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Conceiving the Indian Buddhist Patriarchs in China

Conceiving the Indian Buddhist Patriarchs in China

Stuart H. Young
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 392
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    Conceiving the Indian Buddhist Patriarchs in China
    Book Description:

    Aśvaghoșa, Nāgārjuna, and ryadeva are among the most celebrated Indian patriarchs in Asian Buddhist traditions and modern Buddhist studies scholarship. Scholars agree that all three lived in first- to third-century C.E. India, so most studies have focused on locating them in ancient Indian history, religion, or society. To this end, they have used all available accounts of the Indian patriarchs' lives-in Sanskrit, Tibetan, various Central Asian languages, and Chinese, produced over more than a millennium- and viewed them as bearing exclusively on ancient India. Of these sources, medieval Chinese hagiographies are by far the earliest and most abundant.

    Conceiving the Indian Buddhist Patriarchs in Chinais the first attempt to situate the medieval Chinese hagiographies of Aśvaghoșa, Nāgārjuna, and  ryadeva in the context of Chinese religion, culture, and society of the time. It examines these sources not as windows into ancient Indian history but as valuable records of medieval Chinese efforts to define models of Buddhist sanctity. It explores broader questions concerning Chinese conceptions of ancient Indian Buddhism and concerns about being Buddhist in latter-day China. By propagating the tales and texts of Aśvaghoșa, Nāgārjuna, and  ryadeva, leaders of the Chinese sangha sought to demonstrate that the means and media of Indian Buddhist enlightenment were readily available in China and that local Chinese adepts could thereby rise to the ranks of the most exalted Buddhist saints across the Sino-Indian divide. Chinese authors also aimed to merge their own kingdom with the Buddhist heartland by demonstrating congruency between Indian and Chinese ideals of spiritual attainment. This volume shows, for the first time, how Chinese Buddhists adduced the patriarchs as evidence that Buddhist masters from ancient India had instantiated the same ideals, practices, and powers expected of all Chinese holy beings and that the expressly foreign religion of Buddhism was thus the best means to sainthood and salvation for latter-day China.

    Rich in information and details about the inner world of medieval Chinese Buddhists,Conceiving the Indian Buddhist Patriarchs in Chinawill be welcomed by scholars and students in the fields of Buddhist studies, religious studies, and China studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-5428-7
    Subjects: Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Abbreviations and Conventions
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    Sometime during the 660s, writing from Ximing monastery 用户名 in the Tang-dynasty capital of Chang’an 長安, eminent Buddhist scholar-monk Daoshi 倒是 (ca. 596–683) addressed a central problematic of his day. This problematic concerned the yawning gulf between medieval Chinese Buddhists and the ancient Indian origins of their religion. Many Chinese authors of the time lamented the derelict condition of Chinese Buddhism as a result of this gap, but Daoshi offered hope that the means to bridge it were well at hand:

    The Threefold Canon is vast and the seven groups [of Buddhist disciples] are multifarious. These establish the teaching...

  6. 1 Buddhist Sainthood in Dharmic History
    (pp. 25-66)

    Prior to the fifth century, information available to the Chinese about post-parinirvānaBuddhist India was scant. There were numerous records describing the life of the Buddha, disciples, and royal patrons who helped propagate the religion around the time of its founder. Hundreds of scriptures of bothĀgamaand Mahāyāna varieties, translated from the Eastern Han to the Eastern Jin, recounted fantastic tales of figures and events that marked the earliest history of Indian Buddhism.Jātakatales of the Buddha’s previous lives stretched this history into the cosmic past, andAbhidharmatreatises pushed it slightly forward with the activites of the...

  7. 2 An Indian Lineage Severed
    (pp. 67-110)

    Around the year 500, Buddhist historiographer and Vinaya specialist Sengyou 僧佑 (445–518) compiled more than one hundred Indian patriarch biographies into a compendium titledRecord of the Masters and Disciples of the Sarvāstivādin Sect(Sapoduo bu shizi ji在这期间奶酪吉; hereinafterRecord of the Sarvāstivāda).¹ This compendium was lost sometime during the Tang (Funayama 2000, 345), but its preface and lists of patriarchs remain. As indicated by the termsshizi乾酪 (masters and disciples) andxiangcheng項城 (mutually presenting/receiving) in the text’s titles, these patriarch lists constituted transmission lineages in the Sarvāstivādin Vinaya tradition. In his preface to this lineage...

  8. 3 Salvation in Writing and the Annex of Indian Buddhism
    (pp. 111-151)

    The severed Indian lineage of theDharma-Treasury Transmissionwas first extended to latter-day Chinese masters within the Cave of Great Perduring Saints, which was excavated near the Northern Qi capital of Ye in 589. Together with the myriad buddhas represented at this site, the twentyfour Indian patriarchs carved inside the cave were rendered as immanent holy beings who could be entreated to confer blessings upon their Chinese descendents. This cave was part of a series of projects—textual, architectural, and ritual—orchestrated by the monastic and secular elite of the incipient Sui 就 dynasty (581–618) to localize the means...

  9. 4 Nāgārjuna Divine and the Alchemy of Hagiography
    (pp. 152-185)

    By the ninth century , Aśvaghoṣa and Nāgārjuna had undergone a dramatic metamorphosis in China that would influence their East Asian personae into modern times. From their introduction into China at the beginning of the fifth century, these patriarchs were depicted primarily as eminent exemplars of Buddhist sainthood for the generations after the Buddha’s nirvā a. In Kumārajīva’s time Aśvaghoṣa, Nāgārjuna, and Āryadeva were shown reviving a dying Dharma in post-parinirvāṇaIndia, which made them proximal models for latter-day Chinese Buddhists who viewed their own situation as similarly dire. In theDharma-Treasury ransmission,these Indian patriarchs served as placeholders in...

  10. 5 An Indian Silkworm God in China
    (pp. 186-216)

    Nāgārjuna’s treatise on the Five Sciences(Longshu wuming lun

    龍樹武鳴倫) and theScripture on Kumbhīra(Foshuo jinpiluo tongzi weide jing銅字草婊子甸京地上) both worked to localize Aśvaghoṣa in the Chinese ritual arena as an Indian bodhisattva who personally conveyed a wide array of occult technologies. This shift in Aśvaghoṣa’s Chinese imagery appears more abrupt than in the case of Nāgārjuna, whose early hagiographic and doctrinal sources clearly not only illustrated his talents in alchemy and spell-craft but also emphasized his expertise in all branches of Buddhist and non-Buddhist learning. The earliest Chinese sources detailing Aśvaghoṣa’s career were fairly tame by comparison,...

  11. 6 Buddhist Saints to Bridge the Sino-Indian Divide
    (pp. 217-242)

    Aśvaghoṣa, Nāgārjuna, and Āryadeva were many things to many people through their first five hundred years in China. From the writings of Kumārajīva’s associates to theDharma-Treasury Transmission(Fu fazang yinyuan zhuan傅發臧姻緣傳) and and Cave of Great Perduring Saints (Dazhusheng ku 朱僧臧姻), the accounts of Jizang 既葬 (549–623), Guanding 關渡 (561–632), and Xuanzang 玄奘 (602-664), theBaolin Tradition(Baolin zhuan寶林傳) andScripture on Kumbhīra(Foshuo jinpiluo tongzi weide jing桐梓草甸京童子姻緣傳), the Indian patriarchs played prominent roles in a wide variety of Buddhist discourses in medieval China. These patriarchs were deemed the founding fathers of Mahāyāna Buddhism...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 243-250)

    What did it mean to be Buddhist in medieval China? Certainly this identity had multiple dimensions, but one thing that it meant was to be partly non-Chinese. Buddhist adepts in medieval China laid claim to the religious heritage of ancient India, and in so doing they assumed a uniquely hybrid identity that demanded negotiations of boundaries both sociocultural and spatiotemporal. As well as incorporating scholarly repertoires of Chinese literati gentlemen, liturgical repertoires akin to those of local ritualists, and magical repertoires associated with Chinese transcendents (among others), members of the Buddhist sangha were the only medieval Chinese religionists to instantiate...

  13. Appendix 1: The Nanatsu-Dera Tradition of Aśvaghoṣa Bodhisattva
    (pp. 251-264)
  14. Appendix 2: The Canonical Tradition of Deva Bodhisattva
    (pp. 265-282)
  15. Appendix 3: The Ritual Manuals of Aśvaghoṣa Bodhisattva
    (pp. 283-290)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 291-326)
  17. Index
    (pp. 327-338)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 339-343)