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Yün-ch'i Chu-hung

(1532—1612)


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(1532–1612).

A defender and reformer of Chinese Buddhism in the Ming dynasty. In addition to the above dates the alternative dates of 1535–1615 are also found for his life. He originally led a householder's life, marrying twice (remarrying after the death of his first wife), but left to become a monk at the age of 32 upon the death of his mother. He studied Buddhist literature and doctrine, but after arriving in Hang-chou decided to restore a dilapidated temple on Mt. Yün-ch'i where he resided for the remainder of his life. His efforts on behalf of Buddhism went in many directions. First, he defended Buddhism against the attacks of Jesuit missionaries, and launched a counter-critique of Christian beliefs and practices in a book called Four Chapters on the Explanations of Heaven (Chin., T'ien shuo ssu p'ien). Second, he fought against the popular perception of Buddhism as corrupt and the clergy as lax and overly commercial by insisting on a detailed study of and adherence to the traditional Vinaya rules in his temple. The strict reputation of his monastery attracted hundreds of serious disciples. In addition, he conferred precepts on the laity and insisted on compassionate practice and moral repentance. For the first, he was a leader in performing the Release of the Burning Mouths ceremony (see fang yen-k'ou) to feed hungry ghosts (preta) and the Release of Living Beings ceremony to set free captive animals. For the second, he recommended keeping a ‘Record of Merits and Demerits’, a kind of diary of one's good and bad deeds for each day as an aid to self-examination. Third, he attempted to unify Chinese Buddhism by showing the basic congruence between Ch'an meditation.Pure Land practice, and doctrinal study. In this regard, he is noted as one of the propagators (but not the inventor) of the so-called ‘Pure Land kōan’, in which the practitioner, while reciting the name of the Buddha Amitābha.reflects ‘Who is this who recites the Buddha's name’ as a way of discovering their ‘true face’. This practice is found among the quotations in Chu-hung's Spur for Advancement through the Gate of Ch'an (Chin., Ch'an-kuan ts'e chin). It is debatable whether or not he enjoyed much success in this endeavour, as many in the Ch'an camp regarded him as more of a Pure Land partisan and doubted the authenticity of his enlightenment. Within Pure Land, he wrote a very influential commentary on the Shorter Sukhāvatī-vyūha Sūtra, which provided a philosophical understanding of Pure Land doctrines regarding the nature of Amitābha Buddha, his relationship to the practitioner, the nature of the Pure Land, its relationship to the present defiled world, and how Pure Land practice works to save devotees and lead them to rebirth in the Pure Land after death. For these accomplishments, he is listed as one of the patriarchs of the Pure Land school in China.

Subjects: Buddhism.


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