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Chen-yen tsung


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(Chin.). A school of Chinese Buddhism sometimes referred to in English as the ‘esoteric school’ (see Esoteric Buddhism). It represents an importation of tantric Buddhism from India into China.but once in China, it changed to fit the temperament and mores of Chinese religious culture. Traces of this importation can be detected as far back as the 3rd century, with the first translation of the Mataṇga Sūtra with its mantras at the beginning and end. However, the presence of mantra and dhāraṇī is common in Mahāyāna sūtras and does not in itself indicate any kind of esoterism. The real transmission of the school into China may be said to begin with the arrival of the Indian monks Śubhākarasiṃha (Chin., Shan-wu-wei, 637–735), Vajrabodhi (Chin., Chin-kang-chih, c.671–741), and Amoghavajra (Chin., Pu-k'ung, 705–74) at the capital in the 8th century.

Chinese Chen-yen teachings and practice share the following in common with its Indian sources. (1) It is based primarily on practice and action rather than learning and knowledge. The object of the practice is to master the ‘three karmas’ of ‘body.speech, mind’ through the practices of (respectively) mudrā (ritual hand gestures associated with specific deities, Bodhisattvas.and Buddhas); mantra or dhāraṇī (spoken formulae transliterated directly from Sanskrit ritual utterances with no etymological meaning but containing immense power in the sounds); and visualizations of specific deities, Bodhisattvas, or Buddhas. (2) It organizes the cosmos ritually into a series of energies that emanate from the centre and radiate outward, each energy symbolized by a particular deity, Bodhisattva.or Buddha. The primary Buddha is Vairocana, the Sun Buddha, of whom all other Buddhas and divine beings are emanations. This scheme is represented visually in the maṇḍala that depicts all divine beings in their proper locations relative to one another. (3) Its transmission depends upon the direct master–disciple link. No one can practise authentically and successfully (or even safely) without having been initiated into the practice by a guru or teacher who himself stands in a valid succession of masters. (4) The practice also depends upon the protection and support of a specific Buddha, Bodhisattva, or guardian deity. This divine guardian and patron is chosen in the course of the abhiṣeka.or initiation ceremony, during which the neophyte lets a flower fall upon the maṇḍala, and takes as his patron the being upon whose image it falls. (5) Chen-yen sees its practice as a short-cut that dispenses with the usual gradual cultivation of wisdom on one's own in favour of powerful practices empowered by beings more advanced in the path who lead the practitioner directly to the goal of enlightenment and liberation in one lifetime, or even instantaneously. (6) The power of its practices could also be used for purposes other than religious advancement, such as healing, rainmaking, acquisition of wealth, national protection, and so on.

(1) It is based primarily on practice and action rather than learning and knowledge. The object of the practice is to master the ‘three karmas’ of ‘body.speech, mind’ through the practices of (respectively) mudrā (ritual hand gestures associated with specific deities, Bodhisattvas.and Buddhas); mantra or dhāraṇī (spoken formulae transliterated directly from Sanskrit ritual utterances with no etymological meaning but containing immense power in the sounds); and visualizations of specific deities, Bodhisattvas, or Buddhas. (2) It organizes the cosmos ritually into a series of energies that emanate from the centre and radiate outward, each energy symbolized by a particular deity, Bodhisattva.or Buddha. The primary Buddha is Vairocana, the Sun Buddha, of whom all other Buddhas and divine beings are emanations. This scheme is represented visually in the maṇḍala that depicts all divine beings in their proper locations relative to one another. (3) Its transmission depends upon the direct master–disciple link. No one can practise authentically and successfully (or even safely) without having been initiated into the practice by a guru or teacher who himself stands in a valid succession of masters. (4) The practice also depends upon the protection and support of a specific Buddha, Bodhisattva, or guardian deity. This divine guardian and patron is chosen in the course of the abhiṣeka.or initiation ceremony, during which the neophyte lets a flower fall upon the maṇḍala, and takes as his patron the being upon whose image it falls. (5) Chen-yen sees its practice as a short-cut that dispenses with the usual gradual cultivation of wisdom on one's own in favour of powerful practices empowered by beings more advanced in the path who lead the practitioner directly to the goal of enlightenment and liberation in one lifetime, or even instantaneously. (6) The power of its practices could also be used for purposes other than religious advancement, such as healing, rainmaking, acquisition of wealth, national protection, and so on.

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Subjects: Buddhism.


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