The Ch’an Lineage and the Resurgence of Traditional Chinese Culture – Shi Ben Xing (释本性)

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By Venerable Ben Xing (释本性 – Shi Ben Xing)

Vice President and Secretary General of the Fujian Buddhist Association

Speech Delivered at the Symposium on Construction of Modern Culture

Regarding the Transmission of the ‘Fa Yan’ (法眼) Ch’an Lineage in Contemporary China

Held in Gutian County, Fujian Province, PRC (2016)

(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)

Dear Honourable Guests – including President Xue Cheng (学诚), Minister Lei Chunmei (雷春美), Deputy Governor Liang Jianyong (梁建勇), Secretary Cao Zhongjian (曹中建), and Professor Yang Cengwen (杨曾文) – I am honoured to have been invited to this picturesque ‘red’ land. Not only is this the place of the Gutian Conference, It is also an area famous for hundreds of years of Ch’an lineage transmission. The Ch’an tradition is an important school within Chinese Buddhism, with the ‘Fa Yan’ (法眼) lineage forming one of its five branches. This is particularly true of the Longyan area, where the ‘Fa Yan’ lineage has been passed down from master to disciple through many generations, with a number of temples being founded just to propagate this lineage such as found on Tian Gong Mountain (天宫山 – Tian Gong Shan). This is important because the Ch’an School encourages a spirit of innovation, critical thinking, practical action, integration and co-operation, psychological development, and a compassionate attitude toward all living things. All this is passed on through the Ch’an transmission, and has significance for the revival and resurgence of traditional Chinese culture within a modern cultural context. Ch’an Buddhist culture is an important component of traditional Chinese culture. The most important of the core elements found within traditional Chinese culture are Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism. However, of these three, it is emancipatory Buddhism that has spread far and wide – not only through every corner of Chinese society, but also across the world. This means that of the three spiritual traditions in China, Buddhism has been the most influential.

My first point is that Buddhism has served as a philosophical, ideological, and cultural vehicle for the preservation and transmission of traditional Chinese culture, both historically and within modern times. By way of comparison, this depth and breadth of influence has not been matched by Confucianism or Daoism.  Even if this is true about Chinese Buddhism in general, it must also be recognised that Ch’an Buddhism is probably the most powerful form of Buddhism in both its philosophical and methodological development. It is robust and strong school that demands the highest standards and seeks nothing less than complete and full enlightenment here and now. The monastic discipline of the monks and nuns is excellent, and there many fine (and ancient) Ch’an temples scattered throughout the mountains of China. Just as Ch’an transmits traditional Chinese culture, so has Ch’an become deeply imbued with traditional Chinese culture and its associated attributes.

My second point is that Ch’an can serve as a vehicle for the revival and resurgence of traditional Chinese culture. In modern times, China learned Western culture and during that process, was taught that there was something wrong with Chinese culture. This created the situation whereby traditional Chinese culture was fractured and began to be misunderstood and only partially transmitted. However, the Western culture studied proved not to be unsuitable for Chinese people. Even today, it is often the case that some people in China implicitly accept the (imperialist) myth of Western cultural superiority, and in so doing sell their own traditional culture cheaply! This leads to a state of alienation between contemporary Chinese people and their historical (traditional) culture. During the collective study of the Politburo in 2014, President Xi emphasised: ‘Cultivating and promoting the core values of Socialism must be based on the excellence of traditional Chinese culture. These solid core values have their inherent fundamentals. Abandoning traditions and discarding fundamentals is tantamount to cutting off one’s spiritual lifeline.’ When at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, President Xi said: ‘Buddhism, after its introduction to China, merged with the Chinese Confucianism and Daoist culture to form a Buddhist culture with Chinese characteristics, and left a profound influence on Chinese people’s religious beliefs, philosophical views, literary arts, etiquette and customs.’ From these observations it is clear that if the Ch’an tradition is allowed to diminish, if temples fall into disrepair and the numbers of monks and nuns diminishes, then an important conveyer of traditional Chinese culture will be weakened and rendered ineffective.

My third point is that the tradition of Chinese Ch’an Buddhism possesses the capability to integrate with modern culture, whilst still serving the function of conveying traditional Chinese culture. The 4th World Buddhist Forum was held in Wuxi, and the topic was entitled ‘We wish to work together and exchange ideas’. The Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference – Yu Zhengsheng (俞正声) – sent a congratulatory message to the Forum. He said: ‘In the history of humanity, Buddhism has provided an important model for successful exchanges and mutual learning between different civilizations. It has established a successful model and built an important bridge-link for the advancement of people’s friendship.’ At the Opening Ceremony of the Forum, Minister for the Central United Front Work Department – Sun Chunlan (孙春兰) – said: ‘The vitality of religion lies in its willingness to assist the development of society. The influence of religion lies in the exchange of knowledge with various cultures. The appeal of religion lies in the active leading role of religious people.’

From this we can see that Buddhist culture is always integrated with social development. The essential spiritual values of Buddhist culture, such as compassion, wisdom, tolerance, inclusion, meditation, repentance, harmony, adhering to the middle way, reconciliation, and living inaccordance with nature, are all of positive significance for promoting the spirit of the times and assisting the construction of Socialist core values. Taking Ch’an as a medium, it is an effective way and method for personnel exchanges, people-to-people communication, cultural exchange and mutual learning in the ‘‘Fa Yan’ (法眼) lineage (一带一路 – Yi Dai Yi Lu) strategy.

My fourth point is that transmitting and inheriting Chinese Ch’an requires two basic principles.

1) We must grasp the Chinese spirit of Ch’an and understand the cultural historical significance of what it means to ‘inherit’.

2) We must remember the influence and localised transformative effect of the powerful spirit of Chinese Ch’an Buddhism when it is transmitted overseas.

With regards to the 1st principle, after Indian Buddhism entered China, its theory, discipline, organization, system, even clothing and diet were all reformed in the Chinese-style, and took-on distinct Chinese characteristics. President Xi said: ‘The Chinese people have developed Buddhist ideas based upon Chinese culture and formed a unique Buddhist theory.’ ‘Moreover, it has spread from China to Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia.’ At the Central United Working Conference held in May 2015, President Xi clearly pointed out: ‘Religions must adapt to the conditions of a Socialist Society, and must assist in China’s political, social and cultural development.’ He also said: ‘We must guide religious efforts to promote economic development, social harmony, cultural prosperity, national unity and the unification of the motherland.’ Chinese Buddhism can continue to be inherited in the modern world, and its broader Chinese cultural basis is the important reason why this is the case.

With regards to the 2nd principle, Indian Buddhism was transmitted to China so that it could become established in our country. If we transmit Chinese Buddhism to the world, it will become a world Buddhism with Chinese cultural characteristics. The famous British historian Arnold Toynbee said: ‘The 19th century is the British century, the 20th century is the American century, and the 21st century is the Chinese century.’ Chinese culture, especially Confucianism and Mahayana Buddhism possess the ability to jointly lead humanity out of confusion and misery. In the ‘One Belt and One Road’ strategy, economic and political exchanges should be preceded by cultural exchanges. The rooting of Chinese culture in the host country is the foundation for the economy to take root. Chinese Ch’an is becoming popular in the world, especially in Europe and the United States, and is an effective and powerful cultural attribute that can be used to engage the West. However, the localization strategy of projecting Chinese culture is the decisive factor for Chinese Ch’an to take root overseas. For this reason, the construction of a localized system in the foreign countries designed for the dissemination of Chinese Ch’an culture overseas, has also become an important foundation for China’s traditional culture to successfully go out and take root in the developmental and achievement climate.

I would like to add that the ‘Fa Yan’ lineage of the Ch’an School is particularly well-placed to assist the revival, preservation and transmission of traditional Chinese culture within a thoroughly ‘modern’ setting. The ‘Fa Yan’ tradition is ancient and has survived for hundreds of years as a distinct and intact transmission of Ch’an Buddhism. The ‘Fa Yan’ lineage of Longyan can be very useful and serve China faithfully in this task. I emphasis to ‘Fa Yan’ practitioners that birth in this world is a rare occurrence, and that once achieved it must be used well. Assisting the development of modern China whilst simultaneously transmitting the essence of Chinese traditional culture is a great and noble task, the fulfilling of which means that an individual life is not wasted, but used in the best possible manner. This is because a life spent in idol gossip or pursuing base desires is like already being a member of the walking dead! The worth of a life can be measured in many different ways, as everyone has a different mission and a specific direction. It is important to cultivate a calm and expansive mind so that wisdom shines brightly in the ten directions, and the means of continuous correct action is intuitively known here and now. What better way is there, than living a life full of positive purpose!

©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2018.

Original Chinese Language Article:

http://blog.sina.cn/dpool/blog/s/blog_51e2b6970102weeu.html?from=singlemessage

中华禅的传承与中国传统文化的复兴

2016-01-12 09:05阅读:327

中华禅的传承与中国传统文化的复兴

——在法眼宗思想传承与当代文化建设学术研讨会上的演讲

福建省佛协副会长兼秘书长 释本性

尊敬的学诚会长、雷春美部长、梁建勇副省长、曹中建书记、杨曾文教授,尊敬的各位:

本人很荣幸应邀来到这片红色的土地。这里,不仅有永放光芒的古田会议会址,还有传承千载的禅宗祖庭,令我向往。

 

禅宗,是佛教的特质。法眼宗是禅宗的五大分支之一,是中华禅的重要组成部分。

龙岩地区的法眼宗,不仅传承有序,而且,尚存数座重点寺院作为载体支撑,如天宫山。因此,给予弘扬尤其他的创新精神、批判精神、实践精神、融通精神、济世精神以及以人为本等精神,对中华禅的传承与中国传统文化的复兴意义不小。

下面,我着重就中华禅的传承与中国传统文化的复兴这一主题,谈些浅见:

我的观点之一:

禅文化是中国传统文化的重要组成部分。

中国传统文化,其最核心构成,无非是儒、释、道。三者中,犹以释家的文化体系最为丰富与庞大。从历史或今天来看,其发展势头、思想深度、载体之多、影响之广,非儒与道可以比拟。

而佛教体系中,以禅宗最具活力,其义理与方法兼具,理论与实践皆优;名山皆僧尼,天下尽禅寺。以此类推,可见,禅文化在中国传统文化的份额中所占比例之大。

我的观点之二:

禅文化是中国传统文化复兴的重要载体。

近代以来,中国学西方文化,去中华文化,以使中华文化的传承出现割裂与断层。可是,所学的西方文化,并不适宜中国人,水土不服。今天,许多中国人坠入思想迷思,甚至价值失范,归属感缺乏,就是这崇西贱中的结果!

习主席于2014年中央政治局集体学习时强调:“培育和弘扬社会主义核心价值观,必须立足中华传统优秀文化。牢固的核心价值观,都有其固有的根本。抛弃传统,丢弃根本,就等于割断了自己的精神命脉。”

习主席在巴黎联合国教科文组织总部讲话时更称:“佛教,传入中国后,同中国儒家、道家文化融合发展,最终形成具有中国特色的佛教文化,给中国人的宗教信仰、哲学观点、文学艺术、礼仪习俗等留下深刻影响。”

可见,抽离佛教,尤其禅文化,包括千千万万的禅寺与禅僧,那么,中国传统文化的复兴载体,便显单薄!

我的观点之三:

禅文化与当代社会主流价值观可以相融相通。

第四届世界佛教论坛在无锡召开,主题是“同愿同行,交流互鉴”。全国政协俞正声主席给论坛发去贺电,其中说:“在人类历史上,佛教为不同文明之间交流互融、互学互鉴,树立了成功典范,为增进各国人民友谊,构建了重要的桥梁纽带”。中央统战部孙春兰部长于论坛开幕式上致辞说:“宗教的生命力在于与社会发展同愿同行,宗教的影响力在于与各种文化的交流互鉴,宗教的感召力在于宗教界人士的积极引领作用”。

从此可见,佛教文化是始终与社会发展同步而行的。佛教文化的核心精神,如慈悲、智慧、忍让、包容、自省、忏悔、中道、圆融、和合、共生等,对弘扬时代精神,辅助社会主义核心价值观的建设,具有积极意义。以禅作为媒介,其更是“一带一路”战略中,人员往来,民心沟通以及文化交流、互学互鉴的有效途径与方法。

我的观点之四:传承中华禅要秉承两个基本原则。

一要把握中华禅在历史传承中的中国化精神

二要重视中华禅在海外传播中的本土化精神

第一,印度佛教入华后,其理论、戒律、组织、制度乃至服装与饮食等皆形成了中国式的特色。习主席就说:“中国人根据中华文化发展了佛教思想,形成了独特的佛教理论”。“而且,使之从中国传播到了日本、韩国、东南亚等地”。

2015年5月,在召开的中央统战工作会议上,习主席更是明确指出:“积极引导宗教与社会主义社会相适应,必须坚持中国化方向”。他还说:“要引导宗教努力为促进经济发展、社会和谐、文化繁荣、民族团结与祖国统一服务”。

中国佛教能传承不绝,中国化是其重要原因。

第二,印度佛教进入中国,成就中国化佛教。如把中国佛教推向世界,必成中国佛教为主体的世界佛教。英国著名历史学家汤恩比 说:19世纪是英国人的世纪,20世纪是美国人的世纪,而21世纪,是中国人的世纪。中国文化尤其儒家思想与大乘佛教将共同引领人类走出迷误与苦难。

“一带一路”战略中,经济、政治的交流,应以文化交流为先导。中华文化在所在国的扎根,是经济等扎根的基础。而正流行于世界,尤其欧美的中华禅,正是我们可以出击西方的有效有力之文化武器。但是,本土化策略是中华禅在海外扎根的决定要素。为此,禅文化在海外传播的本土化体系之构建,也成为中国传统文化能够成功走出去并扎根发展成就大气候的重要基础。

而法眼宗,是中华禅体系中重要的一环。为此,当我们谈传承中华禅与复兴中华传统文化时,我们不能忽略了法眼宗,也不应忽略了龙岩这片红色土地上的佛教法眼宗的传承与中兴。

最后,我想说的是:法有法眼,人有人魂,人生难得,人生苦短。每个人能够来到这个世界,都有我们特有的使命与方向,否则,我们只是行尸走肉。人的伟大或价值与否,就看是否拥有这神圣与光明的使命与方向。尽管,这种使命与方向各不相同。愿我们大家,为了各自的使命与方向,加油!

 

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