Friday, January 02, 2015

Buddhism and Buddhists in China: Corrections

Going a bit further into the book, it is clear that I have a number of errors that will undoubtedly land me into purgatory for cleansing.  The most significant is that the Buddhists have a fairly elaborate system of punishments for the morally challenged, and this is accompanied by a long list of the offenses which lead to punishment.  There is also an affirmative requirement to do good.  The Buddhist purgatory is said to have been imported to China, thus, it dates back to the early stages of the Buddhist system.

A curious feature of Chinese Buddhism is the attempt to marry Confucian family ideals with the mental nothingness of Buddhism.  These actually seem to me to be complete opposites.  Seriously, can anyone hope to have a mental state that is completely devoid of any concerns while being married to a Chinese tiger mom?  The Confucians were quite clear on the impossibility of this, thus, one Confucian scholar writes:

"The Buddhists, disliking the excesses to which the evil desires of men lead, would put away, along with them, the actions which are in accordance with the justice of heavenly principles, while we, the orthodox, put away the evil desires of men, whereupon what are called heavenly principles are the more brightly seen." - Buddhism and Buddhists in China, by Lewis Hodous (1872-1949)

I don't know that any system can "put away the evil desires of men".  Just ask a feminist.  But Christianity and Aristotelian ethics seem to be more in accordance with Confucian thinking, while Buddhist morality appears to be more over-the-top.  What is surprising to me is to learn that Buddhism had been suppressed by Confucianism in China.  A separate surprise is that the aggressive Japanese government of the early 20th century was pursuing its expansionist agenda in sync with Japanese Buddhism:

"This Buddhist world has much more of a program than it had twenty-five years ago.  its object is to unite the Mahayana and the Hinayana branches of Buddhism and to spread Buddhist propaganda over the world.  At present the leadership of this movement is in Japan.  It is in part a political movement.  There is no question that Christianity is not at all pleasing to the Japanese militarists.  It is regarded by them as the advance post of western industrialism and political ambition.  Quite naturally such leaders desire to make the Buddhist world a unit."

There are many more remarks in this work that support this from different angles.  The original data of this text is December, 1923.

A final note of interest is on charitable works, which include schools and hospitals.  These are encouraged among the Buddhists, at least as of a century ago.  My main observation on this is that Buddhism is big in Taiwan today, yet the landscape seems to be dotted with Christian hospitals, in this Christian minority land.

4 comments:

Rummuser said...

To my understanding, Chinese Buddhism just meandered off into its own shunyata with the advent of communism. Tibetan Buddhism however has been flourishing and you will enjoy reading the book http://www.matthieuricard.org/en/books/the-monk-and-the-philosopher-a-father-and-son-discuss-the-meaning-of-life-with-jean-francois-revel

Looney said...

The book looks like a stimulating read. I will see if I can work some time in for it. The Tibetan variety seems to have always been distinct from the Chinese version.

Buddhism seems to have taken quite a hit in China, but it is still strong in Taiwan.

Delirious said...

When I was a missionary, many Buddheists would offer to feed us. I know that in their religion, they do the same for the monks. I'm sure they were blessed for sharing with us.

Looney said...

Delirious, I presume that was in Taiwan?

When I was living in Japan, young enthusiasts would sometimes come and ask to pray for me. Whether this was Buddhist or Shinto or whatever, however, I don't know. These would be just random encounters on the streets of a large city.