By Jamie Hubbard

Even with the typical view of Buddhism as non-dogmatic and tolerant, the historic checklist preserves many examples of Buddhist thinkers and routine that have been banned as heretical or subversive. The San-chieh (Three degrees) was once a well-liked and influential chinese language Buddhist stream through the Sui and Tang sessions, counting strong statesmen, imperial princes, or even an empress, Empress Wu, between its consumers. In spite, or maybe accurately simply because, of its proximity to energy, the San-chieh circulate ran afoul of the specialists and its teachings and texts have been formally proscribed a variety of occasions over a several-hundred-year heritage. as a result of those suppressions San-chieh texts have been misplaced and little information regarding its teachings or background is obtainable. the current paintings, the 1st English research of the San-chieh move, makes use of manuscripts found at Tun-huang to check the doctrine and institutional practices of this move within the higher context of Mahayana doctrine and perform. by way of viewing San-Chieh within the context of Mahayana Buddhism, Hubbard finds it to be faraway from heretical and thereby increases vital questions on orthodoxy and canon in Buddhism. He exhibits that some of the hallmark rules and practices of chinese language Buddhism locate an early and certain expression within the San-chieh texts.

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2. The Beginning: Decline as Polemic T he buddhist tradition of its own decline is a vision of a world in which chaos and strife would reign where the Buddha-dharma had once flourished. This vision is well represented in the Nik„ya, Ãgama, Vinaya, commentaries, Mahayana, and tantras, and it later helped to fuel both the doctrine of the Pure Land schools and the millenarian hopes of Buddhists throughout Asia. One of the most fascinating aspects of this strain of Buddhist thought is the view it affords of the interplay between religious doctrine and historical environment, for in the situations that gave rise to these ideas we can see many of the struggles of the early Buddhist communities, both for doctrinal purity as well as for simple survival in the face of hostile war-lords and monarchs (although even the latter is used to underscore the importance of doctrinal purity).

While standing squarely in the middle of these developments, the scope and success of Hsin-hsing’s implementation of the doctrine of d„na in terms of a concrete practice were unprecedented. I am referring to the institution of the Inexhaustible Storehouse (detailed in part 3 of this study), a massive and wildly popular charitable lending institution born of a blending of Vinaya rules governing the receipt of material goods and the Mahayana doctrine of the “inexhaustible storehouse” of the bodhisattva’s compassion.

3, 6, 7); see also the discussion of how to give to the sangha in the Commentary on the Inexhaustible Storehouse translated in Appendix C. 92 The fact that the various practices relating to food come ³rst reµects a central concern with the rules for receiving alms and eating in the San-chieh community, and, inasmuch as I have no knowledge of Hsin-hsing or his followers practicing the dhðta relating to dwelling, perhaps indicates a preferential order as well. 94 Universal respect The practices described so far—various forms of meditative exercise, penitential rites, regular periods of daily worship, and the ascetic practices of the dhðta—all serve to locate Hsin-hsing in the general context of Buddhist practices popular in the northern dynasties during the late sixth century.

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