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patriarch


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An office or institution in east Asian Buddhism that replicates traditional kinship relations in order to legitimize a teaching lineage. In secular terms, a ‘patriarch’ (Chin., tsu) is the paterfamilias, the eldest male ascendant in an extended family. The line from him to his eldest son and then to his eldest son represents the main line of kinship, while other lines represent collateral lines. In Buddhism, a line that goes from one ‘patriarch’ to the next has, by association with the secular usage, the sense of a main line. This is especially true in schools such as Ch'an andesoteric Buddhism, where the link between master and disciple is especially important in determining one's teaching credentials. In other cases, such as the Pure Land school, where direct contact between master and pupil is not so vital to the transmission of the teachings or practices, the patriarchate may consist simply of those masters who, at various times, have contributed to the advancement or reform of the school. In such cases, it is not necessary that they represent a continuous lineage, only that they form a series of milestones in the tradition's history.

Subjects: Buddhism.


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