Chinese possess a history of over five thousand years. An
important component, which had yielded fruitful results
on Chinese culture, is Indian Buddhism. One will realise
this enormous influence when reading the cultural History
of China. If one tries to talk about Chinese culture without
touching on Buddhism, one will be in the position of a blind
man as told in the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant.
had been established some twenty-five centuries ago. It
had been transmitted to China during the Ch'in and Han Dynasties
some five hundred years after the Parinirvana of Sakyamuni
Buddha. Buddhism in China had risen and fallen according
to the law of constant changes during the past two thousand
years. Nevertheless it had been well established in China.
In the past it had not been greatly affected by the upheavals
and chaos of political changes. For me the Chinese have
been open-minded in their nature and have been capable of
absorbing foreign culture. That is why Buddhism, when introduced
into the well-cultured land of China, has flourished abundantly
and developed fruitfully.
golden age of Chinese Buddhism was from the age of the Three
Kingdoms to the T'ang Dynasty. During this period the various
Schools in Buddhism evolved their irreproachable and infallible
theories based on the doctrine of Sakyamuni Buddha.
speaking the rise and fall of the various schools had been
closely connected to the evolution of cultural thoughts
and current events in China. For the past fifty years, the
social system of China had been changed from Absolute Monarchy
to Constitutional Monarchy, Republicanism and then to Socialism.
of Chinese Culture therefore cannot neglect Buddhism otherwise
his progress will be handicapped as a wheel without an axis.
It is the duty of a lover of Chinese culture to shoulder
the responsibility of fostering the study of Buddhism so
that the culture will again radiate its splendid light.
encouraging to see at this chaotic moment of multiple ideologies
that Buddhism still flourishes in various countries. Now
I would like to introduce briefly the ten schools of Chinese
Buddhism as follows:
Ten Schools of Chinese Buddhism:
Reality School or Kosa School or Abhidharma
2. Satysiddhi School or Cheng-se School.
3. Three Sastra School or San-lun School.
4. The Lotus School or T'ien-t'ai School
(absorb the Nirvana school).
5. The Garland School or Hua-yen School
or Avatamsaka School.
(absorb the Dasab-humika School and the Samparigraha-sastra
6. Intuitive School or Ch'an School or Dhyana
7. Discipline School or Lu School or Vinaya
8. Esoteric School or Chen-yien School or
9. Dharmalaksana School or Ch'u-en School
or Fa-siang School.
10. Pure-land School or Sukhavati School
or Ching-t'u School.
principles of all the above schools are based on the partial
doctrine of Sakyamuni Buddha. In the beginning there were
no such things as schools in Buddhism. The disciples of
Buddha, however, took up what had been most beneficial and
most practicable for them. Thus ten schools have evolved.
Buddhism in China may also be divided into thirteen schools,
but the other three have been absorb within the ten.
Kosa School: The foundation text is the Abhidharma-kosa-sastra
by Vasubandhu. The Sastra was translated and introduced
to China from India by Shuan-chuang. His disciples Yu-kuang
and Fa-pau who wrote these and other commentaries on the
Sastra propagated this school. The Sastra classifies all
phenomena of the cosmos under seventy-five categories. A
student o this school learns the way of liberating oneself
from the passions and attains subsequent annihilation of
suffering. He bases his learning on the Four Noble Truths,
viz, 1. Suffering. 2. Cause of suffering. 3. Cessation of
Suffering. 4. The Noble Eightfold Path. This school teaches
Theravadin Buddhism. It was popular in China during the
T'ang Dynasty only. Modern Chinese scholars of this school
are the late Ven. Fa-fang and Mr. Chang-si-shen.
Satysiddhi School: Based upon the Satyasiddhi Sastra
by Harivarman (4th century A.D.) translated into Chinese
by Kumarajiva (5th century). This School flourished during
the six-Dynasty and T'ang Dynasty (5th & 6th century).
It teaches one to look upon the cosmos in realms: the worldly
realm and the supreme realm. A student is to meditate on
the unreality of self and the unreality of things in order
to enter Nirvana.
Three Sastra School: Based its tenets on the Madhyamika
Sastra, Dvadasanikaya Sastra by Nagarjuna and the
Sata Sastra by Aryadeva. These three Sastras
were translated by Kurnarajiva (5th century). It teaches
one to dispose of the Eight Misleading Ideas (birth, death,
end, permanence, identity, difference, coming, and going)
and establish correct thinking. One will discover the truth
between the relative sense and the absolute sense, for the
truth lies between them. Rev. Yin-sun propagates this school,
and has published a modern commentary on the Madhyamika.
The Lotus School: It is also called the T'ien-t'ai school.
This name is attributed to the Tien-tai Mountain in Che-chiang
Province. The school was founded by Chih-che during the
Sui Dynasty (6th century). The chief text is the Lotus
Sutra (the Law-flower Sutra). Others are the Commentary
on the Prajnaparamita Sutra, the Mahaparinirvana
Sutra, etc. This school divides each of the ten realms
of existence (hells, ghosts, animals, asuras, men, devas,
sravakas, pratyeka-buddhas, bodhisattvas, and buddhas) into
ten divisions and each division has ten qualities making
a total of one thousand qualities. These qualities are further
multiplied by three (past, present, and future) making a
total of three thousand qualities. This school teaches one
to visualise these three thousand qualities in an instant.
The hundred divisions of realms and the thousand qualities
form the sphere of visualisation. It teaches one to rest
the physical body in three aspects and to gain a clear insight
into truth from three views. Chih-che also divided the gospel
of Buddha into five periods and the doctrine into eight
kinds. The late Ven. T'isien and Shing-ch'e propagate this
Vatamsaka School: Founded by Tu-shun in the T'ang Dynasty
(7th century). The foundation work is the Garland Sutra.
This school was expanded by Chih-yien, Fa-chang, Ch'en-kuan,
Chung-mi and other patriarchs. It treats Buddhism in five
schools (Theravada, Proto-mahayana, Mahayana, the Intuitive,
and the Perfect). These five are differentiated into ten
schools of thoughts. It presents ten Metaphysical propositions
and six characteristics of things for meditation. To meditate
on the fundamental nature of the universe is the door to
enlightenment. The theory is profound. It is said that one
will not appreciate the richness in Buddhism until one has
studied the Garland Sutra. The late Ven. Yue-shia
founded the Hua-yen College in Shanghai. The Ven. Ying-ch'ih,
Win-chow, Chi-shong are the modern expounders of this school.
The Intuitive School: Bodhidharma
in the Liang Dynasty established it in China (6th century).
This school does not rely on the use of letters. It points
directly to the mind and sees into one's own nature. This
special transmission outside the scripture was succeeded
by Hui-k'o, Shen-ch'an, Tao-sin, Hong-jen, and Hui-neng,
the 6th Patriarch. After the 6th Patriarch this school expanded
into five and later seven schools. It has been very popular
over a thousand years and causes most temples in China to
acquire the name of Ch'an Temples. Ven. Shu-yun, the one
hundred and twenty years old monk who passed away in 1959,
could stay in meditation for ten to twenty days at one stretch.
The Ven. Lai-kuo of Kau-wen Temple in Yang-chou, Chiang-su
Province has attained identical level of achievement.
7. The Discipline School: Based on the monastic rules
laid down by the Buddha. The rules have five divisions.
Theravada and Mahayana have separate sets of monastic rules.
These rules are the basic moral code of the Buddha. Tao-shuan
promoted the Four-division Vinaya and founded this school
in the T'ang Dynasty. He wrote several treatises and volumes
of commentaries on the Vinaya. The essence of this school
is to do good and cease to do evil. One must follow strictly
the code of ethics so as to free oneself from the ocean
of misery and prepare oneself for Buddhahood. After Master
Ling-chi of Sung Dynasty and Master Yuan-chau of Yuan Dynasty,
this school was dormant in China for nearly seven hundred
years until the revival of this school by the late Master
Esoteric School: Based on the Vairocana Sutra,
the Diamond Apex Sutra and Susiddhi Sutra.
This school was introduced to China during the T'ang Dynasty
by Subhakarasirnha, Vajramati and Amogha. The fundamental
concepts are the six elements (earth, water, fire, air,
space, and cognition) and four magic circles (pagoda, jewel,
lotus and sword) which symbolise the power of the Buddhas
and the Bodhisauvas. One is to attain self-realisation by
the three mystic things of body (its posture and signs),
mouth (its voice), and mind (meditation). (The mystic body
is associated with earth, water and fire; the words from
the mouth with wind space; the mind with cognition). It
maintains that there are two aspects of the cosmos: the
phenomenal or material and the absolute or spiritual. After
the T'ang Dynasty, it was debased in China proper. It passed
to Tibet and is known as the Tibetan Esoteric School. It
also passed to Japan as the Shingon School. The ceremonies
and services of this school are very complicated. One can
hardly learn about it without a teacher.
Dharmalaksana School: The foundation works are the Sandhi-nirmocana
Sutra, Abhidharma Sutra, Yogacaryabhumi Sastra,
and the Vijnaptimatrasiddhi Sastra. This school aims
at studying the nature in relation to the phenomenal expression
of the cosmic existence. It was advocated by Maitreya and
succeeded by Asang, Vasubandhu, Dharmaplala Silabhadre in
India. Shuan-chuang studied this school from Silabhadre
at Nalanda Monastery. On his return to China, he translated
many sutras and sastras in the Ch'e-en Temple built by the
T'ang Emperor. There were several thousand people including
government officials engaged in translating the Buddhist
Scriptures into Chinese and thus Shuan-chuang was helped
to established this school in China. Wuei-chi, Hui-chau,
and Chih-chou succeeded him. It maintains that the three
planes of existence are merely the manifestation of the
conscious mind and that all phenomena are the reflection
of the sub-conscious mind. This mind-evolution teaching
is a profound philosophy and it is radical in the modern
Buddhistic thoughts among the Chinese. In order to grasp
the gist, one has to spend a considerable amount of time
in solid research. The late Ven. Me-an, Tau-kie, Yuen-ying
and Hui-ch'uang, Yan-wen-san of Fu-chien Province especially
the Ven. Vai-she were the modern exponents of this school.
There are many notable successors such as the Ven. Ch'ang-sing,
Ou-ysngu of Nanking and Han-ching-ching of Peking.
The Pure-land School: Based on the Sukhavati Vyuha
Sutra, the Great Sukhavati Vyuha Sutra, the Small
Sukhavati Vyuha Sutra. This school was established by
Hui-yuan of the Chin Dynasty (4th century). He set up the
Lotus Society at Chiang-si Province. There were one hundred
twenty-three distinguished members including the notable
poets Vau-yen-ming and Liu-wei-min. This organisation greatly
incited the zeal of studying Buddhism among the Chinese.
San-tau and Kuang-ming of T'ang Dynasty undertook to popularise
this school and were succeeded in spreading it to almost
every household. It teaches one to set the mind solely on
Amitabha, to recite the holy name and to recite the holy
name repeatedly, and one may gain salvation to the Pure-land
of Amitabha. The method employed is simple thus it is suited
to everyone who has faith in Amitabha, and who resolves
to be reborn in the Pureland. The late Ven. Yin-kuang greatly
promoted this school. He persuaded people to do good at
the same time so as merits may be brought to the Pure-land,
the ideal final resort.
various schools may be further classified into Mahayana
and Theravada; esoteric teachings and open teachings, and
the easy way as contrasted to the hard way of salvation.
The Kosa and Satysiddhi schools belong to Theravada whereas
the other eight belong to the Mahayana. The Mantra School
belongs to the esoteric teachings whereas the other nine
are open teachings. The Pure-land School is the easy way
of salvation as compared to the other nine schools, which
are the hard way. This is just a general view of classification
on the Buddhist Schools in China.