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Unformatted text preview: Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Change Series IIID, South East Asia, Volume 5 General Editor George F. McLean The History of Buddhism in Vietnam Chief editor: Nguyen Tai Thu Assistant editor: Hoang Thi Tho Authors: Dinh Minh Chi Ly Kim Hoa Ha Thuc Minh Ha Van Tan Nguyen Tai Thu Institute of Philosophy, Vietnamese Academy of Social Sciences The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy Copyright © 2008 by The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy Box 261 Cardinal Station Washington, D.C. 20064 All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication The history of Buddhism in Vietnam. Chief editor: Nguyen Tai Thu; Assistant editor: Hoang Thi Tho; Authors: Dinh Minh Chi, Ly Kim Hoa, Ha Thuc Minh, Ha Van Tan, and Nguyen Tai Thu. p. cm. -- (Cultural heritage and contemporary change. Series IIID, South East Asia; vol. 5) Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Buddhism—Vietnam—History. I. Nguyen Tai Thu. II. Dinh Minh Chi. III. Ly Kim Hoa. IV. Ha Thuc Minh. V. Ha Van Tan. VI. Series. BQ492.H57 2006 294.3’09597—dc21 CIP ISBN1-56518-098-4 (pbk.) Table of Contents Introduction 1 Part One. Buddhism’s Entry into Vietnam and Its Practice under Chinese Control (from 1st to 10th Century A.D.) Chapter I. The Introduction of Buddhism into Vietnam: Dates and Routes Chapter II. Ancient Luy Lau during Chinese Control of Vietnam in the Early Centuries A.D. Chapter III. The First Buddhist Missionaries in Vietnam Chapter IV. Vietnamese Buddhism from Mid-3rd Century to the 5th Century Chapter V. The First Ch’an Sect in Vietnam: Vinitaruci and Phap Hien, Founders Chapter VI. The Second Ch’an Sect in Vietnam: Wu Yan Tong, Cam Thanh, and Thien Hoi 9 17 25 41 55 65 Part Two. Buddhism from the Ngo to the Tran Dynasties (10th-14th Century A.D.) Chapter VII. Buddhism under the Ngo, Dinh and Early Le Dynasties Chapter VIII. Buddhism under the Ly Dynasty Chapter IX. Buddhism under the Tran Dynasty 75 89 125 Part Three. Buddhism from the Later Le to Tay Son Dynasties (15th to 18th Century) Chapter X. Buddhism in Prosperity and Peace: the Le Dynasty (15th Century) Chapter XI. Buddhism in the Period of the Country’s Partition by Different Feudal Groups (16th –18th Century) Chapter XII. Buddhism in the Period of Peasant Insurrections (the latter half of the 18th Century) 165 177 205 Part Four: Buddhism under the Nguyen Dynasty (19th Century) Chapter XIII. Buddhism in the Period of Dominant Confucianism under the Nguyen Dynasty Chapter XIV. Buddhism as Characterized by Great Poets under the Nguyen Dynasty 223 233 Chapter XV. Typical Bonzes under the Nguyen Dynasty 243 Part Five: Buddhism during French Colonial Times (Second Half of 19th through First Half of 20th Century) Chapter XVI. Buddhism’s Tendency towards World Acceptance Chapter XVII. The Development of the Buddhist Movement in the Early Decades of the 20th Century Glossary Index 261 269 297 331 INTRODUCTION This work on Vietnamese Buddhism from its beginnings through the 20th century provides much evidence requiring Western Buddhologists to radically revise their heretofore accepted time-table for the arrival and development of Buddhism in Vietnam. It provides previously unknown data, details of nomenclature, time, and place, scrupulously gathered from archeological finds and ancient archival records by Vietnamese researchteams. Providing much historical analysis and cultural interpretation along the way, this work carries its project forward through the various royal dynasties and the French colonial period. Part One: Buddhism’s Entry into Vietnam and Its Practice under Chinese Control (from 1st to 10th Centuries A.D.) Chapter I, “The Introduction of Buddhism into Vietnam: Dates and Routes of Introduction,” argues that Buddhism came directly to Vietnam from Indian traders and missionaries in the 1st or 2nd century A.D., centuries before the massive waves of Buddhist influence which came from China. Indeed, by the beginning of the 4th century, Vietnamese Buddhist monks were traveling in turn to India to retrieve more Buddhist sutras and do advanced study. Chapter II, “Ancient Luy Lau during Chinese Control of Vietnam, in the Early Centuries A.D.,” shows that the Vietnamese people of Giao Chau, in present-day Ha Bac province, Vietnam, had Buddhism, probably a Mahayanist form, by the 2nd century B.C. Two or three centuries later it had 500 monks and was already sending Buddhist missionaries to South China. The Chinese feudal landlords who dominated Giao Chi during much of this time were Confucianists and Taoists. But from Luy Lau in Giao Chi, Buddhism spread to the rest of Vietnam, gradually developing into a unique Vietnamese form of Buddhism. Chapter III, “The First Buddhist Missionaries in Vietnam,” reconstructs the missions of the Indian monks Mahajivaka and Kalacarya, filtering out fiction and legend insofar as possible. It then examines the Li Huo Lun, a Buddhist primer written by Mouzi, a Chinese who became a Buddhist in Vietnam and returned to China in his old age. Finally it moves to Khuong Tang Hoi, an Uzbekistani who entered the monkhood in Vietnam and became an early predecessor of what was later to be the first Vietnamese Ch’an sect. Chapter IV, “Vietnamese Buddhism from Mid-3rd Century to the th 5 Century,” first reports on Kararuci and Dao Thanh, who disseminated Buddhist “lotus-meditation”. It then proceeds to a discussion of the book Bach Hac Luan (“Discussion between Black and White”), written by the monk Hue Lam. Hue Lam rejected the Pure Land (or “Lotus”) school prominent in Vietnamese Buddhism at the time, probably because he 2 Introduction wanted to reconcile Confucianism and Buddhism. This chapter goes on to argue that the famous self-immolation of the monk Dam Hoang, and the latter’s visible ascent to the Pure Land, functioned as a monastic defense of Pure Land teaching and a refutation of Hue Lam. The chapter closes with an intriguing analysis of a well-known epistolary correspondence between the Chinese official Li Miao and two Vietnamese monks, revealing the impact of contemporary doctrinal controversy on Vietnamese society and vice versa. Chapter V, “The First Ch’an Sect in Vietnam: Vinitaruci and Phap Hien, Founders” records the history of Vinitaruci, an Indian who was tonsured in China and officially transmitted Chinese Ch’an to Vietnam circa 580 A.D. This chapter translates one of his litany-prayers, which emphasizes the Prajna (‘wisdom of emptiness’) tradition and Ch’anist ‘direct transmission’ of bodhi (‘enlightenment’) from Master to disciple. The chapter continues on to a detailed biography of Ven. Phap Hien, who succeeded Vinitaruci as head-monk of the Vinitaruci Ch’an sect, becoming its second Patriarch. Chapter VI, “The Second Ch’an Sect in Vietnam: Wu Yantong, Cam Thanh, and Thien Hoi,” explains the foundation of the Wu Yantong sect, the second Ch’an sect in Vietnam, named after its founder. Wu Yantong was a Chinese monk ordained in China by the great Bai Zhang, a reputed founder of China’s Caodong and Lingji sects. Wu arrived in Vietnam in 820 A.D. and, shortly before his own death in 826 A.D., transmitted his ‘Buddha-heart seal’ to Cam Thanh, the sect’s second Patriarch. The Wu Yantong sect emphasized Bai Zhang’s well-known doctrine of ‘no-thinking’. This chapter concludes with biographies of the Ven. Cam Thanh and the Ven. Thien Hoi, respectively the second and third Patriarchs of the Wu Yantong sect. Part Two: Buddhism from the Ngo to the Tran Dynasties (10th -14th Centuries A.D.) Chapter VII, “Buddhism under the Ngo Dinh and Early Le Dynasties,” examines Buddhist developments after Vietnam’s great victory of 938 A.D., putting an end to 1000 years of Chinese domination. Over the next century Buddhism steadily strengthened itself. The monks provided an intelligentsia for the royal court, were entrusted with diplomatic missions, etc. This chapter delves into the growth of Buddhist Tantrism during this period, the widespread use of mudra, dharani, and the like. Prayer columns excavated by archeologists supply much of this helpful information. Chapter VIII, “Buddhism under the Ly Dynasty,” reports on the ascendancy of Buddhism throughout this dynasty’s tenure (1010-1225). Because the Ly Kings venerated Buddhism, even urging as many men as possible to become monks, the bureaucratic strata supplied many monastic vocations. The Vinitaruci Ch’an sect at this time emphasized both Tantrism and the ideological issue of ‘existence and non-existence’. The Wu Yantong The History of Buddhism in Vietnam 3 Ch’an sect emphasized direct enlightenment and the doctrine of sunyata. This chapter does the service of translating many beautiful poems of this period. It closes with a careful description of Ly religious architecture, and a profile of popular religiosity (Amitabha-worship, etc.). Chapter IX, “Buddhism under the Tran Dynasty,” describes the big changes which took place in Vietnam during the transition from the Ly to the Tran and the latter dynasty’s tenure. King Tran Nhan Tong took tonsure and founded, with the help of two others, The Truc Lam Ch’an sect, ending the preceding two Ch’an sects. At the end of the twelfth century, the Buddhist monastic establishment had begun to fall into corruption, breaking the Precepts both surreptitiously and publicly. This chapter provides many translations, and describes much of the Tran dynasty scholarship (which became highly developed). King Tran Thai Tong’s great Buddhist works and their special teachings are critiqued, as are those of Tran Nhan Tong. It closes with two biographies, that of Ven. Phap Loa, who consecrated 15,000 monks and nuns in his lifetime; and that of the great monk-poet Huyen Quang, who shrank from being the third Patriarch of the Truc Lam sect, preferring the eremitical life. Part Three: Buddhism from the Later Le To Tay Son Dynasties (15th to 18th Centuries) Chapter X, “Buddhism in Prosperity and Peace: the Le Dynasty (15th century),” describes and analyzes how, in the 15th century, the Le Dynasty imitated the Chinese emperors, privileging Confucianism and integrating Buddhism further into the state-system, thus subjecting it to paralyzing controls. At the same time, the Le tolerated and sometimes favored Buddhism at the popular level because of the religion’s stabilizing benefits. The author summarizes and critiques three ‘Confucian’ scholars who wrote Buddhist works: Nguyen Trai, who wrote beautiful poetry; Luong The Vinh, who wrote essays on Buddhist rites, thereby earning himself exclusion from the imperial (and Confucianist) ‘Temple of Literature’; and King Le Thanh Ton (an exception in that he was a Monarch himself), who is most famous for his descriptions of the hon (forsaken spirits) which have not passed over to the next life but are trapped in ‘aimless wandering’. Chapter XI, “Buddhism in the Period of the Country’s Partition by Different Feudal Groups (16th-18th century),” is panoramic in scope, describing the civil war between the new Mac Dynasty and loyalists of the former Le Dynasty. This period of suffering motivated two great Buddhist narratives, “The Story of the Goddess of Mercy, Thi Kinh,” and the “Story of the Goddess of Mercy of the Southern Sea,” both of which our author analyzes here. Next, in sequence, the author treats two well-known Buddhist dignitaries of the period; and the contemporary influence of the Lam Te Ch’an sect and the Tao Dong Ch’an sect. He closes with a critique 4 Introduction of Thach Liem, one of the most controversial figures in the history of Vietnamese Buddhism. Chapter XII, “Buddhism in the Period of Peasant Insurrections (in the latter half of the 18th century,” shows how tumultuous events such as the rout of the Nguyen regime in the South by the Tay Son, the invasion and defeat of Chinese troops, and the sudden overthrow of the Tay Son regime, together generated a mind-set which Confucianism could no longer adequately serve. A new synthesis of the best of each of the ‘three religions’ had to be invented. The scholar Ngo Thi Nham attempted to do this, though the underpinning of his ideas remained Confucianist. The Buddhist monk, Toan Nhat, was more successful, producing the great Tale of Hua Su. Bonze Toan Nhat deployed Buddhism to argue for (1) antiroyalism, (2) the necessary relation of labor to truth and mercy, and (3) the necessary relation of armed struggle to authentic compassion. Part Four: Buddhism under the Nguyen Dynasty (19th Century) Chapter XIII, “Buddhism in the Period of Dominant Confucianism under the Nguyen Dynasty,” describes the new accommodation with Buddhism once Nguyen Anh, backed by western capitalist force, seized power. The Nguyen Dynasty was unpopular and autocratic. Catholicism was sporadically prohibited and Buddhism sometimes severely restricted. Later, the rulers Minh Mang and Thieu Tri were favorable to Buddhism, but often had to manifest their good will indirectly, lest their actions become resented by the Confucianist establishment. Our author chronicles the Buddhist scholarship and pagoda-building sponsored by Minh Mang and Thieu Tri. Chapter XIV, “Buddhism Characterized by Great Poets under the Nguyen Dynasty,” annotates and critiques the literary production of the first half of Vietnam’s 19th century, when Buddhism necessarily operated in a Confucianist-dominated milieu. The great poet Nguyen Du paid special attention to the motif of the ‘beautiful woman who has suffered glaring injustice’. The poet Nguyen Cong Tru could not give up a Confucianist commitment to worldly affairs, but he preferred Buddhism when dealing with life’s sorrows, reverses, and insecurity. Cao Ba Quat satirized the common people’s naive faith in Buddha, but appreciated Buddhism’s reflectiveness and esthetic sense. Finally, the poetess Ho Xuan Huong, who was a non-believer, in her poetry derided the decadence of corrupt members of the clergy. Chapter XV, “Typical Bonzes under the Nguyen Dynasty,” describes the character of Buddhism under the Nguyen. The distinctive contribution of the Bonzes during this time was the building of a great academic archive which both collected historical records of the Vietnamese sangha and produced new histories and doctrinal catechisms. Bonze Thanh Dam emphasized Ch’an teachings such as the ‘Buddha-heart’, sunyata, and ‘silent transmission’. The Most Ven. Phuc Dien produced histories and The History of Buddhism in Vietnam 5 doctrinal treatises. Bonze An Thien was a well-known apologist, and compiled comprehensive Buddhist lexicons. Part Five: Buddhism during French Colonial Times (Second Half of 19th through First Half of 20th Centuries) Chapter XVI, “Buddhism’s Tendency towards World Acceptance,” means by ‘world acceptance’a pro-active commitment to seeking solutions for sociopolitical problems. This chapter grants that Buddhism is not by nature a ‘world-accepting’ religion in this sense. Buddhism considers suffering in this life inevitable, and Buddhism guides believers towards enlightened release from the samsaric world. However, Buddhism also has fought to secure the rights of people to live and practice their religion freely. Thus our author in this chapter documents the heroic contributions of Buddhist monks to the anti-(French-)colonial insurrections of 1898, 1913, and 1916. Bonzes Vuong Quoc Chinh and Van Tru led the 1898 revolt, and Bonze Nguyen Huu Tri led the 1916 revolt. Chapter XVII, “The Development of the Buddhist Movement in the Early Decades of the 20th Century,” examines the ‘movement for the development of Buddhism’ and kindred activities which sought to adapt Buddhist teaching to the realities of 20th century Vietnam which was under foreign control at the time, and its coming into contact with both capitalism and ‘modernity’. This chapter analyzes five Buddhist issues and how Buddhist and anti-Buddhist polemicists diversely handled their problematic: (1) ‘non-killing’ and ‘compassion’; (2) Buddhist ‘atheism’; (3) ‘no-soul’ (anatman); (4) the status of Pure Lands; and (5) Buddhist ‘causality’. Intriguing biographies of scholars and activists are profiled, including those of several who later forsook Buddhism and joined the Communist Party. Many other Buddhists in the movement, our author reports, remained devout Buddhists to the end of their lives. PART ONE BUDDHISM’S ENTRY INTO VIETNAM AND ITS PRACTICE UNDER CHINESE CONTROL (FROM 1ST TO 10TH CENTURY A.D.) CHAPTER I THE INTRODUCTION OF BUDDHISM TO VIETNAM: DATES AND ROUTES Situated on the Indochinese Peninsula, Vietnam is a geographical dot amidst two large countries, the two most ancient civilizations of Asia, and probably of the whole world: India and China. Being near two such large countries and ancient civilizations, Vietnam has naturally been influenced by both. And Vietnam's acquisition of Buddhism is no exception. Nevertheless, contrary to what has been previously thought, historical evidence indicates Indians first brought Buddhism to Vietnam. Indeed, Indian Buddhist monks likely came to Vietnam first before traveling to southern China. Vietnam's geographical position has made it a prime candidate for trade with India. The Indochinese peninsula was formed by several mountain ranges which span from Tibet in the northwest to the sea in the southeast. Among these ranges lie the valleys of big rivers, most importantly the Mae Nam which forms the Thai delta, the Mekong river, and northern Vietnam's Red and Da Rivers. Sea routes, including through these waterways, were the most important channels connecting India with Vietnam. India is also a peninsula, albeit like a small continent. Long before the Christian Era, Indian merchants traded with Arabs and Mediterranean countries. Trade was especially brisk with the Roman Empire in gold, pearl, perfumes, silk and sandalwood. In order to source enough merchandize to trade with western markets, Indian traders set out in their boats, taking advantage of the Southwestern monsoon, sailing towards Southeast Asia, to Malaysia, to the Indonesian group of islands, crossing the Malacca Strait into the South China Sea, to Vietnam, China and then Japan. When setting out they took advantage of the Southeastern monsoon. When coming back they had to wait for the Northeastern monsoon the following year. During a year's stay, they had enough time to trade and, gradually, deeply influence their host's production, culture, daily life, and religion. Unconsciously, they took part in the process of Hinduization in Eastern areas. It was an expansionism without occupation - just an expansion of culture, religion and economy. Among the Indian merchants who came and went, some of them stayed and married native wives. They were given recognition and respect by local authorities. This diasporas was the source of the Indian villages on the islands of Perek and Celebes in South China and Malaysia, Cambodia, Champa, and Indonesia. They brought along Indian 10 The Introduction of Buddhism into Vietnam customs, art and religion (Brahmanism and Buddhism). They engraved religious statements in Sanskrit on stone columns or tablets. It must be remembered that Jataka Buddhist collections told many stories of crossing oceans, and the Hindu Ramayana epic told of areas like Java, Sumatra, and the “golden land” (Suvannabhumi). On the Malaysian islands, where Indians arrived by sea, Chinese historical materials tell of the gradual progress of Hinduization, beginning from the second century A.D. The stone columns and tablets carved in Sanskrit found here date from no later than the fourth century. In Indonesia, engraved Sanskrit characters of Mulavarman have been found in Kutei, Borneo dating from the beginning of fifth century A.D. Stone tablets carved in Sanskrit by King Pulavarmani have been found in western Java from the middle of the fifth century. But Buddha statues of the Amaravati school, discovered in Sampaga (Celebes), on the Seguntang hill in Palembang (Su...
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