Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Jikan » Mon Aug 22, 2011 1:21 pm

Huseng wrote:
Jikan wrote:FWIW, I don't think contemporary Tendai is completely hopeless. And I have reason to think there are contemporary Zen practitioners who are doing it right, in Japanese lineages.


Even if this is the case, we cannot discount the fact Japanese Buddhism is collectively in decline both in terms of numbered statistics and finances.


Yes, the danka system is dying and Japanese Buddhist institutions must find a way forward or die themselves, as you say.

The way forward in my opinion is to teach people who really want to practice, so that they'll practice. This is how merit is made. Continuity of the teachings is made out of merit.
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Indrajala » Mon Aug 22, 2011 1:49 pm

Namdrol wrote:Within categories of peope holding prātimokṣa vows within Buddhism, however, there are only four types of vows (eight when split by gender), upāsakas, upāvasa (fast day vows), śramaṇa and bhikṣu. Mahāyāna vows do not have the force to ordain one a pravrajita of any kind (śramaṇa and bhikṣu). All this may be found in the Kośa.



The primary precepts in the Brahma Net Sutra are called prātimokṣa.

In any case this is all legal terminology and intellectual wrangling. Regardless of how others saw them, many bodhisattva renunciates of the past were, at least within their own culture, qualified to receive offerings, wear the religious attire appropriate for a monk and were considered by their peers and society to be monks. This obviously is not applicable to the wider global Buddhist world where the ancient Indian legal terminology was and still is in effect.

The whole point of disciplinary precepts is to restrain individuals from evil and actions which are contrary to the path, and to establish a social vessel of sorts with which teachings could be properly transmitted with reasonable quality control standards. Whether a vinaya system from one of the old Indian śrāvaka traditions is necessary for this or not is debatable. Obviously in the past in East Asia not everyone felt it was. The vinayas of India are all different, hence reflecting different aspirations and intentions at work in their formulation. The bodhisattva precepts and the bodhisattva renunciate monks as they developed in East Asia is but a different manifestation of the principle.
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Malcolm » Mon Aug 22, 2011 2:15 pm

Huseng wrote:
Namdrol wrote:Within categories of peope holding prātimokṣa vows within Buddhism, however, there are only four types of vows (eight when split by gender), upāsakas, upāvasa (fast day vows), śramaṇa and bhikṣu. Mahāyāna vows do not have the force to ordain one a pravrajita of any kind (śramaṇa and bhikṣu). All this may be found in the Kośa.



The primary precepts in the Brahma Net Sutra are called prātimokṣa.

In any case this is all legal terminology and intellectual wrangling. Regardless of how others saw them, many bodhisattva renunciates of the past were, at least within their own culture, qualified to receive offerings, wear the religious attire appropriate for a monk and were considered by their peers and society to be monks. This obviously is not applicable to the wider global Buddhist world where the ancient Indian legal terminology was and still is in effect.



In general, we can say that there is a Bodhisattva "prātimokṣa", but it depends on śrāvaka pratimokṣa. There is a sutra in that Ratnakuta (Chang, Treasury of Mahāyāna Sūtras pg. 262) that discusses and contrasts the prātimokṣa of a bodhisattva with that of a śrāvaka, but there is no suggestion in this text that bodhisattvas enjoy a seperate ordination from śrāvakas -- it merely distinguishes the parameters of conduct for bodhisattvas and non-bodhisattvas.

There really is no way to get around this. There is a separate ordination for bodhisattvas distinct from that of what we generally call "buddhist monks".

You are the one who is intellectually wrangling with this.

For me, it is very simple. If you have received an ordination based on one of the eighteen schools Vinaya, you are a monk or a nun. If not, then you are lay person. Added to this are bodhisattva vows, etc.

The vinayas of India are all different, hence reflecting different aspirations and intentions at work in their formulation.


They reflect regional seperation, but not separation of difference in aspiration and intention. The vinayas of India are more similar than they are different from one another. The primary differences between them are in the number of minor rules, the cut and color of the robes, and the regional language of the school.

Bodhisattva vow systems on the other hand are quite different in terms of aspiration and intention. The Brahmajala system in China is clearly in keeping with the Yogachara model, rather than the Madhyamaka model (which is based on the Akashagarbha Sutra).

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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Indrajala » Sun Nov 20, 2011 6:41 am

Namdrol wrote:For me, it is very simple. If you have received an ordination based on one of the eighteen schools Vinaya, you are a monk or a nun. If not, then you are lay person. Added to this are bodhisattva vows, etc.


So Buddha's first disciples, who did not have 250 vows or a formal "vinaya" ordination, were just lay people with shaved heads in robes?
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby BuddhaSoup » Sun Nov 04, 2012 2:29 am

Huseng wrote:This is entirely shameless self-promotion, but I penned a brief essay on Saichō's unique monastic reforms. If you're interested please have a look:

https://sites.google.com/site/dharmadep ... os-reforms


:anjali:


I just read your excellent essay. It was not 'shameless self promotion' to offer this; rather it was Bodhisattva work....showing others the Way. Well researched and very well written..a pleasure to read.

Thank you!
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Jikan » Sun Nov 04, 2012 1:59 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Bodhisattva vow systems on the other hand are quite different in terms of aspiration and intention. The Brahmajala system in China is clearly in keeping with the Yogachara model, rather than the Madhyamaka model (which is based on the Akashagarbha Sutra).

N


I'll take Malcolm's word for it (especially since he's not here to rebut), but generally, TienTai thought is a development in Chinese Madhyamaka. I've been taught that Tendai-shu tends to identify as a Madhyamika school and not a Yogachara school. FWIW.
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Indrajala » Sun Nov 04, 2012 2:40 pm

Jikan wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
Bodhisattva vow systems on the other hand are quite different in terms of aspiration and intention. The Brahmajala system in China is clearly in keeping with the Yogachara model, rather than the Madhyamaka model (which is based on the Akashagarbha Sutra).

N


I'll take Malcolm's word for it (especially since he's not here to rebut), but generally, TienTai thought is a development in Chinese Madhyamaka. I've been taught that Tendai-shu tends to identify as a Madhyamika school and not a Yogachara school. FWIW.



I think it would have to because Zhiyi lived before there were major Yogacara influences via Xuanzang's translations.
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby coldwater » Tue Nov 20, 2012 9:12 pm

Hello,

Huseng, thank you for posting your essay on Saicho's monastic reforms. I've read it twice but need another go at it though. I've heard a few times that the laws enacted by the govt. on Buddhist monks was the intent of Saicho's reforms...but I've doubted this. The little info I've read on Saicho didn't seem to draw him strongly as a drinking sake every night, meat eating, married, raising a family and building a secular career type of practitioner. Not the picture of a householder really.

From your essay it seems the intent of the reform was to do away with a structure that could lead into fixation over rules and personal liberation... but not really to do away with the overall function of the vinaya- rather explicitly turning it into a support for the bodhisattva vows once they were stable? Provisional in being temporary guidelines for off-the-mountain behavior when in groups of bhikshus/monastics from other traditions. I'd imagine after 12 years of practice of the Bodhisattva vows a person would be stable enough in their self discipline to not need a handbook to turn to on 'what is mindful and appropriate for a renunciate and what is not'. Provisional in that they would be adhered to unless the Bodhisattva vow and intent called for temporarily dropping a vinaya rule. Since the major rules of vinaya match the Bodhisattva vows fairly close...and assuming Hiei had some form of standards and other house rules...taking on vinaya training would be a bit of a shoe in and just done as a formality. So they know how act with other groups and can receive the same respect by the Buddhist community at large. Am I close on my understanding of your article?

I always associate the term buddhist monk with someone who chooses a celibate lifestyle and does not drink/kill/steal/lie while engaging in a religious lifestyle and trying to live to a high standard of personal behavior. While bhikshu/bhikshuni being someone who may follow the expanded protocols of the vinaya in addition to shared major vows of a Bodhisattva and lifestyle of a monk. Personally- to me a renunciate is a renunciate regardless of their legal vinaya status. I've met bhikshus who live more like laypeople and lay people who live like a bhikshu. The true ordination lies in the heart. Legality and tradition does make the bhikshu. My own thoughts aside:

If bhikshus were to exist now in Japanese Buddhism could you from your studies paint a picture of a fictional bhikshu practicing today under Saicho's reforms? What could that look like given the current situation of Tendai and culture? Chinese and Tibetan and Korean monastic systems have seemed to work out vinaya rules and bodhisattva vows (of course with variations in groups, temples and individuals) so they can be practiced side by side with little conflict. That could be seen as 'reform' from following vinaya strictly, couldn't it? Or if it is still in conflict it may be just be in constant resolution process.

Since this resolution didn't happen in Japan and the vinaya was dropped completely- what would be a way for it be practiced within Tendai today if it were revived in some form? What benefit could be derived for Tendai/Japanese Buddhism by it? For example I understand the Sennichi Kaihogyo monks take lifelong vows of celibacy and I've read in some books and articles this is more common of women priests as well?

thank you,
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Jikan » Tue Nov 20, 2012 9:52 pm

it's not necessary to construct a fictional account. There exist today renunciants following the teachings of Dengyo Daishi. Here's an example; I've met others.

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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby coldwater » Tue Nov 20, 2012 11:02 pm

Hi Jikan,

Yes, I am aware. I did mention those renunciate monks- the sennichi kaihogyo monks. Keisho has explained that they also live ascetic lives, take celibacy vows and live under a very strict discipline while undertaking the practice. They continue to do so after completion as well, correct? So inspirational! Maybe I become younger, less deluded, less eccentric and fluent in Japanese next life time...so I can make a request to join. This lifetime I just have to work hard with what I have available. :D

I do not think they are ordained under the vinaya form provisionally as the vinaya is no longer in use in Japan, right? Can it be extended beyond the sennichi kaihogyo practice which is limited to a few? I haven't been to Japan to get a feeling how monastics practice. Maybe all the non-kaihogyo monks at that temple take life long celibacy vows and live in a similar fashion to the vinaya? I understand there is room for personalization of the practice in Tendai...so does vinaya practice still have or even need a place within it? I understand when it was dropped temples became more like businesses and started getting passed in families. There was an anthro type book on Japanese Temple Buddhism that I read giving various accounts and 'models' of temples being run. A very very wide spectrum of intentions and practices from secular to spiritual. I can find the title if you are interested, though it was a fairly depressing read that the kaihogyo monks and stories of individuals I've heard of and met greatly counterbalance.

I've had the experience of going to temples of other traditions to be told that Japanese Buddhism is not truly Buddhism because it lacks vinaya. I disagree with them but am respectful of their opinion and their value of vinaya. It also means there is less standing with other Buddhist traditions as a result. Something that it appears Saicho was trying to avoid during his social-political climate by maintaining provisional vinaya ordinations? Isn't there an article somewhere he says something about sitting with the novices in an assembly of bhikshus? While in Tendai assemblies to sit according to when the Bodhisattva vow was taken, for example? There must've been some conflict for a reform to arise and how are those reforms applicable in a broad way today?

I don't know much about Tendai monastic practice but am interested, so the many questions!

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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Queequeg » Wed Nov 21, 2012 12:48 am

Wow. Just spent an hour reading this thread. I suppose much of the discussion has faded off.

Huseng - I don't know if its just Japanese Buddhism that is in permanent decline. I am just not sure any tradition is going to continue to maintain large rolls of renunciates. If economic development continues on the current trajectory, if culture and education continue on the current trajectories - the incentives to renounce will increasingly disappear. I am pretty sure, Buddhism the world over is in permanent decline. At least as we've come to expect now. I don't think this means we lose the Buddhadharma because of this. I suppose it could seem like that if you are particularly attached to Monastic Buddhism and consider that the only "legitimate" form of Buddhism. Not all of us do. Some schools of thought dealt with the decline of Dharma, the corruption of monastics, etc. long ago - see the Mahaparinirvana which has extensive passages on what one should expect in the latter day... I'll come back to this in a moment.

One general comment on your article - I feel like you are missing a large part of the story in not considering Saicho in light of Tientai thought. In particular, the organization of the canon according to substance, method, and sequential exposition.

Also, I think it is unfair to attribute the abandonment of Vinaya rules in Japan, particularly the widespread disregard for the requirement of celibacy, on Saicho. By the Heian period, there was widespread abuse of the ordination system as it exempted the ordained from taxes and compulsive labor. There are number of studies discussing this issue - Ryuichi Abe's Weaving of Mantra about Kukai includes excellent background. According to Abe, both Kukai and Saicho wrestled with these issues.

In any event, I think there are many other trends that contributed to the abandonment of basic monastic rules like celibacy - including the prevalence of lay renunciates (apologies I don't know the term in Japanese off hand) by the Kamakura period. However, I think this development can be pointed to as proof of deepening Buddhist roots in Japan during the Kamakura period. Another discussion. One of the biggest contributing factors may in fact be the practice of marriage taken up by Pure Land practitioners like Shinran, which then spread to other scools. This practice in turn is founded in the common notion by the Kamakura period that Buddhism had entered the Age of Decline (Mappo) (In light of Mappo, you may be 10 centuries late in calling the permanent decline of Japanese Buddhism ;))

Mappo brings me to a statement by Saicho - I don't have the exact quote - "A person observing the precepts in the Latter Day will be as rare as seeing a tiger in the marketplace". As I read your article, I was waiting for you to bring it up.

In my understanding - and I approach Saicho through the lens of Nichiren and the bits and pieces of Tientai sources in English - Saicho advocated the Bodhisattva precepts in anticipation of the Decline of the Law (Mappo). The ordination platform at Hieizan itself invokes the central teachings of Tientai Buddhism - namely the Perfect and Sudden Enlightenment as understood to be revealed in the Lotus Sutra. Understood in light of the Perfect and Sudden Enlightenment, all other Buddhist teachings are understood to be Upaya/Hoben. They are viewed to be incomplete and gradual teachings, and redeemed only because the Lotus Sutra "Opens" them to reveal the True Dharma. (As I was reading the article, it occurred to me that you might be interpreting Saicho's use of the word Buddha Dharma as a general term, but I think it ought more accurately be understood as a reference to 妙法 specifically.) As such, discarding the vinaya in favor of the Bodhisattva precepts poses little conceptual obstacle. What Saicho did, within a Tientai framework is to actualize something that is sort of suggested in Tientai thought itself - the same line of thought that played out in the thought of Zhili (and Zhanran), as well as Hongaku in Japan.

At the risk of simplifying this too much, Saicho's Perfect and Sudden initiation is a Tientai Buddhist innovation and has little to do with other systems of Buddhist thought - particularly the so called 6 Nara Schools. This ordination was about training monks in the Tientai system - a system of Buddhism that is at odds with many other interpretations of Buddhism on many points.

The analysis in the article is interesting, however, without framing Saicho in Tientai thought first, I think you may be missing a big part of the story.

One last note - the Sohei - the armed monks - I suspect those guys claimed legitimacy based on the Mahaparinirvana Sutra. According to passages in that sutra, after Mappo, it is permissible for white clothed laymen to take up arms to defend true bhiksus. That's the theoretical basis. The reality, a whole other story.
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Indrajala » Wed Nov 21, 2012 6:03 am

coldwater wrote:
Huseng, thank you for posting your essay on Saicho's monastic reforms. I've read it twice but need another go at it though. I've heard a few times that the laws enacted by the govt. on Buddhist monks was the intent of Saicho's reforms...but I've doubted this. The little info I've read on Saicho didn't seem to draw him strongly as a drinking sake every night, meat eating, married, raising a family and building a secular career type of practitioner. Not the picture of a householder really.



Saichō was a renunciate and in his mind the Brahma Net Sūtra 梵網經 represented the role a bodhisattva renunciate should fulfill. That meant being celibate and refraining from alcohol and other such desire-driven activities.

It is only since the 19th century that Japanese monks formally dropped the role of being celibate renunciates and became a married priesthood. It would be anachronistic to judge Saichō by contemporary Japanese Buddhism.

Today if you take the Brahma Net Sūtra bodhisattva precepts the precept against sex is understood as refraining from sexual misconduct, and not celibacy. Originally it meant celibacy and as far as I know and have read all classical East Asian Buddhist authors understood the precept as meaning complete celibacy. However, in the present day this is not the case.



From your essay it seems the intent of the reform was to do away with a structure that could lead into fixation over rules and personal liberation... but not really to do away with the overall function of the vinaya- rather explicitly turning it into a support for the bodhisattva vows once they were stable?


Saichō did not reject the Vinaya, but thought of it as secondary for bodhisattva renunciates. Part of his problem was that the Vinaya ordinations were monopolized by what seems to have been a corrupt institution and thus he sought to forge ahead with his own ordination track program at Mt. Hiei. His idea was that the Vinaya ordination would come last, though we can assume that was more for bureaucratic and inter-school relations more than anything else.

The Brahma Net Sūtra is actually a digested form of the Vinaya. It includes the primary Vinaya precepts without the numerous other culture-specific precepts. It also does not call for various clerical procedures.

In China and East Asia the Vinaya was seldom ever really taken seriously. There were special schools that studied it and presumably practiced it as well, though that was a small group of people. Also the formal karma proceedings for the sangha which are outlined in the Vinaya literature were seldom if ever carried out in China. There were a lot of parts of the Vinaya that were simply not carried out in East Asia like the śikṣamāṇā ordination (between being a novice and full bhikṣuṇī women ordinands are supposed to be a śikṣamāṇā for two years to ensure they are not pregnant).

I suspect in Saichō's time the obvious differences between the prescribed lifestyle and reality would have made people ponder whether Vinaya ordinations were really necessary or not, especially given how more culturally appropriate the Brahma Net Sūtra bodhisattva precepts are.




I'd imagine after 12 years of practice of the Bodhisattva vows a person would be stable enough in their self discipline to not need a handbook to turn to on 'what is mindful and appropriate for a renunciate and what is not'.



I think that's an ideal, though in reality it has often been that as a monk it was just understood you remain celibate, keep your head shaved, don't drink and generally behave yourself. The lack of discipline has often been a contentious point even to the modern age.

You also need to understand that in Japan the monastics acted as government agents and part of their job description entailed getting a Vinaya ordination. That just meant going through the motions rather than learning it for spiritual cultivation. Again, I'm inclined to think Saichō was well aware of this.


Since the major rules of vinaya match the Bodhisattva vows fairly close...and assuming Hiei had some form of standards and other house rules...taking on vinaya training would be a bit of a shoe in and just done as a formality. So they know how act with other groups and can receive the same respect by the Buddhist community at large. Am I close on my understanding of your article?


Mt. Hiei would have been a disciplined environment. To what extent monks in Nara and Kyoto studied the Vinaya I don't know. In a cloistered mountain environment you would have had little room to slack off or behave indecently. Probably a lack of womenfolk helped in that regard.

I always associate the term buddhist monk with someone who chooses a celibate lifestyle and does not drink/kill/steal/lie while engaging in a religious lifestyle and trying to live to a high standard of personal behavior.


Throughout history and today though becoming a monk wasn't always a personal decision. Being placed in a monastery at a young age is still common in Tibetan and Theravadin communities. Up until a generation ago it was common with Chinese Buddhists as well. Child novices were the norm, though not anymore. Now you graduate highschool before ever being considered for seminary. Historically becoming a monk in Japan, especially in the Nara and Heian periods, was a government position in many cases. There was a wing of the state bureaucracy operated by monks.

If bhikshus were to exist now in Japanese Buddhism could you from your studies paint a picture of a fictional bhikshu practicing today under Saicho's reforms?


Of course. Celibacy, sobriety and behaving yourself were part of his original program. If you followed all the rules laid out in the Brahma Net Sūtra you'd be a renunciate monk, plus vegetarian to boot.


What could that look like given the current situation of Tendai and culture?


I don't know enough about present day Tendai, but they're married and celibacy is optional. Having celibate monks and married priests together leads to problems like in Korea.



Since this resolution didn't happen in Japan and the vinaya was dropped completely- what would be a way for it be practiced within Tendai today if it were revived in some form?


Try getting a senior well-established hierarchy to divorce their wives or discourage their sons from ever getting married.

I don't think it'd work. Part of how Japanese Buddhism survives is that sons inherit their positions. If it wasn't for that almost nobody would sign up for the job. Buddhism is irrelevant to Japan today. It is a fossil that few care about unfortunately.
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Anders » Wed Nov 21, 2012 12:50 pm

For me, it is not so much to recent developments as it is developments much closer to Saicho's time that really makes my scratch my 'stache - Namely the Sōhei, the Tendai "warrior monks", who were a more or less standing armies for the largest temples in the country. These "monks" were engaged in armed warfare in the name of Tendai-shu less than 150 years after Saicho's death. The Jimon and Sammon rivalry was nothing less than two Buddhist temples engaged in armed disputes over nothing more than prestige and jealousy, a petty rivalry.

I imagine Saicho never imagined such a thing could happen in his school, just as I can imagine there were Buddhists at the time who found this quite deplorable. I am curious to know what Japanese Buddhists make of this phenomena, because for me sitting on the far outside trying to look in, it is something so strange and alien to Buddhism I simply do not understand how this could happen and how it could take root in Buddhist schools for so long. Monks taking wives and drinking alcohol looks downright virtuous in comparison.

I don't know whether there is any link at all between Saicho's reforms and the causes for the Sōhei (though again, I don't think there was ever any intent for it on Saicho's part), but the possibility did occur to me given that it happened in Tendai some 150 years after these reforms. Huseng briefly mentions it and cites 1571 as an example of this later development, but the Sōhei had existed for over 500 years by then.
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Jikan » Wed Nov 21, 2012 1:48 pm

Anders: Paul Groner's book on Ryogen will be of interest to you.
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Indrajala » Wed Nov 21, 2012 2:08 pm

Anders wrote:I imagine Saicho never imagined such a thing could happen in his school, just as I can imagine there were Buddhists at the time who found this quite deplorable. I am curious to know what Japanese Buddhists make of this phenomena, because for me sitting on the far outside trying to look in, it is something so strange and alien to Buddhism I simply do not understand how this could happen and how it could take root in Buddhist schools for so long. Monks taking wives and drinking alcohol looks downright virtuous in comparison.


It is baffling. I can't really explain why at the moment as I haven't studied the subject enough.

I sense contemporary Japan generally has a kind of romantic vision of the warrior monks. They are just another part of that distant yet vivid historical landscape in the Heian and Kamakura periods. Japan looks warmly on the 16th century warlords and then Musashi in the 17th century, too.
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Indrajala » Wed Nov 21, 2012 2:31 pm

Queequeg wrote:Huseng - I don't know if its just Japanese Buddhism that is in permanent decline.


Buddhism around the world is largely in statistical decline as far as I can tell. The government statistics in various Asian countries seem to indicate this. Younger generations are drifting towards secularism or in some cases Christianity. In much of East Asia Buddhism is associated with the past. It is old, unfashionable and meaningless to a lot of youth.




I am just not sure any tradition is going to continue to maintain large rolls of renunciates. If economic development continues on the current trajectory, if culture and education continue on the current trajectories - the incentives to renounce will increasingly disappear.


Economic contraction will start to occur sooner or later when conventional oil production starts its long decline. Alternative fossil fuels and alternative energy resources do not pack the same energy on return. This coupled with climate change will make for very hard economic times, to say nothing of demographics and so on.

Actually in times of sustained economic hardship (like dark ages), monasticism flourishes because it offers stability in times when having children is unaffordable and collective living makes a lot of economic sense.

Buddhism could possibly bounce back in such circumstances. Such circumstances will occur unless some miracle technology is developed, but don't count on it.



Also, I think it is unfair to attribute the abandonment of Vinaya rules in Japan, particularly the widespread disregard for the requirement of celibacy, on Saicho. By the Heian period, there was widespread abuse of the ordination system as it exempted the ordained from taxes and compulsive labor. There are number of studies discussing this issue - Ryuichi Abe's Weaving of Mantra about Kukai includes excellent background. According to Abe, both Kukai and Saicho wrestled with these issues.


It was not his intention, but nevertheless it was a contributing factor in later centuries' developments where monasticism turned into a hereditary priesthood.


However, I think this development can be pointed to as proof of deepening Buddhist roots in Japan during the Kamakura period. Another discussion. One of the biggest contributing factors may in fact be the practice of marriage taken up by Pure Land practitioners like Shinran, which then spread to other scools. This practice in turn is founded in the common notion by the Kamakura period that Buddhism had entered the Age of Decline (Mappo) (In light of Mappo, you may be 10 centuries late in calling the permanent decline of Japanese Buddhism ;))



Shinran probably played a more instrument role in the ultimate demise of Japanese monasticism. That goes without a doubt.


As such, discarding the vinaya in favor of the Bodhisattva precepts poses little conceptual obstacle.




It wasn't an issue for Saichō because in his mind bodhisattva renunciates (出家菩薩) were just as legitimate monks as those with Vinaya ordinations. In his day the Vinaya and all Mahāyāna literature were held in equal esteem, perhaps the latter more so in practice, and all of it attributed to Śākyamuni was thought of as such. So, in light of that reading through all the literature about the superiority of the bodhisattva path and bodhisattva precepts, it would beg the question why in fact bodhisattvas would be obliged to take Vinaya (Hīnayāna). He assumed in India there were bodhisattva renunciates because of Xuanzang's accounts of "Mahāyāna temples". So naturally this precedent could have been extended into Japan as a legitimate new institution.

Actually, Saichō got some of his ideas from China. During the Tang Dynasty, as Vinaya Master Nanshan Daoxuan reported, there were many people who disregarded "Hīnayāna" precepts and seem to have ridiculed those who promoted such ordinations. If I recall correctly the Tiantai writer Mingkuang 明曠 also hinted at this, which is where Saichō might have got some of his ideas, though he also spent time in China and was probably exposed to such precedents as well.


At the risk of simplifying this too much, Saicho's Perfect and Sudden initiation is a Tientai Buddhist innovation and has little to do with other systems of Buddhist thought - particularly the so called 6 Nara Schools. This ordination was about training monks in the Tientai system - a system of Buddhism that is at odds with many other interpretations of Buddhism on many points.


How much of that specific Tiantai training system came after him, though? I mean the other patriarch like Ennin also introduced enormous amounts of new practices and material into the school.
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Queequeg » Wed Nov 21, 2012 5:37 pm

Hi Huseng,

If humanity returns to some dark ages, that will be truly unfortunate. I don't think that is by any means certain, but at the same time I couldn't really argue against your points. To me, spreading Dharma would be a significant factor in whether we can avoid such a dark future - and I don't necessarily think it has to be monastic Buddhism. Deepening understanding of cause and effect and Buddhist psychology, meditative practices, etc. would have profound and far reaching effects.

When talking about Saicho and his legacy, I think its critical to distinguish what Saicho was doing from Tendai. Saicho came from the exoteric Tientai lineage. The esoteric tradition that Tendai became is very different and I'm not even sure he would have agreed with it. That of course is up for debate - the old Kukai-Saicho rivalry and then the disruption introduced by Ennin and Enchin.

I don't disagree with your points. I think they are interesting and fill out the picture. However, my basic point is, you cannot divorce Saicho from Tientai thought - the Exoteric Chinese tradition - Tendai has as much to do with Saicho as Christianity has to do with Christ. I think we might underestimating the significance of Perfect and Sudden holds in this context. That is a shorthand for Tientai's revolutionary reinterpretation of Buddhist enlightenment. We can talk about what Perfect and Sudden means, but if we don't frame Saicho's wish to have an ordination platform for sudden and perfect enlightenment in the ideological and philosophical framework he thought he was working in, we are going to miss a lot of what he was doing. Saicho was self consciously an advocate of the Lotus Sutra, seeking to have Japanese Buddhism reorganized within a Tientai framework. No offense to the Tendai folks here - Saichos endeavors were very different than anything we can think of Tendai now.

I don't know how to say this other than this - Tientai-Lotus Buddhism is a remarkable development in Buddhist thought. Calling it a Chinese mistake, like I am sure many sectarians are want to do, does not address the actual ideas Zhiyi and Zhanran innovated, to say nothing of whether these ideas are compelling and applicable to our lives. This system of thought has much to say about what it means to be a monk or layman that offer a stark departure from much of what some people consider Buddhism. To the extent that Saicho's influence is Chinese in origin, I think scholars are just starting to uncover the profound influence Zhiyi had on Chinese Buddhism and how so much of what came after him was a response or reaction - no doubt even aspects of Chinese Buddhism that were not explicitly Tientai in nature can be related back to Zhiyi.
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby rory » Mon Nov 26, 2012 5:15 am

Queequeg;
have you seen the new book out:
Legend and legitimation : the formation of Tendai esoteric Buddhism in Japan
by Jinhua Chen.
Author: Chen, Jinhua, 1966-
Published: Bruxelles : Institut belge des hautes études chinoises, 2009.
the gist: "The Tendai form of Esotericism in the name of Saicho was for the main part created not by Saicho himself but by his followers"

so I think we need to rethink Saicho, peel away the sect history and really investigate his relation to Chinese intellectual trends and the T'ien T'ai school as you point out.
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Queequeg » Tue Nov 27, 2012 4:15 pm

Thank you, Rory. I was not aware of that study. I will check it out. :)
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Jikan » Tue Nov 27, 2012 5:26 pm

I think Paul Groner's book on _Ryogen_ is particularly helpful vis a vis rory's point.
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