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Yin-kuang

(1861—1940)


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(1861–1940).

A Chinese Republican-era monk and reformer of the Pure Land tradition widely recognized as the thirteenth patriarch of Pure Land. A native of Shansi Province, he left his family early in life to join the monastic order (Saṃgha). Once, his family tricked him into returning home, but they were unable to keep him there, and he ran away again and severed all contact. During his early training, he struggled with conjunctivitis, and was cured by vigorous recitation of Amitābha Buddha's name. He had been a good student as a child, and his literary abilities induced the abbots of the various temples where he resided during his early monastic career to ask him to take charge of the monastic library. This involved periodic ‘sunning of the scriptures’, laying the volumes out in the sun to dry them and prevent mildew. During these times, he was able to peruse Buddhist literature freely, and he felt particularly drawn to the works of the twelfth Pure Land patriarch Chi-hsing Ch'o-wu (1741–1810) while residing at the Tzu-fu Temple where Ch'o-wu himself had lived. He was particularly impressed that Ch'o-wu, an acknowledged Ch'an master who had experienced full enlightenment.late in life abandoned the path of Ch'an as too rigorous and uncertain for the majority of people and devoted himself to Pure Land practice. These experiences fixed his loyalty in the Pure Land path from the start.

Wishing for solitude, Yin-kuang spent 30 years on P'u-t'uo Island under an assumed name, and underwent two consecutive three-year periods of sealed confinement. Even though he kept well hidden from the public eye, he still answered letters that came his way inquiring about teachings and practices. His literary skill and genuine sincerity and piety showed through in these exchanges, and in 1917 his correspondents began collecting and publishing his letters. He himself oversaw the republication of classics of Pure Land literature such as Chih-hsü's Ten Essentials of the Pure Land and The Recorded Sayings of Ch'an Master Ch'o-wu, along with essays of his own denigrating Ch'an and endorsing Pure Land practice, included in his Treatise Resolving Doubts About the Pure Land (Chin., Ching-t'u chüeh-i lun). These publications caught the heart of the Buddhist reading public, and Yin-kuang became quite well-known in spite of himself. In 1930, he agreed to take over as abbot of the Pao-kuo Temple in Soochow, and became involved in the life of the nearby Ling-yen Shan Temple as well. In 1937, he moved to the latter in the face of the Japanese invasion of China.and in the three years remaining to him he produced a new breviary for monastic daily liturgies and rituals that turned away from the Ch'an emphasis of previous breviaries and included more Pure Land practice. This breviary became the basis for the one most commonly used in Taiwan today. At the same time, he remained cloistered, but faithfully counselled the stream of people who came to his wicket to exchange words with him. After his death in 1940, he was popularly acclaimed the thirteenth patriarch of the Pure Land tradition in China.

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Subjects: Buddhism.


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