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A school of Chinese Buddhism established during the Sui dynasty by the monk Hsin-hsing (540–94). This school took as its basic theory the idea that the history of Buddhism, and indeed of the present world, was divided into three periods: the period of the True Dharma.of the Counterfeit Dharma, and of the Final Dharma. At this period of Chinese Buddhist history, many thinkers put forward ideas about the meaning of the three stages, and how Buddhist teaching would develop in each. According to Hsin-hsing, based on his reading of the Lotus Sūtra, the first period witnessed the teaching of the One Vehicle, the second the teaching of the Three Vehicles (or separate teachings and practices for Śrāvakas.Pratyekabuddhas.and Bodhisattvas), while the third, which had begun in the mid-6th century, was to be dominated by his own teachings. Because of the loss of the true teaching and the absence of any teacher in the world, his followers did not live in traditional monasteries or study scriptures and perform devotions before images as had been usual, but lived in courtyards and outbuildings and circulated among the people. However, they did maintain a strict discipline in an attempt to purify themselves. They also believed in the presence of Buddha-nature in all things, giving the world a pervasive sanctity along with its pervasive degeneracy. As a sign of this universality of Buddha-nature, they would prostrate before all people and other beings to honour them as Buddhas. During the 7th century, their advocacy of almsgiving (dāna) led to the establishment of the Inexhaustible Treasury at the Hua-tu Temple in Ch'ang-an. This treasury functioned in some ways as a lending institution, and as alms came in and loans were repaid, its wealth grew until the size of the treasury made it a potential source of economic power that alarmed the imperial court. This, plus its claims regarding the depravity of the age and the illegitimacy of the ruling authorities, finally induced the court to dissolve the sect and seize its assets in 713.

Subjects: Buddhism.

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