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The significant role played by Buddhism - perface (佛教对政治的辅佐意义-序)December 2, 2011

                     The Significant role played by Buddhism in assisting goverance of country


Since Sakyamuni founded Buddhist groups, Buddhism has been playing a positive role in many areas of society. It didn’t matter if this role concerned the fighting between the Sakyan clan and their neighbors for water rights, or successfully resolving the enmity between King Ajatasattu and Yue zhi, thus avoiding a war between their two countries through the mediation of Sakyamuni himself and his Buddhist groups. Also in Chinese history, it was commonplace for many eminent and virtuous Buddhist monks to be not only the abbots of their temples but also the teachers of the emperors of those times.


In addition to being the emperors’ teachers, some Buddhist monks became the prime ministers in feudal China. One example is that of Master Hsuan Tsang who accompanied Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty as a consultant on national affairs while also being in charge of translating the Buddhist sutras. Another example is that of Master Xuanwan who was honourably appointed by the Imperial Court of the Tang Dynasty to be the teacher of the Prince. A third example happened during the Anti-Japanese War, when Japan spread the rumour to Burma, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and others, bearing false accusations that there was no Buddhism in China in order to demolish their religious beliefs. At that time, Master Taixu, China’s religious leader, went abroad to propagate Chinese national customs which gained support from Britain, the United States, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Burma. As a result, the Yunnan Myanmar Highway became unimpeded.


In the history of human society there have been many wise kings who cared about their subjects. During their rule they recruited and installed virtuous people in important positions in order to ensure the long-term safety and peace of their monarchies and its people. This made it possible for many eminent and virtuous Buddhist monks to assist the kings in bringing benefits to the people and sharing the burdens involved in governing those kingdoms. On the other hand, some rulers abolished and exterminated adherents of Buddhism for various reasons. In other words, the attitudes of the rulers towards Buddhism often affected the long-term development of their nations.


Part I. The Positive Impact of Buddhism on Political (Governmental) Systems

1. India

In about 304 BC, the second emperor of the Maurya Dynasty in ancient India had a son. This son turned out to be the famous Emperor Ashoka, whose effect on history ranks first among the ancient Indian emperors, just as his popularity did. The outstanding achievements in his lifetime can be divided into two parts. In the first half of his life, Emperor Ashoka displayed his extreme, brutal imperiousness by starting the suppression of rebellions in order to establish his power and by killing his brother to seize the throne. After he ascended the throne, he ruled his kingdom internally with cruel officials and the practice of atrocities, while externally he expanded his territory by the sanguinary conquest of other countries, resulting in the period called the “Black Ashoka Era” by posterity. Emperor Ashoka’s way of doing things at this time resembled that of the First Emperor of Qin in China, the difference between them being that Emperor Ashoka held the throne much longer than the whole Qin Dynasty existed. This difference was due to his tremendous changes and deeds carried out in the latter half of his life, called the “White Ashoka Era.”


After he launched the war with Kalinga, Emperor Ashoka was shocked when he saw the scene filled with piles of dead bodies and blood being shed like water, and he deeply lamented. His inherent conscience was awakened by that moment’s deep sense of compassion. Besides, because of his repression of the people and the war against other countries for years on end, the country’s economy and the rebellion of its civilians were going to jeopardize his rule. At that time, the monarchy also cried out for a consensus of faith and culture to govern the people and bring about peace and stability, not only to this country but also to its neighbors. It was because of his deliberateness and exploration of the long-term safety and peace of his monarchy that Emperor Ashoka avoided a fate similar to that of the Qin Dynasty in China, wherein after a very short period of ruling, this dynasty was subverted by the populace for the sake of “overthrowing tyranny.”


After the war against Kalinga, Emperor Ashoka many times invited the Venerable Upagupta, the fourth generation Buddhist descendant of Sakyamuni, to discuss the strategies of governing his monarchy. Moved and inspired by Venerable Upagupta, Emperor Ashoka felt deep regret and concern about the Kalingans’ suffering during the war he initiated. Later on, he declared to his people that “the sound of war drums” had fallen silent and “the sound of Buddha dharma” took their place. Diplomatically, he frequently sent eminent Buddhist monks and sutras, and promoted Buddhist culture to his neighboring countries. Before long, Buddhism had spread throughout Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Egypt, Syria, Burma, China and other parts of the world, which helped him achieve a high international reputation during his rule of over forty years.


Afterwards, Emperor Ashoka declared Buddhism as the state religion of India. He also had the imperial decree and essential Buddhist precepts engraved on the precipice, which has become the famous Ashoka Imperial Orders of Cliff Inscriptions and Stalagmite Inscriptions. He himself made the pilgrimage to the holy remains of Sakyamuni Buddha, built stupas and visited eminent Buddhist monks in various places. He engraved the teachings of Buddha on the cliffs of scenic spots, which still stand erect. In addition, he instituted regulations to tolerate other religions, offered Jainism and Brahmanism their proper places in society and forbade them to attack each other. All these not only reflected the basic essence of Buddhism, but also embodied the governing strategies of Emperor Ashoka. Thus he effectively avoided a lot of conflict and crisis by being broad-minded enough to tolerate other religions while establishing Buddhism as the state religion.


Buddhist culture played the most magnificent and positive role in assisting in the long-term safety and peace of his monarchy. With the help of Buddhist “benevolence and wisdom,” Emperor Ashoka transformed himself from a tyrant into a wise king.


2. Tang Dynasty in China

In the fifth century AD, Bodhidharma (the 28th descendant of Buddha) brought to China the original essence of Buddha dharma. After going through the process of communication, collision and integration with Chinese Confucianism and Taoism, Zen of Mahayana gradually came into being through the process of going into the secular world to indoctrinate people. Since then, Zen has been passed on from generation to generation and has become an indispensable and substantial part of Chinese culture.


During the Tang Dynasty, China benefited from good political administration, people enjoyed religious freedom, Buddhism was wide-spread, the common people lived in peace and safety all over the country, and the neighboring countries came to pay tribute to the Chinese imperial court. The early Tang history recorded that, “only 29 people were sentenced to the death penalty this year, for which reason the criminal penalty was almost left unused. From each to west of the country, people didn’t have to lock their doors at night and travelers didn’t have to prepare their own food when they travelled around.”


In the nineteenth year of the Zhenguan Era, when Master Xuan Zang arrived in Changan after completing his great pilgrimage to India for Buddhist sutras, many monks and laymen rushed about, and all the shops in Changan were closed to celebrate this unprecedentedly grand occasion. Emperor Taizong of Tang himself wrote the preface for the holy indoctrination of Tang Triptaka in which he highly praised Master Xuan Zang and Buddhism. Emperor Gaozong of Tang was extremely mournful; as a result, he could not go to his imperial court for three days, and the title of “Great Enlightened Sage (Da Bian Jue)” was bestowed upon Master Xuan Zang.


From the time of Empress Wu Zetian to the time of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang, the different Buddhist sects sprang up like mushrooms following the rain, although each complemented the other. Buddhist sutras were expounded upon everywhere in the country. This widespread movement of Buddhism was unrivalled. Zen Master Shenxiu, the leader of the Zen sect in northern China at that time, was invited by Empress Wu Zetian to be the teacher of the country. He was called “Dharma-lord in Changan and Luoyang, the teacher of three emperors.” Master Shenxiu was not only proficient in Buddha dharma, but also in many doctrines, such as metaphysics, the Book of Changes (Zhou Yi), Qimen, the Yi numbers (Yi-shu), Liu-want and Lao Tzu. During that period, the high regard and pursuit of Buddhism was so powerful that Li Shi, the scholar-bureaucrat of the Tang dynasty, was prompted to say, “Only when people worship Buddha reverently can a monarch gain the loyalty of his subjects, parents gain the filial piety of their children, a country be well administered and a family be at peace.” He thought that Buddhism had made remarkable contributions not only in preaching to people to do good deeds and helping them engage in purified thought, but also in safeguarding the safety, peace and prosperity of the society as a whole.


3. Song Dynasty Of China

During the period of the northern Song Dynasty and the southern Sung Dynasty, different sects of Buddhism, especially Zen, evolved further on a localized basis. It was widely propagated among civilians with the popularization and spread of typography. In the seventh year of Qingli, during the reign of Emperor Ren Zong of Song, Eunuch Liyong ning wrote a petition to the throne to have his own residence transformed into a Zen temple. Following Emperor Ren Zong’s intention to encourage the spread of Zen in northern China, he named the temple “Shifang Jingyin Temple.”


The imperial court attached much support to the translation of Buddhist sutras and gave positive support to Buddhism. It had become common practice for both court officials and the common people to respect, explore and believe in Buddhism. At that time, Zen Master Yongming Yanshou combined the core ideology of Zen, namely “by passing on the exact experience of their own minds by Zen masters to their disciples without the use of words. Thus they could achieve complete enlightenment and the comprehension of the true nature of his life, while comprehending the theories and practical methods of other sects which he quoted in detail in order to “be proficient in Zen practice and the indoctrination of Buddhism, rating them both of equal importance.” This had a profound influence on the officials. The successive prime ministers (in feudal China), the Military Affairs Commissioners and assistant administrators in the Song Dynasty such as Mengzheng, Fubi, Zhaott , Fanzhongyan, Wangsui, Zhangfanoping, Wanganshi, Ligang, Zhangiun and some crucial officials in the imperial court including Wangshu, Yangi, Sushi, Huangfinigian, Zhangiucheng, etc., all had a strong connection with Buddhism. Even lay Buddhists (Grha-pati) frequently benefited from monks’ inspiring words. Through good integration connecting Confucianism and Taoism, Buddhism had been commonly accepted by the upper-class people in society. Meanwhile, the discovery of science and technology in China reached its culmination: three of the four Inventions in ancient China were completed during this period, which was regarded as “the rejuvenation period of Chinese culture” by some Western historians because of its extreme prosperity in economy and culture.


Because in the Song Dynasty, the imperial court attached great importance to the development of commerce and handcrafts, and tolerated and supported multiple cultures, it has become an incomparable era in Chinese history during which prosperity flourished, the peoples were well-off, Buddhism thrived and science and technology were being advanced.


4. Taiwan

In contemporary Taiwan, the theory of “earthly Buddhism” has advanced to the level of showing loving care for society from the early stage of adapting to the needs of society. Buddhist groups in Taiwan were so well-organized and capable of launching different activities beneficial to society that it is incomparable to any other religions, including Christianity. Buddhist newspapers and periodicals, radio stations, TV programs and popularized speeches on Buddhism can be found everywhere. The social status and cultural quality of Buddhism has reached an unprecedented height in history. It has become commonplace for monks to teach in universities by virtue of their own academic capacities. A benign interaction between Buddhism and society has been formed by means of scholarships promoting Buddhist theses, Buddhist organizations, summer camps for students, etc., which not only promoted the levels of these Buddhist groups in relation to Buddhism’s beliefs, organization and cultural standards, but also gave impetus to the cultural accomplishments of the populace as well as the stability and prosperity of Taiwan.


When an earthquake happened in Taiwan in 1999, among the non-governmental organizations providing disaster relief for the earthquake victims, the Tzu Chi Foundation and other Buddhist groups were the most efficient ones, arrived the earliest and were generally more easily recognized by the earthquake victims and society in general. Furthermore, Buddhism in Taiwan plays a very important role in higher education in that region. So far, a lot of universities have been established, such as Nanhua University, Tzu Chi University, Xuanzang University and Huafan University among others, which have a positive impact on universal education and inculcates moral ideas to the juveniles in society.


Part II The Impact of Four Great Anti-Buddhist Persecutions in Chinese History on the Stability of the Political Regimes In Power

The Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution by Emperor Tai Wu in the North Wei Dynasty

The North Wei Dynasty was established by the Tuobo clan of the Xianbei ethnic after they entered the Central Plains (comprising the middle and lower reaches of the Huanghe River). Emperor Dao Wu and Emperor Ming Yuan were devout believers in Buddhism and built quite a few temples. When Emperor Tai Wu came to the throne, he believed in Buddhism at the beginning and revered sramana. However, later on after taking the advice of Cui Hao, his prime minister, he converted to Tianshidao of K’ou Ch’ien Chih, building his ashram in southeast Ping city and becoming a perfect Taoist by proclaiming himself the supreme ruler of Taiping.


On the other hand, in order to unite Northern China and consolidate its rule in the Central Plains, the North Wei Dynasty had to make everyone a soldier. At that time the sramana (religious ascetics) were always exempt from curve, land tax and other levies. Since Emperor Tai Wu was firmly determined to increase his military accomplishments, he started to oppose Buddhism which gradually evolved into the great Anti-Buddhist Persecution.


It began with the suppression of sramana in the fifth year of the supreme ruler of Taiping, Emperor Tai Wu, who ordered that no one, from princes and dukes to the common people, was allowed to secretly provide for sramana. Anybody who, on the sly, had hidden any sramana must turn them in by the given deadline; else his whole family would be put to death. The next year, Gaiwu of the northern ethnic group from Lushui started an insurrection in Xingcheng (Huangling in Shanxi Province) in which a hundred thousand people participated. In the seventh year, Emperor Tai Wu himself led his soldiers to suppress the rebellion. When he arrived in Changan, he was furious when he found some weapons in a temple, causing him to suspect that the sramana conspired with Gaiwu, thus leading him to order the death of everyone in the temple. Cuihao seized the chance to persuade Emperor Tai Wu to exterminate Buddhism. As a result, severe policies aimed at abolishing Buddhism were further put into effect, resulting in the killing of sramana in Changan and the burning of all Buddhist sutras and figures. For a short while, everyone in the country was fearful of danger in every sound. Tuba-huang, at that time the prince who had the power to administer the country when the Emperor was absent, presented petitions time and again to dissuade him in this extermination policy. Although the Emperor did not take his advice, these petitions helped to postpone the announcement of the imperial edict, consequently enabling the sramana far and near to hide and escape when they heard the news, and enabling many Buddhist figures and sutras to be secretly hidden. However, none of the temples within Wei State were able to escape. Historically this was referred to as “the Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution by Tai Wu.”


Not long after Buddhism was abolished, Guanquanzhi died of illness. Cuihao was cut in two at the waist for showing contempt for the Hu clan, and over a hundred people from Cuihao’s clan were put to death. The sixth year after abolishing Buddhism, Emperor Tai Wu from Tubatao was killed by Zongai who sent Tubayu, the youngest son of Emperor Tai Wu, to the throne. After that, Zongai killed Tubayu, It wasn’t until Emperor Wu Cheng was enthroned that an imperial edict was made, reviving Buddhism and paving the way for the Yungang Grottoes to be built. Thus Buddhism gradually came back to life.


During the period of Emperor Tai Wu of Tubatao, the country’s economy was developed to some extent within a period of time. But because of Emperor Tai Wu’s excessive action of exterminating Buddhism, later on Emperor Wen Cheng encountered trouble. Although he began to revive Buddhism in order to make the country rich and give the people peace and security, “the awful mess” left by Emperor Tai Wu had led to his subjects in the country lacking a common view in ideology and culture, resulting in the escalating conflicts between the aristocrats of Zianbei and the populace of Ethnic Han Chinese. The other fatal problem was the increasing corruption among the aristocrats of Xianbei, despite the fact that Emperor Wen Cheng repeatedly announced imperial edicts to try to stop it. But the corruption of the officials of all ranks and descriptions had become too severe to allow the edicts to work efficiently. As the suffering of the populace couldn’t be alleviated, their rebellion to the ruling party became more intense.


As a result, Emperor Wu Cheng died young.


Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution by Emperor Wu in the North Zhou Dynasty

The second Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution happened when Emperor Wu Di, Yu Wen Yong of the Northern Zhou Dynasty, was in power, which was about 110 years after the first incident by Emperor Tai Wu in the Northern Wei Dynasty. The Northern Zhou Dynasty ruled the region of Guanzhong-Longxi after the Western Wei Dynasty where Buddhism had prevailed since the Jin Dynasty. The Buddhist Group of Kumarajiva once preached and translated Buddhist Sutras in Changani for a long time, and had a tremendous influence in the region. At that time, over 200,000 monks and nuns and more than 30,000 Buddhist temples flourished all over the country. Among the successive emperors of the Northern Dynasties, many of them were devout believers in Buddhism. At the beginning of his reign, Emperor Wu followed his predecessors’ convention and paid respect to samana. In the fourth year of Tian He, he convened at four successive times the scholars of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism to carry on debates as to which religion’s doctrine was superior.


His original intention was to rank Buddhism after Confucianism, and Taoism above both of those. However, they could not come to a conclusion through the debates because the scholars from the three religions stuck to their arguments. Later Zhen Luan sent his book of Xiao Dao Lun to the Emperor, and Dao An sent his book, Discussion on the Two Religions, in which they tried their utmost to speak in defense of Buddhism and denounce Taoism. The Emperor was so unhappy about the debate between Buddhism and Taoism that he gave an imperial order to put off for a while the debate about which is superior. In the third year of Jian De, Emperor Wu Di convened some Buddhists and Taoists for a debate in his Tai Ji Palace. Zhang Bin did his utmost to denounce Buddhism which was defeated by Master Zhi Xuan. As a result, Emperor Wu Di held court in person in order to argue against the opponent’s viewpoint. Surprisingly, Master Zhi Xuan calmly answered back with brilliant statements, causing the Emperor to leave his Tai Ji Palace infuriated. The next day he gave the imperial edict to abolish both Buddhism and Taoism, destroy the temples and pagodas, burn the figures of Buddha and compel samana and Taoists to resume secular life. About 20,000 smana were forced to resume secular life, and Buddhism in the region of Guanzhong-Longxi was almost completely destroyed.


In the sixth year of Jian De, after the Northern Zhou Dynasty conquered the Northern Qi Dynasty, Emperor Wu Di implemented the policy of excluding Buddhism by burning the figures of Buddha and destroying the temples. As a result, Buddhism in northern China vanished for a short while.


The next year after the Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution, Emperor Wu Di suffered from severe skin ulcers and died of this disease at the early age of 35. Emperors Xuan and Jing took the throne in succession; only then did Buddhism gradually regain its position.


Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution by Emperor Wu Zong of the Tang Dynasty

During the period of Emperor Wu Zong of the Tang Dynasty which was based on Confucianism ways and strategies of managing a country, many literati and officials thought that the booming of Buddhism would jeopardize the country’s economy; hence, they viciously attacked it. Besides, Emperor Wu Zong was keen on Tao techniques and how to practice them. Once he summoned 81 people, including Zhao Gui Zhen, to his palace, then built a Jinlu Taoist ashram in San Dian, while he himself accepted Falu. In June of the first year of the Hui Chang reign, he summoned Liu Xuan, a Taoist priest in Heng Shan, to his palace and let him practice Falu with Zhao Gui Zhen.


The policies he applied to abolish Buddhism progressed step by step. From what the historical data say, the harsh decrees he employed were steadily increased. In March of the fourth year of the Hui Chang reign, he ordered that people were forbidden to make offerings to tooth and bone relics of the Buddha; anyone breaching this order would be flogged with a stick. For a short while, traces of human presence were cut off in the temples. For a longer time period, Buddhist sutras and figures of Buddha were enshrined and worshipped in the imperial palace. However, Emperor Wu Zong gave orders to burn Buddhist sutras and destroy Buddhist figures. Instead, the figures of Tian Zun La Jun were placed in his ashram. As he was deeply convinced by what Zhao Guizhen said to him, he started an unprecedented Anti-Buddhist Persecution. He gave the edict to destroy the temples in the mountains, Caturdesa, Aranya, common Buddhist altars, public wells and dining rooms in Buddhist temples in villages.


In March and April of the fifth year of the Hui Chang reign, he compelled monks and nuns to resume secular life; if anyone disobeyed the order, he/she would be executed on the spot under the accusation of disobeying the imperial edict. In August, his decrees resulted in extensive demolition of temples and figures of Buddha as well as Buddhist musical instruments such as bells and chime stones to be cast into coins and farm implements. Even privately-owned golden and silver figures of Buddha were required to be turned in to officials. This catastrophe was called the Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution of Hui Chang.


The next year after this incident, Emperor Wu Zong died from poison while taking a Taoist golden elixir. After that, Emperor Xuan Zong took the throne, killed Zhao Gui Zhen, etc. and revived Buddhism.


Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution by Emperor Shi Zong in Hou Zhou Dynasty

The fourth Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution by Emperor Shi Zong happened in the second year of Xian De of the Later Zhou Dynasty. In order to implement his ruling policies to be based on Confucianism, he used the excuse that the monks and nuns in Buddhist temples had become a national financial burden, thus giving an imperial edict forbidding people to become a monk or nun on their own. He made some harsh requirements for those who wanted to be a monk or nun and also specified that only those initiated into monkhood or nunhood from the nationally-acknowledged Pravarana (precept platform) were recognized, otherwise it was invalid. Temples or aranya were not allowed to be built; if anyone disobeyed, he would be punished with cruel torture. All the existing temples must be demolished. Figures of Buddha made of bronze, brass or copper held by civilians had to be turned in to the government to be cast into money. If anyone were found secretly keeping any that were worth more than five Jin, he would be executed. This collection of incidents was called the Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution of Yi Zong. According to legend, Emperor Shi Zong hacked the chest of the Bodhisattva figure with an axe to show his intention of destroying Buddhism.


In the sixth year of Xian De, during his journey of northern conquest, all of a sudden Emperor Shi Zong developed a carbuncle abscess in his chest and died from it shortly afterward.


After we have made a general survey of the four Great Anti-Buddhist Persecutions of “three Wu’s and one Zong,” we can easily conclude that the reasons for those incidents were nothing but the emperor’s sincerely believing in his own religion without showing any tolerance for other religions (which is the opposite of what Ashoka did), or because, when antagonism arose between the religions, the emperor could not discern and resolve it, or still yet, because the emperor was not able to make full use of Buddhist resources to turn them into proper production for the country, Instead he mistook Buddhists and their temples for a financial burden on the country. Fortunately, Buddhism has eventually been accepted on a universal basis because of “its essence of setting one’s mind at rest,” which has been passed on in Buddhism for thousands of years. In spite of the repeated Anti-Buddhist Persecutions, Buddhism is still standing, towering like a giant in the world’s multicultural civilization and playing a positive role.


III: Buddhism’s importance as a non-governmental organization (NGO) in assisting a country’s politic

Over 80% of today’s world population professes some form of religious belief; although Buddhism makes up only 6% of that total, yet it plays a decisive role in human civilization.


Considerable consensus exists between politics and Buddhist ideology. Overall, politics concerns itself with crowd management and maintaining social groups, while Buddhist precepts strive for strengthening the purity of our society. ) Politics calls for universal adherence to laws, while Buddhism requires universal self-discipline. Political measures vary depending on different local, temporal and social conditions, while Buddhism attempts to indoctrinate people into accommodating differing needs. Politics insists on immediate practical results, and Buddhism attaches importance to benefiting others in the long-term, not just the present. Politics uses force to govern a country, while Buddhism actually assists in political governance through teaching people self-discipline in morality. Through the use of external measures, politics requires its people to abide by the law, while Buddhism educates people on how to draw on their own internal resources to cultivate their basic nature in order to improve themselves. Politics encourages everyone to live and contribute to society through possessing a positive attitude, while Mahayana passionately advocates its adherents to make full use of their time and do good deeds to benefit others. All of these demonstrate that Buddhism as an NGO, through using wisdom and benevolence, is essential to the political party in power in helping to solve society’s problems.


The political morality of Buddhism is to govern people by practicing Buddhist dharma. That way the millennium will eventually occur, resulting in the complete lack of hostility as people will respect and love each other by virtue of alms-giving and following the way of Sila. Despite the apparent social disorder and deteriorating society nowadays, Buddhism insists that all people try to tolerate others and seek the common ground while ignoring differences, to experience and understand original existence through contemplation, to respect each other and live in harmony in order to create a peaceful and enlightened society. Through Buddhism’s aims at benefiting mankind, it can effect an invisible stability to the country. Just as Master Lushan Hui Yuan said, “In a town of 100 people, if 10 of them follow Sila, then the ten people will be honest and sincere; in a city of 1000 people, if 100 of them practice “the ten good deeds,” then the 100 will live in harmony; if this practice can be spread to the surrounding region, if there are 1000 of the bingos (persons written into the household register), there will be a million benevolent persons. If one practices a good deed, a bad deed can be avoided; since it is avoided, the criminal penalty is unnecessary; for this reason, the entire criminal penalty in the country will become unnecessary. It is so-called easily-attained peace.”


IV: The actuality of Buddhism on the Chinese Mainland and Ways to Improve It

Part IV The actuality of Buddhism on the Chinese Mainland and Ways to Improve It


Nowadays, Buddhism has not played a proper and positive role on the Chinese mainland because of the fact that some Buddhists themselves there lack self-discipline and have not accepted or pondered over the idea of going into the secular world to practice Buddhism. This has resulted in an outdated system with improper positioning of its social role and an excess of Governmental intervention and control.


To harmonize disputes among different Buddhist sects

Recently, Buddhism on the Chinese mainland has been in a state of disunity, where disputes arise between the Exoteric Buddhism (Sutrayana) and Esoteric Buddhism, even between different sects and temples. Each individual entity does things its own way. The monks can’t reach a common view of integrated harmonization in terms of the theories (Pariyatti) of different sects and practicing a common direction. Because the parts have become separated from the whole, Buddhists’ practice has become superficial and formalized, being called “bubble/foamy Buddhism.” Because of this, Buddhism is losing its value to serve society, and the populace can’t get any moral support from the contemporary Buddhist dharma. On the Chinese mainland, more and more people are dissatisfied with Buddhism, especially Chinese Buddhism. A rough idea of this comes from the fact that, recently, Tibetan Buddhism and Southern Buddhism have rapidly developed independently. Master Yin Shun most sorrowfully said that “Zen (Chan) is the essential Traditional Buddhism, but it has lost its original features.” Some Buddhist orders have been abolished for quite a while. The confession ceremony, chanting the name of Buddha and chanting incantations are the only things still being practiced as Buddhist dharma; in the past, only the ways of Confucianism and Taoism competed with them. Today western religions and philosophy have joined in the competition, resulting in the fact that Buddhism is in need of great changes.


In view of this, it is necessary for Exoteric Buddhism and Esoteric Buddhism to have adequate communication and internal readjustment. In fact, historically, the two forms of Buddhism arose from the same source, so the only way to solve the dispute is to use Chinese Mahayana to lead all the different Buddhist sects to change the present situation of disunity and tackle the problem at its root. On this basis, a strong consensus of actively going into the secular world and helping the country get over its present difficulties as well as bringing benefits to its people can be reached. We can then probe into how to go into the secular world in order to assist the society in solving its problems, such as “the lack of morality in the common people,” “increasing serious psychological problems” and making contributions to China’s internal harmony and prosperity in the form of NGO.


To reform Buddhist monastic system

The Buddhist temples should be secluded places for those who want to cultivate their original nature and improve themselves. Nowadays, however, the temples have become places for some people to make money. The intervention and control of religious affairs from the local government to which the temples belong have nourished some monks’ utilitarianism in nearly every aspect. Recently the demoralization of monks has been frequently exposed by the media, raising the suspicion of the common people about Buddhist benevolence and credibility. On the other hand, as a Buddhist, a monk should have made a great effort to practice the basic tenets of Buddhism after accepting the offerings from the people to pay them back with his wisdom and benevolence instead of wearing cassocks in disguise under the name of Buddhism to demand money and other things. It is absolutely insane.


It is like the old saying that nothing can be accomplished without norms or standards being set. How can an integrated Buddhist system be formed if there is no normative system or scientific management? How can we be good examples for the world? Therefore, the improvement of the Buddhist internal system should be done through the following aspects:


First, disciplinary actions should be taken against the monks who have violated Brahmacari through corruption, law-breaking, etc. In the meantime, they should be given relevant education and training.


Second, economically, in the light of the principle, “what is taken from the people is to be used in the interests of the people,” temples should be guided to join in the secular world to do good deeds for society and to solve problems for the common people. Charity funds, student support funds (education support funding), supporting the poor funds, funds of “ready to help others for a just cause,” etc., should be set up on an extensive basis. Original Buddhist dharma and justice should be praised and propagated. Meanwhile, educational institutes should be run systematically and scientifically to educate more ambitious young people who love their country and its people.


Third, they should devote themselves to all the activities of rescue and disaster relief to inspire and lead the common people with Buddhist wisdom and benevolence.


In a word, the Buddhist culture which has been passed on for over 2000 years has become an indelible part of human civilization after it has gone through its glory and hardships. History shows that from time immemorial, any ruler can use, blend, praise, refer to, apply and change Buddhism, but by no means can it be abandoned or abolished. In the past, present or in the future, Buddhism, as an NGO has and will continuously show its irreplaceable fountain of wisdom and benevolence in assisting the governing of a country.






一、 佛教对政治的促进作用









- 唐朝





- 宋朝



- 中国台湾




二、 历史上四大法难对政权稳定性的影响



























三、 佛教作为NGO的辅政意义



佛教所说的政治道德,因为是以佛法治化,所以没有怨敌,布施持戒,最终使举国人民更相敬爱,而呈现一个太平盛世的气象。而面对当今人类社会各方环境极其恶化,各种乱象充塞于世,佛教认为社会大众应多培养包容、求同存异的气度,从平等法性中体证诸法千差万别的实相,彼此互相尊重、和谐共融,共同创造祥和、开明的社会。同时,佛教以其济世为民,能带给国家一股无形的内在稳定力。正如庐山慧远大师说:“百家之乡,十人持戒,则十人淳谨;千室之邑,百人修十善,则百人和睦;传此风教,以周寰区,编户一千,则仁人百万。夫能修一善,则去一恶;一恶既去,则息一刑;一刑息则万刑息于国,此所谓坐致太平者是也” 。


四、 中国大陆佛教现状及改良之策