Esoteric practices in Hwa Yen

Esoteric practices in Hwa Yen

Postby Rakshasa » Fri Oct 19, 2012 12:12 pm

Was the Hwa Yen sect known for its esoteric (tantric and yogic) practices in China or was it simply the basic methods like Anapanasati, Jhana etc? Doctrine-wise Hwa Yen had its own distinct flavour, but was there any practice which was characteristic of this sect like Zazen is for Zen, Nianfo is for Pure Land?
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Re: Esoteric practices in Hwa Yen

Postby Indrajala » Fri Oct 19, 2012 2:03 pm

Huayan in China was exoteric and not esoteric, though such a line was not strictly drawn in China as it was in Japan.

It seems it was more scholastic than practice oriented.
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Re: Esoteric practices in Hwa Yen

Postby Rakshasa » Fri Oct 19, 2012 5:53 pm

Well, I disagree. On the outside, when we are told about a sect and its doctrine, metaphysics etc, we are given an impression that the sect involved a scholastic study of various concepts and ideas instead of practice. For example, the Tiantai sect is also presented as a form of academic study, but it involved lot of esoteric stuff. Zhiyi had mentioned Qi channels, Dantien (Yutona?) etc in many of his books. This means that apart from academic study of the scripture the monks under him were also involved in some Yogic like exercises. This is why even the Japanese Tendai sect still involves lots of rituals and practices apart from sitting meditation (like marathon monks and stuff).

And since Tiantai was inspired by Lotus Sutra, which itself is much more than metaphysics and philosophy, I think the Hwa Yen sect should also have included some esoteric practices within it since it was based on Avatamsaka sutra. Thus, my curiosity.

By the way, even the Hinayana sects have involved esoteric practices right from the Buddha's time. Suttas/Sutras are merely records of general teachings of Buddha which are meant more for beginners or laymen or prospective converts, than for actual monks and practitioners. I believe that the Buddha did in fact teach many different types of practices that could be called esoteric (Yogic, meditative, tantric) and it was passed to different monks via practical transmission. There are lots of tantric like practices in Sri Lanka and Thailand which came from Buddhism. There is a book on "Vimuttidhamma" floating around on the internet for free which teaches about chakras and stuff from a Theravada point of view.

I think anyone who can attain even the first Jhana becomes aware of various body channels, elements and energy.
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Re: Esoteric practices in Hwa Yen

Postby Indrajala » Fri Oct 19, 2012 6:14 pm

In my research and readings of Huayan, either as the digested Japanese form from the Nara-Heian periods or as the text themselves from China, I have not seen anything that would make me think there were special practices exclusive to Huayan. While someone associated with it like Fazang did in fact engage in occult practices, that was not necessarily reflective of the greater tradition that came to exist.

The patriarch Chengguan sounds like he was something of a yogi, though the tradition itself has always struck me as being scholastic and not practice-oriented.

However, I have heard that Kegon in Japan came to adopt many Shingon practices.
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Re: Esoteric practices in Hwa Yen

Postby Astus » Mon Oct 22, 2012 10:44 am

The first classic on Huayan is Dushun's meditation manual. Nothing esoteric in that, although it contains a Huayan-styled meditation. Chengguan studied first under a Chan teacher, while Zongmi, the so called fifth patriarch, was explicitly a Chan advocate.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
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Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Esoteric practices in Hwa Yen

Postby jmlee369 » Sat Oct 27, 2012 9:16 am

I don't reaaly know what I'm talking about, but what about the Avatamsaka syllabry (華嚴字母)?
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Re: Esoteric practices in Hwa Yen

Postby icylake » Sat Nov 10, 2012 9:23 pm

there are a sort of huayan practicing called haiyin samadhi(海印三昧). but no one know actually what this indicates. and huayan itself contains the original concepts for both esoteric(dharma body buddha vairocana法身佛) and zen(dharma nature, pure mind 法性圓融, 一切唯心造) . so it's hard to say that huayan is only related to esoteric buddhism. i

in fact in korea, huayan sutra is totally realated to Zen practice. take a for a example, the ten grades of the bodhisattva(十地品) was reconciled with each grade of sammadhi in Ganhwaseon, the caracteristics of the seventh grade bodhisattva(七地菩薩) is maintaining pure sammadhi even in dreams, in traditional Ganhwaseon practice, there are a grade maintaining hwadu in the dream(夢中一如), then maintaing hwadu in the deep sleep-the eighth grade(八地菩薩)-.

unlike japanese rinzai zen or kwanum zen, traditional korean zen practitioners use only one hwadu to the bottom of sammadhi. so the interpretation of the grades of sammadhi would be different from other traditions, anyway, in Korean tradition, hwayan practice is totally zenized.. :tongue:

and tientai(tendai, chontae) school itself had no specific practition. there were a kind of practition called maha sammata-vipassana(摩訶止觀). but there are no succesor now. futhermore tiantai school itself was highly hybrid in practice and theory. so it was very easy to be absorbed into other tradition or absorb other traditions into it. in the 16th century, Korean Chontae school was absorbed into Zen(Jogye), in China after the 8th century it gradually declined, and absorbed into pure land in Song dynasty. Only in Japan it absorbed esoteric practice. (so esoteric aspects in Japanese tendai school is very japanese phenomenon :namaste:
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Re: Esoteric practices in Hwa Yen

Postby Huifeng » Sun Nov 11, 2012 1:49 am

jmlee369 wrote:I don't reaaly know what I'm talking about, but what about the Avatamsaka syllabry (華嚴字母)?


This is an early Mahayana type practice with already begins the use of Sanskrit syllables as mantric seeds. The Prajnaparamita also has its own version of this. These are fairly stock practices in Chinese Buddhism, not at all confined to a give so-called "school" / "sect", eg. Huayan.

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