-confirmed in the example of the Tibetan translation and in the
production of the text among the post-Yuan Mongols.
In 1337 a
Tibetan translation of the Mongolian text sponsored by Urug Bake
was prepared at Gung-thang monastery outside of Lhasa. The
blrcumstances surrounding the translation are unclear. We do know,
however, that in 1330 the Wenzong emperor ordered Tibetan monks
to worship the stars, thus this practice was not entirely foreign to the
Tibetans prior to the translation (Franke 1990: 107). In addition on
December 18, 1336 in a purge of the Wenzong clique at court under
the Shundi emperor (JilJi:m r. 1333-1368), Urug Bake, the sponsor of
the 1328 Mongolian text was "sent to Tibet to become a Buddhist
monk" (Franke 1990: 83). It is unlikely that he had anything to do
with the translation as this phrase was simply a euphemism for exile.
Rather, Urug Bake was purged because of his support of the Wen-
long emperor at a time when Bayan held supreme power during the
early years of the Shundi emperor's reign. Bayan was a strident
anti-Confucianist and once again the Yuan was seized in spasm of
political orthodoxy. Possibly, the multiplicity of the Big Dipper Su-
tra offered an alternative to this rigidity, which was invariably
doomed to failure in the multi-ethnic Yuan, and thus it was trans-
. lated in Tibet in 1337. This seems even more likely since the monas-
. tery where it was prepared had strong connections with the Mongol
court. Nevertheless, the text made no lasting impact upon the Tibet-
ans (Panglung 1991: 400). Shorn of its religio-cultural and, most
•. importantly, its political implications the Big Dipper Sutra survived
in the Tibetan milieu only as cultural relic of the past, though its
23 Nor was its importance solely limited to the Mongols as evidenced in the Hongwu #t
JB'; emperor's tomb in Nanjing i¥Iffi:, which was layed out according to the shape of the Big
preservation in Tibetan allowed it to be mobilized again in the
multi-ethnic rhetoric of a new hmer Asian empire.
In 1572, in accordance with their peace treaty with Altan Khan,
the Ming court sent Buddhist monks, texts, statues, artisans etc. to
the Mongol ruler. In addition, Altan Khan's envoys were allowed to
cross Ming territory in order to go to Tibet to obtain Tibetan satras
and bring them back to Mongolia. A letter by the Ming statesman
Wang Chonggu records that the Big Dipper Satra was among
these texts (Coyiji 1996: 15). As evidenced in the 1607 Mongolian
history of Altan Khan, the Jewel Translucent Satra,24 Altan Khan
envisioned himself as a new Chinggis or Khubi1ai Khan, a universal
ruler of a multi-ethnic empire.
The religio-cultura1 multiplicity of the Big Dipper Satra was again
mobilized in creating an emperorship that incorporated Mongols,
Tibetans and Chinese. A mode of rule that was emulated for the last
time in the failed attempt of Ligdan Khan to once again revive the
Yuan or Mongol empire. Before he was defeated by the Manchus
and the Mongols were brought into the Qing dynasty, Ligdan Khan
tried to recreate himself in the mold of the great Yuan emperors. He
even rejected the Dalai Lama's Dge-Iug-pa lineage in favor of the
Sa-skya as the Yuan had done. He built stupas, received tantric
initiations, and most importantly, he had the entire Kanjur
24 This important Mongolian history is available in Mongolian (Jiirungga 1984), Chinese
(Zhu-rong-ga 1990), Japanese (Yoshida et aL 1998: 111-207), Gennan (Kollmar-Paulenz
2001) and English (Elverskog 2003).
25 In this work Altan Khan is presented as not only ruling over the Mongols, but also the
Chinese and Tibetans, thus he was in fact re-creating the Yuan. As an example, in the text
when Altan Khan met the Dalai Lama in 1578, he "gave" Tibet back to the leader of the
Dge-lugs-pa, much as in Buddhist histography it is imagined that Khubilai Khan presented
Tibet as an appanage to 'Phags-pa Lama of the Sa-skya schooL In addition, the work in-
eludes multiple references to Chinese and Altan Khan's relations with them in his role as
emperor. This representation was not purely fanciful grandiosity on the part of Mongol
historians. Chinese sources, most notably Qu Jiusi's 1[:fL,\!:, Wanli Wugong Lu i!il;li!fJtl;:9J
record that 50,000 Chinese, either Ming rebels, White Lotus practitioners or economic
refugees had re-settled in Altan Khan's territory. Thus Altan Khan's empire was in fact
multi-ethnic, and this reality is reflected in the Jewel Translucent Satra and its presentation
of Mongol emperorship.
(re)translated into Mongolian.
The director of this multi-volume
project was the monk Kun-dga' 'od-zer who is also identified as the
translator of thirteen sutras, including the 1624 Mongolian
of the 1337 Tibetan Big Dipper Sutra. That this
translation was done before the Kanjur project began in 1628 reflects
lts distinctiveness relative to the canonical sutras of the Tibetan
hKa'-'gyur. Its earlier translation at a time when Ligdan Khan was
frantically attempting to re-unite the fractious Mongols, and possibly
requesting support from the Ming in the face of Manchu expansion,
1.lI1derscores its ritual and symbolic importance for multi-ethnic
emperorship. In addition, that Kun-dga' 'od-zer, the most illustrious
translator at the court, prepared the translation, reinforces the influ-
ence of this text and the power of Big Dipper worship in echoing
inultiple cultural voices.
Of course, while it is vital to recognize the political dimension in the
transmission of the Big Dipper Sutra from the Tang dynasty up
through the Qing, other cultural or religious factors cannot be dis-
missed. After the fall of Ligdan Khan and any possible linkage of the
26 The oldest redaction of the Mongolian Kanjur is from the time of Ligdan Khan, who
commissioned its translation in 1628-1629. At that time six manuscript copies were
supposedly prepared, one written in gold (now housed in the Library of the Academy of
.social Sciences in Hohhot, which, however, may actually be older [Heissig 1998: 158]),
and five in black ink (one of whiCh is housed at St. Petersburg University [Kasyanenko
1993]; Kollmar-Paulenz has recently argued this may be a draft of the final version
[2002]). However, as evidenced in this work and in several colophons (including one
which confirms the translation of the Kanjur in 1602-1607 as claimed in the Jewel
Translucent Satra [Kasyanenko 1993: 158; Kollmar-Paulenz 2001: n. 771]) it is clear that
the idea, and possibly even the work of translating the entire Kanjur, was begun and com-
pleted at the time of Altan Khan and his descendants (Heissig 1998; Uspensky 1997: 113).
It is possible that when Ligdan Khan was engaged in his failed campaign against the Ordos
in 1627 he acquired a copy while residing in Hohhot (Altan'orgil, Narancogtu, Altanjiya-a
1999: 22), after which he returned east and began the re-translation project of 1628-29;
which included the altering of colophons to erase the evidence of Altan Khan's initial
work and the reorganization of the contents. A similar phenomenon occurred when the
Kangxi emperor ordered a Mongolian Kanjur to be prepared in Beijing in 1718-20
(Reissig 1954: 110).
Big Dipper Sutra with Mongolian imperial aspirations, the sutra Was
included in a collection of important Buddhist dhiiralJ-f texts printed
in Beijing by the Qing court in 1707 (Matsukawa 1994:185). Only
ten years later it was incorporated into the imperial Kanjur prepared
during the reign of the Kangxi emperor ( J 3 i i t ~ ~ r. 1662-1723). Thus, it
began, in a sense, to have a life of its own. Though its connection
with polyvalency was not lost on the Manchus?? who, for example,
incorporated its power and imagery into one of the central incense
burners in Yonghegong, the imperial center of Qing Buddhism.
The Big Dipper Sutra, however, also had resonances and influ-
ences among the Mongols far beyond the rarefied realm of emperor-
ship and political discourse. The Mongols called upon the Big Dip-
per in hunting rituals, rituals to make one shoot straight, and most
Buddhist and "shamanist" rituals in genera1.
An important measure
of the sutra's influence in Mongol culture generally is its name: By
the Qing, the Big Dipper is no longer called by its traditional name
the "Seven Old Men" in Khalkha (the main Mongolian dialect), but
the Seven Buddhas. Of course, it is through such a broad and deep
cultural penetration that the Big Dipper Sutra became such a pivotal
element in the production of emperorship. It was this breadth and
depth that produced and preserved the Mongolian text in a static
form over the centuries, but this should not blind us to the multiple
versions of the text and different visions of Big Dipper worship that
existed at various times and in different cultural areas. What began
within the narrow confines of a Tang dynasty Buddhist-Daoist dis-
course spread over all East Asia with extraordinary, diverse re-
ligio-cultural and political implications. It is important that we
recognize that, in the same way that the Big Dipper Satra was used
to create emperorship by concealing difference, our own focus on
the Chinese canon and its implied representation limits our vision of
the multiple narratives of the Buddhist tradition. Only by moving
beyond its confines can we begin to understand and appreciate the
27 On the polyvalency of Qing imperial ritual see Waley-Cohen 2002.
28 See Bawden (1963), the "shamanist" texts collected by Rintchen (1959), and the "folk
religion" texts in Reissig (1966).
fich complexity of the Buddhist life and its spread over the vast cul-
ltirallandscape of Asia. ,
INamowa buddhay-a :: Namowa dharmay-a :: Namowa sangghay-a

@ Chinese [this text is called]: Bei deuci sing ging.

lIn Mongolian [this text is called]: The Constellation of the Seven Old
1b Tibetan [this text is called]: Smi dun zis byau-a skarnwi mdowa.32 _
-i' 29 This opening homage praising the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is a standard
introductory formula found in almost all Mongolian Buddhist texts. It is a formula that
:was borrowed from Uygur Buddhist texts which may have derived from a Sogdian
. convention (Nattier 1986).
")30 The Mongolian transcription Bei dellci sing ging, and the corresponding Tibetan tran-
"scription Bea dll ehed zing ging are both transcriptions of the Chinese Bei dOli qi xing jing
Satra of the Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper. The full title of work, how-
is Satra Spoken by the Bllddha that Prolongs Life throllgh the Seven Stars of the
Northern Dipper (Fo shllo bei dOli qi xing yan ming jing which is
corroborated by the Uygur fragment U 4829a (Zieme 1985: 160).
',31 The Mongolian name for the Big DipPl!r, doloyan ebiigen "seven old men," is found
in the oldest Sino-Mongolian glossary, the Zhi Yllan Yi yll prepared during the
reign of Khubilai Khan CLigeti 1990: 259-277). However, in the Hila yi Yi yll a
Sino-Mongol glossary from 1389, the Big Dipper is called simply doloyan odlln "seven
stars" (Mostaert 1977). This variety is also reflected in modem Mongolian languages e.g.
Daur dolo xod "seven stars"; Santa doloTJ xoduTJ "seven stars;" though it is interesting to
note the influence of this text on Khalkha where the Dipper is indeed called the "Seven
Buddhas," doloon bllrxan (Kara 1990: 279-344; see also Birtalan 2001: 970-971).
32 This is the Mongolian transcription of the Tibetan title of this work, Sme-bdun zhes-
bya-ba'i skar-ma'i mdo. The term Sme-bdun is a common literary term for the Big Dip-
per; however, the more common term is byang-skar spun-bdun, "the seven star brothers of
the north" (panglung 1991: 400). This difference certainly does not explain the Tibetans'
disregard for this ritual text, though it does reflect some of the disconnect between this
ritual text and its cultural connections in Tibet. Unlike in China and among the Mongols
the Big Dipper did not playa prominent role in Tibetan religion and culture and therefore
even though it was translated within a particular context -it had no lasting influence.
Among the Mongols this was obviously not the case and thus in 1624 Kun-dga' 'od-zer
prepared a new Mongolian translation of the work based on the 1337 Tibetan translation.
Homage to the Seven Tathagathas.
Thence the Blessed One, the God of Gods, Buddha said to the youth-
ful Bodhisattva Mafijusrl, "In the constellation of the Big Dipper the
first star is named Tan-Iang.
Its amulet is this:
As a result this opening passage, with its chronological presentation of the text's history, is
a direct copy of the Tibetan text. Indeed, the 1624 Mongolian text is a near verbatim copy
of the 1337 Tibetan version, attesting to Kun-dga' 'od-zer's translation skill. He did, how-
ever, make one mistake. In Kun-dga' 'od-zer's colophon the sponsor of the l328 Mongo-
lian text is identified with the title yeke sikiirtii ("great parasol holder"), though in the
Yuan period there was actually only the title "sikiirtii." And indeed the 1337 Tibetan text
transcribes his title as zu-gur-ehe. Kun-dga' 'od-zer mistook the ehe as an adjective (Tib.
ehen=great) and over-translated it withyeke, "great" (Matsukawa 1994: 184).
33 The Mongolian Tan-lang, Tibetan Ta-lang (P 286b8), and Uygur [tJamlang are tran-
scriptions of the Chinese name for the first star (a) in the dipper's bowl: Tan lang
"greedy wolf." The fact that the Uygur and Tibetan transcriptions retain the Old Mandarin
final -m, while Mongolian has the more recent final -n points to Mongolian version being a
more recent revision (Franke 1990: 87).
The names in this text correspond to the following stars:
Wu-qu Lian-zhen
Wen-qu :>crt!!
Lu-cun ffrikff: 0
Tan lang
o Ju-men
Previously, the names for the stars comprising the Big Dipper in this work were consi-
dered "bizarre" (Levi 1908: 453); however, Franke (1990: 103-107) has shown that the
names can be traced back to the fifth century astrological and chronomantic treatise of
Xiao (d. 614) the Compendium o/the Five Agents (Wu xing da yi 1i1t**ii;), which
in tum is based on the the Dipper Chart of the Yellow Emperor (Huang di dOLl tLl)
III (Kalinowski 1991: 339). In other astronomical works and in the most important Daoist
text on Beidou worship, e.g the Tai shang xuan ling bei dOLl ben ming yan sheng zhen
jing (TT 622, vol. 341), the stars have other names, 1)
Yang-ming 2) Yin-jing 3) Zhen-ren 4) Xuan-ming y,:;ii!;; 5) Dan-yuan ft
7C ; 6) Bei-ji 7) Tian-guan For a comprehensive list of other names used for
these stars see Kalinowski (1991: 102-103)
34 Neither the canonical Mongolian nor Tibetan version of this work contains the amu-
lets which are found in the canonical Chinese text (see T 1307 or Orzech and Sanford
2000: 390). The early Uygur fragments do have these amulets and they are similar to the
ones found in the Chinese text (Rachmati 1937: Plate 5). Why the Tibetan and Mongolian
Kanjur versions do not have these amulets is not certain. Nevertheless, the amulets con-
tained in the Chinese and Uygur Buddhist texts both graphically and ideologically seem to
be premised on the Daoist concepts of amulets (iu r-t). This system is premised on the idea
that amulets are bipartite, one piece existing in heaven and the other on earth, and through
possessing the earthly amulet one receives protection from the deities in heaven (see
A person [born in the] year of the Rat is born under the jurisdic-
tion of this star. 35 Its food offering is large-grained millet. If there are
spirits and obstacles,36 this scripture is to be worshipped and this
;UUulet shouldQe worn on one's own body, and thus the evil spirits
and obstacles will be annihilated, and one will become very joyful.
The second star is named Giyu-men.
Its amulet is this:
A person [born in the] years of the Ox and the Pig is born under
the jurisdiction of this star. Its food offering is pearl millet. If there
are evil spirits and obstacles, this scripture is to be worshipped and
this amulet should be worn on one's own body, and thus the evil
spirits and obstacles will be annihilated, and one will become very
The third star is named Lu-cun.
It's amulet is this:
A person [born in the] years of the Tiger and the Dog is born un-
der the jurisdiction of this star. Its food offering is rice. If there are
evil spirits and obstacles, this scripture is to be worshipped and this
amulet should be worn on one's own body, and thus the evil spirits
and obstacles will be annihilated, and one will become very joyful.
The fourth star is named Uen-kiuu.
Its amulet is this:
Kaltenmark 1960, Legeza 1975, Seidel 1983).
35 In Daoist texts it is understood that depending upon the time of one's birth, a particu-
lar star/god of the Big Dipper governs the course of one's life, or "root destiny" (benming
* trJ). "Six times each year, on the cyclical day of one's 'root destiny,' the 'Root Des-
tiny Realized Officer' of that cyclical day would descend to the human world, at which
time people born under the influence of that officer were to fast and make offerings"
(Little 2000: 248).
36 "Evil spirits and obstacles" is a translation of ada todqar, an Uygur (ada tuda) hen-
diadys loanword originally meaning "danger, obstacle, hindrance" (Clauson 1972: 40;
Rohrborn 1977: 43-45). After it was borrowed into Mongolian, ada quickly became
personified as a demon or evil spirit, while todqar kept the original meaning of "obstacle"
(Lessing 1995: 9, 813).
37 Mongolian Giyu-min, Tibetan Ku-men (p 287al), and Uygur Kumun are translitera-
tions of Chinese lumen "Great gate."
38 Mongolian Lu-cun, Tibetan Lu-sun (p 287a3), and Uygur Liusun are transliterations
of the Chinese Lucun "Happiness retained."
39 Mongolian Uen-kiuu, Tibetan 'Un-khu (P 287a4), and Uygur Yunkiu are translitera-
tions of the Chinese Wenqu "Literary song."
A person [born in the] years of the Hare and the Chicken is bam
under the jurisdiction of this star. Its food offering is wheat. If there
are evil spirits and obstacles, this scripture is to be worshipped and
this amulet should be worn on one's own body, and thus the evil spi-
rits and obstacles will be annihilated, and one will become very joy-
The fifth star is named Liyan-cim.
Its amulet is this:
A person [born in the] years of the Dragon and the Monkey is
born under the jurisdiction of this star. Its food offering is hemp
seeds. If there are evil spirits and obstacles, this scripture is to be
worshipped and this amulet should be worn on one's own body, and
thus the evil spirits and obstacles will be annihilated, and one will
become very joyful.
The sixth star is named Vuu-kiUU.
Its amulet is this:
A person [born in the] years of the Sheep and the Snake is bam
under the jurisdiction of this star. Its food offering is black beans. If
there are evil spirits and obstacles, this scripture is to be worshipped
and this amulet should be worn on one's own body, and thus the evil
spirits and obstacles will be annihilated, and one will become very
The seventh star is named Bo-jiyun.
Its amulet is this:
A person [born in the] year of the Horse is born under the jurisdic-
tion of this star. Its food offering is green beans. If there are evil
spirits and obstacles, this scripture is to be worshipped and this amu-
let should be worn on one's own body, and thus the evil spirits and
obstacles will be annihilated, and one will be very joyful.
40 Mongolian Liyan-cim, Tibetan Lim-chim (P 287a5-6) and Uygur Limcin are
transliterations of the Chinese Lianzhen "Pure virtue."
41 Mongolian Vuu-kiuu, Tibetan Vu-khu (P 287a7), and Uygur Vukuu are transliterations
of the Chinese Wuqu JitalJ, "Military song."
42 Mongolian Bo-jiyun, Tibetan Bu-gum (P 287b 1 and pu-gun in the Berlin manuscript
bKa'-'gyur [Pang1ung 1991: 446]), and Uygur Pakun are transliterations of the Chinese
Pojun "Destroyer of armies."
,Now we do homage: To the sanctity of the star Tan-lang. You are
ian emanation of the Buddha, "Who Has Penetrated the Wisdom of
rthe Mind's Will," of the Most-Surpassing-World of the East.
samanta budda nan om amidhayayi suva-ha.
We do homage to the sanctity of the star Giyu-men. You are an
'emanation of the Buddha, "Powerful in Scintillating Voice," .of the
Sublime-Bejeweled-World in the East. His dhiira1J-f is, namah sa-
budda nan om cinda hum ni suva-hii.
do homage to the sanctity of the star Lu-cun. You are an
'Jmanation of the Buddha, "Completely Gone Beyond Gold-Col-
'bred," of the world like a perfect full moon in the East. His dhiira1J-f
Xs nam-ah samanta budda nan om ni mirini angata-n
bar-a ma
'rutu-sit suva-hii .
..... We do homage to the sanctity of the star Den-kiuu. You are an
6manation of the Buddha, "Most Supremely Holy Bliss," of the Sin-
iess World in the East. Your dhiira1J-f is nam-ah samanta budda nan.
bm vi-ha suva-ha.
We do homage to the sanctity of the star Liyan-cim. You are an
of the Buddha, "Effortlessly Breaking Through All Ob-
stacles with Intellect and Wisdom," of the Completely-Pure-Land in
the East. His dhara1Jf is nam-ah samanta budda nan om prati cer-a
maran-a suva-ha.
We do homage to the sanctity of the star Vuu-kiuu. You are an
emanation of the Tathagatha Sakyamuni, "Who delights in the Ocean
of Dharma," of the Dharma-Worshipping-World in the East. His
dhara1J-f is nam-ah samanta budda nan om sarva dhar-a samay-a
43 On the names of the Buddhas see note 18.
44 These dhlira/;zfs seem to be in Sanskrit; however, they do not correspond to any
recognizable Sanskrit text or those found in Yijing's Satra T 451. Instead
it is more likely that these are "artificial" Sanskrit dhiiraTJfS that lend a tone of authority to
Chinese texts.
4S Ms I (5r) has this term as laka-ha, with a Tibetan interlinear gloss la-ga-ha-na.
We do homage to the sanctity of the star Bo-jiyun. You aTe an
emanation of the Buddha, "Who is the Emperor of Herbalists with
Lapis Lazuli Splendor," of the World made of Lapis Lazuli and j e w ~
els in the East. His dharalJf is nam-ah samanta budda nan: om sapita
par-a manica suva-hiJ.
If anyone is confronted with an evil spirit in one's [birth/animal]
year, then that person should pray to this Dharma Jewel seven times.
And thus all evil spirits and. obstacles will be pacified and one will
become happy.
The God of Gods, Buddha said to the Bodhisattva MafijusrI, "Oh
MafijusrI, this sutra which I have preached is the most supreme,
majestic, scintillating, great and powerful of Dharmas. It is a protec-
tor and hedge against all the tortures and afflictions for beings who
have gone astray. It is the pacifier and disperser of the demons'
calamities and misfortunes, characterized by sins and obstacles.
Monks, nuns, princes and princesses, townsmen and women, famous
people, men and women of high stature, the respectable and the
unrespectable; whoever, great or small, hears, learns, memorizes and
personally worships this Dharma, and even more, if you enlighten,
teach and establish it for your friends, retinue and family, you will in
this life obtain the good rewards of this merit.
Whatever gentleman or lady, [whose ancestors] have passed away
and been born in hell and made to suffer various bitter sufferings, if
they revere and worship this scripture with devout minds, their
. majestic souls will be liberated and saved from the sufferings of hell,
and they will be born in the Very Blissful World, the realm of Ami-
Hibha Buddha.
If whatever gentleman or lady who is held in contempt by zombie
ghosts,46 or tormented by evil demons, or if they dream evil dreams,
46 For the Mongolian term "zombie ghosts," eliy-e Cidkiir, the Tibetan text has gdon
(Panglung 1991: 412), meaning "an evil spirit, a demon causing disease" (Das 1985: 663),
and the Chinese is translated as "imp" by Orzech and Sanford (2000: 39l); nevertheless,
the exact form of this malevolent spirit is unclear. However, based on Bawden's study of
the various types of disease causing entities refered to as eliye it seems likely that, in
particular on account of its connection with Cidkiir, eliye in this case should be "that of a
liild if they are frightened and terrified after having seen wicked and
'had omens; if they hear, learn, memorize and worship this scripture,
they will be liberated and relieved from these evil spirits so that their
ifuind will become firm and pacified, and all their fears will be com-
pletely dispersed.
\Vhatever gentleman or lady, or whoever, if they personally meet
it prince and princess and wish, 'I want to become their confidante
and a member of their retinue;' if that person, especially if s/he is a
,servant, comes across this scripture and worships and reveres it with
a devout mind; then s/he will become an intimate favorite of the
prince and princess, and as a result his/her fame will increase and
s/he will become famous, and there will be vast, great rejoicing.
If a gentleman or lady contracts some [disease] and chronically
suffers from a severe illness, and if they wish to be liberated from
'that illness, if they light incense in a pure house,47 make offerings to
this scripture, and have this Dharma recited, their illness will be
Whatever gentleman or lady who goes on the road and travels far,
[who feels] they are content doing business to gain profit, and
obtaining goods and merchandise; if they wish to vastly increase the
inheritance for their children and grandchildren, then worship and
revere this scripture with a devout mind. Forthwith what he desires
will be fulfilled according to his wishes. Whether at home or abroad,
there will be vast, great rejoicing.
Also if some gentleman or lady plants grain or fruit and does not
. get a harvest, and if there is a plague among the animals,48 then if
dead person who has been transformed into a ghost" (1994: 70). In this case the "zombie
ghost" is thus one of a host of disease causing spirits in Mongol world. For more informa-
tion on these entites see the illustrated survey in Bethlenfalvy (2002).
47 The Mongolian ariyun ger, "pure house," is a calque of the Chinese jingzhu ¥¥1±:,
"pure abode," a term for a Buddhist monastery.
48 It is interesting to note that translators of Buddhist siitras use different culturally spe-
cific terms in their translations. For example, a translation prepared in the north of China
will use the locally grown "dry rice," while a Southern translation of the same text will
speak of "wet rice," Similarly in this work, the Mongolian and Tibetan texts describe the
problems of a poor grain and fruit harvest (Tib. zhing-la la-tog dang / shing-tag-gi
one lights incense in a pure house and worships this Dharma Jewel
the "grains and earth will become good, and one's animals will
greatly increase. Also there will not be any other ~ v i l spirits or obsta-
Gentleman and lady, if there is a fetus in the womb, and if you
come across an inauspicious month, if you then worship and revere
this scripture with a devout mind, you will be liberated from this evil
spirit and you will be healthy and safe. Your son or daughter that is
born will be fortunate, blessed and have a long life.
Also, gentlemen and ladies, you should know, people who are
born are all the same in that the Big Dipper rules over [your fate].49
The Big Dipper decrees when one lifetime begins and ends, and can
protect against however many evil spirits and obstacles, useless and
vain debates, and those hundred evil bad omen marks. Thus, you
should know and understand if you worship and revere the meaning
of this Dharma with a devout mind, all the evil spirits and obstacles
will not be able to harm you," preached [the Buddha].
Then the four-fold community, led by the youthful MafijusrJ:, re-
vered and established this Dharma teaching, and led [them] in bow-
ing down and prostrating themselves with the five skandhas. Nama
ratn-a cir-a citima-hiidica cir-a ayabar-a ay-a suva-hii.
One chapter of the scripture of the God of Gods, Buddha's
preaching of the &itra on Prolonging One's Life Through the Big
Dipper is finished.
A person with a metal
blessing has a white body. A person with
a wood blessing has a blue body. A person with a water blessing has
a black body. A person with a fire blessing has a red body. A person
with an earth blessing has a yellow body.51
'bras-bu [Panglung 1991: 413]); however, the Chinese version talks of the hazards ofrais-
ing silkworms, and the danger of empty cocoons (Orzech and Sanford 2000: 391).
49 The idea that the gods resident in the Big Dipper are the protectors and deciders of
one's fate is an integral element of Daoist thought, see introduction.
50 The text reads altan, "gold," however, it is based on the Chinese jin :1i'i: and thus here
translated "metal" according to the five elements.
51 These correspondences are based on the Chinese concept of qi ~ as the underlying
These are the eulogies praying for blessings from the Big Dipper:
You are the Goddess of the Earth, Supreme Mother, who dwells
on the summit of Mount Sumeru which is 80,000 yojanas high.
You are the Supreme Great Power over all four continents.
My God, you are the Protector of a being's four births
and five
You are like a rosary that is made to be worn as a diadem by the
~ r o p e r o r of the Gods, Indra.
You are the one who causes the sun and moon, at the head of the
seven planets, the 28 lunar mansions and the 30,000 billion stars, to
'worship [yourself].
My God, you are the Wish Granter of all that is desired in this life.
Deign to satisfy whatsoever thought I think and desire that I de-
My God, you are the destroyer and annihilator of a hundred types
;of evil spirits and obstacles.
You are the one who prolongs long life. Deign to accomplish
every good deed.
I will speak of the days for lighting candles for the Big Dipper. On
the seventh day of the first moon of Spring; on the second day of the
j;hird moon of Spring; on the 27th day of the first moon of Summer;
on the fifth day of the second moon of Summer; on the 23rd day of
the last moon of Summer; on the 20th of the first moon of Fall; on
the 17th of the second moon of Fall; on the 20th of the third moon of
l11atter of existence. In Chinese thought, qi is understood as the lineaments that shape the
system as a whole, which is characterized by change in a regular and cyclical pattern. It is
a cycle that is mapped out according to yin and yang, the five phases and the eight tri-
grams, whereby qi is the matrix in which things on the same point of the cycle influence
one another (Bokenkamp 1997: 15-16). In the passage here, the connections are based on
the five phases, of which a detailed chart can be found in Boehmer (1977: 5).
52 The four different births are from moisture, from an egg, from a womb and miracu-
53 The five fates refer to a person's possible reincarnation in one .of the the lower five
realms in the wheel of life: hell, hungry ghost, animal, human, and asura.
Fall; on the 11th of the first moon of Winter; on the 15th of the sec-
ond moon of Winter; and the eighth of the last moon of Winter, can-
dles are to be lit and [the scripture] is to be worshipped. The Big
Dipper Sfttra is finished.
Knowing well of the benefits for whoever worships mindfully
with an intent to rely on the fully enlightened Buddha Teacher's
preaching of the Big Dipper Siitra, Urug B6ke,54 a Great Parasol
Holder,55 continually recited [this text] with humility and a reverent
and pure mind. [He prepared this text] because he prays for the
intercession of his blessing, hoping for the long life of the Meritori-
ous Lord, an incarnation of the Buddha who performs Liberation,
Tug Temiir;56 and wishes that he will be the greatest Emperor of all,
54 Urug Biike was a prominent Uygur Buddhist official who at the end of his life was
purged for his support of the Wenzong emperor (r. 1328-1332). He is first mentioned in
the Yuanshi in 1328, when he was promoted to Deputy Censor and shortly thereafter
made commissioner of the Bureau for Imperial Cults (Taixi zongyin yuan In
1330 he was promoted to Chief Censor, the title he holds in the colophon, yet shortly
thereafter he requested to resign though the emperor refused until the following year. He
was then stationed in the south and ordered to suppress rebellions among the inhabitants of
Hainan liiti¥i. Afterwards, the sources are silent about Urug Biike until 1336, when it is
recorded that he was "sent to Tibet to become a monk," a euphemism for exile. Between
1336 and 1340 he passed away and in a 1340 edict he is described as a "rebellious offi-
cial" for his support of the Wenzong emperor (Franke 1990: 81-83).
55 "Great Parasol Holder" is an over-translation of sikurtii (see note 4), meaning "para-
sol holder." It was a title during the Yuan given to those, numbering 400, who were
responsible for the personal accoutrements and needs of the emperor (Cleaves 1957: 438
56 Tug Temiir was put on the throne as the Wenzong emperor r. 1328-1332) after
his elder brother Qoshila (Mingzong I¥l*, r. 1328) was assasinated in the name of the
restoration of 1328. This coup d'etat was engineered by the Kipchak El Temiir and the
Merkid Bayan in the name of Tug Temiir's father, Qaishan, the Wuzong emperor (JEt* r.
1307-1311). In the eyes of the restoration forces Qaishan had been the last "steppe" ruler
whose style of rule had been replaced by Confucian-oriented rulers beginning with Qai-
shan's successor, the Renzong emperor ({=* r. 1312-1321). The restoration was there-
fore reputedly an attempt to restore the lineage and ruling style of Qaishan; however, it in
fact ushered in Confucianism as the dominant ideology of the latter Yuan. As a result,
there was extensive internal political power struggles and purges within the ruling elite,
however, in general the empire as a whole remained peaceful during Wenzong's reign.
ihebeing a pure minded Bodhisattva Lord. Having learnt Wisdom
flnd SIdll and Means he will take the throne of Sechen Khan.
. [previously], whoever wished one's own mind to be free of
!ittachments and doubts, had to produce faith in this Dharma in Uy-
since this Dharma Sutra was not translated. Saying, "In order to
1iave many Mongol subjects worship it with faith," I [Urug Boke],
!had it translated into pure Mongolian. In order to accomplish my
idea, "To satisfy the wishes of a thousand people, and thus satisfy
Jili.eir desires,"one thousand complete copies were printed and all
the power of the fruit of this good merit may the Lord Em-
the Queen, the Imperial lineage, all eternally rejoice, spread
hierit, and finally obtain the sanctity of the Buddha. May the agitat-
enemies of the Empire be pacified, and there be peace with no
Nevertheless, on account of his rise to power with the help of Bayan, who launched an
fulti-Confucian campaign in 1337-1340, in 1341 with the triumph of Confucian politics
. Jhe Wenzong emperor was vilified and his ancestral tablet removed from the imperial
(Dardess 1973).
Sechen Khan, "Wise Khan," is the Mongolian reign title of Khubilai Khan
.11215-1294, r. 1260-1294, Shizu i!!:t.l3.), the second son of Tolui, Chinggis Khan's young-
;'es! son. In 1251 his elder brother Mongke was elected khan, wresting power away from
Sjhe designated successors of Ogedei' s lineage. Khubilai was given northern China as an
and given the duty of defeating the Dali :kl1l! kingdom in Yunnan Mer
;ilii.s success he began consolidating his power in north China and began the building of a
north of the capital called Shangdu J:'/i1l, and acted as mediator in the fierce Bud-
dhist-Daoist debates of the 1250s. In 1258 Mongke and Khubilai began the conquest of the
,Southern Song i¥i* (1127-1279), though a year later Mongke died and although Khubilai
,'was elected khan a bitter succession struggle ensued with his younger brother Arig Boke.
'this feud continued until Arig Boke suddenly died in 1266. Afterwards Khubilai turned
'Iris attention to conquering the Song, which was fought on both land and sea, yet did not
'eIld till the last Song emperor died at sea in 1279. During this protracted engagement, in
1271 Khubilai proclaimed the founding of the Yuan 5G dynasty (1271-1368), subjugated
Korea, and launched a disastrous invasion of Japan in 1274. Yet as his power increased in
the East, his right to rule was being threatened from Central Asia by steppe-oriented Mon-
,gols under Khaidu, though they were also defeated in 1279. Mer he had consolidated his
control Khubilai turned to reforming the government, particularly in the economic and
legal spheres. Yet, although he tried to foster social and economic advances, his rule was
beset with financial problems, stemming from tax policies, the building of the Grand
Canal extension to the capital and failed campaigns in South Asia. Nevertheless, during
his rule there were improvements in other areas, including science, trade, and the arts
(Rossabi 1988).
evil spirits and obstacles. Mayall of the various weathers and rains
come at the proper time, may there be no destruction or insufficiency
of the livestock, and may whatever I think and speak be accom-
plished. By means of this scripture may my wishes and those of my
parents, relatives and children, living and deceased older and
younger brothers and. all living beings be satisfied in this world, and
may they all reach the peaceful world of Sukhavati
In the first year of Tianli,59 a Dragon year, on the first day of the
tenth month, wooden blocks [of this slUra] were carved. This book
was brought from India by an Indian par:t<;lita and the wise Xuan-
zang,60 and it was translated in China. When it completely spread in
the Land of Supreme Customs,61 the nobles and officials of the Great
Emperor gave rise to Bodhicitta and became complete in their faith,
wisdom and samadhi-dhyana.
When he brought these things to mind, Parasol Keeper and Chief
Urug Bake had the Lord of the Religion
of the Uygurs,
58 SukhavatI, the Land of Bliss in the west, is the Pure Land of the Buddha Amitabha.
59 The Mongolian teng-Ii and Tibetan then-Ii are transcriptions of Tianli ::RM, the first
reign year title (nian hao <¥-5m) of the Wenzong emperor (r. 1328-1332).
60 Xuanzang :t!!i!§ is identified in the Mongolian as Tang san chang and Tibetan as
Thang zam chang, which are transliterations of the famous Tang n!f dynasty pilgrim and
translator Xuanzang's title "Tang Traipitika" Tang san zang The claim that Xuan-
zang brought this work back from India is incorrect; however, it fits the pattern of attribut-
ing Chinese texts to Xuanzang in order to bolster their authenticity. This attribution to
Xuanzang is not found in either the Chinese (T 1307) or the Uygur fragments. The Chi-
nese text attributes its appearance in China to an Indian monk. Orzech and Sanford trans-
late the Chinese bo-Iuo-men seng as "Brahman monk," though as pointed out by
Paul Demieville (1987: 25) this phrase means simply an "Indian monk" (Franke 1990: 81).
One of the Uygur colophon fragments also notes that the text was brought to China by an
"Indian monk," iiniitkiik toyin (Zieme 1981: 390). The connection with Xuanzang as found
in the Mongolian colophon is therefore "new," or at least differs from the other two ver-
sions. This variation again only reaffirms the multiplicity of texts for the worship of the
Big Dipper produced in China and Inner Asia.
61 The "Land of Supreme Customs" (Mong. erkin yosud-un oron) is an an epithet for the
Yuan dynasty (1271-1368).
62 The Mongolian Gin-si gong lu tai buu: giui sUn tai buu and Tibetan Gim rce gong lu
ta'i hu'i gyu'i shi tha'i hu are transcriptions of Urug Biike's titles in Chinese, lin zi guang
lu da fu a high court rank and Yu shi da fu 1&1l5!::::k;R:, "chief censor"
(Franke 1990: 81).
fR.iljfiasrf"4 translate it into Mongol language and script, and had two
ffi6usand copies printed. Alln Tamtir
translated it into Uygur, and a
fuousand woodblock prints were collected and distributed as Dharma
thus among tli€< Mongols and Uygurs. The Grand Empress Dowa-
who had previously held the principles of the Mongolian reli-
gion, truly entered the Buddha's Dharma and experienced the
rranquility of the gUf.las of meditation by the blessing of this scrip-
. Afterwards in the Ding Ox year,67 the translator Matiphala and
Mongolian Sajin-u ejen and Tibetan Yu-gur-gyi bstan-pa'i bdag-po are render-
f,i/lgs of the. original Uygur title Shazi'n ai"yuci", "speaker for the religious discipline"
!(Franke 1990: 85).
j,t, j
Mongolian Bra-dir-a-siri and Tibetan Bra-jiili-iri are transcriptions of the Sanskrit
il'rajiiliSri, who was an Uygur from Qamul (present day Hami PflIifl in Xinjiang ji'5I:). He
iWas a multi-lingual translator and poet who was a favorite of several emperors, and under
:Wenzong received the title State Preceptor (Guoshi though in the following year,
)332, he was accused of being a conspirator with Urug Temiir and was executed (Franke
:1990: 84-85).
Aim Tlimiir's dates are uncertain though he was a prominent Uygur official in the
adminstration, and this sentence notes the fact that he prepared an Uygur translation
:af this work. He is first mentioned in Chinese sources in 1311 on account of his role as a
Hanlin 1!ft;J;t;; expositor, and the Renzong emperor had just read a Tang manual of statecraft
'(the Zhenguan zhengyao and being duly impressed wanted Ali'n Tiimiir to trans-
late it into Mongolian. In 1317 he was ordered to translate the Daxue yanyi into
Mongolian, and by 1326 he had become a chancellor of the Hanlin Academy. At that time
he was asked to prepare a Mongolian translation of the early Yuan emperors' precepts and
admonitions. In 1330, he was bestowed with the rank of Dasitu *'i§]j;E, and began a
Mongolian translation of the Yuan statutes. Later he became a prominent supporter of the
;Wenzong emperor (Franke 1990: 77-78).
66 The Grand Empress-Dowager (Mong. Tai quu; Tib. Ta'i hu; Ch. Tai hou :;t JIi) is not
identified by name, thus who it refers to is unclear. Though since other elements point to a
later date for the colophon than the year of printing 1328, e.g. Urug Bake's title of chief
censor which was not received unti11330, one can wonder whether the Empress-Dowager
cited herein is the Wenzong emperor's wife the Qonggirad Budashiri. After he passed
away in 1332 she became a powerful figure and played a key role in bringing Togan
'femUr to the throne (Dardess 1973: 54-56). In the context of the affiliation of all the
h'individuals in the colophon with the Wenzong Emperor, it is possible that the Grand Em-
;; press is here a reference to Budashiri.
01 The Ding T Ox Year was 1337, which corresponds with the Tibetan text of the Fire
Ox Year, me gZang-gi Zo, 1337.
SrI Anandavajra, at Gung Thang monastery,68 corrected and trans-
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The relationship between text and image is hardly as simple as
'linsophisticated explorers may presume. When conspicuous parallels
found between a text and a visual image, one may be naturally
tempted to ascribe it to the text as being a source for the visual im-
age. But the dependency of an image upon a textual account varies
widely in its mode and extent according to diverse regional traditions
or periods as well as individual circumstances. (Obviously it was
Illore marked in the East Asian tradition than that of the Indian
subcontinent in the early periods.) It is also equally possible that the
relationship was in reverse with an image being an inspiration for a
text or a text being a testimony to an image. Or a textual account and
a visual image may have been derived from a common source; or
they simply represented a shared idea with or without mutual aware-
ness. Without explicit evidence, even in the most fortunate instances
the relationship between the two is usually hard to establish beyond
one that is simply inferred on the basis of relative precedence. Still,
the issue fascinates us immensely.
As regards visual images from Gandhara, a number of texts have
attracted our attention. The Larger Sukhiivatfvyilha, the Millasar-
viistiviida-vinaya, and the are a few
of them, which I hope to be able to examine more carefully in rela-
tion to visual images on other occasions.
My primary concern in
, I would like to thank Professors Richard Salomon, Hubert Durt and Joanna Williams
for giving me valuable suggestions during the revision work on this paper, which was ini-
tially presented at the 14th lABS conference in 2005.
1 The Larger Sukhlivatfvyaha has been noted as a possible source for the famous Mo-
Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies
Volume 29 • Number 1 • 2006 (2008) pp. 125-153
this paper is the KarulJiipulJtjarfka-sutra, a Mahayana text. The
exists in several versions that comprise some eight
Sanskrit recensions and one Tibetan and two Chinese translations:
• KarulJiipulJtjarfka.2
• Dasheng beifentuolijing trans. anonymous, late
4th century, T158, 3:233c-289a.
• Beihuajing trans. 419, T157, 3:167a-
• 'Phags pa sfiili rje pad rna dkar po ses bya ba theg pa chen po'i
rndo, trans. Jinamitra (from Kashmir), Surendrabodhi, ·Prajiiavar-
man et aI., 9th century, Pe 780.
Of these, the two Chinese translations, which date from the late
fourth to early fifth centuries, are the earliest extant recensions,
while the Tibetan translation dates from the ninth century and the ex-
tant Sanskrit manuscripts, most of them datable to the 19th century,
reflect the latest stage of its philological history.3 On this basis, as
well as the observation that it presupposes the knowledge of such
texts as the SaddharmapulJtjarfka, the Larger Sukhiivatfvyuha, and
the the composition, or compilation, of this sutra has
been generally attributed to a period not far from the translations in
Chinese, perhaps during the third to fourth centuries.
Chinese Bud-
dhist catalogs record that already from the second century on various
parts of the KarulJiipulJtjan1ca existed as a number of smaller sepa-
rate sutras in Chinese translations; thus they could have contributed
hamed-Nari stele in Lahore Museum by a number of scholars such as John Huntington
,:(1980), Aramaki Noritoshi (1999) and Paul Harrison (2000). The Miilasarvasti-
vada-vinaya has been discussed by Gregory Schopen (2005, 108-153) for its reference to
Bodhisattva images under the Jambu tree. The A4rasahasrika-prajiiaparamita has been
discussed by me on a few occasions (e.g., Rhi 2005, particularly 204-205).
2 Yamada (1968).
3 Yamada (1968, II) 8-10, 21.
4 Supposedly two more translations of this sutra, Xianyoujing (I volume) by
and another Beihuajing (10 volumes) by Daogong ili:. are listed in Chinese
Buddhist catalogs. But the former is regarded as a different sutra in modem scholarship.
See BusshO (1964) 9: 127; Yamada (1968, 1) 18-20.
to the compilation of the larger sutra as its base materials, predating
it by one or two centuries.
But there is a question whether they were
Indeed earlier translations of separate parts or they were simply.
excerptions of the larger sutra, which were attributed in later periods
to the translators who lived earlier.
In any case, overall this sutra
seems to have enjoyed considerable attention in China between the
fourth and seventh centuries and perhaps fairly wide circulation out-
side China as well in whatever form.?
The sutra mainly tells a story of the brahmalJa SamudrareI).u, a
previous incarnation of Sakyamuni Buddha, who led thousands of
living beings to develop anuttarasamyaksa/!Zbodhi and took a vow to
attain enlightenment in the Saba world, which had much more harsh
and rugged conditions compared to paradises of supreme happiness
such as Sukhavat!. While examining this sutra in search of a parallel
for the installation of a relic in Gandbaran Buddha images,8 I was
struck by a number of passages that strongly recalled visual images
from Gandbara. The most prominent of them concerned the austeri-
ties (du.Jkaracarya) of the Buddha, which are lavishly extolled in a
short biographical account of Sakyamuni Buddha presented in the
vow by SamudrareI).u.
As is well known, the popularity of fasting Buddha images
is one
of the most distinctive features in Buddhist art of Gandbara. The
Buddha's austerities were a common theme in narrative reliefs of the
5 Yamada (1968, I) 167-174.
6 For a negative assessment, see Sanada (1957).
7 Previous works on this sutra, mostly by Japanese scholars, treated its limited aspects,
particularly focusing on its relationship to the Sukhtivatfvyfiha and the Amitabha cult. Sev-
eral notable works are: Nishio (1931), Sanada (1955), Inagaki (1963), Ujitani (1969),
Narimatsu (1975).
8 Rhi (2005) 184-203.
9 Strictly speaking, Gautarna while practicing fasting is not yet a Buddha, and thus it
would be more accurate to call his representation of this stage "the fasting Bodhisattva"
rather than "the fasting Buddha." But since the appellation "Buddha" has been commonly
- and naturally - used for the pre-enlightenment period as well and the term "fasting
Buddha" has also been customarily applied, I follow this convention in this paper avoiding
unnecessary complication.
Buddha's life,lO and were also represented in a magnificent form in
larger independent statues, whose foremost examples are preserved
in museums in Lahore and Peshawar (Figures 1, 2).,Nowhere outside
Gandhara did the theme enjoy such prominence. Up to the Gupta pe-
riod in India proper, absolutely no example is known. In Chinese
Central Asia we find several examples at such cave sites as Bing-
lingsi, Dunhuang (Mogao caves) and Kizil datable as early as the
fifth century, but they were evidently derived from the Gandharan
prototypesY An ivory carving from Kashmir dated to the eighth cen-
tury in the Cleveland Museum of Art also appears to have a source
in Gandhara.
Otherwise, during the seventh century, Xuanzang re-
corded the presence of a fasting Buddha image in a shrine at
Bodhgaya, which is the first recorded example from the middle
Gangetic valley,u We know nothing about its origin and stylistic fea-
tures except for the description "thin and withered away," but I am
tempted to suspect that some influence was felt from the Northwest
at least in idea if not form. The image at Bodhgaya probably stimu-
lated the creation of other examples in eastern India. A fasting Bud-
dha appears in one of small scenes from the Buddha's life surround-
ing a bhTlmisparsa Buddha in a stele possibly made in Burma under
the Pilla influence.
A similar scene is also found in a metal piece
from NepaU
The famous image at the Ananda temple in Pagan may
also have an origin at Bodhgaya.
But this image is in the bhami-
10 For examples, see Foucher (1905) figs. 192c, 193, 200a; Ingholt and Lyons (1957) pI.
55. There are many other pieces in various colIections that include those of questionable
authenticity .
11 For these examples as welI as one at Yungang, see lin (2004) figs. 6-15.
12 Czuma (1989) 69-72.
13 Beal (1884, II) 128, cf. T2087, 51:917b; Brown (1997) 112.
14 While opinions regarding the regional origin of this piece are divided between eastern
India and Burma, Robert Brown supports the latter. See Brown (1997) 25-27; Brown
(1988) 114-115.
15 Pal (1985) 104 (S23).
16 For this image, see DuroiselIe (1917) 90-91 and fig. 45. Enthusiasm for Bodhgaya of
Burmese Buddhists from Pagan is weII known, as attested in the Mahabodhi Temple built
in Pagan during the thirteenth century in imitation of the great shrine of Bodhgaya. Cf.
Brown (1988) 101-124.
unlike all other extant examples, which invariably take
the dhyiinamudrii, and may well be defined as a reinterpretation of an
lInage of enlightenment rather than a fasting image, although we do
'not know how the fasting Buddha at Bodhgaya would have looked.
The prominence of fasting Buddha images in Gandhara has long
puzzled me. It is not just the matter of regional prominence but the
question of why the theme gained such conspicuousness despite the
negative implication with which the austerities of the Buddha were
imbued in his sacred biography. It is a common knowledge that, al-
though he practiced extreme austerities including fasting for six
years (or seven years in some traditions), the Buddha gave them up
with a realization that they were not the right way that leads to
enlightenmentY The moment is described in the Mahiivastu in the
following words:
ye kecid bhavantaft sramalJii vii briihmalJii vii iitmopakramikiif!! sarfropatii-
pikiif!! duftkhiif!! tfvriif!! khariif!! katukiif!! vedanii vedayanti ettiivatpiiramite
imaf!! pi na keniipi saf!!bhulJanti / atfta1'!l adhviinaf!! etarahif!! pi
pratyutpanne ye kecid bhavanto sramalJii vii briihmalJii vii iitmopa-
kramikiif!! sarfropatiipikiif!! duftkhiif!! tfvriif!! khariif!! katukiif!! vedanii veda-
yanti ettiivatpiiramite imaf!! pi na keniipi saf!!bhulJanti / na kho punar ahaf!!
abhijiiniimi imiiye kaf!!cid alam
iiryaf!! jiiiinadarsanaf!! nayaf!! margaf!! bodhii-
ya / (Senart 1890, II, 130)
Those worthy recluses (sramalJas) and brahmalJas who undergo unpleasant,
bitter, cruel, and severe feelings which torment their souls and their bodies
do so to gain perfection (paramitii), but in no wise do they attain it. Those
worthy recluses (sramalJas) and who have in the past undergone,
as well as those who now undergo, unpleasant, bitter, cruel and severe
feelings which torment their souls and their bodies, have done so, and do so,
to gain perfection, but in no wise have attained it. Neither I, also, with all
this practice of austerities am aware of the state of "further man" (uttariya-
which enables one to realize the distinct achievement of truly
aryan knowledge and insight. This is not the way to enlightenment (bodhO.lS
17 Thomas (1927) 64-66; Bareau (1963) 55; Nakamura (1992) 259-28l.
18 After Jones (1952, II, 125), with slight modifications including the insertion of paren-
theses. According to the account of this text, when Siddha:rtha reached Mt. he
This kind of remark, . although varied in expression, is not limited to ;
the Mahiivastu, but also found in the majority of sources of the BUd-
dha's life.
How could, then, the Buddha emaciated to the extreme through
severe austerities be represented with such magnificence as in the fa-
mous fasting Buddha in Lahore? Was it simply meant to provide a
lesson for a path not to be taken? I am strongly skeptica1.
One can
sense immediately in this image that the austerities are glorified with
utmost importance. In the extreme physical state almost reduced to a
skeleton covered with withered skin, the Buddha still epgages the
viewer with a penetrating gaze; his body is upright without any sign
of weariness; the veins are full of energy and tension. The Buddha is
truly overcoming physical obstacles in a heroic manner. I have often
been at a loss with how to explain the image properly in light of the
course taken by the Buddha in his life; for, in our general under-
standing, it was not austerities but the renouncement or rejection of it
that was highlighted in the sacred biography of the Buddha.
provisional answer has been that perhaps the Buddhists in Gandhara
may have wished to see a more concrete and vivid symbol for the
highest level of practices the Buddha pursued, although it may not
have concerned a direct cause to enlightenment, and they chose fast-
started austerities with a thought, "I shall live with both body and mind withdrawn from
sensual pleasures, and with my thoughts of them, my fondness for them, my feverish long-
ing for them and my attachment to them subdued. Although I undergo unpleasant, bitter,
cruel and severe feelings which torment my soul and my body, I shall be capable of the
state of 'further men,' of knowledge, insight and enlightenment" (Jones 1952, II, 119, cf.
Senart 1890, II, 123). This is quite contrastive to the remark cited above, and his conces-
sion of a failure in this approach is clear enough .
. 19 For particularly similar accounts found in the Majjhima-nikaya and Lalitavistara, see
n. 30 and pp. 134-135 in this paper.
20 The scene carved on the pedestal of the Lahore Buddha shows six monks in the pose
of veneration toward what appears to be a fire altar (Figure 1). Rather than simply a scene
of fire worship, it more likely represents monks offering puja to the fasting Buddha above
with fire or incense burning in the altar. It is unthinkable that the fasting accompanied by
such a scene was presented with a negative meaning.
21 Interestingly enough, previous works on the Buddha's life in Gandharan art is almost
silent on this problem. For example, see Foucher (1905) 379-382, cf. Foucher (1987)
137-139; Zwalf (1996): 169-171.
fug Buddha images as a most powerful visual reminder, more readily
comprehensible than a simple image of samiidhi.
The Buddha's austentles are invariably referred to in diverse
~ c c o u n t s of the Buddha's life in extant textual sources, and those tex-
tual accounts exhibit fairly uniform features. However, as I
examined them more carefully, an interesting pattern has emerged,
Which seems to provide a clue for understanding perceptions of the
incident among early Buddhists. They are classifiable largely in the
following three groups.23
22 Rbi (2003) 62. Robert Brown has suggested that emaciated Buddhas from Gandhara
actually represented another period of long fasting after enlightenment prior to receiving
food from two merchants. See Brown (1997) 106-111. However, one wonders whether-
and for what reason - the Buddha's fasting in the post-enlightenment period, which in-
stantly appears quite insignificant compared to the fasting during austerities, would have
been presented in such a glorified manner and with such magnitude. Although Brown cites
-in support of his argument a passage from the Nidanakatha that the Buddha fasted for
seven weeks after enlightenment, the fasting period was merely seven days in texts datable
'early enough - and probably more relevant to Gandharan fasting image - such as the Taizi
fuiyingbenqi jing (trans., early 3,d century; T185, 3:479a) and the Puyaojing (the earlier
Chinese translation [dated 308] of the Lalitavistara, T186, 3:526b; in this account the
Buddha even eats right after enlightenment and eats again a week after, taking the food
presented by the two merchants), and apparently only in later traditions including the ac-
count from the Nidanakathti (ed. Fausblilll 1877, 77-80, cf. trans. Rbys Davids 1925,
200-205), it was expanded to seven weeks (e.g., Fangguang dazhuangyanjing [the later
Chinese translation of the Lalitavistara, dated 683], T187, 3:601bc; the extant Sanskrit
edition of the Lalitavistara, ed. Lefmann 1902, 379-381; Fobenxingjijing, T190, 3:801a;
the extant Sanskrit edition of the Mahtivastu, ed. Senart 1890, II, 272-303, cf. trans. Jones
1952, II, 261-291). Given that the account of seven weeks' fasting after enlightenment
was most probably an elaboration that came at a late stage in the accounts of the Buddha's
life, it is hardly likely that Gandharan Buddhists chose to represent the Buddha of the
, post -enlightenment period in such an emaciated form. Although a scene of two merchants
offering food carved on the pedestal of the Peshawar fasting Buddha (Figure 2) is pre-
sented as another piece of evidence for Brown's argument, the fact that the Buddha in the
scene is in a non-emaciated form, as Brown admits, obviously undermines it. The offering
of food to the Buddha could have been carved in contrast to the great fasting of the
Buddha, but not in a direct narrative sequence.
23 Julius Dutoit produced in 1905 an admirable work on textual accounts of the
dUekaracarya, making detailed comparisons between various versions. But his work
• Jiitaka (Nidiinakathii), Fausb¢ll (1877, I) 67-69.2
• Mulasarviistiviidavinaya-saf!1ghabhedavastu,' Gnoli (1977, I)
• Genbenshuoyiqieyoubu pinaiye posengshi
(trans. Yijing 700-711), T1450, 24:119c-122c.
Translation of Mulasarviistiviidavinaya-saf!1ghabhedavastu.
• Sifenlu iB=J5t1f (trans. Buddhayasas and Zhu Fonian
408), T1428, 22:780c-781a. Translation of Dhar,maguptakavi-
• Buddhacarita, XII, Johnston (1984, I) 139-143.2
• Fosuoxingzan (trans. 414--426), T192,
4:24b--c. Translation of Buddhacarita.
• Mahiivastu, Senart (1890, II) 123-130, 202-205, 231-232,
263-264, 299.
• Fobenxingjijing (trans. Jiianagupta, 587-591), T190,
• Fobenxingjing (trans. Baoyun 421-453), T193,
• Lalitavistara XVII, XVIII, Lefmann (1902) 243-264.21
• Fangguang dazhuangyanjing jj (trans. Divakara,
683), T187, 3:580c-584a. Translation of Lalitavistara.
• Guoqu xianzai yinguojing (trans. GUl,labhadra,
435-443), T189, 3:638b-639a.
treated quite limited sources available to him - the Majjhima-niktiya, the Mahavastu and
the Lalitavistara - and, in reflection of his time, mainly concerned the process of the
canonization of the accounts.
24 Cf. Rhys Davids (1925) 182-187.
25 Cf. Johnston (1984, II) 182-187.
26 Jones, trans. (1952, II) 119-129, 193-196,219-220,248,280.
27 The account in the Tibetan translation (Foucaux 1884: 210-228) is almost identical to
the Sanskrit version.
• Zhongxi mohedijing (trans. Faxian 1001),
• Majjhima-nikiiya, XII (Mahiisfhaniidasutta), Trenckner (1888)
77-83; XXXVI (Mahiisaccakasutta), Trenckner (1888)
• Zengyiahanjing (trans. Gautama Sarpghadeva, 397),
XXXI-8, T125, 2:670c-67Ic. Translation of Ekottara-iigama.
• Xiuxing benqijing (trans. Zhu Dali /;ftj;:j] and Kang
Mengxiang late 2nd century), T184, 3:469b-470a.
• Taizi ruiyingbenqi jing (trans. Zhi Qian, early
3rd century), T185, 3:476c-477a .
.. Puyaojing -'Mf al (trans. 308), T186,
3:511a-512a. Translation of Lalitavistara.
The majority of them, classified in Group A, have a well-known
standard format:
1) The Bodhisattva
(Siddhartha) practices austerities.
2) He realizes that performing the austerities is not the right way.
3) It occurs to him that enlightenment should be achieved through a
meditation such as the one he conducted under a J ambu tree
when he was a prince.
4) He renounces the austerities and takes food for himself.
28 Cf. Horner (1954, I): 103-110,295-305. Dutoit (1905,1-15) also cites the Ariyapari-
yesanasutta (26), the Bodhiriijakumiirasutta (85) and the Smigiiravasutta (100) from the
,same text, but the accounts in these suttas, often repeating the words of the other two sut-
tas above, are not much significant as narratives recounting the austerities.
29 In this paper, whenever it is used - unless otherwise specified - the "Bodhisattva"
means exclusively Siddhiirtha, or Sakyamuni before attaining enlightenment, as invariably
so in the literary accounts of the Buddha's life listed above.
5) Five fellow practitioners leave him.
6) He takes bath in the,Nairaiijana River.
7) He eats food offered by a daughter (or daughters) of a village
householder at Uruvilva.
8) He advances to ,the' Bodhi tree.
In all the sources of this group, the most notable feature for our con-
cern is that the Bodhisattva gives up austerities and chooses to pur-
sue an alternative path. In a number of small details, however, natu-
rally there are variations attributable to transformati9ns of the
narrative in diverse regional, temporal or individual circumstances.
Although I do not intend to dwell on this, in the Nidiinakathii, for in-
stance, the practice of austerities, which is depicted with lengthy de-
tails elsewhere, is considerably reduced, while the offering by Sujata
is elaborately magnified; overall I suspect that this text shows a rela-
tively late form in the development of this narrative. In the Chinese
Fobenxingjijing, which also reveals signs of lateness, the Bodhisattva
continually eats (!): before starting austerities, during austerities, af-
ter renouncing them, and before proceeding to the Bodhi tree.
In Group B, the Mahiisaccakasutta of the Majjhima-nikiiya as well
as its equivalent part in the Chinese Ekottara-iigama tells basically
the same story as Group A. The austerities are abandoned by the
Bodhisattva also in a negative spirit. But unlike Group A, there is no
remark on the Bodhisattva receiving food from Sujata or any girl
equivalent to her, as he just proceeds to meditation after feeding
himself; it is possible, however, that the Sujata story may have been
deemed an unnecessary detail in the context of this sutta. In the
;Mahiisfhaniidasutta of the Majjhima-nikiiya, the practiees conducted
by the Bodhisattva during austerities are lengthily described - but
with little delineation of narrative details - followed by a remark
about their futility, which is quite similar to the one cited above from
the Mahiivastu.
30 The relevant part in the Mahlisfhanadasutta of the Majjhima-nikiiya reads: "santi kho
pana sariputta eke samarzabrahmalJa evaJ?1vadino evaJ?1dirrhino: ahlirena suddhfti ... Itaya
pi kho ahaJ?1 sariputta iriyaya faya pappadaya faya dukkarakarikaya najjhagamal?l uttariJ?1
What interests us more with regard to the Gandharan images is
Group C. In the Chinese Xiuxing benqijing (trans. second century)
there is no negative remark at all on austerities. Through austerities,
tIieBodhisattva :;tttains the third meditation (tftfyam dhyanam) , and
then receives a bowl of rice milk from Sujata; having regained
power, he moves to the Bodhi tree and reaches the fourth meditation
(caturtham dhyanam). There are absolutely no words that the Bodhi-
sattva decides to receive the milk rice because the austerities are not
the right way. The account in the Taizi ruiyingbenqijing (trans. third
century) is more brief, but no negative perception of the austerities is
found here as well.
This is more clearly exhibited in the Puyaojing, the earliest extant
Chinese translation of the Lalitavistara by from the
beginning of the fourth century. The account of austerities starts at
the end of the chapter titled "Three False Teachers (parapravadin)"
after the description of diverse practices conducted by heretics.
manussadhamma alamariYanalJadassanavisesaT[!, kissa hetu: lmlssa yeva arzyaya
pannaya anadhigama ya ariya paniia adhigata ariya niyyanika niyyati takkarassa
samma dukkhakkhayaya /" (Trenckner 1888, 80-81) (There are, Sariputta, some recluses
and brahmans who speak thus and are of this view: "Purity is through food." ... But I,
Sariputta, even by this procedure [=extreme fasting], by this course, by this mortification
[dukkarakarika], did not reach states of further-men or the excellent knowledge and in-
sight befitting the ariyans. What was the cause of this? It was that by these there is no
reaching the ariyan intuitive wisdom which, when reached, is ariyan, leading onwards,
and which leads onwards the doer of it to the complete destruction of anguish. - trans.
Homer 1954, I, 107-108, with slight modifications and the insertion of brackets). A simi-
lar remark is also found in the Mahasaccakasutta of the Majjhima-nikaya: "na kho
panahaT[! imaya ka{ltkaya dukkharakarikaya adhigacchami uttariT[! manussadhamma
aiamariyanalJadassanavisesaT[!, siya nu kho anna maggo bodhiiyati" (Trenckner 1888,
246) (But I, by this severe austerity, do not reach states of further-men, the excellent
knowledge and vision befitting the ariyans. Could there by another way to awakening? -
trans. Homer 1954, I, 301). The account in the corresponding part in the Chinese Ekot-
tara-agama is slightly different further from the two: "At the time I thought, 'This is not
the foundation for attaining enlightenment. Thus, there must be a different path ... 0
monks, although I had, of old, thus practiced austerities, I was not able to grasp the
foundations of the four things. What are the four? That is, I was not able to attain the
aryan precepts, the aryan wisdom, the aryan liberation, and the aryan samadhi" (mail' :f.Z
:J.p:f.Z.fiX;i!i:Z* ... J:t£i:
Now I will show the pure conduct (brahmacarya) to convert those who fol-
low false teachings. As I disclose the true act and have them remove defile-
ments, they will not follow the false teachings and. will convert to the
teaching of the Buddha.
- T186, 3:510c-51la )31
The Bodhisattva's austerities are presented as if an expedient to de-
liver heretics who devote themselves to harsh or bizarre asceticism;
and it is a great expedient. The next chapter "Austerities" starts with
the following words of the Buddha:
At the time, the Bodhisattva reflected, "For six years, the grt<at industrious
austerities will be performed. Why are they called 'industrious austerities'?
It is because they are hard to reach and impossible to obtain. Among living
beings, devas and humans are not capable of achieving this task; only a
Bodhisattva of the ultimate ekajiitipratibaddha (bound [to be enlightened] in
the next life) can achieve it. Thus it is called 'hard to achieve.' "
t:p 1f:kiJr1ii'1ti1!;z1T iIJ'*1T
- T186, 3:511a)32
Thus he conducts various difficult austerities, and anyone who sees
his practice greatly admires it. By performing austerities for six
years, he is said to have taught innumerable devas and humans to
stand in the three vehicles. After completing austerities, he reaches a
high level of miraculous power and wisdom. But he worries:
Even though I have attained supernatural faculty, sacred knowledge and the
power of wisdom - if I now advance to the Buddha tree [Bodhi Tree] with
his emaciated body, later people in remote areas will falsely accuse me
31 Translations are mine unless otherwise specified. Cf. Lefmann (1902) 240; T18?,
3:581a. Converting heretics by performing austerities is referred to a few more times in
the account of austerities in the Puyaojing as well as the later versions of the Lalitavistara.
Interestingly enough, such remarks are seldom found in any other texts including the
Mahavastu and Pali canonical sources. A very rare incidence closest to those of the
Lalitavistara is in a giithii in the Fobenxingjijing: "Having reached the Nairafijana River,
the Bodhisattva took a seat at a shore with a pure mind. Since those who seek the way do
not follow the right path, I desire to practice austerities to teach them f(
- Tl90, 3:?66b).
32 Cf. Lefmann (1902) 240; Tl8?, 3:580b.
Figure 1. Fasting Buddha, Gandhara, from Sikri, h. 84 cm, Lahore
Museum. (GandhliranArtofPaldstan, Tokyo, 1984, pI. I-I)
saying, "He achieved enlightenment by starving himself." I would rather eat
tender food and regain strength in the body. Afterwards I would proceed to
under the tree and attain the enlightenment of the Buddha.
jJ €
- T186
3:511b)33 '
Then he simply chooses to take food offered by a daughter of a
householder. Again one sees here absolutely no sign of negative
perception to the austerities, while taking food is depicted as an act
of expediency, as the austerities themselves are.
This is more intriguing when we compare it with the later Chinese
translation of the Lalitavistara (Fangguang dazhuangyanjing), the
Tibetan translation, and the extant Sanskrit edition, where the ac-
counts of a more standard form as we saw in Group A appear. Like
the Puyaojing, these three later versions also have a separate chapter
titled Although the accounts of the austerities in
this chapter are much more elaborate here, its outline is not much
As in the Puyaojing, the prose part in each version ends
with the remark that, with the successful accomplishment of austeri-
ties, the Bodhisattva had innumerable living beings mature in the
three vehicles. But in the following chapter "Nairafijana," the spirit
suddenly changes: the Bodhisattva rather abruptly thinks of the futil-
ity of austerities.
ye kecic chramal}a brahmal}a va adhvasvatmopa-
kramikal"(! sarfropatapikal"(! duf:zkhal"(! tfvral"(! kharal"(! katukamamanapa'11
vedanal"(! vedayanty etavat paramal"(! te duf:zkham anubhavanti / ... anayapi
khalu maya caryayanayapi pratipada na ka1cid uttari
naya'11 margo bodher nayal"(! marga
33 A similar remark is found in the Guoqu xianzai yinguojing (Tl89, 3:639b): "Heretics
will say that my starvation [or fasting] was the cause of parinirviil}a. Although I have the
power of NarayaI,la in every joint, I will not achieve the reward of enlightenment with this.
After receiving and eating food, I will attain enlightenment." But this is preceded by the
following words (ibid, 639a): "Although having practiced austerities for six full years, I
was not able to attain liberation, and thus knew that austerities were not the way."
34 The account of the visit to Udraka Ramaputra (Rudraka Ramaputra in the Sanskrit
Lalitavistara) and the witnessing of diverse practices by heretics, which is told in a sepa-
rate chapter preceding the chapter in the Puyaojing, appear at the begin-
ning of in the three later versions. Otherwise the accounts are quite
iiyatyiil'[! jiitijariimaral}asal'[!bhaviiniim astal'[! gamiiya / syiit tadanyo miirgo
bodher iiyatyiil'[! astal!l gamiiyeti / (Lef-
mann 1902, 253)35
Those sramalJas and briihmal}as who undergo unpleasant, bitter, poignant,
cruel, severe and unfavorable feelings which torment their souls and bodies
in the past, present or future to gain perfection experience suffering ... By
this practice, and by this path, by me, the dharma of "further men," which
enables one. to realize the distinctive achievement of truly iiryan knowledge
and insight, can never be attained. This is not the way to enlightenment. Nor
is it the way leading to the cessation of future birth, old age and death.
Probably there is a way other than this to enlightenment leading to the cessa-
tion of the origin of future birth, old age and death.
Following this, the Bodhisattva considers taldng a different path
such as the first meditation he conducted as a prince under a Jambu
tree, and receives food from a daughter of a householder. One may
have noticed that the remark above is almost identical - except for
the last two sentences - to the words cited above from the
Mahavastu and similar to those from the Majjhima-nikaya and the
Quite possibly, it was borrowed from earlier tex-
tual accounts and incorporated in the account of the Lalitavistara of
this stage unless the earlier translator unjustifiably
abridged the original in the translation of the Puyaojing. Overall, it
appears that the account of the austerities in the Lalitavistara was
transformed in later versions, or, much less likely, that Dharma-
translation reflects an unorthodox regional tradition.
In any
case, what we have seen clearly suggests the presence of a separate
tradition where the Bodhisattva's austerities were never perceived in
35 Cf. TI87, 3:582c-583a.
36 See n. 30 above.
37 In a detailed survey of the Lalitavistara, Hokazono Koichi expresses the opinion that
the Puyaojing shows the earliest form among the extant versions and its original was later
expanded and transformed into the extant Sanskrit version and the Chinese Fangguang
daZhuanyanjing in two different offshoots. He also supports the view that the text probably
originated in the northwestern region (or Punjab) of the subcontinent. Hokazono (1993)
a negative spirit, which obviously parallels the glorified represen-
tations of the austerities from Gandhara.
38 We may note here a fourth group of textual accounts treating the austerities of the
Buddha. These accounts mainly concern the cause for the austerities, i.e., for what wrong-
doing in previous lives the Buddha had to endure such horrible ordeals for six years prior
to enlightenment. A number of texts deliver such stories, e.g., the Pali Apadiina, the
Xingqixing jing (trans. Kang Mengxiang, late 2
century; T197, 4:172c-174a),
the (Yijing' s Chinese translation, Genbenshuoyi-
qieyoubu pinaye yaoshi T1448, 24:96b; Tibetan and Sanskrit
versions in Honfinger, 1990,35-45, cf. 102-115), the Wubaidizi zishuobenqijing
§ (trans. late 3,d-early 4th century; T199, 4:202a; the austerities
are not referred to explicitly, but an incident told in other texts such as the Xingqixing jing
as having led to the ordeals is briefly mentioned), and the Liudujijing (trans.
Kang Senghui, 2
half of the 3,d century; T152, 3:30ab). Many of these accounts are
known as part of the Anavataptagiithii, of which manuscript fragments in Gandhan also
exist (Salomon 1999, 30-33; Salomon 2003, 79, 82). For these texts and the problem of
asceticism, see: Hara (1997) 249-260 (including the translation of the account in the
Liudujijing), cf. Bechert (1961) 204-247. Naturally these accounts tend to perceive the
Buddha's austerities in a negative sense. In the Puyaojing one can see that such conception
was known to those who reworked the text, for it tells in the verse, "For deriding the ton-
sured for not having the truth, [the Bodhisattva] had to practice for innumerable kalpas
and paying off for the sin for six years" - T186,
3:511c). This is clearly an allusion to the incident referred to in the Anavataptagiithii
where Jotipala (Skt. Jyotipala, the Bodhisattva in a pervious life) disparaged Ka§yapa
Buddha with the words, "How is enlightenment (possible) for a shaveling, for enlighten-
ment is the most difficult thing to be obtained (kulo nu bodhi mwu;lassa bodhi pra-
rama-dullabhii)" (from the Pali Apadiina translated in Hara 1997: 251). But the Puyaojing
does not fully comply with the conception; it says earlier in the prose, "In order to eluci-
date the reward of merit, [the Bodhisattva] showed the purification of the body, mouth and
mind. Eating a seed of sesame or rice each day for six years, he practiced and achieved the
industrious austerities hard to attain, which was not liable to destiny"
!fIAn.:l 13 :t;if-z r.:p isifiJl'{jf - T186,
3:511a). Although the last clause is syntactically awkward, it seems clear contextually that
the Puyaojing tries to interpret austerities in a more positive sense. Intriguingly, such
words are not instantly found in later versions of this text. But in the part of the verse in
the Sanskrit Lalitavistara that approximately corresponds to the passage cited above from
the Puyaojing, two slokas read, "nihatii!1 parapraviidii dhyiimfkrta tfrthikii mativihfnii!1 I
karmakriyii ca darsita yii proktii kiiSyape viicii II krakuchandakasya bodhi bodhiriha
mudurlabhii bahubhi kalpai!1 I janaliiyii ityarthaf!1. dhyiiyatyiisphiinakaIJ1 dhyiinaf!1. II" (Lef-
mann 1902, 260). The line "karmakriyii ca darsita yii proktii kiiiyape viicii," which seems
puzzling at first sight, can be understood only in light of the J otipala incident. I wonder
whether there was possibly a corruption in this part generated by the lack of proper under-
standing of the meaning. Similarly, the equivalent part in the Fangguang dazhuangyan
jing, is not readily comprehensible.
Now we come back to the KanllJiipWlcJarfka, the text of our primary
concern, where the positive spirit for the austerities as we saw in the
puyaojing continues in an even more prominent form.
In a lengthy
. vow proclaimed by the briihmalJa Samudrare:Q.u, the life of his later
and final reincarnation as Sakyamuni is briefly delineated starting
with the descent from the heaven. It proceeds with standard
episodes such as the birth, taking seven steps, going to school,
austerities and enlightenment up to parinirviilJa. Out of these pas-
sages, approximately one fourth is allotted to the account of austeri-
ties, obviously a disproportionately large space. It begins with the
depiction of the Bodhisattva seated under the Bodhi tree with grass
spread on the vajriisana. Thus, his austerities are performed on the
vajriisana, not some other places near the Nairafijana River or Uru-
vilva as in most other textual sources.
svayaYJ1 cahaYJ1 tfl:lasaYJ1staralJaYJ1 grhlJfyaYJ1 bodhivrk:;amalavajrasane prajiia-
payeyaYJl ni:;fdeyaYJ1 parymikam abadhva rjukena kayena; tatharupam aham
asphanakaYJ1 dhyanaYJ1 dhyayeyaYJ1, asvasaprasvasa vyupasameyaYJ1; eka-
varaYJ1 divasena dhyanad vyutti.JtheyaYJ1, vyutthaya caham ardhatilakaphalam
aharam ahareyaYJ1, ardhaYJ1 pratigrahakasyanuprayacceyaYJ1 / tavac ciraYJ1
The phrase "Kasyapa and others apparently indicates that the translator unders-
tood Kasyapa as "Uruvilva Kiisyapa and his followers" and probably did not grasp its
meaning properly. But understood in light of the Jotipala incident, the original meaning
becomes clear: "For not having believed that Kasyapa [Buddha] has bodhi, [the Bodhi-
sattva] had difficulty in attaining such great bodhi." A similar problem is also revealed in
the Tibetan translation (cf. Foucaux 1884: 224, n. 38, 39). I suspect that the memory of the
Jotipala incident may have faded by the time the Sanskrit Lalitavistara and the originals of
the Fangguang dazhuangyan jing and the Tibetan translation were reworked on, while the
incident was fairly well known at the time of the original of the Puyaojing, which had to
defend its position of eulogizing the austerities against perhaps a more common concep-
39 Yamada (1968, II) 242-245; Tl58, 3:267b--268a; Tl57, 3:207c-208b; P. Cu
260a2-261 as. As far as this part is concerned, there is little difference between various
versions in Sanskrit, Chinese and Tibetan. Considering the relative lateness of extant San-
skrit recensions, this is quite remarkable. Of the two Chinese translations, compared with
Sanskrit and Tibetan versions, the account in the Dasheng beifentuolijing (Tl58) seems
closer to the original, while that of the Beihuajing (Tl57) reflects slight embellishment. I
am grateful to Dr. Kim Seongcheol for assisting me to check the Tibetan translation.
ciiham eVaIJlnlpiilJ!. dUfjkaraciirikiilJ1 careya1Jl, yiivad akanifjthabhavanapary_
antena sarve devii ye sahe buddhak:;etre paryiipanniis ta upasa1Jlkriimeyur
mama ca pL7jii1J1 kurviilJiiJ:t, sarve me I
(Yamada 1968, I, 242)
I would grab a bundle of grass for myself, spread it on the vajriisana under
the Bodhi tree and sit crosslegged with the body upright. I would practice
the iisphanaka meditation and stop the inhaling and exhaling of breath. I
would awake from the meditation once a day; having awoke, I would eat a
half grain of sesame
and give away another half. I would practice austeri-
ties in this form until all devas up to the heaven and those in the
SaM buddhafield would approach, paying homage to me and .would be wit-
nesses to my austerities.
The Bodhisattva practices the asphiinaka-dhyana (breath-holding
meditation) and then restricts food to minimum, a half grain of ses-
ame a day; this is part of the standard phrase in the description of
austereties found in virtually any textual account of the Buddha's
life. As he performs these austerities, all the living beings up to the
heaven who hear of his practice will come to his place and
offer paja; they will witness the superiority of the austerities per-
formed by the Bodhisattva. This is all that directly concerns the
depiction of the austerities in this account of the Buddha's life, the
rest being focused on the benefits to be gained by witnessing the
yais ca tatra sriivakayiine bfjam avaruptalJ! syiit bhadante bhagavan
kleiavyupasamiiya santiine bhaveyalJ!, caramabhavikiis ca mama vaineyii
bhaveyuJ:t; ye pratyekabuddhayiinikii yiivad yatha pL7rvoktalJ! / evalJ! niiga-
ya upasalJ!kriimeyur mama pL7jiikarmalJe, sarve ca me siik#lJo bhaveyur
karacaryiiyiilJ!; ye ca sriivakayiinikii yiivad yathii pL7rvokta1Jl / ... (Yamada
1968, II, 242-243)
Then, 0 the honorable one, for those who have planted a seed in the ve-
hicle of sriivakas, I would calm their afflictions in mind, and they would
40 The Chinese Beihuajing (T157, 3:207c) tells, "a half grain of sesame and a half grain
of rice," while the phrase in Dasheng beifentuolijing is the same as the Sanskrit version.
41 Since the account of the Buddha's life appears in the vow of Samudrarel).u, most
verbs are in optative forms, which are here translated literally.
Figure 2. Fasting Buddha, Gandhara, from Takht-i-Bahi, h. 83 em, Peshawar
Museum. (Jngholt and Lyons, Gandhiiran Art in Pakistan, 1957, pI. 53)
be converted to me in the last existence. For those who follow the vehicle of
praiyeka-buddhas, may it be the same as said above. Likewise, may niigas,
iisuras, ganu!as, kinnaras, mahoragas, pretas, pisiicas, kumbhiindas
with five-fold supernatural knowledge approach to pay homage
may all of them be witnesses to my austerities. May those who follow
vehicle of sriivakas do the same as said above.
Non-humans will teach heretics who practice austerities,
telling that their austerities will never surpass the Bodhisattva's
which they ought to witness and venerate for themselves.

account continues:
te ca ttirrz utsrjya mama sriiva-
kayiinasantiinabfjeilikurarrz syiit, yiivad yathti purvoktarrz / ye
vii bhatta vii naigamajiinapadii grhasthapravrajita grhiigiira-
sarrzpanniis te 'pi mama upasarrzkriimeyur, yiivac chriiva-
kayiinika yathii pilrvoktarrz / (Yamada 1968, II, 243-244)
May they [=heretics], having abandoned their austerities and seen mine,
plant a seed for the vehicle of sriivakas as said above. May human kings,
officials, city dwellers, householders, mendicants or family businessmen ap-
proach to pay homage to my austerities as was said for those who follow the
vehicle of sriivakas.
A woman who witnesses the Bodhisattva's austerities will be reborn
as a man; an animal which does the same will never be reborn as
such. The account of the austerities ends with the following words:
tiivac cirarrz ciiham evarrzrupiirrz careyarrz ekaparymikena
yiivad bahusattvakotfnayutasatasahasrii/Ji (Ya-
mada: bhaveyuJ:t iiScaryapriiptiis ca, ca santiine 'prameyiisarrz-
khyeyiiniirrz praropayeyarrz / tathtiriipiim aharrz
careyarrz yathii na purvarrz kenacit sattvasarrzkhyiitena anyatfrthikena vii
sriivakayiinikena vii pratyekabuddhayiinikena vii anuttaramahiiyiinikena vii .
evarrz syiit; na ca punaJ:t pasciit kascit sattvasalJ'l-
42 While the Sanskrit version and the Chinese Dasheng beifentuolijing refer to
sravakayana and pratyekabuddhayana only, the Beihuajing speaks of mahayana as well. I
am tempted to suspect that this is an interpolation by the Chinese translators, although it
needs further corroborations.
43 The words here directed to heretics recall similar references to heretics in various ver-
sions of the Lalitavistara. See n. 31 above.
;'kylitas caret anyatfrthikli vif4 evaJ'!lriipliJ'!l saktliJ'!ls carantu
,yathliha"f!l careya"f!l / (Yamada 1968, II, 244-245)
For so long will I practice austerities in this form once seated cross legged,
rtntll innumerable living beings witness my extraordinary
:austerities and may they plant immeasurable seeds of liberation. Such
austerities as I would conduct never have been practiced before by any
living bemgs, be they heretics, those who follow the vehicle of sriivakas,
those who follow the vehicle of pratyekabuddhas, or those who follow the
! supreme Mahayana; again such austerities as I have conducted would never
'be practiced afterwards by any living beings or heretics.
is foll?wed by the accounts. that Bodhisattva will
Mara and his army before he attams enlightenment and how he will
living beings in the SaM world afterwards by means of di-
expedients until parinirviilJa.
In the passages from the KarulJiipulJtjarzka discussed above, we do
[md the slightest indication of negative perception toward the
of the Buddha (=Bodhisattva). Instead, they are exalted as
of the major acts performed by the Buddha to deliver living be-
and almost as the greatest of them.
We may recall here the
referred to above as being addressed to heretics to witness the
austerities, which end with the following advice:
sli rnaharddhikii sii rnahliphalli rnahiivistiirli, na cireT}iisau
anuttarliJ'!l sarnyaksaJ'!lbodhiJ'!l abhisaJ'!lbhotsyate / sa cen na sraddhadhvaJ'!l
gacchata svayaJ'!l paSyata / (Yamada 1968, II, 243)
This austerity, conducive to great supernatural power and great reward,
before long will achieve anuttarasarnyaksa"f!lbodhi. If you do not believe, go
and see for yourself.
:;; 44 After anyatfrthikli vii, the words "sravakayiinikena vii pratyekabuddhayanikena va
va" may have been lost in the transmission of the Sanskrit version.
!; 4S At the end of the account of the Buddha's life in this text (Yamada 1968, II, 249), the
;austerities are enumerated as one of the major events the Buddha shows for living beings
'who suffer in the Saha world: (1) the birth matur garbhe
;jiituTJl upadarsayeyC/Tfl) , (2) the child play and variops skill contest (kumarakrfdasilpa-
karmasthiina), (3) the austerities (4) the defeat of Mara
'(5) the enlightenment (bodhyasaTJlbudhyana), (6) the first sermon (dharmacakrapravar-
tana), (7) the whole duty of the Buddha (sakalabuddhakiirya), (8) the death (parinirviil)a).
Surprisingly, the reward of practicing austerities is even related to
attaining anuttarasamyaksaf!1bodhi, the supreme enlightenment.
Austerities are not a wrong path to be abandoned in the quest of
enlightenment but one of its direct causes. Obviously, this remark
corresponds in spirit to the following words from the Puyaojing,
which the Bodhisattva resolutely proclaims when he first takes a seat
under the Bodhi tree:
Even if my body is parched to destruction with flesh being utterly decayed
and bones dried up, I shall never rise without attaining the enlightenment of
the Buddha. Having practiced austerities with perseverance for innumerable
billions of kalpas, now I have achieved this; there will be no tUrning back.
1ft,!; /f PX: ill '*

Here again, the austerities are clearly referred to as an important
premise to enlightenment.
If visual monuments can be of any relevance as a reference, the
only tradition we could recall where the austerities were elevated
with such magnitude is nothing but that of Gandhara. And Gandha-
ran fasting images are best understood in light of such accounts as
those from the Puyaojing or the KarulJiipulJr;larfka. They represent
the unequalled austerities performed by the Buddha, which easily
eclipsed any such practice by heretics, and thus were a most eloquent
symbol of the Buddha's superiority over all those following heresy
even in their privileged methods. At the same time, they were images
of the austerities par excellence the Buddha endured through his
46 Cf. TI86, 3:515b, cf. 515a for a similar remark. Interestingly enough, the later ver-
sions of the Lalitavistara including the Sanskrit and Tibetan editions give a slightly differ-
ent account in the corresponding passages. For instance, the passage in the Fangguang
daZhuangyanjing reads, "If I do not achieve annutarasamyaksarrzbodhi, I shaH never rise
from this seat even though my body may be destroyed" (TI87, 3:588a). There are no fur-
ther words about superb austerities he practiced, which were the cause of his current state
toward enlighterunent. This is even more intriguing when we find no remark at all on
austerities in the corresponding passages in most other texts of the Buddha's life belonging
to my Group A (see pp. 132-133 above): e.g., "If I do not attain enlighterunent, I shall
never rise from this seat" (Guoqu xianzai yinguojing, T189, 3:639c); "I am seated on this
seat. If I do not remove all the asravas and if I do not achieve liberation, I shall never rise
from this seat" (Fobenxingjijing, TI90, 3:778b).
numerous incarnations, which were perceived even close to an
indispensable part of practice toward enlightenment. 47
In the account of austerities in the Karw:zlipw:uj,arfka we note an-
other interesting aspect: living beings achieve diverse benefits from
seeing the austerities of the Buddha.
• yiivad sarve devii ye sahe paryii-
panniis ta upasaT[!kriimeyur mama ca pi/jiiT[! kurviilJiiJ:!, sarve me
syur (Yamada 1968, II, 242)
• te ca tii'll utsrjya mama sriiva-
kayiinasantiinabfjiilikuraT[! syiit, yiivad yathii parvoktaT[! (Ya-
mada 1968, II, 243)
• yas ca miitrgriimo mama darsaniiyopasaT[!ramet, sa tasya pascimako miitr-
griimapratiliibho baved iti, ye sriivakayiinika yathii parvoktaT[! (Yamada
1968, II, 244)
• ye caramiilJaT[! pasyeyus sa pasci-
makas tiryagyonipratiliibho bhaved iti (Yamada 1968, II, 244)
• bahusattvakotfnayutasatasahasriilJi (Yamada:
bhaveyul} iiscaryapriiptas ca ... (Yamada 1968, II, 244)
The viewing48 of the Buddha practicing austerities is highlighted as
an immensely beneficial act. In another place in the same account of
the Buddha's life, seeing the first bath of the Buddha is referred to in
the same manner:
47 Minoru Hara (1997: 250) says, "The successive occurrence of asceticism and
enlightenment in his biography naturally puts these two events into contrast. The contrast
seems to become more and more striking, as the second, that is his final enlightenment,
becomes .invested with greater importance. As a result, the asceticism which precedes the
enlightenment, the most auspicious event in his life, is destined to be treated negatively
and regarded even as inauspicious." The Puyaojing and the KarU/}iipU/:ujarfka presumably
represent the tradition that precedes this development.
48 Strictly speaking, delicate semantic distinctions may exist between the words used
here for "viewing" - pas (to see, observe, behold), drs (to see, observe, regard) and sakein
(seeing with eyes, observing, witnessing) - particularly between sakein and the others.
However, in the passage cited above, pragmatically they seem to have been used in an
interchangeable way. The two Chinese translations use jiem or guiin ill. for pas and drs,
and zheng or zhengmfng for sakein. But here as well, in actual usage one finds lit-
tle difference between these words.
ye cC} sattvii miil'J1. sniipayamiiniil'J1. patyeyus te sarve tribhir yiinair eval'J1.n7piin
gUT}iin adhigaccheyuf:/ yathii proktal'J1. (Yamada 1968, n, 241)
Those who see me being bathed would gain such quality in the three vehicles
in the same way as said above.
Although these are all we fmd among quite a limited number of epi-
sodes presented in this account of the Buddha's life in terms of the
benefit of seeing the act of the Buddha, the importance with which
such viewing is accorded is remarkable enough. Seeing the actual
events or auspicious signs that appear on such occasions may have
been meant on the surface; but it could well have alluded to the "see-
ing" or dariana of visual images or illustrations. This instantly re-
minds us of numerous narrative reliefs representing the Buddha's
life carved on stupas in Gandharan monasteries. Of two fasting Bud-
dha images in Lahore (h. 83.8 cm, from Sikri) and Peshawar (h. 82.6
cm, from Takht-i-Bahi), the Lahore image is fortunately known to
have been found in one of the chapels standing aligned in the eastern
side of the main stupa in the same manner as ordinary cult statues.
Although we cannot be sure that the chapel was its very first place of
installation - as numerous changes would have taken place in the
monastery in the period following its dedication - the image must
have been the object of dariana (ritual viewing) for ardent visitors in
a similar architectural context. As regards the Peshawar image,
which was discovered in the 1907-08 excavation season at the fa-
mous monastery at Takht-i-Bahi, little is known about its original
context. But it was quite possibly installed in one of the chapels
surrounding the court of many stupas in the middle (between the
court of the main stupa and the monastic quarter) on which much of
.the excavation work was conducted in the season. 50 The image must
have been venerated in a similar way as the Lahore Buddha.
49 Dar (1999/2000) 23-25.
50 Spooner (1911) 131-148.
51 A fasting Buddha image (h. 47 cm without the head) was discovered in situ at Shoto-
rak against the southern face of the plinth of stupa F1, close to its stairway, but this does
not seem likely its original placement. See Meunie (1942) 12 and pI. ill: fig. 7, XVI: fig.
As we have explored so far, reading the passages recounting the
austerities in the Karw}iipu1}¢arfka and their emphasis on the merit
of seeing the image of austerities, one has the impression that the au-
thor actually saw yisual images of the Buddha conducting austerities
_ such as the Lahore Buddha - venerated for such purpose, or at
least had the knowledge of them. Since it is not clear that the date of
the original Karu1}iipu1}¢arfka or its relevant part in an equivalent
text is at least contemporary with Gandharan fasting Buddhas, I am
reluctant to say that the images were made in pursuance of this tex-
tual account. But considering definite parallelism between the ac-
count in Karu1}iipu1}¢arfka and Gandharan images; I cautiously
suspect at least that the textual account was inspired by such
magnificent images as the Lahore Buddha, if the text was created
later than the images during the third and fourth centuries; or if a
smaller sutra that supposedly corresponds to the relevant part of the
Kanl1}iipu1}¢arfka indeed existed earlier by the second century, an
account similarly extolling the austerities could already have been
there as a contemporaneous textual parallel for visual images.
In the Karu1}iipu1}¢arfka, one finds a number of other motifs that
could be parallels for visual image of Gandhara. Another prominent
one is the theme of Indrasailaguhii, which seems rather abruptly re-
ferred to in a lengthy note at the end of the text and strongly recalls
52 Among smaller sutras listed as separate parts of the Karll1:Ztipw:u;iarfka in Chinese
Buddhist catalogs, the Dabeibiqiu benyuanjing *;lJ;J;I:;.fi:*P*,rg, supposedly translated by
Faju and Fali during the late third century, seems to correspond to the part of our interest
from the larger sutra, i.e., the Karw:ztipw}l;iarfka. If the earlier presence of this sutra is
acceptable, its original could have been contemporary with or even earlier than Gandhiiran
fasting Buddhas, whose dates are equally problematic as any images from this region but
are attributable provisionally to the second century. But a question has been raised regard-
ing the reliability of this tradition because the smaller sutras appear as such in Chinese
Buddhist catalogs only at a relatively late date from the seventh century. Sanada (1957)
1-23. For the records in Chinese Buddhist catalogs, see Zhongjing mulu I"l by Fa-
jing ft;*,rg (dated 594), T2146, 55:124a-b; Zhongjing mulu of the reign Renshou {=S
(602), T2147, 55:162c-163a; Zhongjing mulu by Jingtai (664), T2148, 55:197b-c;
Dazhou kanding zhongjing mulu flj I"l (695), T2153, 55:391b-c. The
Dabeibiqiu benyuanjing is also listed as Faju' s translation, but without the reference to the
Karul)tipu!u;iarfka, in Lidai sanbaoji (597), T2034, 49:54b. Although there are grounds for
questioning, it may be too hasty to reach a definite conclusion.
several magnificent Gandharan steles representing the theme. 53 I
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Sanada Ariyoshi 1955. "Hikekyo ni tsuite Nihon-
bukkyogakkai nenpo 21: 3-14.
Sanada Ariyoshi. 1957. "Hikekyo no betsujutsukyo ni tsuite
-JV\-C." Ryakokudaigaku 354: 1-23.
Schopen, Gregory. 2005. "On Sending the Monks Back to Their Books: Cult
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ments of Mahayana Buddhism in India, 108-153. Honolulu: University of
Hawai'i Press.
Senart, E., ed. 1882-1897. Le Mah!J.vastu. 3 vols. Paris: L'Imprimerie Nationale.
Spooner, D.B. 1911. "Excavations at Takht-i-Bahi." Archaeological Survey of
India Annual Report 1907--08: 131-148.
Thomas, Edward J. 1927. The Life of Buddha as Legend and History. New York:
Alfred A. Knopf.
Trenckner, V., ed. 1888. The Majjhima-Nikilya, vol. 1. London: Pali Text Soci-
Ujitani Yuken 1969. Beihuajing no kenkyu Nagoya:
Builk6d6 shoten.
Yamada, Isshi, ed. 1968. KarulJilpw:u!arfka. 2 vols. London: School of Oriental
and African Studies.
Zwalf, Wladimir. 1996. A Catalogue of the Gandhilra Sculpture in the British
Museum. 2 vols. London: British Museum Press.
In February 2001, Chatsumarn Kabilsingh, a Thai scholar of Bud-
dhism, was ordained a female novice (siimmy,erl) in the tradition of
Theravada Buddhism. Two years later, she took Higher Ordination
(upasampadii) and became BhikkhunI Dhammananda. Her ordina-
tion has sparked fervent debates in Thai society, not only about the
validity of her ordination itself, but more generally about whether the
vanished female ordination lineage of Theravada Buddhism can legi-
timately be revived. I want to emphasize strongly that in this paper, I
do not plan to examine this debate from the perspective of gender
studies. My aim is rather to present and compare the differing
opinions held by various influential Thai thinkers and academics,
both lay persons and monks/maechis (mae chis are white-clad women
who have shaved their heads and eyebrows and practice the eight or
ten precepts).lt is, of course, impossible to take into account all of
the many comments that have been made by a large number of Thai
monks, Buddhologists, feminists and sociologists in connection with
this debate. My purpose is to provide a sampling of representative
opinions and lines of argumentation in order to explore the conflicts
emerging from, on one hand, the respect paid to the authority of
canonical scriptures and the desire to preserve the integrity of Thera-
vada Buddhism, and on the other, a growing demand for an order of
nuns. Although for the most part I will discuss the Thai debate about
1 Sections of this paper were, in an earlier version, first published in German in my PhD
thesis (Seeger 2005). Many parts of it, however, are the outcome of more recent ideas and
research. I want to thank the following persons for their valuable suggestions and critique:
Ven. Jampa Tsedroen, Dr. Petra Kieffer-Piilz, Dr. Ute Hiisken, Dr. Frances Weightman, Dr.
Emma Tomalin, Dr. Mike Pamwell and Prof. Mark Williams. Also, I would like to thank
BhikkhunI Dhammananda, Mae Chee Sansanee Sthirasuta and Maechi Suphaphan na
Bangchang for their valuable time and kindness in support of this research. Finally, I wish
to express my thankfulness to Dr. Birgit Kellner for her many valuable comments and
Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies
Volume 29' Number 1 • 2006 (2008) pp. 155-183
the possibility of revivIng a nun's order, I will also present the
stances of some influential Thai Buddhist women who do not follow
the example of BhikkhunI Dhammananda,2 but rather prefer to prac-
tice Buddhism in ways that are more commonly recognized in Thai
society. One question I will not address, however, is the problem of
the authenticity of canonical Theravada scriptures. For the purpose
of this article I will only investigate current inner-Theravadin con-
flicts that have emerged in Thailand due to the different understand-
ings and approaches people have regarding the relevant texts from
the Pali canon.
According to Theravada tradition, five hundred arahants (literally:
"worthy ones," i.e. awakened ones) convened for a rehearsal (sangf-
ti) three months after the passing away of the Buddha (parinibbiina)
in order to compile a collection of authoritative texts of two types:
the dhamma and the vinaya.
In this context, "dhamma" is the name
for the soteriology propounded by the Buddha. "Vinaya," on the
other hand, designates the code of discipline for his disciples that the
Buddha established during his lifetime. Theravadins believe that the
dhamma deals with eternally valid truths about life and the path to
deliverance (vimutti). In contrast to this, the vinaya is not trans-
historical (akiilika), but a reaction to the social realities of northern
India during the lifetime of the Buddha. According to canonical
scriptures, the individual training rules (sikkhiipada) of the vinaya
and the elaborations upon them developed as immediate responses to
2 For the sake of simplicity, in the following I will refer to Chatsumarn Kabilsingh by
her ordination name Bhikkhunl Dhammananda, even though some of the events described
in this paper took place before her higher ordination.
3 Vin.n.285-289. In this article I will not address the issue of the historicity of this re-
hearsal or of how far the Plili canon contains the original words of the Buddha. In many
cases, the Western text-critical approach has convincingly shown that Theraviida beliefs in
connection with their tradition must be questioned (for the historical problems of the First
Rehearsal, see Prebish 1974, pp. 239-254; Holt 1981, pp. 43-44; Hallisey 1991, pp.
138-140). Another important point which must be mentioned is that in this article the
terms "authority" and "consensus" play a vital role and will, therefore, reoccur several
times. In spite of the fact that an investigation of these two terms from a sociological
perspective would allow many further valuable insights, I have not engaged in such a
discussion here, since this will be a topic of another article and would be beyond the
objectives of this paper.
historical events in which monks or nuns behaved in ways that were
not in harmony with the dhamma and were perceived as harmful to
the newly-founded religion and the image of the Buddhist
community. At the same time, however, the vinaya was also designed
as a system for creating an optimal environment for spiritual prac-
tice, taking into account the social conditions of the time.
aware of the historicity of the vinaya, and despite the fact that the
Buddha had explicitly allowed his order to abrogate minor training
rules of vinaya texts,S the five hundred arahants at the First Re-
hearsal decided to freeze all training rules of the vinaya, agreeing
unanimously that these rules must not be changed.
As a consequence of this decision, the Theravada school devel-
oped a conservatism that has formed a central part of its identity.
Texts from the Theravada tradition? indicate that, from time to time,
additional rehearsals were organized during which authoritative texts
were communally recited (saligiiyanii) or the monks' faithfulness to
the original life-style was reviewed. The aim of these rehearsals was
to "[purify] the teaching from all impurities."s This conservatism is
also clear in the following quotation from the Nfu;1odaya:
single letter of the Buddha's teaching has the same value as a single
Buddha image."lO
4 A.Y:70; A.I.98, Vin.ffi21.
5 Akankhamana, ananda, sangho mamaccayena khuddanukhuddakani sikkhapadani
samiihanatu (D.ll.154).
6 Sangha appaiiiiatta1'[l nappaiiiiapeti, paiiiiatta1'[l na samucchindati, yathapaiiiiatteslt
sikkhapadeslt samadaya vattati (Vin.ll.288).
7 Prebish 1974; Hallisey 1991.
8 Sabba1'[l sasanamala1'[l sadhetva (Sp.l.34).
9 In the 1963 Thai edition of the Nii:Qodaya (Buddhaghosa 2506), its authorship is attri-
buted to the great Theravada commentator Buddhaghosa. This is questionable, however, as
v. Hiniiber points out that even though in the Mahavarpsa a monograph called Nii:Qodaya
(NOJ].odaya nama pakara7;LQ1'[I) is ascribed to Buddhaghosa as one of his early works,
U[n]othing else is known about it. (von Hiniiber 2000, p. 103).
10 Ekakkhara1'[l ekamekaiica satthupariyattisasana1'[l akkhara1'[l buddhariipaiica samam
eva phala1'[l siya (Buddhaghosa 2506, p. 35). This conservatism is also nicely expressed in a
lecture that the famous Thai Theravada monk Buddhadiisa gave in Rangoon in 1956 during
the Chatthasailghayana, the Sixth Rehearsal according to the Burmese Theravada tradition:
U[b]eing the only teaching that succeeds in preserving the ancient pure Buddhism by
The rigidity with which the Theraviida tradition wants to preserve
the dhamma and the original form, i.e. the monastic lifestyle and the
legal acts prescribed for the monastic community (sanghakamma) ,
aims at conserving what is believed to be the most original form of
Buddhism. This endeavour is motivated by the fear of losing original
meaning by a process of historical er9sion, i.e. oblivion or intentional
manipulation. Through the course of its history, the Theravada tradi-
tion has considered the vinaya as pivotal for safeguarding the
continuity and longevity of Buddhism. This is nicely expressed in the
commentary SumailgalaviHisinI: " ... the vinaya is the durati-on of the
Buddha's teaching. When the vinaya is existent, it means that the
teaching is existent."ll
As I will show in this paper, due to its historicity and relativity, the
frozen vinaya is in a state of increasing tension with contemporary
society and, at the same time, with the dhamma that Theraviidins be-
lieve to be trans-historical and absolute. This tension will be investi-
gated in the context of contemporary Thai society by studying the
controversy concerning the possibility of introducing a bhikkhunf-
order into Thai Theraviida. This controversy, which actually largely
concerns the legitimacy of Higher Ordination for women, was
sparked by the novice ordination (pabbajja) of Chatsumarn
Kabilsingh as a female novice (samarterl). My aim here is to examine
how Theraviida's conservatism has been challenged thereby and, at
the same time, what rationale has been brought forward in its de-
adhering to the principle of admitting only the additional that would enhance the strictness
of the original while being against the revoking, changing or altering of the original even in
its least form ... We have no warrant of addition in such a manner that would make Bud-
dhism develop according to influence of the opportunity and locality, or to any other
circumstances, to the extent that it loses its original principle; such is the addition that
effects the fall of the doctrine, directly or indirectly ... We are afraid of doing such a· thing,
We [sic] are glad to admit to the accusation that we are cowards. By means of this very
cowardice, Theravada is still remaining in its pristine form of the original doctrine. May
we be in cowardice in this way forever." (Buddhadasa 2530, pp. 345-350). For conservat-
ism in Theravada, see also: Seeger 2005, p. 94-108,120-134,160-232.
11 ••• vinayo nama buddhasasanassa iiyu. Vinaye {hite siisanal'{l {hital'{l nlima hoti.
The debate about the ordination of Chatsumarn Kabilsingh
Shortly after Chatsumarn Kabilsingh's ordination as Samm:teri
Dhammananda, the possibility of a legitimate Higher Ordination act
for women began to be debated heatedly in Thai society.12 The
equality between men and women in terms of their spiritual potential
for awakening (bodhi) does not seem to have been doubted by any-
one involved in this debate (at least explicitly); rather, the contro-
versy revolved around whether an ordination act (re-)initiating a fe-
male ordination lineage could be sanctioned by the vinaya.
For her ordination, Bhikkhuni Dhammananda was "harshly at-
tacked from senior monks who ... dismissed the possibility of female
ordination within the Thai clergy."13 This reaction can inter alia be
explained by the fact that the once-existing Theravada nun or
bhikkhunf-order was extinguished as many as a thousand years ago.
Moreover, according to the traditional reading of stipulations for the
ordination procedure as outlined in the vinaya, a valid ordination of a
bhikkhunf requires a double ordination: a woman seeking Higher
Ordination must be ordained by both monks and nuns who have been
ordained in a legitimate ordination act. But since there are no longer
any legitimately ordained nuns available within the Theravada tradi-
tion, the valid ordination of a nun is simply not possible.
There is no evidence to suggest that there have ever been Thera-
vada nuns in Thai history. The first attempt to establish a bhikkhunf-
order in Thailand is thought to have been undertaken in 1927 by the
former government official and engaged lay-Buddhist Narin Phasit,
when he had his two daughters, Sara and Congdi, ordained as siima-
lJerfs. They received ordination from a monk, but no definite details
became known as to precisely which monk had performed the
ordination. Only two months after their ordination, the two sisters
were heavily criticized from both governmental and clerical sides. A
monk suspected to have ordained the two sisters was asked by his
superior to leave the monkhood. After this monk left the order, how-
12 Sanitsuda Ekachai 2001a.
13 Sanitsuda Ekachai 2001 b.
ever, he denied that he had conducted the ordination. The highest
clerical administrative body in Thailand, the Mahatherasamakhom,
accused Narin of wanting to destroy Buddhism. The Mahatherasa_
makhom further called on the two sisters to cast off their robes. Fi-
nally, this controversy resulted in a legal case. The two sisters were
ordered to remove their robes, and Sara was sentenced to imprison-
ment and a fine of 20 Baht. When Narin asked the then-reigning
King of Siam (Thailand), Rama VII, for help, his plea was refused.
As a reaction to the ordination of Sara and Congdi, the Thai Sangha-
raja signed a regulation that was promulgated on 18 June 1928. This
regulation forbids Thai monks to ordain women as samalJerf, sikkha-
mana (probationer),14 or bhikkhunz. The regulation is still in effect
today 15 and was reportedly also endorsed by the current Thai
Sangharaja in a speech he gave during the annual graduation
ceremony of the Mahamakut University for monks only three months
after Bhikkhunl Dhammananda's novice ordination.
According to Bhikkhunl Dhammananda, this sangha regulation
contradicts the Thai constitution, 17 which guarantees equality
between men and women in Paragraph 5, and in Paragraph 38, free-
dom in Thailand to adhere to and practice any religion. Since, as
BhikkhUnl Dhammananda maintains, the constitution is the highest
authoritative body of laws in Thailand, the aforementioned sangha
regulation that contradicts it is, as a matter of course, invalid. IS In
connection with this point, the academic Kulavir Prapapornpipat,
who is affiliated to the Women's Studies Center at Chiang Mai
University and describes herself as a "Buddhist feminist," perceives
an inconsistency between the Thai sangha's attitude to the "law of
the country" and the approach of the Buddha. She explains:
14 See: Juo-Hsiieh Shih 2000, pp. 406-453.
15 Wirat ThiraphanmethifThongbai Thiranantbangkun 2546, p. 61; Duean Khamdi 2544,
pp. 228-230.
16 'Daily News' of Monday, 4 June 2544, p. 19 (quoted in: Duean Khamdi 2554, appen-
dix p. 48).
17 BhikkunI Dhammananda here refers to the constitution of 1997, which was current at
tbe time of her writing, but has in tbe meantime become abolished in the coup of 2006.
18 Nasak Atcimathon 2544, pp. 74--75; Atiya Achakulwisut 2001a.
.,. the [Thai] sangha gives the justification that the state or alJacakka [wheel
of power] should not get involved in the affairs of the sangha institution or
sa,sanacakka [the wheel of the religion]. Regarding this point, if we look
back to the stanqe of the Buddha ... , when the practical regulations of the
sangha were at odds with the principles of the country's law, the Buddha had
the sangha conform to the law of the state in order to avoid conflict ... 19 .
Kulavir suggests that" ... those parts of the sangha regulations and
laws that are at variance with the principles of constitutional law
[should be reconsidered]."2o
At the same time, however, a bhikkhunf ordination in Thailand
might be rendered judicially precarious by a paragraph in the Thai
penal law, according to which a person who is not properly ordained,
but wears the robes of clerics, can be sentenced to imprisonment of
no longer than one year or to a fine of not more than 20,000 Baht, or
Against the opinion that seems to prevail among the Thai sangha,
BhikkhunI Dhammananda maintains that a revival of the bhikkhunf-
sangha is still possible. Prior to her ordination, she delved into a
comparative study of transmitted versions of the bhikkhunf-piiti-
mokkha. 22 Based on her investigations, as well as on further
. historical research, she has concluded that the ordination lineage of
nuns to which she belongs descends from the original Theravada
tradition. She is reported to have said that:
... I assure you that the ordination of Chinese nuns has its origin in a Thera-
vada Buddhist lineage. But despite this, our [contemporary] Theravada tries
to reject its own descendants, instead of accepting them in admiration that
they have been able to remain firm and to transmit [their tradition].23
19 Kulavir Prapapompipat 2548, p. 37; note that all translations from the Thai quoted in
this paper are my own. Kulavir Prapapompipat is probably referring here to Vin.I.138,
where the Buddha says: "Bhikkhus, I ask you to act according to [the laws] of kings"
(anujiiniimi bhikkhave riijiinam anuvattitunti).
20 Kulavir Prapompipat 2548, p. 40.
21 Duean Khamdi 2544, p. 239.
22 See: Chatsumam Kabilsingh 1991. "Piitimokkha" is the name of the texts that contain
the 227 or 311 training rules (sikkhiipada) for monks and nuns respectively.
23 Quoted in: Phimphan Hansakun/Bunkhanit Worawithayanon/Chaiwat Premcan 2544,
The Chinese nun tradition that BhikkhunI Dhammananda has in
mind follows the vinaya texts of the Dharmaguptaka, which, accord-
ing to BhikkhunI Dhammananda, is a subgroup of Theravada.
Thai monks fu'1d· scholars of Buddhism, however, counter this
argument by saying that the lineage she is referring to was transmit-
ted with the help of "Mahayana monks": they argue that two differ-
ent sang has performed the ordination act. For them, this makes the
ordination problematic if not invalid. At this point, however, it must
be noted that Mahayana did not develop its own vinaya texts but used
vinaya texts of pre-Mahayana Buddhist schools, of which'Theravada
and Dharmaguptaka are only two. The designation "Mahayana
monks," which is widely used in the Thai nun ordination contro-
versy, therefore disguises the problem at the core of the disagreement
about nun ordination, namely the interpretation of the vinaya.
Historically, the differentiation between Mahayana and other Bud-
dhist schools (nikiiya) did not emerge from disagreements about the
vinaya, but rather arose from different understandings of Buddhist
soteriology (dhamma). In this regard, Bechert writes that: "Whereas
. the nikiiyas were defined as groups of monks that mutually acknowl-
edged the validity of their upasampadii or Higher Ordination and
made use of particular recensions of the sacred texts, the rise of
Mahayana Buddhism was a development which pervaded the whole
sphere of Buddhism and all nikiiyas."24 While Bhikkhunl Dhamma-
nanda is right when she says that the Chinese nun's lineage relies on
Dharmaguptaka vinaya texts, the above-mentioned argument that the
Dharmaguptaka school is a descendant of Theravada might be seen
as problematic, since both Dharmaguptaka and Theravada are sub-
groups of the Sthavira schoo1.
Be that as it may, traditionalists consider an ordination that relies
on the lineage of Chinese nuns to be a cross-sangha ordination, a
24 Bechert 1973, p. 11; see also: Williams 2000, pp. 99-100.
25 Choong 2000, pp. 2-5; Kieffer-Ptilz 2005, p. 2, 5. In an interview I held with
Bhikkhunl Dhammananda (30/03/2007), she said that she is aware of this: "All the vinaya
lineages, now, are all Theravada ... I refer to Theravada, now, with the understanding that it
keeps the continuation from the old [Theravada, i.e. Sthavira school]."
case of so-called nanasal'{lvasa ("a different community").26 When a
monk is temporarily "excluded" (ukkhita) from the order, or - and
this is relevant here - when a monk or several monks develop/pro-
pound a different interpretation of the vinaya, these monks are then
called nanasal'{lvasaka, "belonging to a different community," by the
sangha from which they have been excluded or whose vinaya inter-
pretation they no longer share. And, according to traditional under-
standing, a valid ordination act cannot be performed by "members of
a different community" (nanasal'{lvasaka).27 For proponents of the
bhikkhunz-ordination, however, this argument is not valid. They ar-
gue that since at the time the Buddha laid down the rules for the
ordination procedure there was no division into different schools, to
require that the nuns who perform their part of the ordination must
be Theravada is "beyond the domain of the Buddha's teaching
[dhammavinaya]." In her book "The Transmission of the bhikkhunz-
sangha in Sri Lanka," Bhikkhuni Dhammananda writes that the
insistence on such a requirement shows "to what degree those who so
strongly keep up the congregations [nikaya] ... are attached to tri-
fling matters
Two further concerns have been raised in connection with cross-
sangha ordination and the intactness of the ordination lineage. The
first relates to the requirement that the texts used during the ordina-
tion procedure, these being certain of the set phrases that accompany
the various sangha acts (kammavaca), have to be recited in keeping
with the Pali canon's wording and language. This is because,
according to traditional Theravada understanding, flaws in the
ordination formulae lead to the "failure" (vi patti) of the ordination
act and, .consequently, the ordination is invalid. Since the
Dharmaguptaka school uses a language other than PaIi - the lan-
guage of the Theravadins - during the ordination act, Theravadins
might perceive this as kammavacavipatti, that is, as invalid ordina-
tions due to incorrect wording. A further problem arises from the
26 Phra Sipariyattimoli 2544, pp. 110-111; Chamnan Nisarat 2544, p.73,
27 Kieffer-Ptilz 1992, pp, 53-54, 64; Chamnan Nisarat 2544, p. 73.
28 Dhammananda Samal).erI 2544, p, 21. See also: Phra Phaisan Wisalo 2546, pp.
significant differences between the Theravada and Dharmaguptaka
schools in designating the so-called szma. Szma is the boundary that
clearly defines the area in which legal acts (sanghakamma) can be
carried out. The Dharmaguptaka school, for example, uses more
markers for defining the szma than Theravada does and also makes
use of certain markers that are not permissible in the Theravada
school. As the rules for authorizing szma form another legal re-
quirement for a valid ordination procedure, Theravadins might
consequently perceive an ordination that is perfectly valid according
to Dharmaguptaka standards as invalid according to ·their own
Before traditional Theravadins can move towards
agreement concerning a revival of the bhikkhunz-order, these legal
discrepancies must be resolved.
However, the concerns that have been raised with regard to the
legitimacy of a cross-sangha ordination do not pertain exclusively to
differences in the vinaya. Charnnan Nisarat, a Thai scholar of Bud-
dhism, voices another objection to the validity of the ordination act
when he explains that the term nanasaf!lvasa indicates differences
between sanghas due the absence of both sllasamafifiata ("congruity
of moral rules") and ditthisamafifiata ("congruity of right views").
From this explanation follows that, 'since the order from which Bhik-
khunI Dhammananda derives her ordination lineage not only has a
different vinaya but also an understanding of the dhamma that is
different from the Theravada's, the two communities are nanasaf!l-
vasa to each other. And it is for this reason that, according to Cham-
nan, a cross-sangha ordination act between these two schools is not
Sllasamafifiata and ditthisamafifiata constitute the fifth and sixth
points respectively of the six saral}zyadhammas ("states of concilia-
tion"), which are found twice in canonical scriptures. The Buddha
explains that the practice of these six saral}zyadhammas "leads to"
(saf!lvattanti) a number of beneficial things, namely to "solidarity"
(sangahaya), "absence of dispute" (avivtidaya) , "harmony" (samag-
29 Phra Sipariyattimoli 2544, pp. 98-117; interview with Phra Payuttto (04/01/2004);
Kieffer-Piilz 1992; Kieffer-Piilz 2005, pp, 4--6.
30 Chamnan Nisarat 2544, pp, 72-73,
giyii) and "unity" (ekfbhiiviiya).31 And it is unity, harmony, coher-
ence and consensus that the foremost authority on canonical ques-
tions in Thailand, the monk scholar Phra Payutto, perceives as major
factors for the successful continuation of the Theravada tradition.
Diversification and fragmentation into different schools might lead to
the loss or distortion of the original meaning of the Buddha's teach-
ing and, thereby, to the disappearance of authentic Buddhism.32 This
concern is exemplified in the way he counters Suwanna Satha-
Anand's understanding of the pertinent canonical passages and her
argumentation in favour of the establishment of a bhikkhunf-order.
In the Buddha's decision to allow the ordination of bhikkhunfs in a
socio-cultural environment that was influenced by patriarchal atti-
tudes, Suwanna Satha-Anand, a scholar of religious studies at the
Philosophy Department of Chulalongkorn University, perceives a
principle that prefers "ultimate truth" (paramatthasacca) to "con-
ventional truth" (sammutisacca). While paramatthasacca, in this
context, appealS to the equipotentiality of awakening for men and
women, sammutisacca reflects "the cultural constraints of that time"
which "would have disallowed the nuns' order." Suwanna, therefore,
requests that the contemporary Thai sangha not accept that "one
accident in history [i.e. the interruption of the female ordination line-
age] ... triumph[s] over the Buddha's decision.'>33 As the Buddha ad-
justed the vinaya according to the social conditions of his time,
"when conditions of lay society change, the Buddha would desire the
sangha to change as necessary."34 Since contemporary society has
become more open-minded on women's issues, Suwanna demands
that the vinaya be changed accordingly:
... [t]he principle of [ultimate] truth over convention[al truth] should serve as
a basis for future feminist interpretations and negotiations of the Buddhist
scriptures. It should also serve as a basis for institutional decisions of the
Sangha in relation to women's issues. What is at stake is not only the human
31 D.III.245; A.III.288-9.
32 Interview with Phra Payutto (04/01/2004).
33 Atiya Achakulwisut 2001b; Suwanna Satha-Anand 2001, pp. 281-291; see also:
Dhammananda 2546, pp. 69-71.
34 Suwanna Satha-Anand 2001, p. 288.
rights of women, but also the philosophical universality and institutional
integrity of Buddhism itse1f.35
However, according to Phra Payutto, such a deliberate change of
vinaya texts could lead to the emergence of different interpretations
and, therefore, to diversification and fragmentation into different
schools, since even a superficial change of these authoritative texts
risks bringing about the loss of consensus. For who has the authority
to change these texts after the death of the Buddha? The only answer
can be: the sangha. But it seems rather unlikely that the whole
sangha - either historically or geographically - could come to a
unanimous decision on this point. Phra Payutto maintains that as long
as the original texts are preserved and the practices being conducted
aim at being in accordance with them, the Buddha remains the
highest and only authority, which means that "there is one centre and
therefore one view [mati].,,36 To Phra Payutto, this is the only
realistic means to achieve and maintain consensus.
Therefore, in his view, an adaptation of the vinaya to the
contemporary situation risks a fragmentation into different schools.
But the unity (siimaggf) of the sangha is - as mentioned above - a
necessary factor for the preservation and successful continuation of
the Theravada tradition. Phra Payutto expresses this idea as follows:
"if a [Theravada] group in any country develops a new view [mati],
this means that Theravada commences to break Up.'037 At the same
time, however, Phra Payutto is aware that Theravada's adherence to
the agreement of the five hundred arahants at the First Rehearsal can
cause "difficulties" for the tradition and "certainly in-
volves negative points" (llll'lHltliJ'Il'mnv).38 In this regard, he says that
the Theravada tradition has to "sacrifice itself' for the
purpose of preserving the original Buddhist teaching. This means
that flexibility is set aside for the sake of consensus. As a conse-
35 Suwanna Satha-Anand 2001, p. 290.
36 Interview with Phra Payutto on 04/01/2004.
37 Interview with Phra Payutto held on 04/01/2004.
38 Interview with Phra Payutto held on 04/01/2004; Dhamma-talk of P.A. Payutto on
1/08/2006 (available as MP3 at: http://www.watnyanaves.net/sounds/2549.php. accessed on
quence, the tradition's longevity is believed ensured and original
forms are assumed preserved. For him, the First Rehearsal has al-
ready shown that an agreement as to which rules might be considered
for change is very difficult to achieve: the five hundred arahants
were not able to agree on what the Buddha meant by the "minor
rules" (khuddiinukhuddakiini sikkhiipadiini) that he allowed to be
abrogated if required by the sangha (iikankhamiino ... sangho). 39
In connection with the bhikkhunf-ordination controversy, the Thai
Buddhologist Somphan Phromtha notes that Theravada Buddhism
"acts as if the Buddha were a god whose regulations are things that
cannot be touched and adjusted." He perceives this attitude to contra-
dict the character of original Buddhism. He contends that "whereas
original Buddhism seems to have had no owner, it became clear that
it developed into something which has an owner.,,40 Somphan states
that "without questioning we seem to have accepted that the five
hundred arahants own [Buddhism].,,41 For him and Channarong
Bunnun, another Thai scholar of Buddhism who has actively taken
part in the debate about the ordination of nuns, the decision of the
five hundred arahants at the First Rehearsal can be interpreted as not
being in conformity with the intention of the Buddha, who gave his
community explicit permission to abrogate "minor" rules. For Chan-
narong Bunnun, the rigidity with which the Theravada tradition
abides by the agreement of the five hundred arahants at the First Re-
hearsal to forbid any change to the vinaya rules is not in line with the
flexibility with which the Buddha reacted to his own social environ-
ment. By allowing for such changes, Channarong Bunnun claims, the
Buddha wanted the sangha not only to have the authority but also the
duty to decide what the minor rules are.
Recently, primarily in connection with the bhikkhunf controversy,
some Thai thinkers have uttered doubts about the proceedings and
motivations of the participants .of the First Rehearsal. For the
39 D.II.l54.
40 Somphan Phromtha 2547, p. 2.
41 Somphan Phromtha 2547, p. 3.
42 Channarong Bunnun 2543, 7; Channarong Bunnun 2545, p. 8; Channarong Bunnun
2547b, pp. 8-9. See also Channarong Bunnun 2547a.
sociologist Aphinya Fuengfusakun, for example, the events dUring>
the First Rehearsal show that there was "dissatisfaction with women"
which "exploded" during the First Rehearsal.
However, some hold that this interpretation could have grave
consequences for the identity of the Theravada tradition. As the
young scholar monk W. Wachiramethi suggests:
if someone carelessly accuses the senior monks who took part in the First
Rehearsal of having had prejudices [agatz1 towards women, he/she might just
as well say that these senior monks were not real arahants.
Indeed, this contention is explicitly made by Mettanando Bhik-
khu, who concludes from his text-critical examination of various
canonical scriptures the following:
... the actual intention of the First Rehearsal was not the compilation of the
••• in order to - according to the words of Mahiikassapa -
protect the [Buddhist] religion from decline, but [the intention was] the en-
tire and rapid elimination of the bhikkhunf-sangha. For this reason, the
essence of the Rehearsal was to reform the vinaya, particularly all those parts
that deal with the bhikkhunfs . .. 46
Apart from Ananda, Mettanando Bhikkhu claims, all other 499
participants of the First Rehearsal "had deeply entrenched brahmani-
cal values ... Probably, they were not real arahants [ ... J. [despite the
fact that in the canonical texts it is stated that they actually were ara-
hants (V.n.285)]. These are only pretensions.,,47
Another argument that has been brought forward for the introduc-
tion of a bhikkhunf-order is based on an untraditional reading of the
43 http://www.geocities.com/finearts2544/newpagel.html (accessed on 10/10/2005)
44 W. Wachiramethi Phikkhu 2545, p. 78. According to Theraviida understanding, an ara-
hant is free of any prejudices (agati).
45 Dhammavinaya in this context refers to the teachings and monastic regulations of the
46 Mettanando Bhikkhu 2545, p. 226.
47 Mettanando Bhikkhu 2545, p. 215. This hypothesis, together with its many implica-
tions, is, of course, hugely challenging for the identity of Theraviida Buddhism. Under-
standably, Mettanando Bhikkhu's publication and his talks that express this and a number of
other challenging hypotheses have caused turmoil in Thai society, for an analysis of which
see Seeger 2005, pp. 160-213.
pertinent vinaya texts. Rabiaprat Phongphanit, a senator from Khon
Kaen province and and avowed feminist,48 argues that the Buddha
never cancelled hjs permission for monks to perform the full ordina-
tion procedure for -women. As a result, any Thai monk in Thailand is
allowed to conduct such an ordination act.
She refers to a passage
in the vinaya texts where the Buddha explicitly permitted monks to
ordain the five hundred women companions of his stepmother
MahapajapatI: after her ordination, she had asked what she should do
with her companions, who also wished to be ordained. 50 According
to traditional understanding, however, this permission was replaced
by a more elaborate ordination procedure which requires that both
sanghas (ubhatosanghe) conduct the ordination act. In the vinaya, the
following reasons are given for this development: before a candidate
can be admitted to the order, she has to be interviewed as to whether
she fulfils the admission criteria, i.e. has no "obstacles for ordina-
tion" (antariiyikii dhammii). Originally, these interviews were con-
ducted by monks. But since some of the questions relate to delicate
issues such as menstruation, sexual orientation and private parts,51
the women were so embarrassed that "they were not able to an-
swer." 52 For this reason, the Buddha proclaimed the double-
ordination process: the aspirants were first interviewed by nuns.
Provided they passed the interview (visuddhiiya), they were then
fully admitted by the male sangha. Double-ordination is also pre-
scribed in the eight "heavy dhammas" (garudhammii)53 that the Bud-
dha wanted MahapajapatI to accept for herself and all other female
48 In addition to relying on this argument, Rabiaprat, as did Bhikkhuni Dhammanandii,
also appeals to the Thai constitution. Conversely, Bhikkhuni Dhammanandii, like Rabia-
prat, also refers to the Buddhis permission for monks to ordain women (see: Dhamma-
nandii 2546, p. 85; interview with Bhikkhuni Dhammanandii on 30/03/2007).
49 Phucatkansapda 2546.
50 katham bhante imaslI sakiyanfslI pappajjamfti (Vin.II.256).
51 Vin.II.271.
52 Tena kho pana samayena bhikkha bhikkhunfna1!l antarayike dhamme pucchanti. Upa-
sampada pekkhtiyo vitthtiyanti malika honti na sakkonti vissajjetu1!l (Vin.II.271).
53 While Gombrich and Juo-Hsiieh Shih translate "garudhamma" with "rules of hierar-
chy" (Juo-Hsiieh Shih 2000, pp. 463-464), Hiisken gives the translation "wichtige Regeln"
(Hiisken 1993, p. 154).
aspirants when she requested her ordination as the first woman in the
history of Buddhism.
The arguments for an (re-)initiation of a bhikkhunf-order that have
been presented so far are largely based on canonical scriptures. The
proponents of a bhikkhunf-order refer to these scriptures in various
ways: they try to comply with their literal meaning, as in the case of
BhikkhunI Dhammananda
or Rabiaprat, they try to identify their
"original spirit," as in the case of Suwanna Satha-Anand, or they dis-
cover discrepancies within the texts and thus try to isolate the earliest
text layers, as in the case of Mettanando Bhikkhu. At the same time,
there are other voices that mainly raise social arguments.
A num-
ber of renowned scholars demand the right for women to receive the
upasampada because they believe that the opportunity to become or-
dained would help offset the socio-structural inequality between Thai
men and women. As one Thai academic puts it, "[t]he existence of a
bhikkhuni order could provide a new opportunity for poor rural girls
who otherwise would end up in sweat shops or brothels."57 In con-
trast to Thai women, Thai men have the opportunity to enter the
sangha and thereby gain an education if their parents cannot afford to
send them to school. Furthermore, solely by virtue of his ordination,
a Thai monk is elevated to the peak of social esteem and enjoys a
54 dve vassiini chasu dhammesu sikkhitasikkhiiya sikkhamiiniiya ubhatosanghe upasam-
padii pariyesitabbii (Vin.lI.255). Many Western Buddhologists have expressed their doubts
with regard to the historicity of the account of Mah3:pajapatI's ordination and the authentic-
ity of the eight garudhammas {Hiisken 1993, pp. 169-170; Iuo-Hsiieh Shih 2000, p. 13,
417-453; Kieffer-Piilz 2005, p. O. Thai scholars likewise doubt the authenticity of the eight
garudhammas (see e.g.: Tavivat Puntarigvivat 2002, p. 111). For Mettanando Bhikkhu
these eight rules are interpolations that were put in the mouth of the Buddha after his death.
The actual intention of the eight garudhammas was "to eliminate the order of nuns com-
pletely and rapidly" (Mettanando Bhikkhu 2545, p. 125).
55 Although BhikkhunI Dhammananda, like other Thai scholars, seems to have doubts
about the authenticity of certain passages, she still basically tries to comply with the
regulations as they are prescribed in canonical texts (see, e.g.: Dhammananda 2546, p. 61;
interview with BhikkhunI Dhammananda on 30/03/2007).
56 This does not mean that the aforementioned proponents of a bhikkhunf-order do not
also use these social arguments.
57 Tavivat Puntarigvivat cited in: Atiya Achakulwisut 2001b; see also Chatsumarn
Kabilsingh 2002, pp. 97-98, Ouyporn Khuankaew 2002, pp. 16-17, Channarong Bunnun
2545, p. 28, Suwanna Satha-Anand 2001, p. 289.
range of privileges regardless of his individual social background: he
receives free shelter and clothing, pays reduced travel fares, and
receives the highest respect from all strata of Thai society, including
royalty.58 Under ·the current conditions, this is a position that Thai
women can never reach, since they are barred from access to this
institutional avenue of social mobility. In connection with social dis-
crimination, proponents of the introduction of bhikkhunfs also refer
to the Thai constitution
which - as already mentioned - guarantees
freedom of adherence to and practice of religion.
Still, for Phra Payutto the initiation of a bhikkhunf-order remains
impossible, for while women continue to have the basic right to be-
come ordained, there are no Theravada nuns who could perform their
part of the ordination procedure - thus, the necessary factors for the
ordination of women are no longer available. For him, the basic
objective in resolving the current difficulties is therefore "to support
the women, but not to damage the dhammavinaya [i.e. the original
teaching and monastic regulations of the Buddha]."60 Thai society as
a whole, including the sangha, should attempt to fmd other (realiz-
able) solutions to help disadvantaged women out of their social mis-
ery and level out social inequality.61
Despite his firm stance against the initiation of a bhikkhunf-order,
Phra Payutto is in favour of the introduction of a para-monastic
institution. He sees possible advantages if the tradition is augmented
with new elements. Based on men and women's equal potential to
attain awakening and the still existent basic right for women to be-
come ordained, Phra Payutto points out that it might be possible to
introduce an alternative institution: the establishment of a "bhikkhunf
[order] in a new form" However, by doing this, "we
58 This can be understood as a kind of "charisma of office." Individual monks may of
course, additionally enhance their charisma through special skills or knowledge, like
knowledge of the scriptures, mind-reading powers, the power of prediction, and so forth, or
through a high position in the hierarchy within the Thai sangha.
59 That is, the Thai constitution of 1997, which was abolished in the coup of 2006.
60 Phra Thammapidok 2544, p. 10.
61 Phra Thammapidok 2547, pp. 72-73.
62 Interview with Phra Payutto on 15/07/2002. See also Phra Phaisan Wisalo 2546, pp.
[would have to] accept the fact that [these nuns] are not bhikkhunfs
according to the regulations of the Buddha [buddhapafifiatti]."63 I
have shown how this stance represents Theravada's perception of it-
self as a historically grown entity that endeavours to work against
natural or deliberately created erosion. This entity was shaped espe-
cially by the events at the First Rehearsal, three months after Bud-
dha's death, and by the sUbsequent growth and closure of the PaIi
canon together with the composition of the various layers of the
Theravada commentaries (Anhakatha, Tika and Anu!ika).64 In this
endeavour, maintaining form (vinaya) is regarded as essential for
preserving content (dhamma). Or in the words of Phra Payutto: "as
long as the form [lU] is existent, it is easier to invigorate the content

In addition to his positive stance regarding the introduction of a
new sort of order of nuns, Phra Payutto also emphatically argued, al-
ready well before the bhikkhunf ordination controversy, that the so-
cial status of Thai maechis needs to be raised in order to provide Thai
women with more opportunities to gain access to education.
Phra Payutto, maechis, through their acts of social services, would be
more enriching for society than bhikkunfs. The bhikkhunfs would
necessarily be constrained by their 311 training rules (sikkhiipada) ,
making their contact with society rather difficult. Phra Payutto fur-
ther opines that an improvement of the status of maechis, which has
been an institution in Thailand for centuries, might be more likely to
be socially accepted within conservative Thai circles. The introduc-
tion of bhikkhunfs might lead to "factionalism and disharmony."67
But in order to improve the status of maechis, better education facili-
63 1li'l<!iiin'jwmIJVjl'llilltyty1i" (interview with Phra Payutto on 15/07/2002).
64 See Seeger 2005, p. 124-127; Seeger 2007 a, p. 7.
65 Interview with Phra Payutto on 04/01/2004.
66 Phra Payutto gives a much wider meaning to "education" than is normally understood.
For him, "real" education comprises the threefold training (sikkhi'ittaya), which consists of
morality (sfla) , mental training (samiidhi) and the creation of wisdom (paiiiiii). These
things, however, are nothing less than the three aspects of the Path to Awakening (majjhimii
patipadii), cf. further Seeger 2005, pp. 273-274.
67 Sanitsuda Ekachai 1999, pp. 227-234; Sanitsuda Ekachai 2001c, pp. 218-227.
ties are crucial, legal amendments are necessary, and the active
engagement of the mae chis themselves is needed.
The problem with the current situation of mae chis is that they are
not really regarded as clerics and have, to some extent, low prestige
in Thai society. Although it seems that there is a growing number of
educated middle-class women who have been "ordained" as maechis,
thus giving the institution wider respect in Thai society (see below),
and although there are maechis who are highly respected for their so-
cial engagement or knowledge, mae chis on the whole still have a
rather negative reputation in large parts of Thai society: they are, for
instance, said to have chosen spiritual life because of a broken heart
or because they are homeless and deprived of other opportunities. In
addition, begging maechis can often be seen in the streets of Bang-
kok, which further damages their general reputation. With respect to
the clerical status of maechis, in fact, the Thai state has an ambivalent
stance: whereas the Ministry of Transport and Communications re-
gards them as not ordained, the Ministry of Interior treats them as
ordained - unlike monks, maechis must pay full travel fares for pub-
lic transport, but, like monks, they are not allowed to vote.
In the following section, I would like to present the stances of
three influential Thai Buddhist women who do not follow the exam-
ple of Bhikkhunl Dhammananda, but rather prefer to continue to
practice Buddhism in ways that are more commonly recognized in
Thai society. As a sample of the voices of such women, who explic-
itly say that they do not want to be ordained, I shall present the view-
points of Mae Chee [maechi] Sansanee Sthirasuta,69 very famous in
Thai society, of the acknowledged tipitaka-expert Suphaphan na
Bangchang, who also is a maechi, and of the well-known disciple of
Buddhadasa, Prof. Rancuan Intharakamhaeng, a Buddhist upiisikii,
68 In this connection, Phra Payutto has suggested alternative appellations for maechis,
like nekkhammika ("woman who gives up the world") or bhavika ("women who trains her-
self'). (Interview with Phra Payutto on 04/01/2004). See also Parichart Suwanbubbha 2003,
pp. 68-73; Seeger 2007b.
69 Here, "Mae Chee" is the equivalent of "Maechi," but since it is used in connection
with a proper name, I respect the preferred way of transliteration that is used by Mae Chee
Sansanee Sthirasuta herself.
i.e. a female lay follower. For Maechi Suphaphan na Bangchang, the
Pali canon clearly renders female ordination impossible due to the
requirement of the double-ordination. Furthermore,' in her view,
"changing the tipitaka [Pali canon] would be papa [demeritorious]
and akusala [unwholesonie]." She also perceives being a bhikkhunf
as "risky" ( l ~ V ~ ) due to the 311 training rules of the patimokkha, espe-
cially the eight parajika rules that a bhikkhunf would have to follow.
In contrast, as a maechi she does not feel constrained in her spiritual
practice at all, but perfectly able to practice and disseminate the Bud-
dhist teaching. Maechi Suphaphan na Bangchang reports that, like
Thai monks, she goes for alms every morning and is treated with
great respect, be it on the bus or at the university. According to her,
this shows that the once rather "negative" image of maechis in Thai
society is changing. She states that there are a large number of highly
respected maechis who teach monks in Abhidhamma studies, a sub-
ject that is currently flourishing in Thailand.
Mae Chee Sansanee likewise claims that being a maechi does not
negatively influence her spiritual practice. For both Mae Chee San-
sanee and Maechi Suphaphan na Bangchang, practicing Buddhism
means transcending gender identity as male or female. For them, the
absence of the bhikkhunf institution in Theravada Buddhism does not
necessarily raise the question of gender inequality. Mae Chee San-
sanee also doubts that the introduction of a bhikkhunf or sama/Jerf
institution could provide a viable alternative education model for
Thai women or girls, similar to the male sangha institution. For even
though Mae Chee Sansanee is very popular in Thai society, and even
though women can be ordained as maechis at her institution Sathira-
Dhammasathan, thereby gaining an education,71 only a small number
decide to do SO.72 According to her, more and more Thais are
interested in studying Buddhism, but the number of people who are
70 Interview with Maechi Suphaphan na Bangchang on 12/04/2006.
71 Thai girls and women also have the possibility to enrol in the Thammacariniwitthaya
School located in Ratburi, which is run by maechis, or to become member of the Dhamma-
mata Hermitage (Thammasom Thammamata) in South Thailand (see footnote 76).
72 Interview with Mae Chee Sansanee Sthirasuta on 19/04/2006.
seriously committed to becoming ordained is quite limited or, in the
case of male novices (silmalJera), even dropping.
Prof. Rancuan Intharakamhaeng also regards the re-initiation of
the Theravada Buddhist bhikkhunf-order as impossible and, at the
same time, as unnecessary: "If you ask me if I myself want to be a
bhikkhunf, I answer that I do not need this. The only thing I need IS to
be a practitioner of the dhamma." Demanding a bhikkhunf-order
would add more "conflict" to Thai society. The "duty" of practicing
Thai Buddhist women is not to demand a bhikkhunf institution but "to
improve and develop themselves in order to become valuable per-
sons." In this way women are able to increase their self-respect and,
by doing this, to also earn greater respect, instantly and by them-
selves, from Thai society.73
Here, it must be noted that these three women represent an edu-
cated elite, and thus their views cannot stand for all Thai maechis. In
addition, it is still unclear to what extent their way of practice is a
real alternative to bhikkhunf ordination. This sample of three views
of female practitioners has nonetheless shown that Thai Buddhist
women are by no means unanimous or united concerning the ques-
tions that have been fervently discussed since Bhikkhunl Dhamma-
nanda's ordination. In fact, it must be understood that only a minority
of Thai Buddhist women are proponents for introducing a bhikkhunf-
order (albeit their numbers seem to be growing).
It seems that in Thai society there exist an increasing number of
opportunities for women to study and practice Buddhism intensively
in monasteries or monastery-like environments, for instance, in the
dhammamiltil programme initiated by Buddhadasa,74 the ten pre-
cepts-keeping sikkhamiitu of Santi Asok, or in Mae Chee Sansanee
Sthirasuta's Sathira-Dhammasathan.
Moreover, the prestige of
73 Phikun Wiphatprathip (ed.) 2547, pp. 37-39.
74 Buddhadasa intitiated this programme to make up for the lack of a bhikkhunf order. In
order to become a Dhamma-Mother (Dhammamata) one has to be between 25 and 65 years
old and free of chronic illness (see: http://www.buddhadasa.org/html/life-work/
dhammadana/dhammamata.html; accessed on 26/05/2006; Phikun Wiphatprathip (ed.)
75 Phikun Wiphatprathip (ed.) 2547, p. 32.
women who practice dhamma seems to be growing, as can be seen
by the strong and wide reverence for female dhamma teachers like
Mae Chee Sansanee, Upasika Rancuan Intharakamhaeng, Maechi
Khonnokyung and Khun Mae Siri Krinchai.
Summary of the debate and future prospects
As I have shown, opinions regarding the establishment of a· Thera-
vada Buddhist bhikkhunf-order in Thailand are quite diverse and of-
ten contrary to one another. Although the Buddha said that on,e of the
parts (miga) that makes his religion "complete" (paripiira) is the
existence of a bhikkhunf-order,77 the majority of the contemporary
Thai sangha seems to have accepted that the bhikkhunflineage has
been irrecoverably extinguished. At present relatively few scholars
of Buddhism, academics or feminists in Thailand demand the (re-
)introduction of the bhikkhunf-order, although their numbers are
increasing. They have presented a variety of arguments which have
been circulated in books and articles or brought forward in seminars,
talks or even in a discussion in the Thai Senate. The arguments for
the possible introduction of Thai Theravada bhikkhunfs incorporate a
variety of approaches and sources. These include using Western-
influenced text-criticism that attempts a historical stratification of
canonical texts in order to isolate the earliest text layers, which are
then considered more authoritative, references to the Thai constitu-
tion and its principles of religious freedom, hermeneutics that favour
the spirit over the letter, and considerations of gender inequality in
contemporary Thai society. The arguments that result from these di-
verse approaches are - as shown above - opposed by traditionalists
who refer to the authority of the Theravada canon. Due to their
opposition, traditionalists, who according to their understanding are
only trying to do their "duty," namely to preserve the integrity of the
Theravada tradition, have been accused of being prejudiced against
women. In this connection, some proponents of bhikkhunf ordination
have asked whether this is a bias already inherent in the Theravada
76 See also Seeger 2007b.
77 nIll.l23-12S,
Buddhist canon itself that is being perpetuated.
At the same time,
there are - as has been shown - influential female Buddhist practitio-
ners who maintain that a bhikkhunf-order is simply not necessary
since Thai society offers sufficient alternatives for women to practise
As a way out of this controversy, the "successful ... transmissIon
of Theravada to British society" might serve as a model. In one
sense, the British Theravada, which was "imported" from Thailand,
has been very conservative in its preserving traditional forms, thus
satisfying the British lay community who "wanted 'real' monks."79
But it has also proven to be innovative in founding an order of nuns:
the women are known by the Pali term slladhara (upholder of virtue)
but are most commonly referred to as nuns.
Bell writes about these
sfladharas: "the nuns do not live by the same Vinaya rules as the
original Theravada nuns' order... but by a set of rules elaborated
from the Ten Precepts of the male siima'(lera (novice) ordination and
informed by the spirit of the Vinaya .. .. "SI
This act of introducing a new institution on the basis of canonical
sources can be understood as an upholding of tradition and its values
and, at the same time, as using its creative potential. In this way, one
of the central needs of a great tradition has been fulfilled: a stable
balance between conservation and accommodation to changed
According to Phra Payutto, an amplification of the tradition is only
possible if the principle of coherence is safeguarded and existent
structures are not thereby abandoned. For him, the history of
Buddhism has shown that if Buddhism is to survive and to be
meaningful to people, for its success and longevity to be guaranteed,
not only conservation of the original meaning ofthe Buddha's teach-
ings is absolutely necessary, but also cultural adaptation. Indeed, in
some aspects Thai Theravada Buddhism seems to have been very
78 Channarong Bunnun 2547, pp. 89-95.
79 Bell 2000, p. 17.
80 Bell 2000, p. 18.
8! Bell 2000, p. 18.
flexible and creative when satisfying "religious needs" or addressing
modern problems. For instance, the Thai Theravada tradition has
incorporated the belief in spirits and the amulet cult. It has also pro-
vided the conceptual and practical framework for a number of social
movements, such as the initiative of Phra Khru Phitak (a monk in
northern Thailand) to ordain trees in order to protect them from be-
ing felled,82 or the work of 'development monks', who interpret
Buddhist teachings within the specific context of local development
with the aim of building sustainable and largely self-reliant local
At the same time, however, canonical scriptures have
always been used to impose authority on the followers of Theravada,
and to enforce censorship of views or behaviour that were regarded
as a deviation from the canonical norm.
It remains to be seen whether the establishment of para-monastic
institutions or the amelioration of the situation of maechis, as
alternatives to the bhikkhunf-order, will be able to satisfy the
demands of those who support the introduction of a bhikkhunf-
saJigha. In Thailand, becoming a monk, having a son ordained as a
monk or a novice, or giving donations to male members of the
saJigha are believed to be very efficient ways of generating religious
merit (punna). In comparison, maechis are usually poorly supported
by the lay community since it is widely believed that rather little
punna is produced by giving them donations. Having the opportunity
of being a 'real' bhikkhunf would allow Buddhist women to have
similar prospects as men to generate punna or to be the "field of
merit" (punnakkhettaY[l) for others. Furthermore, having a bhikkhunf-
order would eventually allow women to gain social and legal status
equal to bhikkhus.
A solution to which both the traditionalists and the proponents of
introducing a bhikkhunf-order can subscribe is not easily found. It
seems that the innovation of a new order of nuns within the tradition
can only take place if it is not perceived as being in direct conflict
with the Pali canon, i.e. it can be interpreted as being in harmony
82 Darlington 2007.
83 Seeger and Pamwell 2007.
with the principles of the dhammavinaya, which means that it has to
be based on consensus. Achieving such a broad consensus in Thai
Theravada Buddhism will require a great deal of effort and rethink-
ing from all parties involved: the male sangha, the state and the Bud-
dhist lay community.
Let me flnish by citing the intellectual monk Phra Phaisan Wisalo,
who says: " ... once the female clerics in a new form practise pre-
cepts [sfla] with similar rigour as bhikkhunfs, they will eventually be
accepted as clerics [phra]. [It is not relevant whether these clerics in
a new form will develop out of the maechis or will emerge sepa-
rately.] Although they do not have the name 'bhikkhunf,' they will,
nevertheless, become bhikkhunfs in the mind of the people

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Benjamin BROSE is a doctoral candidate at Stanford University. The
article printed here stems from his dissertation which examines the
relationship between religion and politics in medieval China and is
titled Buddhist Empires: Sangha-state Relations during the Five
Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms.
William CHU has received his doctorate in 2007 in Buddhist Studies
from University of California, Los Angeles, with a dissertation on
Yinshun (1906-2006), the interplay of Buddhist academe and
Buddhist spirituality, and on normative debates in modern Chinese
Buddhism. He has contributed to the translation of significant
portions of the Madhyamagama and the Fayuan zhulin as part of the
Numata Taish6 Project, and has published articles on Chinese apo-
cryphal precepts, Yogacara in late imperial China, and the practice
of "reverse meaning-matching" in the same period. His research
interests also include Buddhist meditation, Buddhist epistemology,
and their contemporary dialogues with Western philosophy and
cognitive psychology.
Iohan ELVERSKOG is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at
Southern Methodist University. He is the author and editor of five
books including "Our Great Qing: The Mongols, Buddhism and the
State in Late Imperial China" (2006) and "Biographies of Eminent
Mongol Buddhists" (in the press). He is currently a Fellow at the
Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study completing a book on the
history of Buddhist-Muslim interaction in Inner Asia.
Iuhyung RHI is a Professor of Art History at Seoul National Uni-
versity. He is a specialist on Buddhist art of early India (particularly
Gandhara) and Korea. His latest works include "Bodhisattvas in
Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies
Volume 29 • Number 1 • 2006 (2008)
Gandharan Art: An Aspect of Mahayana in Gandharan Buddhism"
(in Gandharan Buddhism, 2006) and "Identifying Several Visual
Types in Gandharan Buddha Images" (forthcoming in· the Archives
of Asian Art, 2008).
Martin SEEGER is University Lecturer in Thai Language and Culture
at the University of Leeds, UK. He received his Ph.D. in Thai
Studies from the University of Hamburg in 2005. His research has
focused on modern Thai Buddhism, especially on life and work of
Buddhadasa Bhikkhu and Phni Payutto. Currently, he is working on
the changing roles of women in Thai Buddhism and on Development
Monks in the Northeast of Thailand.
"Ajewel.A very tothefield."
J. Gail, Freie UniversitatBeriin
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