Lu-shan Hui-yüan


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(334–416 ce).

An early Buddhist monk who is known for his contributions to textual and translation theory, and is also popularly accounted the first patriarch of the Pure Land school. A student and disciple of Tao-an (312–85), Hui-yüan was the only person Tao-an allowed to use the method of ko-i or ‘matching meanings’. Because of the risk of misunderstanding, Tao-an had forbidden his own students to use this method in their preaching and teaching. However, he thought Hui-yüan's depth of understanding of both the native terms and their Buddhist meanings would allow him to use them without distortion. Later in his life, Hui-yüan carried on a correspondence with the great central Asian translator Kumārajīva to further clarify his understanding, and he sponsored the work of other translators. In addition, in the year 402 he gathered a group of disciples, both clerical and lay, to make a statue of the Buddha Amitābha and to vow to take rebirth in the Pure Land. Although the details of their meeting and their understanding of the nature of Pure Land practice show it to be very different from later expositions, it still represents one of the earliest organized efforts at Pure Land practice and, on this basis, Hui-yüan appears first on the list of Pure Land patriarchs.

Subjects: Buddhism.

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