David Eckel: Buddhism 19-20 of 24

David Eckel Buddhism

The nineteenth and twentieth lectures by Prof David Eckel on Buddhism look at the religious background to the introduction of Buddhism into China and then at the classical period during the T’ang Dynasty.

Course Notes:

David Eckel on Buddhism 19

Buddhism entered China in the second century of the common era, at a time when China was suffering from political turmoil and cultural decline.

The Chinese people had become disillusioned with traditional Confucian values and saw Buddhism as a new way to solve enduring religious and cultural problems. To bridge the gap between the cultures of India and China, the earliest Buddhist translators borrowed Taoist vocabulary to express Buddhist ideas.

Through a long process of interaction with Taoism, Confucianism, and Chinese popular religion, Buddhism took on a distinctively Chinese character, becoming more respectful of duties to the family and the ancestors, more pragmatic and this-worldly, and more consistent with traditional Chinese respect for harmony with nature.


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Course Notes:

David Eckel on Buddhism 20

During the T’ang Dynasty (618–907), when Buddhism had been fully absorbed into Chinese civilization, a series of indigenous Chinese schools gave brilliant and distinctive expression to the values of the Mahayana tradition.

The T’ien-t’ai School (named after a sacred mountain) produced an influential synthesis of Buddhist teachings based on the Lotus sutra. The Hua-yen (“Flower Garland”) School pictured reality as a vast network of interrelated and interpenetrating phenomena.

The Ch’an School developed the distinctive Chinese meditative tradition that came to be known in Japan as Zen. The Ching-t’u lineage developed the Chinese tradition of devotion to Amitabha Buddha. Buddhist values also had important influence on Chinese literature and the arts.


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