The Chan Tradition
Summary of Buddhist Beliefs
The belief system of Buddhism was originally discovered by an ancient Indian prince whose name was Siddhartha Gautama (c. 563 BCE – c. 483 BCE). It is said that, unsatisfied in birth, ageing, illness and death, the prince left his palaces and luxury life to enter the life of a wandering ascetic seeking paths to liberation from suffering. After six years of intensive religious practice in forests, the ascetic reached the City of Deathless, i.e., Nirvana, and was afterwards known as Gautama Buddha. Buddha means “Sage” or “Enlightened One.” He was enlightened as he had founded paths for ceasing passions.
The paths that he discovered are known as the Four Noble Truths also known as the Four Truths of the Nobles.
The Four Noble Truths are:
1) there is suffering or dissatisfaction regarding this body and mind that are related to external conditions such as birth, ageing, illness and death, and internal objects such as unwholesome thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and sense-consciousnesses;
2) there is cause of suffering – the mind is often not mindful with emotional fetters and mental formations that are companied by passion, hatred, and delusion;
3) There is cessation of suffering; and,
4) there is path leading to the cessation of suffering. The path leading to the end of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path. That is:
1) Right View; 2) Right Intention; 3) Right Speech; 4) Right Action; 5) Right Livelihood; 6) Right Effort; 7) Right Mindfulness; and, 8) Right Concentration.
In Buddhism, the Noble Eightfold Path is the key for reaching deliverance. It points out paths to determinate the essences of our suffering caused by mind, body, and speech. And, it draws a clear map to develop virtue, concentration, and wisdom – primarily through the observance of precepts and the practice of Buddhist tranquility (śamatha) and insight (vipaśyanā) meditation.
Distinct Religious History
As early as Second Century, around 600 years after the nirvana of Gautama Buddha, Buddhist monks from Northern India transmitted Buddhism to China via the Silk Road. And, after the other 600 years, Buddhism began to flourish in the land and develop into different schools of practice. When the time reaching the dawn of the Tenth Century, two main Buddhist schools became widely accepted and practiced in then Chinese Buddhist communities, and they have been passed down to today. They are: 1) Chan 襌 (Japan: Zen; Korea: Son) Buddhism and Pure-Land Buddhism.
ICCBCE follows the practice of Chan tradition from Southern School which was initiated by the Sixth Patriarch, the Most Venerable Master Hui Neng (慧能大師, 638 – 713 CE). The practice of the Chan tradition has been passed down from generations to generations throughout history to reach respected and influential contemporary Chan Masters such as Venerable Master Taixu (太虛大師, 1890-1947 CE), Venerable Master Yuan Ying (圓瑛大師, 1878 – 1953 CE), Venerable Master Ci Hang (慈航菩薩, 1893 – 1954 CE), and Venerable Master Rui Jin (瑞今長老, 1905 – 2005 CE). ICCBCE has its origins in Chinese Chan Tradition from these four Venerable Masters, and it observes visions and teachings from the Masters.
Four Great Venerable Masters of ICCBCE Tradition
Venerable Master Taixu (1890-1947 CE) was a revolutionary activist and a Buddhist modernist. He was well-known for his efforts in reforming contemporary Chinese Buddhism. Master Taixu was born in a time that China was undergoing through radical political and cultural revolutions and changes. At the time, the country was under western militant invasions and cultural influences. Traditional cultures and belief systems were challenged. In fact, around the middle of the 19th century, Buddhism in China became significantly declined and gradually corrupted. Various Buddhist schools in the country were lax in monastic lives, discipline, meditation, and original Buddha’s teachings. When the time reached the 20th century, the situation of Buddhism in China became even worse. Most of monks who lived at monasteries were uneducated, lock of monastic trainings, and did not live a holy life in accordance with Buddhist principles and values. For some reason, Sangha retreated itself from social service and was criticized by then people. Master Taixu was then one of few monks who took socially engaged approach to seek transformation of Chinese Buddhism and its Sangha. He emphasized on Sangha education and asked monastics to enter the society to help transform the nation by introducing Buddhist teachings. In contemporary Chinese Buddhist history, Master Taixu was one of very few pioneers who advocated the significance of establishing Buddhist collage to educate and train monastics as well as lay Buddhists. Even though Master Taixu did not success in changing the course of Chinese Buddhism at his time, his unfinished efforts were late on accomplished by his fellow disciples such as Venerable Master Ci Hang (慈航菩薩), Venerable Master Yin Shun (印順導師) and Venerable Master Yan Pei (演培上人).
Venerable Master Yuan Ying (1878 – 1953 CE), along with Chan Master Hsu Yun (虛雲襌師), was one of the two most influential Chan Masters in comtemprary Chinese Buddhist history. Master Yuan Ying received his full ordination as a Bhikṣu at the gae of nineteen under Prātimokṣa Master Miao Lian (妙蓮老和尚, who was also the master of Hsu Yun) at Yongquan monastery (鼓山涌泉寺). After receiving years of trainings under Master Miao Lian, Master Yuan Yin went on to undertake ten years of meditation trainings under then two well-practiced Chan Masters – Master Ye Kai (冶開老和尚) and Bazhi Toutuo (八指頭陀, Toutuo means dhūta in Sanskrit). After 1908, Master Yuan Yin gradually became well-known to then Chinese Buddhist community for his achievement and leadership in Chan Buddhism. Master Yuan Yin also took social engaging role to his practice as a monastic Bodhisattva. In 1929, he, along with Master Taixu and others, founded the Buddhist Association of China in Shanghai and became its first President. Like Master Taixu, Master Yuan Yin advocated for monastic and lay Buddhist educations by establishing Buddhist colleges. He also emphasized on the importance of establishment of Buddhist charities to serve those needy in society. He founded Buddhist charitable organizations in Ningbo and Shanghai regions. During Japan’s invasion of China, the charitable organizations that Master Yuan Ying organized helped housing refugees and providing medical attentions for wounded. Master Yuan Ying passsed away in Sepetember 1953, four months after he and Venerable Master Hsu Yun organized Buddhist Association of China in Beijing and was elected its first president. Among Master’s monastic and lay disciples, Venerable Master Ming Ynag (明暘上人) and Venerable Master Bai Shen (白聖上人) were well-known for their efforts in reviving Chinese Buddhism in Mainland China and Taiwan after the Second World War; and his lay disciple, Mr. Zhao Puchu (趙樸初居士, 1907 – 2000 CE ) was well-known and respected for his efforts in recovering Chinese Buddhism after the ten years of Culture Revolution (1966 – 1977 CE) in Mainland China.
Venerable Master Ci Hang (1893 – 1954 CE) was one of Venerable Master Taixu’s close monastic students. He became a novice at the age of seventeen. In 1911, the master received his Bhikṣu ordination and afterwards took monastic trainings under Venerable Master Di Xian (谛閑大師, 1858 – 1932 CE). From 1927 to 1940, Venerable Master Ci Hang followed and assisted Venerable Master Taixu in spreading Buddhadharma in Mainland China and in Southeast countries. As one of Venerable Master Taixu’s close students at the time, Venerable Master Ci Hang attended Ming Nan Buddhist College (闽南佛学院) in Xiamen city and enrolled in Intensive Training Programs for Monastics (僧伽訓練班) in Nanjing. In 1930, Venerable Master Ci Hang acompanied Venerable Master Taixu to Hong Kong to teach Buddhism. One year later, in 1931, he went on a pilgrimage to India and then visited Yangon, Burma. The master spent four years in Burma learning Threvada Buddhsim. In 1935, he returned to Hong Kong assisting Venerable Master Taixu and teaching Buddhism in Hong Kong and Contan areas. In 1940, Venerable Master Taixu organized International Buddhist Union for Chinese Buddhism (中國佛教國際訪問團) and had Venerable Master Ci Hang and others with him to visit Southeast countires (such as Singapore and Malaysia) and teach Buddhism. In 1943, Master Ci Hang moved from Penang, Malaysia to Singapore and took three years doing individual retreats there. During his stay in Singapore, he founded “Socially Engaged Buddhism” magazine which had profound influence among then Chinese Buddhist community in Singapore. In 1948, the master visited Taiwan and afterward stayed in Taiwan until his death in 1954. During his last years in Taiwan, Master Ci Hang founded Buddhist College of Taiwan (nowadays, Yuan Kuang Buddhist College in Taoyuan, Taiwan) and Maitreya’s Palace (汐止彌勒內院), which back then was the first Buddhist Studies institution in Taiwan. Venerable Master was also the first Buddhist monk to be found preserving whole-body relics after three years of his death in Taiwan.
Venerable Master Rui Jin (1905 – 2005 CE) was born in 1905 to a well-to-do Buddhist family in Jin Jinag, Fujian province, China. Master Rui Jin became a novice at the age of twelve, and received his anagārika and sāmaṇera trainings under Chan Master Zhuan Jing (轉敬上人) at Xue Feng Monastery (雪峰寺), or Snow Peak Monastery. In 1921, Venerable Master Rui Jin was fully ordained as a Bhikṣu, and afterwards received his four years of monastic trainings under Venerable Master Hui Quan (會泉上人, 1874 – 1942 CE), Venerable Master Yuan Ying, Venerable Master Taixu, Venerable Master Di Xian, and Venerable Master Chang Xing (常惺大師, 1896 – 1939 CE). In 1925, Master Rui Jin assisted Venerable Master Chang Xing and others founded Ming Nan Buddhist College (闽南佛学院). And, in 1927, Master Rui Jin, along with Venerable Master Jue San (覺三法師), founded Nan Shan Buddhist Academy (南山學校) at Nan Shan Monastry in Zhangzhou city, China. From 1930 to 1941, Master Rui Jin assisted Venerable Master Hong Yi (弘一大師, 1880 – 1942 CE) founded Essential Training Programs for Monastics (佛教養正院) in Xiamen. In 1942, the master became the abbot of Snow Peak Monastery and the president of Buddhist Association of Nan An County. In 1946, under Venerable Master Xing Yuan’s invitation (性願上人, 1889 – 1962 CE), Master Rui Jin visited Manila, Philippines. He afterwards assisted Master Xing Yuan founded Seng Guan Temple in Manila, which was the first Buddhist temple ever founded in Philippines. In 1948, the master became the abbot of the Seng Guan Temple, and, under his abbotship, the temple was developed considerably, both in physical size and reputation. In 1959, Venerable Master Rui Jin invited Venerable Master Yin Shun and Venerable Master Miao Qin (妙欽法師, 1921 – 1976 CE) to Manila. Together, they founded Philippine Academy of Sakya in Manila. Venerable Master Rui Jin dedicated his life to Buddhism in Philippines, and his footprints of spreading Buddhadharma were over Japan, India, South Korea, Burma, Singapore, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, as well as the United States.
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