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Huiyuan: A Monk Does Not Bow Down Before a King
Transcript of Huiyuan: A Monk Does Not Bow Down Before a King
by: anna phung
Deeper than the Text
Goals of the Author
Goal-wise, the author composed this as the aftermath of his explanation to Huan Xuan.
The overall goal is to reemphasize to those (the members of high Chinese society at the time) that Buddhism is transcendent of obligations to authority and because the teachings of Buddha is so withdrawn from social life, one cannot equate their actions to disobedience.
Arguments & Strategies
The argument by the author is therefore identifying that lack of outwardly obedience does not mean lack of respect.
We can deduce that religious bias here is so that Buddhist teachings can survive in China since it had such a struggle to establish itself.
We can also find out that such a piece was written in order to battle the constant state of conflict between Buddhist teachings and Confucius teachings that have been so deeply rooted within China’s social order.
The Introduction of Buddhism in China
Buddhism reached China in 1st century C.E.
by then Buddhism has already had many centuries of development
Buddhism had to compete with a China that was already sophisticated & developed in traditions and arts compared with many other groups in the area
Fixation on Buddhism: the knowledge would achieve certain superhuman actions
It was when Buddhist sacred texts (specifically those that dealt with ideas of supernatural achievements were translated into Chinese that Chinese Buddhism took flight
Buddhism had problems gaining acceptance in China
Sources of Chinese Tradition
Buddhism in the Household
Buddhism Outside the Household
He Who Seeks the First Principle
Is Not Obedient to Change
The understanding of this piece ties in with the historical rocky inception of Buddhism in China as indicated in the reading of “Spread and flourishing of Buddhism in China”. Specifically where Buddhism customs conflicted with the already sophisticatedly established customs of China. With that comes constant tensions of the incorporation of Buddhist teachings.
Those who abide in the household are still obedient to the rulers and family
Their lifestyle still conforms to the world around them because their past has been a base for them and their base is rooted in kindness, love, and respect
Therefore obedience is still the underlining factor and the key in their dynamic with family and ruler
There is still the need of respect from kinship before they can decide to move forward with fully practicing their beliefs, family and authority can still object and wait until they become enlightened.
When one leaves the household, they have gone beyond the holding of relationships with others
The importance now for them is to "understand that woes and impediments come from having a body" and that one has to transcend the body and woes
For them to change their way of life in such measures, they can no longer be considered within the societal system.
They do not have positions with authority but yet they let them live the way they do (there is no intent to hinder) and so they are in "harmony" with authority
It seems that their existence runs counterproductive to relationships that China holds importance , but their existence is no means to disrespect authority
Therefore they don't show this outwardly but it doesn't mean there is a lack of respect.
Ordinary life is driven by change
It's the reaction to change that causes conflict and the reason why a person can be stuck in their own bubble is reacting to this change will cause a desynchronization with their existence. This desynchronization causes the opening of rebirth to reopen often (nirvana cannot be achieved this way)
One knows that the body is the most important to keep track of.
Focusing on other obligations does not put focus on one's self and ultimately detracts from the goal
Do you find the social structure of society more important or should honoring a spiritual belief be emphasized more, especially if these work against each other?
Do you think there can be a spiritual infusion in the modern day like there was with China and the incorporation of Buddhism?