Chinese Buddhist Association
In China today, Buddhism enjoys greater support from the government than either Daoism or Christianity. At the popular level, Daoism is far less popular than Buddhism, the largest religious community in China. unlike Christianity, still suspect as a foreign-based faith, Buddhism is viewed as a more indigenous Chinese religion. There are an estimated 100 million Buddhists in China.
The Chinese Buddhist Association serves as a liaison between the government and the Buddhist community and has the responsibility of implementing government regulations related to religion in China. It is led nationally by a standing committee and its officers. The current chairman is the Venerable Master Yi Cheng. Leadership at the national level is supplemented with provincial leadership located in a prominent temple in each province.
During the early 20th century, Buddhists in China, who lacked strong national organization, attempted to create a China-wide association to represent Buddhist interests to the new secular government. An initial Chinese Buddhist Association began to hold conferences in 1929 and met annually until World War II began in China with the Japanese attack on the country in 1937.
In 1945, as the war came to an end, the Venerable Tai Xu (T’ai Hsu) (1890-1947) became head of a Committee for the Reorganization of Chinese Buddhism, which led two years later to the formation of a new Chinese Buddhist Association. It soon became moribund as the Chinese Revolution occurred. In 1953, yet a third attempt to form a Chinese Buddhist Association occurred in Beijing. A lay Buddhist, Zhao Puchu (1907-2000), was selected as general secretary. The organization functioned for 12 years, until the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, when all religious activity was banned in the People’s Republic of China.
In 1978, the Chinese Buddhist Association was revived with most of its former leadership, including Zhao Puchu, assuming their previous roles. Working with the leadership of the Communist Party of China, Zhao announced a program for the restoration of Buddhist activity throughout the country. After that announcement, Buddhist temples and monasteries were reopened and many damaged during the Cultural Revolution were refurbished—especially those located in major urban areas or known for their artistic or historical importance. During the 1980s, the study of Buddhism revived, Buddhist books and scriptures were published, structures created for the education of monks and nuns, and the association began to develop international relationships with Buddhists, especially in neighboring countries. The association affiliated with the World Fellowship of Buddhists.
Chinese Esoteric Buddhism
Tantric Buddhism, or Vajrayana (or "Esoteric") Buddhism, entered China around 720 c.e. and for several centuries was a major school, before gradually losing influence. Vajrayana focuses more on practice than on teachings, which are fundamentally Mahayana-based. Vajrayana emphasizes the relationship between the teacher (guru) and disciple. Rituals are complex. Although it sprang from Mahayana Buddhism, Vajrayana claims to allow the practitioner to achieve nirvana quickly, in the current life.
Vajrayana migrated from its originating points in India through Afghanistan and Tajikistan to China and Mongolia. It reached Xian, the Chinese capital, at the height of the Tang dynasty (618907 C.E.). Subhakarasimha (637-735) and two other Vajrayana priests, Vajrabodhi (671-741) and Amoghavajra (705-774), made the long trek to Xian at the request of the emperor Xuan Zong (r. 712-756). The trio are most remembered for their work of translating many Buddhist and Tantric works into Chinese. In the process, they mastered Confucian and Daoist teachings. The integration of Chinese and indian thought created the unique Chinese form of Esoteric Buddhism, called in Chinese hanmi.
Subhakarasimha and Vajrabodhi initially established Vajrayana at the Great Propagating Goodness Temple (Daxingshan Si), and their young student Amoghavajra built on their accomplishments. Only 15 when he made the original trip to China, he returned in 732 to India, gathered more texts, and finally traveled back to Xian in 746. He became the instrument for receiving the emperor Xuan Zong into the Buddhist religion. The next emperor, Su Zong (r. 756-762), gave Amoghavajra the task of translating a library of texts, a program that absorbed most of his energy for the next two decades. When he died in 774, he had seen Vajrayana become a popular movement and himself a greatly honored Buddhist leader. Unfortunately, under the emperor Tang Wuzong (841-847), who banned Vajrayana teach ings, much of Amoghavajra’s work was undone. It would be several centuries before it would again rise to its former level of success. in the meantime, Hui Guo (746-805), Amoghavajra’s disciple, went to Japan with Kukai (774-835) to become the sources of the Japanese Vajrayana school, later known as Shingon.
Integral to the story of Chinese Esoteric Buddhism was the introduction of Vajrayana into Tibet in the eighth century. Padmasambhava is generally considered to be the founder of the unique form of Vajrayana that would dominate Tibet. His work would result in the development of the old school of Tibetan Buddhism, the Nyingma. Then in the 11th century, a new lineage of Vajrayana teachings would emerge with a set of five masters, beginning with Tilopa (988-1069). He would be followed by Naropa (1016-1100) and Marpa (1012-97), the person who actually took the teachings to Tibet. Marpa’s student Milarepa (1052-1133) and his student Gampopa (1079-1153) established the teachings, now known as the Kagyu tradition.
A third Tibetan tradition originated within Tibet. Its founder, Khon Konchok Gyalpo (10341102), built the Gray Earth (Sakya) monastery in central Tibet, from which the tradition would take its name. The Sakya tradition was firmly established in the 12th and 13th centuries.
After the death of Genghis Kahn in 1227, his son, Ogedei, and his progeny were awarded China and the other lands of East Asia. In the 1240s the decision was made to incorporate Tibet into the realm and Ogedei’s son, Prince Godan, assumed the task. The conquest occurred with minimal opposition and afterward Godan invited the Sakya leader, the fourth Gongma Sakya Pandita (1182-1251), to his court in Mongolia. The relationship that grew from that visit began a second revival of the Vajrayana in China. Golan’s conversion to Buddhism bore real fruit after his brother, Kublai Khan, became emperor of China. Kublai Khan invited the fifth Gongma, Drogon Chogyal Phagpa, to Mongolia. In gratitude for Phagpa’s inventing a new script for written Mongolian,Kublai Khan made Vajrayana Buddhism the state religion of his empire and awarded Phagpa political leadership over three Tibetan provinces. The Sakya leaders would also be the primary secular authority in Tibet for the next century.
With Vajrayana Buddhism now the religion of choice in China and Mongolia, the next development would occur in Tibet, where a new teacher, Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), would take the lead in reforming Tibetan Buddhism. Ganden Monastery was the disseminating point for the new teachings, the Gelug tradition. One of his students, Gendun Drub (1391-1474), would found the Tashilhumpo monastery near Shigatse, west of Lhasa, the center that eventually solidified the position of the Gelug tradition in Tibet. Gendun Drub was succeeded at Tashilhumpo by Gendun Gyatso (1475-1542) and Sonam Gyatso (154388), the latter destined to change the historical trajectory of two countries.
In the centuries since the Sakya had been placed in power, the kingdom of Kublai Khan began slowly to disintegrate. Then with the fall of his dynasty, the Yuan, in 1368, Vajrayana Buddhism would fade and largely be replaced with Pure Land Buddhism and Chan Buddhism. It would fall to a later leader, Altan Khan (150783), both to reunify the Mongol people in a semblance of Kublai Khan’s old kingdom and to revive Esoteric (Vajrayana) Buddhism. Once in power, Altan Khan turned to Tibet for religious teachings that could unify his kingdom. Having heard of Sonam Gyatso, the khan invited the abbot to Mongolia. Sonam Gyatso proved a capable teacher for the khan’s people, and before his return to Tibet a notable exchange occurred. Sonam Gyatso proclaimed his patron the reincarnation of Kublai Khan and the embodiment of the bodhisattva Vajrapari, thus uniting his political and religious credentials. In return, the khan, in his religious office, named Sonam Gyatso, Dalai Lama, teacher of the ocean of wisdom. He would subsequently be seen as an incarnation of Avalokitesvara (or Guan Yin), the bodhisattva of compassion. The title Dalai Lama was then retroactively applied to Sonam Gyatso’s two predecessors.
The future Dalai Lamas would maintain their relationship with the khan of the Mongols, and Lozang Gyatso (1617-82), the Fifth Dalai, with the assistance of Mongol troops, secured authority as the political leader of all Tibet. In the process of establishing the Gelug in power, he suppressed those schools he perceived as possible competitors (such as the Sakya) and assisted others (such as the Nyingma). Esoteric Buddhism of the Gelug school was now established in Tibet and Mongolia and would remain dominant until the 20th century.
In China, Pure Land Buddhism would become the dominant form of Buddhism, though outposts of Esoteric Buddhism were scattered across the land. Then in the 18th century the spread of the Chinese empire during the Manchu (Qing) dynasty (1644-1911) would provide a context for a new revival of Esoteric Buddhism. under the rule of the Manchu emperor Qianlong (1711-99), China incorporated Mongolia and Tibet into its territory. Qianlong even sent an army into Tibet to confirm the Dalai Lama’s political authority.
A primary symbol of the new respect given Vajrayana Buddhism at this time was Qianlong’s creation of the temple Yonghe Gong (the Palace of Harmony and Peace) as a new Buddhist center in Beijing. originally built as a palace in the previous century, the huge complex was turned into a lamasery and a guesthouse for official visitors from Mongolia and Tibet. Qianlong subsequently erected a number of Vajrayana temples throughout his empire, especially in areas dominated by different ethnic minorities. The erection of these temples encouraged the migration of Mongolian and Tibetan priests.
In the 20th century, northwest (or Outer) Mongolia declared its independence from China (1911) and later emerged as the modern nation of Mongolia. The more southern and eastern parts of the land, Inner Mongolia, remained a Chinese province. Two years later, the Dalai Lama proclaimed Tibetan independence and then quickly moved to sign a treaty of mutual recognition with Mongolia. Vajrayana thus had three main centers in the greater Chinese region—Inner Mongolia, Outer Mongolia and Tibet—supplemented by many temples scattered across China.
Within China, Vajrayana practice would continue through World War ii and the Chinese Revolution. However, in the 1950s and 1960s it would undergo significant suppression by the antireli-gion policies of the People’s Republic of China, which also moved to incorporate Tibet back into its territory. The suppression of Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhism would have two unplanned consequences. First, a number of Chinese citizens, especially Tibetans, would leave and disperse throughout the world. Their migrations have led to a geographic spread and remarkable growth of Tibetan Buddhism. At the same time, relocation policies within China have seen Tibetans scattered across the country, further diffusing their religion as the repressive policies most in force in the 1970s have been greatly relaxed.
As the new century begins, many Tibetan and Mongolian temples have been restored and monasteries again opened. it is difficult to tell how many adherents remain. Among Han Chinese in the last generation, Vajrayana Buddhism has experienced a revival as demonstrated by new emergent groups such as the Taiwanese-based True Buddha School and the World Buddhist-Hanmi Association based in Manchuria, the People’s Republic of China.
Ching Hai Meditation Association, Master
The Master Ching Hai Meditation Association is a Taiwanese group founded by Ching Hai Wu Shang Shih, "Supreme Master" or "Suma," Ching Hai. Though it is often described as a Buddhist group, the core teachings of Ching Hai derived from the Sant Mat tradition of the Punjab, India.
Ching Hai was born Hue Dang Trinh into an ethnic Chinese Roman Catholic family in 1950 in Vietnam. Her grandmother was a Buddhist. At the age of 18, she moved to England and was educated at several locations in Western Europe, where she met her husband, a Buddhist.
After several years of marriage, she began a spiritual quest. Crucial to her progress was the mention of what was termed the Quan Yin method in a Buddhist scripture, the Surangama Sutra. She began asking Buddhist teachers about the method, but no one understood of what it consisted. In her quest, she was led to northern India, where she met Thakur Singh, a teacher of surat shabd yoga. This form of yoga utilizes a variety of mantras as a means of attuning the self to the creative sound current and follow it back to the soul’s point of origin. in the surat shabd yoga systems, the guru (teacher) is an important figure who guides his/her students on the inner path to ever higher levels. Ching Hai concluded that surat shabd yoga was identical to the Quan Yin method.
As she began to master the technique, she moved to Taiwan. There in 1983 she was ordained as a Buddhist nun. After several years in New York, she returned to Taiwan in 1986. There she encountered a group of devotees of Avalok-itesvara (another name of Quan Yin or Guan Yin), who requested knowledge of the Quan Yin method. She subsequently founded the Master Ching Hai Meditation Association.
Life for the new association member begins with initiation by Ching Hai or one of her representatives, and an introduction to some basic practices of surat shabd yoga. Members are also asked to follow the five basic moral precepts common to Buddhism: they are thus enjoined against killing of living beings, taking of what is not given (or stealing), sexual misconduct, false speech, and the use of intoxicating substances. In addition, members are expected to adopt a vegetarian diet.
During its first decade, the movement spread worldwide, with followers on every continent, though membership was concentrated around the Pacific Rim. The association has also nurtured a chain of vegetarian restaurants. Ching Hai’s book The Key to Enlightenment, which has appeared under several slightly different titles in English, is the basic text for the movement.
Chin Kung (Jin Kong)
(1927- ) Taiwanese Buddhist leader
Master Chin Kung Shi, the founder and leader of one of Taiwan’s five prominent Buddhist groups, the Amitabha Buddhist Societies, was born Hsu Yae-Hong in 1927 in Anhui province, China. In 1949 he migrated to Taiwan, where he studied for many years with several outstanding Buddhist teachers. In 1959, he became a monk at Linji Temple of Yuanshan, Taipei, where he received his religious name, Chin Kung. After his ordination in the Pure Land tradition, he began lecturing and teaching widely across Taiwan and was active in the Buddhist Association of the Republic of China. As he lectured, he also proposed and helped found a number of independent Buddhist centers focused upon the veneration of Amitabha Buddha and the recitation of the nembutsu. Thus over time an association of Pure Land centers tied together by the propagation activities of Chin Kung came into being. Along the way, he also led in the founding of the Hwa Dzan Dharma Giving Association, the Hwa Dzan Buddhist Library, the Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation, and the Hwa Dzan Pureland Learning Center, each of which has carried on a special program related to the overall propagation goal.
Master Chin Kung pioneered Buddhist broadcasting in Taiwan utilizing both radio and television and more recently the Internet. He has become more widely known for the publishing activity of the Buddha Educational Foundation, which annually prints and distributes tens of thousands of free copies of books, including both transcripts of his talks and volumes of Buddhist scripture.
Master Chin Kung first traveled abroad to teach in 1977. Subsequent international tours have led to the founding of Amitabha Buddhist Societies in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, North America, Australia, Spain, and England. These operate primarily within the Chinese diaspora. In 1985, he moved to the united States, and after more than a decade there he moved to Singapore (his home in 2005). His most recent project has been the founding of the Buddhist Educational College in Singapore for the training of Buddhist leaders.
(mid-eighth century) prominent Korean monk
Chinp-yo, a monk of the Dharma Characteristics or Dharma Aspects school (known in China as the Faxiang school and in Japan as the Hosso school), is one of the people responsible for the emphasis on Maitreya so noticeable in Korean Buddhism. He emerges out of obscurity in the 760s when he returned to Korea from China, just as the Korean peninsula was being unified by the Kingdom of Silla. According to the stories told about him, he had a vision of the bodhisattva Maitreya, from whom he received a book of divination. He decided to build a temple to Maitreya and by supernatural means was directed to the Kum-san forest on Mt. Miak-san near Chonju. There he built Kumsan-sa (or Gold Mountain Temple). In fact, a small temple was already located at the site, dating from the beginning of the seventh century.
Central to the temple complex erected under Chinp-yo’s direction was a large Maitreya Buddha Hall, in the center of which was a 39-foot statue of Maitreya. (The temple complex went through a variety of ups and downs through the years as political leadership changed and in the 16th century was largely destroyed during an invasion from Japan. The buildings one sees today on visiting Kum-san were erected in 1635.)
(1158-1210) Korean Buddhist reformer
The Korean Son Buddhist teacher Chinul was born to a well-to-do family near Kaegyong (Kaesong), then the capital of the country. Suffering from chronic illness as a child, Chinul was offered as a Buddhist monk by his father if he were healed. He was healed and at the age of seven was ordained. His training was unusual, however, as he was not placed in the care of a particular recognized teacher. over the years as he matured he made his own way through the many Buddhist writings available to him. He developed an eclectic and ecumenical approach to the various schools of Son (Zen) meditative practices.
Chinul grew up in the small monastery in his hometown. When at the age of 42 he first traveled to the capital to take his examinations, he was negatively affected by what he saw as an inappropriate worldliness. He decided to form a retreat society to emphasize concentration and the acquisition of wisdom. over the next nine years he traveled the land, studying at various monastic centers and allowing his thought to mature. These years were punctuated by three important experiences of the realization of the truth concerning the reality and experience of One Mind. His new comprehensive perspective, combining theory with the practice of meditation, would be summarized in his posthumously published work The Complete and Sudden Attainment of Buddhahood.
In 1190, Chinul formed his retreat society on Kong Mountain. Contemporaneously he wrote his first book, Encouragement to Practice: The Compact of the Concentration and Wisdom Community. The work attacked what he saw as a degenerate Buddhist community, especially the practices of Pure Land Buddhism. He argued that each person is already an enlightened Buddha and what is needed is the recovery of one’s pristine enlightened state. Within a few years, Chinul’s teachings and personality had attracted attention and thousands flocked to King Mountain.
Within a few years, the facilities on Kong Mountain proved inadequate to deal with the crowds and a new center for his society was sought. Toward the end of the decade, a new temple was built at Songgwang Mountain in southern Korea. On his way to the new temple, Chinul stopped for a time at Chiri Mountain to make a retreat in preparation for his assuming leadership of the new community. During this retreat, Chinul and his companions experienced a variety of supernatural events. They interpreted these occurrences as confirmation that their leader had attained a final higher state of enlightenment.
At the new center, Chinul soon became the dominant voice in Son Buddhism. His first book issued from his new home, Admonitions to Beginning Students, emphasized the moral basis of the monastic life and is still given to all young Buddhist monks in Korea. it was followed by another classic text, Secrets on Cultivating the Mind (c. 1205), an outline of Son practice. Later in the decade, he would author his two major works, Abridgment of the Commentary of the Flower Garland Sutra (1207) and Excerpts from the Dharma Collection and Separate Circulation Record with Personal Notes (1209). The latter is a comprehensive survey of Buddhist thought and practice that soon became a standard work for students of Son meditation throughout Korea. He advocated an approach to Son based on sudden enlightenment to one’s Buddhahood, to be followed by a life of cultivation of Buddhism and a mature arrival at a mature realization. This approach would dominate Son practice in Korean Buddhism in later centuries.
As death approached in April 1210, Chinul engaged in a set of question and answer sessions with his close disciples. He died on April 22 and was buried in a stupa at the monastic center. The Korean king named him National Preceptor Pril Pojo (or Buddha Sun Shining Universally).
Chodron, Pema (Deirdre Blomfield-Brown)
(1936- ) Tibetan Buddhist nun
Pema Chodron, a leading spokesperson for the Karma Kagyu Tibetan Buddhist tradition, was born Deirdre Blomfield-Brown in New York City. After her graduation from the University of California Berkeley, she began a career as an elementary school teacher. She married and bore two children. In the early 1970s, on a visit to France, she met Lama Chime Rinpoche. After several years of study, she took her first vows as a novice nun in 1974. She was soon afterward ordained by the Sixteenth Karmapa. She received the full BHIKSUNI ordination in the Chinese lineage in 1981 in Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, in 1972 she had encountered Cho-gyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1939-87). She became his student and studied with him for the next 15 years. As Vajradhatu International, Trungpa’s organization, developed, Ane Pema became the director of Karma Dzong, its main center in Boulder, Colorado. In 1984, she moved to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, as the new director of Gampo Abbey, the first Tibetan monastery established in North America for Westerners.
Her first two books, The Wisdom of No Escape (1991) and Start Where You Are (1994), found a popular response and she emerged as one of the leading female Buddhist teachers in the West and an advocate of spreading Tibetan monasticism.
(1939-1987) Tibetan Buddhist lama and teacher
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was an influential and controversial Tibetan Buddhist lama who played an important role in the dissemination of Buddhism to the West. He was born in eastern Tibet and was identified at the age of 13 months as the 13th incarnation of the Trungpa tulku, an important Karma Kagyu teaching lineage. He was educated in the traditional fashion and installed as the head of Surmang monastery. In 1959, he fled Tibet and went into exile in India. The Dalai Lama appointed him to a teaching position at the Young Lamas Home School in Dalhousie, India. While in India he married a Tibetan woman, Kun-chok Palden, who in 1962 gave birth to their son, osel Rangdrol Mukpo, now known as Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.
In 1963 Chogyam Trungpa traveled to England to study at oxford university, leaving his family behind in india. Four years later he moved to Scotland, where he founded the Samye Ling meditation center. Shortly thereafter, he was in a severe car accident, which left him partially paralyzed. He also entered into a romantic relationship with a young English woman, Diana Pybus, whom he married in 1970. In 1969, the first of his many books, Meditation in Action, appeared.
Chogyam Trungpa moved to the united States in 1970 and here he blossomed as a popular spiritual teacher. He settled in Barnet, Vermont, where he founded a meditation center called Tail of the Tiger. He attracted many students and wrote a series of books on Buddhism, the most popular of which was his work Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, a work that attempted to present key teachings of Buddhism in a form more understandable to his American audience. He established several other meditation centers in North America, as well as the Naropa Institute (now Naropa University) in Boulder, Colorado, and founded the Vajradhatu International Buddhist Church. in the meantime he attracted a number of well-known students, such as the poet Allen Ginsberg.
Chogyam Trungpa was a controversial teacher who tended to make a strong impact not only upon his students, but also upon many of the other people with whom he interacted. He tended to be a polarizing figure and manifested what his defenders call the "crazy wisdom" style of spiritual teaching. He was an alcoholic, and critics have accused him of engaging in abusive behavior. It is reported that he frequently engaged in sexual activity with many of his students. Despite these allegations of abuse, he made a major impact upon the reception of Vajrayana (Tantric) Buddhism in North America.
He passed away in 1987 and was succeeded by his chosen successor, an American student named Osel Tenzin. Most recently, the various elements of the movement he created have been reorganized under the umbrella organization Shambhala International.