Reception of Japanese Buddhism in China

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Reception of Japanese Buddhism in China

Post by Iconodule » Tue May 17, 2016 6:16 pm

The major Buddhist sects of Japan descended from Chinese schools, but tended to put their own unique developments (e.g. Nichiren's Daimoku, Shinran's nembutsu-as-gratitude). What I wonder is if/ how these developments ever made their way back to China in a lasting way, for instance, did any Chinese Pure Land practitioners adopt Shinran's approach? I know that one of Nichiren's disciples moved to China and made a few converts, but it didn't last long after his death. Also, I read somewhere that there is a statue of Nichiren on Mount Tiantai (though this doesn't necessarily indicate endorsement of his doctrine). I also vaguely remember reading some cursory remarks Ven Sheng-yen (who has both Linji and Caodong lineage) made on Dogen but I don't think he had much to say.
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Re: Reception of Japanese Buddhism in China

Post by MiphamFan » Tue May 17, 2016 11:40 pm

I don't know about Pure Land, but from the fall of the Qing there already began attempts to revive esoteric Buddhism in China from Shingon (as well as Tibetan Buddhism).

http://www.academia.edu/4835824/_The_Ta ... Traditions_

It's more about the Tibetan Buddhist case but Tuttle's Tibetan Buddhists in the Making of Modern China also does cover some of these attempts which included Shingon.

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Re: Reception of Japanese Buddhism in China

Post by Astus » Tue May 17, 2016 11:40 pm

There are recent historical reasons that I doubt Japanese Buddhism can expect any welcome in the PRoC or the RoC.

Ven Shengyan studied in Japan, and was a disciple of a Sanbo Kyodan teacher as well. But as for his teachings on Buddhism, I don't see any Japanese influence.

I remember someone mentioning that Shingon has some active groups in Taiwan.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
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3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
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are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Re: Reception of Japanese Buddhism in China

Post by Admin_PC » Wed May 18, 2016 2:25 am

Interesting you mention Sheng Yen, as he was influenced by Yin Shun, who had some rather scathing things to say about Japanese Buddhism and Sheng Yen logged these words in one of his books ("Orthodox Chinese Buddhism" I believe).
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Re: Reception of Japanese Buddhism in China

Post by Huseng » Wed May 18, 2016 2:53 am

When Taiwan was a territory under the Empire of Japan, the colonial government encouraged the spread of Japanese Buddhism amongst the residents of the island as a means of fostering a new identity as Japanese subjects. There are remnants of this era around Taipei and elsewhere, though the KMT after WWII made many efforts to erase that former identity in the process of 'de-Japanizing' Taiwan.

At Yuanshan Station 圓山捷運站 there is a Rinzai-ji (Linji-si) 臨濟寺 built originally in 1911. See here for a photo:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/ ... School.jpg

There is also an old Japanese temple not far from Xinbeitou station where I used to live (台灣台北市北投區普濟寺). See photos on the Chinese wikipedia page:

https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%8C%97 ... F%E5%AF%BA

I believe part of the reason that the KMT actively supported Chinese monks and their project of Humanistic Buddhism was that they all readily identified as representatives and custodians of orthodox Chinese Buddhism. This is not say that before WWII all Taiwanese were in support of Japanese Buddhism (there were many who opposed the idea of married clergy), but many Taiwanese went from being born as Japanese subjects and speaking Japanese to suddenly being under a refugee mainland government and having to operate in Mandarin.

As to the influence of Japanese Buddhism in China, anyone interested in esoteric Buddhism will likely read Kūkai since he was a direct disciple of Huiguo (he also wrote in eloquent and easily readable Chinese). A great deal of Chinese Buddhist literature was preserved exclusively in Japan and was reintroduced into China in the 19th century. Japanese Buddhological scholarship is also widely read in China and Taiwan.

Aside from that, Japanese traditions have not really gained any notable foothold in China, though in Taiwan there are plenty of people who are interested in Zhenyan (Shingon) and who read the works of figures like Shinran.

Not so long ago I heard from someone in Japan that Chinese bhikṣus had inquired about re-ordaining under Japanese traditions so they would be able to legitimately marry and have children. As it was explained to me, these Chinese monks found the Japanese model of married clergy rather appealing and are investigating the possibility of reproducing such a system in China. Although the vinaya reformers in the Chinese speaking world would be upset over this, there's nevertheless some interest.

Humanistic Buddhist authors have often critiqued modern Japanese Buddhism, but at the same time have to concede that enormous amounts of Chinese cultural heritage (scriptures, practices, lineages, art and architecture) were preserved exclusively in Japan and that the Japanese traditions are in many ways closer to Tang and Song Buddhism than the modern varieties of Chinese Buddhism are. In other words, there is often a begrudging respect for Japanese traditions, yet the issue of married clergy is brought up and usually thought of as an indication of moral failure. The vinaya is used as a means of establishing religious authority, especially in the face of so many reforms to Chinese Buddhism after WWII and the emergence of new power structures throughout Chinese sanghas.

From the Japanese side of things, however, it is no skin off their back and they carry on as they always have.

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Re: Reception of Japanese Buddhism in China

Post by Matylda » Wed May 18, 2016 11:44 am

Astus wrote: Ven Shengyan studied in Japan, and was a disciple of a Sanbo Kyodan teacher as well. But as for his teachings on Buddhism, I don't see any Japanese influence.
He was student of Ban Tetsugyu Roshi, who was not Sanbokyodan teacher. In early Chinese authobigraphy note by SY he wrote about it. Later it disappeared. And he was not the only one among Chinese monks who came over to Japan in late 60's and in the 70s to study and practice in Japan. According to their testimony conditions for practice and study at that time were very poor in Taiwan. In Japan were many Buddhist unis and places for practice which were available for Chinese monks.

But they rarely mention it today.

In early 90ties I helped a little bit a group of about 20 Taiwanese nuns who came over to Japan since they wanted to meditate and did not know how to build properly zendo or dojo. For that purpose they came over to Japan. So I guided them to Engakuji and Kenchoji and told them how to ask for permission to see the zendo, since they were unsuccessful to find by themselves. For few days they walked around the monastery finding nothing. They did not know that zendo in the monastery is strictly forbidden area for outsiders.

And if they built one in Taiwan I do not think that they mentioned to anyone about the original source i.e. Japanese monastery...

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Re: Reception of Japanese Buddhism in China

Post by Dodatsu » Wed May 18, 2016 1:29 pm

On page 5 of the May 2016 issue of the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA)'s monthly magazine "Wheel of Dharma" is a write-up on Shin Buddhism in Taiwan by a member from the Berkeley Buddhist Temple, whose wife is a Shin follower from China.

http://bit.ly/1OjAb4W

Shin Buddhism has seem a small "revival" in the past two decades, and there are now temples or fellowships in Taiwan (Taibei, Taizhong and Gaoxiong), Hong Kong and even PRoC where there are some groups as described in the write-up above.

As for other schools, there are some Chan (Zen) temples in Taiwan that have since re-established ties with the original temples in Japan that built them, for example, Linji Huguo Chan Si (臨濟護國禪寺) Temple near Yuanshan MRT station in Taipei, and Donghe Chan Si (東和禪寺) Temple near the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, Rinzai and Soto Zen respectively. There are also some Shingon-shu temples and Nichiren-based temples in Taiwan and Hong Kong as well.
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Re: Reception of Japanese Buddhism in China

Post by Iconodule » Wed May 18, 2016 2:55 pm

Thanks, everyone. Very, very interesting information. The Japanese influence in Taiwan is something I only learned about recently- I was reading Michael Saso's book "Taoist Master Chuang" and he says that, in Taiwan, the Japanese authorities also tried to get people to replace Taoism with Shinto, which surprised me because I had always thought of Shinto as an ethnic faith with little dogmatic content and no missionary sensibility. But I guess, as part of the imperial ideology, it made sense to impose it on the colonized if you wanted to convince them they were actually Japanese.

I was dismayed when I first learned of the near-universal complicity of the Japanese Buddhist leadership with the imperial project.

It's interesting to hear though that the influence of Japanese Buddhism persists in some places. It would make sense to turn to Shingon first to revive Chinese esoteric Buddhism, since the Tibetan sort is from a different transmission. I guess the drawback is that the Chinese vajrayana is less complete than the Tibetan transmission. I heard somewhere that the Chinese monks early on rejected most of the tantras out of prudishness or something, though I'm not sure if that's an accurate assessment.

Regarding Ven. Sheng-Yen, he definitely bears the stamp of Yin Shun and the reform movement. There is definitely a back-to-basics, no-nonsense approach in modern Chinese Buddhism which I found refreshing. I remember reading Yin Shun's "The Road to Buddhahood" (a kind of lam-rim or systematic theology for Chinese Mahayana) a while back and being struck by how straightforward it was compared to things I had read from Japanese teachers in English.
Enter eagerly into the treasure house that lies within you, and so you will see the treasure house of heaven. For the two are the same, and there is but on single entry to them both. The ladder that leads to the Kingdom is hidden within you, and is found in your soul. Dive into yourself, and in your soul you will discover the rungs by which you are to ascend. - Saint Isaac of Syria

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Re: Reception of Japanese Buddhism in China

Post by Admin_PC » Wed May 18, 2016 3:42 pm

Iconodule wrote:Regarding Ven. Sheng-Yen, he definitely bears the stamp of Yin Shun and the reform movement. There is definitely a back-to-basics, no-nonsense approach in modern Chinese Buddhism which I found refreshing. I remember reading Yin Shun's "The Road to Buddhahood" (a kind of lam-rim or systematic theology for Chinese Mahayana) a while back and being struck by how straightforward it was compared to things I had read from Japanese teachers in English.
I think "back-to-basics" & "no-nonsense" really depend on your perspective. Certainly Yin Shun's perspectives on Pure Land are a huge departure from the teachings passed from missionaries like Bodhiruci and the early Chinese patriarchs like Tan Luan, Tao Cho, Shan Tao, and others. He relies heavily on his own interpretation of the Vimalakirti sutra (a sutra the earlier patriarchs did not really spend time on) and he treats recitation as nothing more than Samatha practice with some mouth movement, similar to other reformers from Chan/Seon/Thien/Zen. He really did not seem the type to even begrudgingly accept that certain Buddhist texts were preserved in Japan & Korea while being lost in China, as he seems to have dismissed them in his writings altogether (at least from what I've seen). In fact, I consider his statements regarding Japanese Buddhism to be prime examples of sectarian "nonsense".
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Re: Reception of Japanese Buddhism in China

Post by Iconodule » Wed May 18, 2016 3:46 pm

Fair enough. I only read "The Way to Buddhahood" and some assorted essays so I'm sure I'm not getting the full picture.
Enter eagerly into the treasure house that lies within you, and so you will see the treasure house of heaven. For the two are the same, and there is but on single entry to them both. The ladder that leads to the Kingdom is hidden within you, and is found in your soul. Dive into yourself, and in your soul you will discover the rungs by which you are to ascend. - Saint Isaac of Syria

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Re: Reception of Japanese Buddhism in China

Post by Meido » Wed May 18, 2016 3:55 pm

Regarding Sheng Yen, a bio of him on the Dharma Drum site does mention his Japanese Zen studies openly and rather positively:

In 1969, at 39, a late age to begin academic study, Sheng Yen enrolled at Rissho University in Japan. Again, this was not his master’s wish, but Sheng Yen persisted. In Japan, he found a new culture, a new language, and new ideas. Buddhism was undergoing a renaissance in Japan, and he thrived on it. He attended several winter retreats under Zen Roshi Bantetsugyu, who thought the Chinese monk was too intellectual and told him so. Yet, when after six years, Sheng Yen completed his doctorate in Buddhist Studies, Bantetsugyu told Sheng Yen: “Go to America!” (from http://ddmba.org/pages/about-us/founder/biography.php)

At a retreat in the late 80's he said that he appreciated how Japanese Zen practitioners stressed correct zazen posture and in general maintained training forms, and that he wanted to emphasize that approach more with his Chinese students who, he said, were more casual and less sharp with such things. Not sure if he ever wrote that as well in any of his works, but it is interesting.

~ Meido
It is relatively easy to accomplish the important matter of insight into one’s true nature, but uncommonly difficult to function freely and clearly [according to this understanding], in motion and in rest, in good and in adverse circumstances. Please make strenuous and vigorous efforts towards this end, otherwise all the teachings of Buddhas and patriarchs become mere empty words. - Torei

The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

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Re: Reception of Japanese Buddhism in China

Post by Admin_PC » Wed May 18, 2016 3:56 pm

Iconodule wrote:Fair enough. I only read "The Way to Buddhahood" and some assorted essays so I'm sure I'm not getting the full picture.
You're opinion's a fairly popular/common one. I just happen to disagree when a lot of what he says directly targets the schools that I follow.
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Re: Reception of Japanese Buddhism in China

Post by Iconodule » Wed May 18, 2016 4:21 pm

Meido wrote: Zen Roshi Bantetsugyu, who thought the Chinese monk was too intellectual and told him so.
This underlines something I've observed (and I'm open to correction if I'm overgeneralizing) which is how Japanese Zen will take the "beyond the scriptures" approach to almost anti-intellectual lengths, whereas modern Chinese Chan puts a higher importance on studying the sutras and foundational doctrine.
Enter eagerly into the treasure house that lies within you, and so you will see the treasure house of heaven. For the two are the same, and there is but on single entry to them both. The ladder that leads to the Kingdom is hidden within you, and is found in your soul. Dive into yourself, and in your soul you will discover the rungs by which you are to ascend. - Saint Isaac of Syria

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Re: Reception of Japanese Buddhism in China

Post by Huseng » Wed May 18, 2016 6:35 pm

Iconodule wrote: I was dismayed when I first learned of the near-universal complicity of the Japanese Buddhist leadership with the imperial project.
We need to consider things from the perspective of Japan. It was readily apparent after the Meiji Restoration right through to Pearl Harbor that Japan needed to build up a military deterrent against foreign (European and American) aggression, or suffer the same fate as China, Indonesia, India and other such countries colonized by Westerners. Later on there was also the concern about Communism, which was anti-religion, violent and fanatical. Japan did not have sufficient industrial capacity to build a credible military deterrent without its colonies. Recall that Japan also could not rely on Britain or the USA as trading partners.

It is a very complex history and unfortunately interpretations of it are often still emotionally tainted by WWII propaganda and victor's justice.

Iconodule wrote: This underlines something I've observed (and I'm open to correction if I'm overgeneralizing) which is how Japanese Zen will take the "beyond the scriptures" approach to almost anti-intellectual lengths, whereas modern Chinese Chan puts a higher importance on studying the sutras and foundational doctrine.
That's actually not the case in most of Japan today. Scriptural study is heavily emphasized in both Soto and Rinzai, though some practitioners might feel otherwise at times. Komazawa University and Hanazono University are the big 'Zen Studies' universities. I graduated from Komazawa, so I can attest to their love of scriptural study and research. They (or 'we') read through the old Chan texts in particular in great detail, attempting to decipher the meanings of obscure allusions. Dogen of course is also a key topic.

If you go to a training temple, then of course the emphasis will be on various types of training and not reading, but the traditions all still insist on people reading the relevant works.

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Re: Reception of Japanese Buddhism in China

Post by Matylda » Wed May 18, 2016 7:11 pm

Iconodule wrote:
Meido wrote: Zen Roshi Bantetsugyu, who thought the Chinese monk was too intellectual and told him so.
This underlines something I've observed (and I'm open to correction if I'm overgeneralizing) which is how Japanese Zen will take the "beyond the scriptures" approach to almost anti-intellectual lengths, whereas modern Chinese Chan puts a higher importance on studying the sutras and foundational doctrine.
Well it is sort of misunderstanding of Japanese zen. Mostly monks in Japan before they join strict monastery for training complete study at Hanazono or Komazawa unis. So they take intelectual part or scripture part of education during that time. However in zen training strictly speaking it is completely irrelevent. It is position from which Ban Roshi spoke, since he was guiding Sheng Yen in zen practice not in intelectual pursuit. Anyway Sheng Yen got at Buddhist uni in Japan his PhD.

As for Ban Roshi he completed hiself study at Komazawa with strict exams from major Buddhist philosophies including yogachara madhyamaka, abbhidharma and so on. One should read his 3 volume authobiography which is very interesting, however only in Japanese.

Returning to zen practice in Japan, training itself it is strictly conducted beyond intelectual or theoretical knowledge. Somewhere Rev. Meido Roshi mentioned a book by Hori Sogen. He cleraly explains in the long introduction about proper zen training as it is still maintained in Japan.

On the other hand one can find in Japan many commentaries on major mahayana sutras and treatises by famous zen masters.. it is good to have this in mind.

As for Chinese zen... I have very superficial knowledge about it. However I had chance to visit officially some monasteries, see their curriculum of study, the way of practice zazen etc. Indeed it is somehow different then Japanese zen, and there is definitely more study in their sodos, however strict zen training is also now valued very much, and teachers who show sound ability attract more monks than other teachers and their monasteries. Koan training is pretty vague in China as far as I know, and it includes both rinzai and soto lineages of Chiinese zen. Dokusan is just a private talk and the way of understanding koans does not fit Japanese way of dealing with koan. As for Sheng Yen remark about zazen posture - it seems taht Chinese do not pay much attention to it, or even not at all.. In the monks hall it is not unusual to see people meditating or doing zazen in sort of bent posture, sometimes very bent almost unhealthy, something one cannot find in Japan.

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Re: Reception of Japanese Buddhism in China

Post by Iconodule » Wed May 18, 2016 7:33 pm

Matylda wrote:
Iconodule wrote:
Meido wrote: Zen Roshi Bantetsugyu, who thought the Chinese monk was too intellectual and told him so.
This underlines something I've observed (and I'm open to correction if I'm overgeneralizing) which is how Japanese Zen will take the "beyond the scriptures" approach to almost anti-intellectual lengths, whereas modern Chinese Chan puts a higher importance on studying the sutras and foundational doctrine.
Well it is sort of misunderstanding of Japanese zen. Mostly monks in Japan before they join strict monastery for training complete study at Hanazono or Komazawa unis. So they take intelectual part or scripture part of education during that time. However in zen training strictly speaking it is completely irrelevent.
Thanks for clearing this up. That makes a lot more sense than my initial impressions. It seems though that, when introduced into an American context, the disembodied practice has sometimes bee presented to newcomers who do not have any grounding in basic Buddhist principles. As a result a lot of weird ideas start filling the void and you get some kind of corporate self-help exercise instead of Zen Buddhism. Mind you, this is mainly from my personal observations and interactions with American "roshis" and I know that it is not universal in American Zen.
Enter eagerly into the treasure house that lies within you, and so you will see the treasure house of heaven. For the two are the same, and there is but on single entry to them both. The ladder that leads to the Kingdom is hidden within you, and is found in your soul. Dive into yourself, and in your soul you will discover the rungs by which you are to ascend. - Saint Isaac of Syria

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Re: Reception of Japanese Buddhism in China

Post by Meido » Wed May 18, 2016 8:43 pm

Iconodule wrote:It seems though that, when introduced into an American context, the disembodied practice has sometimes bee presented to newcomers who do not have any grounding in basic Buddhist principles. As a result a lot of weird ideas start filling the void and you get some kind of corporate self-help exercise instead of Zen Buddhism. Mind you, this is mainly from my personal observations and interactions with American "roshis" and I know that it is not universal in American Zen.
Well, an initial grounding in basic Buddhist principles is not necessarily required in the Zen view. The essential entry into Zen - upon which subsequent practice is based - it to be grasped experientially, not intellectually.

Now, is that initial entry more easily made with some basic conceptual background? Depends totally on the person. Some folks, yes. Others, no. In any case, I don't see weird ideas rushing in to fill voids in people who are actually practicing under a legitimate teacher. I do see lots of folks who dabble with practice of various kinds.

In any case, even if many Zen people don't get the intellectual side beforehand, there is still a time for it later if they stick with the path: the classic Rinzai path is that one should, at later stages of training, dive into the sutras and writings of the masters to check one's experience. Torei:

When by bitter interviews [sanzen] and painful training at last the principle is attained, then the Buddha-Dharma of the exoteric and the esoteric schools appears directly before the eyes. Looking at the Sutras after having smashed the many prison gates and broken free, it seems as if they were one's own teachings.

That last is a nice test for anyone, in any tradition.

As for the corporate self-help thing and the marketing of anything with the word "mindfulness" in it, sure, I see some Zen folks jumping on that bandwagon. Some from other traditions too. But at the end of the day I also see a few really good Zen teachers in the USA who are quietly going about their business and exhausting themselves in the hope of fulfilling their obligation to train one or two good successors. It's enough.

~ Meido
It is relatively easy to accomplish the important matter of insight into one’s true nature, but uncommonly difficult to function freely and clearly [according to this understanding], in motion and in rest, in good and in adverse circumstances. Please make strenuous and vigorous efforts towards this end, otherwise all the teachings of Buddhas and patriarchs become mere empty words. - Torei

The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org

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Re: Reception of Japanese Buddhism in China

Post by Matylda » Wed May 18, 2016 8:47 pm

Iconodule wrote: As a result a lot of weird ideas start filling the void and you get some kind of corporate self-help exercise instead of Zen Buddhism. Mind you, this is mainly from my personal observations and interactions with American "roshis" and I know that it is not universal in American Zen.
Then it is real problem. Why? If zen practice requiers total submission and sort of release from any intelectual fabrication, then 'filling the void'
is nonsense. And dangerous. It simply means that one did not understand purpot of zen practice, and neither fits it. I think that better is to follow 'intelectual way' of Chinese modern Buddhism, than to fall into the pit of weird fabrications. In the case of Japanese Buddhism some teachers both rinzai and soto are more involved in academic, intelectual work and teaching and more philosophical approach. But they never deviate from basic mahayana principles or general dharma teaching.

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