Foster, Mary Elizabeth To Ge Hong (Ke Hung) (Buddhism)

Foster, Mary Elizabeth

(1844-1930) Buddhist philanthropist in Hawaii

A Hawaiian native and member of the royal family, Mary Foster was a founder of the Hawaiian branch of the Theosophical Society as well as a staunch supporter of the Hawaiian queen. She met Angarika Dharmapala, the founder of the Mahabodhi Society, in 1893 and became his most devoted follower. She was a major benefactor for the Mahabodhi Society, which supported schools and hospitals in South Asia. Mary and her husband, Captain Thomas Fields, purchased the Hillebrand garden property in central Honolulu and bequeathed what is now known as the Foster Botanical Gardens to the city.

Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition

The Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahay-ana Tradition (FPMT) is an international association of Gelug Tibetan Buddhist centers that emerged in stages through the 1960s and 1970s. The founders, Lamas Thubten Yeshe (1935-84) and Thubten Zopa Rinpoche (1946- ), had left Tibet in 1959. They met when the younger Zopa Rinpoche arrived in Buxaduar, India, to become the student of Thubten Yeshe. Shortly thereafter, a Russian woman, Zina Richevsky, also became Thubten Yeshe’s student. She was ordained as a nun in 1967. Two years later, the three established Kopan monastery near Kathmandu, Nepal. Kopan became a magnet for Westerners wishing to learn Tibetan Buddhism, and in 1973 the International Mahayana Institute was opened to accommodate them.

The work in Kathmandu began at a time when the survival of Tibetan Buddhism was in question. News of the destruction of monasteries and libraries in Tibet threatened the still largely disorganized refugee community in India and Nepal. The preservation of the beliefs and practices of Tibetan Buddhism in its various manifestations became a high priority for the community leadership. It led, among other things, to the adoption of an aggressive outreach program by lamas who heretofore had been very reluctant to share teachings with non-Tibetans.

In 1972, Lamas Yeshe and Zopa opened the first center in India, the Tushita Retreat Center in Dharmasala (where the Dalai Lama had settled). In 1974 they made their first trip to the West. As a result, they gained many students in Europe and North America, the majority of whom could not make the trek to the Himalayan centers. Gradually, they refocused their work to the West and moved the international headquarters of the FPMT to Pisa, Italy. In the United States, two pieces of land given to the foundation became the Vajrapani Institute at Boulder Creek, Colorado, and the Milarepa Center in rural Vermont. In the 1990s, the FPMT headquarters was relocated to California, and the relics of Lama Thubten Yeshe, who died in 1984, placed in a stupa at the Vajra-pani Institute.

The foundation attracted much attention in 1985 when a Spanish child, later known as Ten-zin Osel Rinpoche, was identified as the lama’s reincarnation. This event was hailed by Western Buddhists as a sign that the tradition had truly passed into the West and would continue as a global movement.

One of the largest organizations within the Tibetan Buddhist community, the FPMT sponsors Wisdom Publications, now based in suburban Boston, Massachusetts.

Four Noble Truths

The Four Noble Truths are a teaching tool. The Buddha’s first sermon was presented to his five wandering ascetic friends at the Deer Park in Varanasi, near modern Sarnath. Here he first presented the idea of the Four Noble Truths (catvari aryasatyani). The Four Noble Truths present the Buddha’s fundamental understanding of reality. Suffering (dukkha) is part of life. Suffering is caused by desire (tanha). There is a way (marga) to the cessation of suffering (nirodha).

These ideas are found throughout Buddhist literature. It is said the Buddha first decided to teach the Four Noble Truths because he felt the Twelve-fold Chain of Dependent Origination, his detailed explanation of PRATITYA-SAMUTPADA (code-pendent arising), would be too difficult for people to grasp. The Four Noble Truths are a way of helping people understand this concept.

Friends of the Western Buddhist Order

The Friends of the Western Buddhist order (FWBo) is an international fellowship of Buddhists founded self-consciously as a new Western approach to Buddhism that would draw on the many different Asian traditions. It shares characteristics of both a monastic order and a lay fellowship.

FWBo was founded in 1967 by the venerable Maha Sthavira Sangharakshita (1925- ). Born Dennis Lingwood, he was attracted to Buddhism through theosophy. As a young man he went to India and after several years wandering around the country, found a Theravada Buddhist teacher and was ordained as a bhiksu in 1950. He subsequently founded the vihara of the Three Ways in Kalimpang, India, and participated in the efforts generally associated with Babasaheb Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar to reach the Dalits for Buddhism. He expanded his study of Buddhism and was eventually also ordained in the Mahayana and Tibetan Vajrayana (Tantra) traditions. He also learned several languages—Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan—important for Buddhist studies.

By the 1960s, Sangharakshita began to think about a new approach to Buddhism that would be relevant to the modern West. As a starting point, FWBo emphasized the central principles affirmed by Buddhists of all traditions. He also eschewed the idea that one tradition was better than the others. In each he found everything necessary to lead people to the enlightenment the Buddha intended. This ecumenical approach is reflected in the new order he founded.

Those who join FWBo are not ordained as either monks or nuns or laity; they are ordained as simply Buddhists. In the ordination process, no distinction is made between men and women—those of the same gender decide upon the appropriateness of any individual ordination. Ordination involves commitment to taking refuge in the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha) rather than to a particular lifestyle. Members are expected to follow the 10 precepts expected of any lay Buddhists, but there are no initial vows involving poverty or chastity. They may take vows of poverty or chastity, but that is purely an individual decision. After ordination members may live in community or alone.

Organizationally, the FWBo is a network of autonomous local chapters. Most of these chapters evolved into single-sex communities. Among the unique characteristics of the FWBo has been the open acceptance of homosexuality among the members. order members have concluded that precept rules against abusing sexuality do not relate to the formal structure of sexual relations so much as to the nature of the relationship itself. Thus sexual relations are permitted both within and apart from marriage and of both a hetero- and a homosexual nature.

It is the goal of the chapters to be centers in which individuality can flourish, rather than places where sameness with a group ideal dominates. There are a set of materials, including the many books written by Sangharakshita, that the order draws upon, but otherwise it presents a very diverse face to the world. The order has spread worldwide, with about a thousand members who have taken vows but many more who participate in order activities. In the 1990s, the order spread throughout India and Indian members now make up approximately half of the formal membership. other members are scattered primarily in countries with a large English-speaking population.

Fuji (fu-chi, spirit writing)

The practice known today as fuji was widespread in China at least from the Song dynasty (960-1279 c.e.) and it is part of the usual operations of sectarian religious groups to this day. It bears many similarities to the spirit writing or automatic writing seen in Europe from Roman times. The European version used a planchette (in French, literally a "little plank"), a heart-shaped piece of wood with wheels or rollers and a pencil attached. With hands on the wood, the medium could channel the pencil’s movements in accordance with the spirit’s intentions—at least this is the intent.

In China the related practice involved possession by a spirit and writing with a stylus, a penlike instrument, usually in sand. Fuji was used to write a large volume of different literary works. A god dictated his own autobiography to a spirit medium in 1181 c.e. (A God’s Own Tale). The tradition continues today among a wide variety of Chinese religious groups, including Xiantiandao, the Taiwan Compassion Society, and Tian Dao (Yiguan Dao). The vast amount of fuji literature produced by such groups makes fuji a major genre of religious expression in Chinese religiosity.

There are indications the tradition of spirit contact was not originally a communication using words and was instead a form of nonverbal communication used by common people to communicate with deities. In particular there are records of people creating images of Zigu, goddess of the latrine, on her death anniversary, and inviting the goddess to descend into the image. The participants would than ask the image yes or no questions; if the image danced, it indicated a "yes" answer.

By the 1100s fuji had become an exclusively written communication between deities and the living. As a literary form it was most often used by the upper, literary class, often to divine such topics of concern as success or failure at official examinations. The revelations often contained moral injunctions. Before long these often became book-length expositions. In this case they performed the same function as BAOJUAN (precious scriptures)—moral instruction. The major difference between the two forms, of course, is that in fuji a human was involved in a type of possession by a god.

The earliest known Chinese text written under the influence of possession are certain parts of the Taiping Jing (Classic of Great Peace), dating from the first century b.c.e. Fuji was thereafter a very common way of creating Daoist texts.

Today a typical fuji session performed in a Tian Dao meeting involves at least four participants: three pubescent girls, dressed in white robes, and one senior leader, who may be a man or woman. The three girls gather around a table on which sits a rectangular box filled with a thin layer of sand. One of the girls is "possessed," or in contact with the deity. She stands at the head of the box and writes characters in the sand, normally upside down and reversed, while holding a ring with a stick attached. A second girl stands to the side of the box, reads each line as it is formed, and with a squeegee clears off the writing after every line is completed. And the third girl sits at the table writing down the communication with pen and paper. There is often a video camera placed over the sand box, allowing other watchers to see the lines of text being formed in the sand. The writing and recording are extremely fast—the girl writing on paper is barely able to keep up with the recitation.

Each page is handed to the session leader, who reads the message to the god. She or he will often speak to the gathered group about the messages received. They sometimes are targeted at individuals in the congregation, with words of encouragement or castigation. And they sometimes contain general moral lessons. The entire performance is highly dramatic, with the congregation curious about the god’s message, as well as impressed with the solemn actions of the team of intermediaries with the gods.

There have been admissions by Tian Dao leaders that the contents of the messages were prepared in advance and given to the performers. Some Tian Dao groups have given up the process entirely. However, for the majority of believers there appears to be no question of the accuracy of this traditional way to communicate with the gods.

Fuji, Mt. (Fuji san)

One of the most well-known sites in the world, Japan’s Mt. Fuji has, as have many of the world’s spectacular peaks, attracted a range of religious sentiments and aspirations. Its textbook conical appearance and snow-capped top rising more than two miles (12,387 feet) above sea level have drawn religious seekers and secular pilgrims for centuries.

Buddhists see the mountain as the home of Dainichi Nyotai, an enlightened being (a Buddha) who embodies spiritual wisdom. A temple to him, constructed on the mountain’s summit, was active by the 12th century. Some Buddhists have also described the mountain and its surrounding territory as constituting a large mandala. Eight smaller peaks that surround Fuji are likened to the petals of a lotus (a sacred flower in both Hinduism and Buddhism) that surround the Buddha’s home.

Several Japanese Buddhist sect groups claim a special relation to Mt. Fuji. In 1289, Nikko, one of the successor disciples to Nichiren, left his master’s temple at Minobu and moved to the foot of Fuji and on the southwest flank of the mountain erected Taiseki-ji, a temple that became the headquarters of the Nichiren Shoshu. Shugendo, the Buddhist group oriented toward mountain life and its austerities, found their way to Fuji in the 14th century and for several centuries controlled access to the summit.

Fuji has been especially significant to Shinto-ists. The earlier signs of worship directed at the mountain occurred in the ninth century, when a variety of ways of appeasing and relating to the various deities (KAMI) associated with the mountain led to the creation of a variety of Shinto shrines around the mountain. Also, quite early, religious activity developed around the many caves created by the mountain’s formation. Female shamans often took up residence in a cave. During the Edo period, legends developed about two mythical women, Konohana Sakuyahime and Kaguyahime, both known for their beauty. The presence of the female shamans seems to be related to stories of Kaguyahime’s entering one of the Fuji caves.

The development of a new religion focused on Fuji but outside the official channels of any Buddhist or Shinto organization is attributed to Kaku-gyo (1541-1646). He entered one of the larger caves, called Hitoana, which had already collected legends as a supernatural location, and while there had a revelation. He later became the center of a new religion with practice built on various magical operations and a set of moral teachings known as Fuji Ko. Fuji Ko spread rapidly after its then-leader, Jikigyo Miroku (1671-1733), starved himself to death on the mountain’s summit in an act aimed at ending a famine that had struck in 1731. Fuji Ko, along with a splinter group called Fujido, was suppressed in the l850s and has largely died out.

Today, images of Fuji are so ubiquitous in Japan that it is difficult at times to separate religious worship and secular appropriation of the mountain. A number of Shinto shrines have constructed replicas of the mountain that provide a local means of building reverence before the actual mountain is approached. Most pilgrims who attempt to climb Mt. Fuji do so in July or August. There are four main routes up the mountain. Along each route Shugendo followers, still present though no longer in control, have established rest stops. Religious pilgrims generally carry a staff and as they progress on their way to the top, the name of each rest station is burned into the staff. Some spend the night on the mountain so as to be at the top at sunrise.

Fuke Zen

Fuke Zen was a practice active in Japan during the Edo period (1603-1867) when the shogun ruled the country from Edo (Tokyo). A hallmark of Fuke practitioners was playing the bamboo flute, or shakuhachi, as a form of meditation. Eventually, the group developed a reputation for abusing people and committing crimes. The government moved against it on several occasions and largely suppressed it in the 1870s. A few remnants have survived as small religious associations.

The practices associated with Fuke Zen first entered to Japan from China. Its founder was Pu Hua (P’u-hua) (ninth century), known in Japan as Fuke. A wandering, eccentric Rinzai Zen priest, Pu Hua was known for carrying a large bell that he would ring just prior to his recitation of verses from Buddhist sutras. In the 13th century, a Rinzai priest, Muhon Kakushin (1207-98), traveled to China and a priest who followed Pu Hua returned with him. As the movement developed a following, the priests of the group were known for not shaving their heads, for carrying straw mats, and for playing the shakuhachi. From their mat (komo) people called them the komuso, which means "priests of nothing." Three types of religious functionaries eventually developed within the movement: the long-haired priests who wandered the countryside living off what they could beg by playing their flutes, wandering ascetics who also played the flute, and resident priests who did shave their head.

The problems with Fuke developed when over a period of time they became the home to a variety of people who had unsavory backgrounds— especially former members of the samurai class who had violated the rules of their caste. They also drew to them a number of people who were outlaws or outcasts. This pattern eventually led to the government suppression of the sect.

The Fuke flute players developed a repertoire of music used as an aid to meditation that came to be known as honkyoku. Contemporary musicians who use the flute in Japan have rediscovered both honkyoku and the Zen teachers who produced the music.

Fukko Shinto (Restoration Shinto)

Literally, fukko is "resurgence," a return to tradition. The Fukko Shinto movement began with the writings of Motoori Morinaga (1730-1801), who initiated scholarly research into Shinto literature. Morinaga was intimately involved in the Kokugaku (national learning) movement during the Tokugawa (Edo) era (1600-1867).

One of Norinaga’s students, Hirata Atsutane (1776-1843), took these ideas in the direction of theology and nationalism and started Fukko Shinto. Atsutane taught that Japan was the religious center of the world, and that Shinto was the original religion of humankind. These teachings were accepted by late Tokugawa thinkers and influenced imperialist interpretations of Shinto in the 1900s.

Fu Xi (Fu Hsi)

mythological Chinese emperor credited with introduction of the eight trigrams

Fu Xi was the first of three mythical emperors traditionally credited with introducing innovations to humanity. He is said to have ruled around 3000 b.c.e. Fu Xi invented music, painting, the feeding of silkworms (used to produce silk), the oracle bones used in divination, and the most common Chinese surnames. But his most important invention was without doubt the introduction of the eight trigrams, or ba gua. These are the eight possible combinations of short and long lines, which in turn form the building blocks of the 64 hexagrams in the Book of Changes.


(1079-1153) teacher in the Kagyu Tibetan school

Gampopa Sonam Rinchen, the primary student of the Tibetan teacher Milarepa, founded the monastic tradition within the Kagyu school. He was born Dharma Drak at Nyal, central Tibet. He was known as Gampopa ("man of Gampo") because he spent years living in the Gampo region. At his father’s direction, Dharma Drak was trained as a physician. only after the death of his wife and children in an epidemic did he begin serious study of Buddhism. In his mid-20s he began study with a Nyingma teacher but soon found his way to the Kadampa reformist movement. He was 26 when he received his monastic initiation from Geshe Loden Sherap. He had studied the Kadampa teachings for several years when he heard of the Kagyu teacher Milarepa (1012-97) and set out in search of him.

Milarepa gave Gampopa several tests to gauge his seriousness. Then, recognizing Gampopa’s talent, Milarepa began to transmit all the Kagyu teachings to him. Gampopo eventually emerged as Milarepa’s primary student and lineage holder. However, Gampopa did not simply pass on Mil-arepa’s teachings; he also developed them further.

Gampopo founded the Dhaklha Gampo Monastery, the fountainhead of the monastic order within the Kagyu tradition. He also worked to integrate into the Kagyu school the basics of the Kadampa reform, which was known for the orderly way it introduces the student to basic Buddhist insights. Gampopa’s approach was embodied in his most famous text, The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, and in his other writings.

Gampopa had four main students from whom the four primary Kagyu schools emerged, including Baram Dharma Wangchuk (Baram Kagyu), Pagtru Dorje Gyalpo (Pagtru Kagyu), and Sahang Tsalpa Tsondru Trag (Tsalpa Kagyu). His fourth student, Dusum Khyenpa, became the founder and first Karmapa, or figurehead, of the Karma Kagyu lineage, the most famous Kagyu school in the West. In addition, Pagtru Dorje Gyalpo had eight students from whom eight lesser Kagyu lineages emerged, including the Drakpa Kagyu school, which has become the dominant form of Buddhism in Bhutan.

Ganjin (Jin Jianzhen)

(688-763) founder of Ritsu school of Japanese Buddhism

Ganjin was a Chinese Tian Tai master from Yang-zhou in central China. He moved to Japan after two visiting Japanese priests asked him to go there to induct Japanese Buddhists as monks. Doing so was critical for Buddhism in Japan because an official ordination platform (or sanctuary) had yet to be established there.

By the time Ganjin arrived in Japan in 753 he had lost his eyesight. Nevertheless, he quickly established an ordination platform at Todai-ji temple, where he inducted the retired emperor Shomu and several hundred others as monks. The Ritsu, or precepts, school in Japan was established in that same year, under his direction. Ganjin was later made general administrator of all priests in Japan. He established the Toshodai-ji temple in Nara in 759.

Gedatsu (Gedatsu-kai)

Gedatsu is an eclectic Buddhist group founded by Shoken Okano (1881-1948) (later given the honorific title Gedatsu Kongo). Gedatsu offers a threefold method for finding enlightenment: developing wisdom, purifying emotions, and improving willpower. Wisdom is developed through meditation. Emotions are purified by service to one’s ancestors and various spiritual entities (such as the bodhisattvas). The emotions may be purified by what is termed the Way of Holy Goho, a disciplined technique for training the mind offered through Gedatsu.

Gedatsu Kongpo saw the universe as held together by a universal law, the power of nature. This law provides enlightenment to any who seek the truth. The path to truth begins with a realization that the source of human problems is the focus on self-satisfaction through wealth, fame, food, sex, and rest. The focus on self-satisfaction can be replaced by a focus on attaining enlightenment—a state of calm and peace.

Worship in Gedatsu is centered on the act of kuyo, which is defined as humbly offering respect and gratitude to all those to whom one is indebted. Thus one acknowledges one’s ancestors, the bodhisattvas (especially Fudo-myo-o, a bodhi-sattva important to Shingon Buddhists, and Kan-non, or Guan Yin), and the spirit of the supreme creator, Tengenchigi.

Okano was born in Saitama, Japan, and spent much of his adult life as a successful businessman and a member of a Shingon group. He had repeated experiences of communication with the spirit world that provided the foundation of Gedatsu. okano received many of his communications at Saitama-ken, Japan, at a location that has become the spiritual center for the movement, the Goreichi Spiritual Sanctuary. A shrine at the Goreichi is dedicated to Gedatsu Kongo as a token of gratitude to him.

In the years after World War II, Gedatsu began to spread to the Americas. There are now several churches in California and one in Hawaii, as well as centers in Brazil.

Ge Hong (Ke Hung)

(284-363 or 283-343 c.e.) Daoist mystic and alchemist

Ge Hong was an official in China’s Eastern Jin dynasty (317-420). Frequent changes of political regime often left him out of power or persecuted,and he eventually retired to Mt. Luofu (Luofu Shan) in Guangdong Province to focus on inner cultivation. He is most famous as the author of the Baopuzi Neipian (One who embraces simplicity), an important text in the Daoist alchemy tradition.

Ge is most closely associated with the southern branch of Daoism, which developed from efforts to attain immortality through alchemy and magic. However, Ge Hong was not the typical Daoist hermit; he was as much a Confucian scholar as a Daoist alchemist. In order to attain immortality, Ge recommended that all cultivators practice QI retention through such practices as breathing exercises, sexual techniques, and diet. He also advocated the ingestion of rare substances produced through alchemy. In accommodating the needs of both Confucianism and Daoist alchemy, Ge Hong became one of the earliest syncretic thinkers.

He was also an iconoclast, criticizing equally the excesses of superstition and of Confucianism. In regard to alchemy he showed a practical, experimental bent. He insisted on experiments with various elements and stated his preference for those derived from minerals over those from herbs, because of their longer-lasting effects. He was openly critical of belief in shamanistic ritual and gods as opposed to practical approaches to healing. He also criticized the typical Confucian scholar’s ignorance of metaphysics and the workings of nature.

Ge Hong made major contributions to the field of pharmacology. He also studied individual diseases. He had an advanced understanding of tuberculosis, for instance. And he records the first historical method to treat smallpox. He personally collected many folk prescriptions and formulas.

Because he retired to Mt. Luofu and eventually died there, Ge Hong became a cult figure in the Luofu Shan region. His image is worshipped there to this day, along with that of his wife, Bao. one legend has it that Ge was able to concoct two and a half doses of an alchemical substance that would grant immortality. He and his wife took one dose each, and he handed the remainder to his disciple, Huang Ba Hu. Since Huang did not attain full immortality, he has remained a presence on the mountain to this day. He is depicted as a half-wild man, existing in a state of primitive oneness with nature.

As the scholar Nathan Sivin notes, Ge was not affiliated with any organized Daoist tradition. This made it possible for his charisma to be associated with place and easily appropriated by others, as happened when Quanzhen Daoists later settled on Mt. Luofu.

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