To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World


Justin R. Ritzinger








Table of Contents


Chapter I: Introduction



Taixu: Admiration and Ire
The Life of Taixu
Taixu's Legacy and Previous Scholarship
A Reexamination and Different Approach




Chapter II: Problems



Problems with Buddhism
Problems with the Modern World




Chapter III: Reduction


Chapter IV: Harmonization



Harmonizing the Modern World with Buddhism
Harmonizing Buddhism with the Modern World




Chapter V: Application



Sangha Reform
Monastic Education
Lay Societies




Chapter VI: Analysis


Appendix: Glossary of Romanizations and Chinese Characters








     In the process of writing and researching this thesis, many people have been of great assistance to me. I would first like to thank the members of my family, who have supported me and my studies in spite of my neglect, and my friends, who may no longer remember a time when "Taixu" and "Chinese Buddhist reform" were not a part of their daily vocabulary. Also I would like to thank those who read drafts of various chapters for their valuable comments and suggestions, and the staff of the Seeley G. Mudd Library for tracking down so many articles by forgotten authors in obscure journals. I would further like to thank Kuo-ming Sung for his enthusiastic assistance in working through the Chinese sources. But most of all I would like to thank my advisor, Dirck Vorenkamp, for his indispensable guidance and his unflagging patience in the difficult phases of this project.


I reaffirm the Lawrence University honor code




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter I: Introduction

Chapter I


Taixu: Admiration and Ire

     One cannot study Chinese Buddhism in the twentieth century without encountering the name Taixu. In the twenties, thirties, and forties this renowned reformer was responsible for founding several institutions of monastic education as well as several journals and publications. In these, he wrote prolifically on many aspects of Buddhist as well as Western thought. In his lifetime, he was almost universally praised abroad but was a controversial figure in Buddhist circles at home. Ironically, within a few decades of his death, the situation had reversed itself as he came to be universally praised by his fellow Chinese Buddhists, while abroad his legacy was first contested and then simply forgotten.

     Some of the praise Taixu received from foreigners in his lifetime was perhaps a bit excessive. As Paul Callahan notes in opening of his article on Taixu, he was often written about in such laudatory terms as "the St. Paul of Chinese Buddhism,"[1] "the very soul of present day Buddhist reform,"[2] and "the leading spirit of the present effort to revive Buddhism."[3] Although it is obvious that comparisons with St. Paul should be taken with a fairly large grain of salt, Holmes Welch, author of the largest and most comprehensive work on the Chinese Buddhist revival, took more serious objection. Writing in 1968, twenty-one years

1. Y. Y. Tsu, "A Diary of a Buddhist Nun," Journal of Religion 7:5/6 (Oct 1927): 612. [Hereafter: "Diary"]

2. C. H. Hamilton, "An Hour with T'ai-hsü, Master of the Law," The Open Court 42 (1928): 163 [Hereafter: Hamilton]

3. Clarence H. Hamilton, "Buddhism" China, ed. Harley Farnsworth Macnair (Berkeley: University of California Press 1946) 24.




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter I: Introduction

after Taixu's death, Welch said:

"T'ai-hsü [Taixu] is widely regarded as the most important figure in the history of modern Chinese Buddhism. But where does his importance lie? For most of his life he was the leader of a small dissident fraction. Until just before he died his ideas and activities had little effect on the great majority of monks and devotees; and the effect they might have had was excluded by the Communist victory."[4]

Welch goes on to spend much of the book contesting Taixu's legacy, and, in Western academic circles at least, he seems to have had the last word, for in the last thirty years no work of any length has been done on the topic.

     Though it is easy to see how Holmes Welch, writing just after the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution, came to conclude that "the effect [Taixu's ideas and activities] might have had was excluded by the Communist victory," subsequent history has proven him quite wrong. Several elements of Taixu's thought are today the dominant trends in Chinese Buddhism in Taiwan.[5] Many of the most prominent monks and nuns were students of Taixu, or are the students of his students, including Shengyan of Dharma Drum; and Zhengyan of the Compassion and Salvation Merit Society,[6] and Professor Yang Huinan of Taiwan University.[7]

     Furthermore, Taixu is perhaps even more influential on the Mainland where Zhao Puchu, a former student of Taixu's, has been head

4. Holmes Welch, The Buddhist Revival in China, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 1968) 51. [Hereafter: Welch]

5. Deng Zimei, "Ershi shiji zhongguo fojiao zhihui de jiejing: renjian fojiao lilun de jiangou yu yunzuo (shang)," Fayin 166 (June 1998): 35. [Hereafter: Deng Zimei]

6. Shengyan has many publications available in English, for information about Zhengyan see Richard H. Robinson and Willard L. Johnson, The Buddhist Religion: A Historical Introduction 4th Ed. (New York: Wadsworth 1997) 217-8. [Hereafter: Robinson and Johnson]

7. Deng Zimei 9.




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Chapter I: Introduction

of the Chinese Buddhist Association since the early eighties. In 1983, at Zhao's suggestion, large portions of Taixu's thought were adopted as the "guiding principle" of the Association. Thus today the banner head of Sound of the Dharma (Fayin), the journal of the Chinese Buddhist Association, includes an exhortation to take up "Buddhism among people," a variation of a slogan of Taixu's, and carries articles referring to this idea as the "crystallization of twentieth century Chinese Buddhist wisdom."[8] Thus it seems that something about the thought of this "leader of a small dissident faction" is still compelling and a reexamination of the material is warranted. But first we might ask who is this monk who aroused such admiration and ire? For that we must digress briefly into biography.


The Life of Taixu

     Taixu's humble origins gave no hint of the prominence to which he would rise later in life. He was born Lü Peilin to a poor family in Zhejiang in 1890.[9] His father died when he was an infant leaving him to be raised by his mother and her family. As a boy, he received a primary education in the Confucian classics from an uncle and an initial exposure to Buddhism from his pious grandmother. She often brought the boy along on her pilgrimages, which left a deep impression. When he was fifteen years old his family's financial situation compelled him to seek work as

8. Deng Zimei, "Ershi shiji zhongguo fojiao zhihui de jiejing: renjian fojian lilun de jiangou yu yunzuo (xia)" Fayin 167 (July 1998): 16.

9. Callahan places his birth in 1889 [Paul E. Callahan, "T'ai Hsü and the New Buddhist Movement," Papers on China 6 (1952): 153 (Hereafter: Callahan)], but all other sources agree on 1890.




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter I: Introduction

clerk, but he soon left that job in order to become a monk.[10]

     Taixu studied first at Tiantong Temple under Jichan and later at Yongfeng Temple in Ningbo. He sat in meditation, did koan practice, listened to lectures, and read the sutras. When he was nineteen years old, Taixu had an enlightenment experience while reading the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra. He later wrote:

"Suddenly my heart field was pure and empty. In an instant I returned and regarded my body, my mind, and the material world as illusions and shadows. The meaning of the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra brilliantly manifested itself."

Taixu claimed that after this experience he found his studies suddenly came easily to him as though the meaning was already manifest in his own heart.[11]

     In his youth Taixu also became acquainted with "revolutionary monks" who exposed him to the trends of reformist thought that were popular at the time. Through them he came to read Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao, Zhang Binglin, and others, as well as translations of Tolstoy, Bakuin, and Marx.[12] In 1911 one such revolutionary monk named Renshan involved Taixu in an ill fated attempt to take over Jinshan Monastery, one of the great Chan centers of the day. The ultimate goal of the plan was to turn the monastery into a modern monastic school. There is some doubt as to the extent of Taixu's involvement, but it earned him the lifelong hostility of the conservative faction of monks.[13]

10. "T'ai-hsü" in Howard L. Boorman (ed.) Biographical Dictionary of Republican China (New York: Columbia University Press 1971) 207. [Hereafter: Boorman] What became of his family afterwards is unknown.

11. Shi Xuming, "Taixu dashi shengping shiji," Lengyan jing shelun yu yanjiu by Taixu (Zhonghua 1969) 3-4 (translation my own). [Hereafter: Shi Xuming]

12. Boorman 208.

13. Welch 28-33.




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter I: Introduction

     Taixu had already become a quite active reformer even at this early point in his career. He had served at the Association of Monastic Education in Ningbo, taught briefly at Putuo Shan, founded an Association for the Education of Bhikkus in Guangzhou,[14] and participated in the Buddhist Association (Fojiao xiejin hui) in 1912. More radical than he would be in his later years, Taixu advocated controversial reforms which were influenced by his readings in socialism. Perhaps because of this, they met with a less than enthusiastic response and were never implemented. As it turned out, a similar fate would befall many of his proposals.

     Disappointed at the lukewarm reception of his ideas, in 1914 Taixu went into seclusion (biguan) on Putuo Shan.[15] For the next three years Taixu studied voraciously. In addition to deepening his study of the sutras, sastras, and Confucian classics, he also studied most of the available Western works on logic, philosophy, psychology, and applied science, and also began his study of the Weishi school of Buddhism. Taixu wrote prolifically during this period as well, penning over ten works on a wide range of topics including education, evolution, Mozi, sangha reform, and the Human Vehicle (Ren cheng).[16] When Taixu emerged from his seclusion in 1917 at the age of 29, the basic foundations of his thought had been laid. Although thereafter he frequently revised his proposals and fine tuned his theories, his basic direction remained unchanged.[17]

14. Shi Xuming 3-4.

15. Welch insinuates that his motivation was guilt over the Jinshan incident, however, this seems unlikely given the length of time between the two events -- three years.

16. Chou Hsiang-kuang, "T'ai-hsü: His Life and Teachings," T'ai-hsü: His Life and Teachings, ed. Chou Hsiang-kuang (Allahabad: Indo-Chinese Literature Publications 1957) 6. [Hereafter Chou].

17. Shi Xuming 10.




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter I: Introduction

     For the rest of his life Taixu was one of the most active and outspoken leaders of the Buddhist revival in China. He traveled throughout the country numerous times lecturing on his views regarding Buddhism and the modern world, and even went abroad to lecture in Europe, America, and Southeast Asia. He established several Buddhist academies to train the next generation of monastic leadership and several lay societies to cultivate Buddhism among the urban laity. Taixu's writings, dealing with a wide variety of subjects from sangha reform to science, were numerous and "very popular with the younger generation."[18] Despite his frenetic activity, China in the twenties, thirties, and forties was a difficult time to start a movement and many projects failed, some due to financial difficulty, some due to war, and some due to the opposition of the conservative Buddhist establishment. Towards the end of his life Taixu wrote a "History of the Failure of my Buddhist Revolution." In it he said that problems:

"arising from individual's temperaments were certainly many, and those arising from circumstances were also not few... but I remain confident that my theory and inspiration had their strong points, and if they had received implementation and obtained people of sufficient leadership, I definitely could have established a Buddhist scholarship and system appropriate to modern China."[19]

Taixu died in 1947, two years before the founding of the People's Republic, with many of his dreams still unrealized. After his cremation, followers sifted through the ashes to collect relics which reportedly included

18. According to a prominent lay leader in Shanghai. Kuan Chiung, "Buddhism," The Chinese Yearbook 1936-1937 (Shanghai: 1937) 1448. [Hereafter: Yearbook]

19. Deng Zimei 6 (translation my own).




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter I: Introduction

crystalline sarira of various sizes and colors and his unburned heart.[20]


Taixu's Legacy and Previous Scholarship

     Since his death, scholarly treatments of Taixu's life and work have been few and far between. To date, only two works deal with him at any length and while they both have some merit, they also have serious limitations. The Chinese Buddhist Revival by Holmes Welch, published in 1968, is the largest and most recent work. Welch presents an institutional and social history of the revival as a whole, and spends one chapter and a few other sections dealing specifically with Taixu. Welch uses interviews as well as written records in his account and thus presents much valuable information not found anywhere else. Unfortunately his work is marred by a serious traditionalist bias which leads him to distort his account of Taixu. Welch takes the view and practices of more traditional Buddhist monasticism, exemplified for him by Jinshan, as a normative standard and considers any deviation from this standard a corruption.

     Welch's conception of his mission in writing his scholarly trilogy on contemporary Buddhism was, by his own admission, more than a historical one. He openly refers to Chinese Buddhism as "the hero" of his books and to himself as righting the wrongs done to Buddhism by earlier writers.[21] But Welch was not simply championing Buddhism as a whole but a particular kind of Buddhism. He clearly reveals his stance when he pontificates that Taixu's "serious failing was that he did not seem to have

20. Chou Hsiang-kuang, A History of Chinese Buddhism, (Allahabad: Indo-Chinese Literature Publications 1955) 233.

21. Welch 255.




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter I: Introduction

considered deeply enough on whether, if Chinese Buddhism was reformed in the manner he proposed, it would still be Buddhist or even Chinese."[22] While Holmes Welch had obviously concluded that it would not, what is or is not true Buddhism is not a historical question.

     Welch does not stop at questioning Taixu's orthodoxy, but goes on to question his motives. He tells us at one point that "it would be wrong to picture Taixu as nothing but an unscrupulous self-promoter,"[23] with the obvious implication that although an "unscrupulous self-promoter," might not be all that Taixu is, he is certainly that. At any rate that seems to be the only motivation that Welch is interested in. He says that Taixu "had a flair for promotion -- particularly self promotion,"[24] and attributes his actions to a hunger for "status."[25] No grounds are ever given for these assertions, and little attention is given to the possibility that Taixu may have sincerely believed that his reforms were necessary to save Buddhism.

     If the evidence presented thus far is insufficient to establish Welch's traditionalist bias, we may consider a remark he made in a lecture given at Wellesley College. On that occasion, he said, "Does it sound as if I am against religious reformers, against modernization -- as if I would like to keep the Chinese old-fashioned and superstitious? On the balance, I would."[26]

     The picture of Taixu presented in The Chinese Buddhist Revival is also distorted by Welch's methodology. A strict institutional and social

22. Welch 51. Here Welch seems to be following Liang Souming who made a nearly identical accusation in Lun dongxi wenhua.

23. Welch 70.

24. Welch 51.

25. Welch 219 and 261.

26. Holmes Welch, "Changing Attitudes toward Religion in Modern China," China in Perspective (Wellesley, MA: 1967) 90-1.




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter I: Introduction

historical approach such as Welch's is perfectly legitimate and useful in examining the revival as a whole but it leaves something to be desired in examining Taixu specifically. As I shall later argue, Taixu's thought and his reform program are intimately tied to one another. Holmes Welch makes only a brief, and somewhat contemptuous, nod to Taixu's thought and deals almost exclusively with his institutional work. Divorced from its theoretical underpinnings it comes across as simply a string of organizations, many of which failed or only ever existed on paper, and thus furthers the impression that Taixu was just an opportunistic "self-promoter."

     The other major work on Taixu, Paul Callahan's 1952 paper, "T'ai-hsü and the New Buddhist Movement," is better than Welch in some respects but is still quite limited. Callahan focuses fairly closely on Taixu himself and begins to move toward exploring the connections between Taixu's thought and his reform program but in the end falls short of putting all the pieces together. He recognizes the importance of Taixu's ethical emphasis but simply dismisses his synthetic approach to non-Buddhist schools of thought.[27] Although Callahan isn't as biased in his treatment as is Holmes Welch and refrains from the personal attacks which characterize Welch's work, in the end he too is dismissive of Taixu's contribution. Callahan credits Taixu's popularity to his "imaginative" and "inspiring" apologetics rather than any "originality or innovation."[28] Again, in light of the durability that Taixu's ideas have shown and the current influence they enjoy, a different approach to the material seems justified.

27. Callahan 164.

28. Callahan 167.




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter I: Introduction

A Reexamination and Different Approach

     When we begin to explore the primary materials available for ourselves, we find that our problems are compounded by several factors. Material in English is scant and much of what is available was written by missionaries who, though they were sympathetic and fair, often had an imperfect grasp of Buddhist doctrine and terminology. The even scantier English material by Chinese writers has a similar problem. They were generally quite familiar with Buddhism, but often had an imperfect grasp of English which makes their work occasionally confusing and sometimes simply impenetrable. To find much important information there is no alternative but to seek materials in Chinese. Encountering the works of Taixu himself, however, one quickly gains new sympathy for the past unfortunates who tried to translate his work into English. In his work the usual problems of technical vocabulary are compounded by a widely varying writing style and an idiosyncratic use of terms. To obtain a clear gloss on these terms, one often has to turn to secondary Chinese sources. Thus a clear and coherent picture of Taixu's thought and activities requires a thorough examination of a large body of material.

     The approach to these materials taken here will be predominantly intellectual history. I will focus on drawing out the conceptual connections between the various elements of his thought and between his thought and his reform program. I am concerned then with institutions (e.g. lay societies, Buddhist academies) primarily as they relate to the broader framework of his thought, rather than as social entities in their own right. One outgrowth of this approach is that the significance of a given reform does not lie in its success or failure as an institution. Taixu's




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter I: Introduction

unimplemented plans are potentially as important as his more concrete achievements for this inquiry, because its purpose is not to rate Taixu a success or failure, but to form a comprehensive picture of how the elements of his thought relate to one another.

     The guiding heuristic of this investigation is the assumption that every thinker has a problem or set of problems which his or her thought addresses. This seems to be a particularly useful approach to take in regards to a social reformer such as Taixu who was not solely concerned with theoretical matters, but also placed great emphasis on the application of his ideas. Thus my inquiry begins with the set of problems and plan of action that Taixu identifies in his writings, and then seeks to determine whether or not his thought and reform program actually sought to address those problems, and if so, how.

     Of course, it is conceivable that Taixu's writings and activities would have no relation to the problems he identifies, i.e. that he said one thing and did another. But if so, the evidence will illustrate this and thus the approach here is a falsifiable one. Indeed, since I was only able to scratch the surface of Taixu's writings,[29] there is still the possibility that further research would refute or modify my thesis. Furthermore, the problems and plan of action identified in this inquiry were described as such by Taixu. Therefore, this too is a descriptive and thus falsifiable assertion.

     This approach in examining the available materials is viable for

29. The reasons for this are fourfold: first, Taixu was a prolific writer and his collected works comprise several volumes; second, aside from a few lectures, none of his writings have been translated; third, the original works in Chinese are difficult to come by; and fourth, due to the current limitations of my language skills, reading these works in the original language is a time consuming endeavor.




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter I: Introduction

several reasons. First, I have a sufficient amount of material written by Taixu, biographers (who were also followers), and contemporary foreign observers (sympathetic missionaries, and a few academics). Many of these sources enumerate, with little or no variation, the main aspects of his thought, and in my research I have found information on each. Second, these sources are generally credible. Most were written by people who had contact with Taixu and were familiar with his writings, or who were his followers themselves. Finally, there is a high degree of corroboration amongst the sources.

     There are several approaches that I will avoid in my inquiry, and so, several questions that I will not ask. I am not doing social or cultural history. Furthermore, save by way of introduction, I will not deal with other currents in Buddhist circles at the time or with the political or economic context, except insofar as Taixu dealt with them in his system of thought. Nor will I inquire as to the social factors which fostered the rise of the movement. In addition, I am not doing psychohistory, and so, this inquiry will not ponder Taixu's "deeper" motivations. It is his declared motivations that concern us here.

     I also wish to avoid the unnecessarily normative judgments and essentialist definitions which marred Welch's study. I will not seek to determine whether or not there was really a revival. My use of that term will be simply a convenient and commonly accepted designation for the events in question. Also I will not attempt to determine whether Taixu's reforms were really Buddhist. I will refer to them as Buddhist because he conceived of them as such. Finally, I will not make any assessment as to whether or not Buddhism was actually in decline or the sangha was




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter I: Introduction

actually corrupt. The significant fact here is that Taixu considered this to be the case.

     In fact, "what Taixu considered to be the case" is precisely the object of our inquiry. It is my contention that, in surveying the world around him, Taixu saw two sets of problems -- first with Buddhism and second with the modern world. To address these problems he formulated a plan of action which we might consider a mission statement. The plan comes with a few variations but its basic points are as follows: reduce Mahayana Buddhism to its essence to bring East and West, Tradition and Modernity into harmony, and apply this to present day conditions.[30] Through this threefold plan, Taixu sought to rectify and renew Buddhism, and by establishing and spreading this renewed Buddhism heal the wounds of the modern world.

30. See Lewis Hodous, "The Buddhist Outlook in China," Chinese Student's Monthly 21:6 (1926): 10; Hamilton 165; and Boorman 208.




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter II: Problems

Chapter II


Problems with Buddhism

     Taixu saw several problems with the Buddhism of his day. He found many Buddhists -- both monastic and lay -- to be superstitious. Although on the surface that appears to be a clear enough criticism, "superstition" is a rather ambiguous category of Taixu's thought. Idolatry was included,[31] but the grounds for its inclusion are not entirely clear. The fault seems to derive, at least in part, from what he felt was a mistaken notion of the nature and role of bodhisattvas. In his view, they should not be seen as "idols of mud and wood" to be worshiped but "great minded" beings to be emulated.[32] One might guess that superstition referred to the belief in the supernatural, but Taixu occasionally affirmed the existence of such phenomena. In one essay, for instance, he treats the six paths of rebirth and their various associated beings as literal realities firmly ensconced in their proper place in the cosmology.[33] We might conjecture then that the problem is perhaps not supernatural elements per se, but rather an unsophisticated approach to them.

     The other problems Taixu saw with Buddhism were less ambiguous. First, he charged that Buddhists were otherworldly, that is to say, they were insufficiently interested in social service and education. Speaking specifically of the sangha, he claimed that their services to the

31. Yu-yue Tsu, "Present Tendencies in Chinese Buddhism," Journal of Religion 1:5 (Sept 1921) 507. [Hereafter: Tsu], Hamilton 165.

32. Callahan 162.

33. Taixu. "Lun fojiao lunli jianghua," Taixu fashi wenchao, ed. Wang Mingfu, Xie Jian, and Zhang Shanchang (Shanghai: Zhonghua 1927) 33. [Hereafter: Taixu]




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Chapter II: Problems

broader community were limited to masses for the dead. Second, he claimed that although monks divide up into various schools with particular aims, they consistently fail to realize these aims. Third, he contended that the sangha was too reclusive, which led them to be slighted by the government and the ruling classes. Fourth, he argued that the monks of his day lacked the knowledge of the contemporary world necessary to appeal to modern minds.[34] Finally, he argued that in Buddhism, as in China in general, "familialism" was far too powerful. In his opinion, the superimposition of the Chinese family structure onto the sangha had turned it from a community of "sons of the Buddha" to a group of factious clans. He felt this led to nepotism and private ownership of property which ought to be held by all Buddhists in common. This in turn created resistance to reform and an irrational distribution of resources.[35]

     We can see from such accusations why Taixu was unpopular with some of his fellows. His critique amounted to a virtual indictment of Chinese Buddhism, especially the monastic tradition. But it is important to note that although in one sense this is a call to radical change, in another sense it is comparatively superficial. Taixu did not advocate disbanding the sangha or tossing out the canon, indeed, as we shall see this is the last thing he would want to do. The problems Taixu identified in Buddhism are primarily institutional and required restructuring and reorientation rather than fundamental revision.

34. T'ai-hsü, "A Statement to Asiatic Buddhists," The Young East 1 (1925): 179. [Hereafter: "Statement"]

35. Ruji, "Taixu dashi de jianseng sixiang," Fayin 145 (Sept. 1996) 12. [Hereafter: Ruji]




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Chapter II: Problems

Problems with the Modern World

     The problems with the modern world, on the other hand, went straight to the core of human nature. Taixu delivered a blistering critique on the modern world. In one lecture, he even said "it is not too much to say that modern civilization is the crystallization of man's animal passions and sensual desires.[36] Much of his critique seems to derive from his reaction to the first World War. Writing on his early life, Taixu said,

"The European War broke out. Added to the rottenness of the inward man was the brutal struggle of the outward world. I was convinced of the magnitude of the human calamity, which like a wagonload of hay on fire could not be extinguished with a cupful of water."[37]

To Taixu, as to many of his countrymen, this tragedy testified to the bankruptcy of Western civilization.[38]

     In Taixu's eyes much of the blame fell on science. Although it had contributed great things to people's material well being and knowledge of the universe, it had also created instruments capable of tremendous destruction. More importantly, it undercut the traditional morality that might have constrained the use of those instruments. In Taixu's view the discoveries of science made a theistic worldview utterly untenable, thus the ethical systems which were predicated upon such a worldview no longer held.[39] With theistic religion rendered impotent, human life had

36. "Statement" 178.

37. Hodous 10. See also Hamilton 167, and Taixu, "Science and Buddhism," T'ai-hsü: His Life and Teachings, ed. Chou Hsiang-kuang (Allahabad: Indo-Chinese Literature Publications 1957) 40. [Hereafter: "Science and Buddhism"]

38. Boorman 208.

39. Callahan 161, see also "Science and Buddhism" 40.




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Chapter II: Problems

become "empty and materialistic."[40]

According to Taixu, this plays into an older problem of humankind, "our narrow egoistic desires," which on a large scale manifests as factionalism. As Taixu explains it, "parties are formed for the defense of common interests so that the whole world may be said to be composed of coalitions of sorts, which are always on alert, and whose object is to use every possible means to suppress their rivals."[41] These factions or coalitions include nations, races, and classes, and their constant struggle led Taixu to characterize the modern world as a "world of strifes [sic]." As if this alone were not enough of a problem, added to the sufferings that people inflict upon each other are the natural calamities which spread suffering without regard for factional affiliation.[42]

Thus in Taixu's eyes the modern world, in which sentient beings had grown ever more powerful without growing more wise, stood at the edge of destruction, in desperate need of salvation. The problem Taixu identifies here is fundamental to human nature and essentially moral. Science gave humanity great destructive power and at the same time ate away at the foundations of the theistic morality which might have constrained its use. Thus as Taixu saw it, people gave free reign to their self-centered, egoistic passions and unleashed unprecedented destruction. Significantly, these self-centered, egoistic passions are something that Buddhism has always claimed to be able cure.

40. Karl Ludwig Reichelt, The Transformed Abbot (London: Lutterworth Press 1954) 79. [Hereafter: Abbot]

41. Taixu, "Principles of Chinese Buddhism," T'ai-hsü: His Life and Teachings, ed. Chou Hsiang-kuang (Allahabad: Indo-Chinese Literature Publications 1957) 36. [Hereafter: "Principles"]

42. "Statement" 177, see also Y. Y. Tsu, "Trends of Religion and Thought in China," New Orient II (1933): 42.




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter III: Reduction

Chapter III


     Given this longstanding claim, it should come as no surprise then to find that Taixu began to address these problems by "reducing Mahayana Buddhism to its essence." Like many religious thinkers, Taixu based the other elements of his thought upon his metaphysics. In his view, "the essence of Buddhist doctrine consists in an eternal, unlimited, and absolute conception of the spiritual and material phenomena of the universe."[43] What this conception is exactly is not specified here but in other sources he described Thusness (zhenru), a typical East Asian formulation of emptiness, in quite similar terms. In a piece from Sound of the Sea Tide translated by Pratt, Taixu tells us "that quality of changelessness or sameness in all things, places, and events, is given the name Chen Ru [zhenru]." He continues, saying that:

"it is conceived as... perfect emptiness, yet an emptiness which is the only reality; as the true unity... the source of all things... There is no time or place which has only Chen Ru and has not mind or matter. And there is no thought or material particle which is not Chen Ru... [It] is eternally the true nature of all things."[44]

     This is also consonant with other passages in which Taixu identifies the essence of Buddhism as its view of the unity of all phenomena through the law of cause and effect.[45] Considering the amount of ire that Taixu incurred from Welch and the conservative monastic establishment,

43. Taixu, "The History of Buddhism and Its Recent Tendencies," T'ai-hsü: His Life and Teachings, ed. Chou Hsiang-kuang (Allahabad: Indo-Chinese Literature Publications 1957) 22. [Hereafter: "History"]

44. James Bissett Pratt, The Pilgrimage of Buddhism and a Buddhist Pilgrimage (NY: Macmillan 1928) 413. [Hereafter: Pratt]

45. Chou 18, "Principles" 38, and Callahan 161.




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Chapter III: Reduction

the most surprising thing about these passages is what an uncontroversial stance they take. But then again, perhaps it is not so surprising. Taixu was after all a Mahayana Buddhist monk, well read in the Mahayana sutras and sastras, and thoroughly versed in the doctrines of the Huayan, Tiantai, and Weishi schools. Accordingly we might have expected this sort of an identification. Also, we might recall here that Taixu had his enlightenment experience while reading the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra, which deals specifically with the doctrine of emptiness.

     Though Taixu most often spoke of emptiness as Thusness, he also occasionally made use of other terms and methods of explanation. He was particularly interested in the Weishi, or Mind Only, school of Buddhism and thus in some cases, we see emptiness elaborated specifically in terms of Weishi metaphysics. For example, in a speech given on "the meaning of Buddhism," Taixu asserted that the teachings of the Buddha fall under four headings: first, sentient life emerges in cycles from the alayavijnana and has done so since beginningless time; second, all things arise from consciousness; third, all beings are without a self; and fourth "the universe has no independent, objective existence."[46] Thus, although Taixu varied in his explanations, he consistently affirmed emptiness as the essence of the Mahayana.

     The significance of this choice becomes clearer in light of what he did not identify as the essence. He did not choose a practice, such as chan or reciting dharani, nor did he choose an attitude, such as piety. Instead Taixu saw a doctrine as the essence of Mahayana Buddhism. This gave his entire system of thought and reform program a distinct intellectual tilt

46. T'ai-hsü, "The Meaning of Buddhism," trans. Frank Millican, Chinese Recorder 65 (1934): 692-3. [Hereafter: "Meaning"]




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and elite orientation. If the essence is this rather abstruse doctrine, then Taixu's Buddhism was primarily for those with the intellectual tools to understand it. This also manifested itself in Taixu's treatment of Buddhist history. In his account, the spread of Buddhism across Asia was treated solely in terms of the spread of doctrine. He saw it as a drama in which the primary actors were the "intellectual classes." For instance, the reason the Buddha resorted to the upaya of the Lesser Vehicle was that "the intellectual classes of India were absorbed in the search for atman,"[47] whereas, in contrast, those same classes in China have "always risen to the majestic heights of the true doctrine.[48] Taixu's identification of the essence of the Mahayana will prove significant both in its narrower sense, as Thusness, and in its more general sense, as doctrine.

     Taixu's identification of doctrine as the essence of Buddhism also had an impact on his conception of the Buddha and the bodhisattvas. Taixu would strip them of their supernatural aspects and focus instead on their realization of doctrine. As a result, Taixu's Sakyamuni lies closer to the realized sage of the Pali canon than the cosmic savior of the Lotus Sutra. The Buddha is not a "supernatural being" but rather someone "who has realized the truth of all existence, and having conformed his life to it, incites us by his compassion to do likewise."[49] Sakyamuni is a savior only in the sense of being an exemplar.[50] All beings can, and indeed eventually must, become Buddhas themselves, though in recorded history only Gautama has thus far been successful.[51] Likewise, bodhisattvas

47. "History" 23.

48. "History" 25.

49. "Principles" 38.

50. Frank R. Millican, "T'ai-hsü and Modern Buddhism," Chinese Recorder 54:6 (1923): 330.

51. "Meaning" 691.




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should be viewed not as saviors but as "great people of thought," and this too is a status to which all may aspire, for in Taixu's view "however many of us that [sic] can develop this sort of great mindedness, just as many are Bodhisattvas. But only as one understands and puts into practice Buddhism can he come to be called a Bodhisattva."[52] Taixu thus gives the understanding of doctrine a key role in religious practice, and also diminishes the intercessory role of Buddhas and bodhisattvas.

The most important aspect to note in regards to Taixu's reduction is its universality. This is a point which he consistently stresses. Thusness is not simply one doctrine among many, but "a true conception of the Universe and of all living beings."[53] Nothing is excluded and therefore it is applicable to everything. And Taixu did, in fact, apply this concept of Thusness to everything, including fields beyond the scope of traditional Buddhism.

52. Callahan 162.

53. "History" 22.




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Chapter IV


     Upon this metaphysical foundation of Thusness, Taixu attempted to construct a harmonization of "East and West, Tradition and Modernity." This may be conveniently -- if not altogether cleanly -- divided into his attempt to harmonize elements of Western modernity with Buddhism and his attempt to harmonize Buddhism with modernity. The former may in turn be conveniently divided into his treatment of forms of knowledge and his treatment of forms of political ideology.


Harmonizing Modernity with Buddhism:
Forms of Knowledge

     Taixu classified what he saw as the primary forms of knowledge in a hierarchy ranging from merely animal awareness to the perfect awareness of an enlightened Buddha. Between these two poles fall the various Buddhist and non-Buddhist forms of knowledge. Included in this scheme were "theoretical forms of knowledge" which Taixu tried to bring into harmony with the Dharma. These "theoretical forms of knowledge" came in four varieties -- scientific, philosophical, religious, and moral. To summarize briefly, science is distinguished by the stress it puts on perception and experience as well as analysis and synthesis. In contrast, philosophy relies on reasoned thought and inference. Religion posits the existence of a supreme being and seeks to attain truth through supernatural means, while moral forms of knowledge seek truth through




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disciplining the heart and mind.[54] The whole hierarchy may be represented by the diagram on the following page:[55]

54. Taixu, "Learning: Its Purpose and Method," T'ai-hsü: His Life and Teachings, ed. Chou Hsiang-kuang (Allahabad: Indo-Chinese Literature Publications 1957) 63. [Hereafter: "Learning"]

55. Drawn from "Learning" 62-65.




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     The most important thing to note about this diagram is that the knowledge of the Buddha is firmly ensconced at the top of the hierarchy. The knowledge which distinguishes a Buddha or a bodhisattva, according to Taixu, is the knowledge of doctrine, most importantly the essence of that doctrine, Thusness. This is the standard against which Taixu measured all other forms of knowledge and found them wanting. According to Taixu, one can reach the elementary truths of Buddhism through common knowledge (sense perception) and learning, but only the Buddhist scholar, through sila (ethics), samadhi (concentration), and prajna (wisdom), can approach ultimate Truth.[56] Nevertheless, the other forms are not without their merits, and can be salvaged by an application of Buddhadharma.

     Of all the non-Buddhist forms of knowledge, Taixu accords the most merit to science saying that "under the three headings of (1) the scientist, (2) the Bodhisattva, (3) the fully Conscious One-truth is really approached."[57] He views science as the highest form of theoretical knowledge. As noted, its defining traits are the stress it lays on perception and experience, and the use it makes of analysis and synthesis.[58] In his view, science proceeds first by specialization and delineation of particular fields. The scientists in those fields then make observations, "ascertain the nature of the object" of study, and verify their observations. From this they then formulate hypotheses and experiments. If the results of these experiments are consistently repeatable then they must be accepted as

56. "Learning" 66. This lecture makes no mention of what to make of the other Buddhist forms of knowledge. As we shall see, he did discuss this topic at length elsewhere, though he uses somewhat different categories.

57. "Learning" 65-6.

58. "Learning" 63.




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scientific law. Taixu grants that "when its methods are accurate, cautious, and thorough, then [science] can be considered to be irreproachable."[59] Thus science is granted authority in describing the apparent nature of the phenomenal world. Its methods of experimental induction and theoretical deduction serve to correct superstition and arbitrary reasoning, as well as probe the secrets of nature and contribute to humanity's material well being.[60] Using such methods even "the Buddhist scholar is aided in his research."[61]

     Science, however, does not and cannot have the last word. As Taixu sees it, it suffers from two limitations inherent in its very nature. First, it is always predicated upon hypotheses and thus can never reach ultimate understanding. Reasoning based on hypotheses can never produce the "direct perception" which leads to "the truth of the Universe."[62] Second,

"scientific method in its study of the natural world organizes and classifies knowledge through careful analysis... But... when an object or living organism is dissected or analyzed it has already lost its original nature [yuan xing]. It is all right to analyze the universe and human life, but the thing analyzed is actually a complete whole, or a living organism. Science cannot analyze [the whole]"[63]

Thus in Taixu's view, if we wish to understand things as a whole, science is insufficient, and so, falls short of the universal conception of existence found in Buddhism.

     Taixu felt this problem was compounded by another serious

59. "Science and Buddhism" 40-1.

60. "History" 30.

61. "Science and Buddhism" 45.

62. "History" 30-31.

63. Callahan 163.




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shortcoming-scientists' overconfidence in their own method. This leads them to ignore the Dharma,[64] and myopically attempt to "improve [their] instruments rather than [their] inner vision."[65] Thus they never achieve the direct insight necessary to see the entire universe as it really is, i.e. Thusness. Therefore despite its authority in some areas, science is seemingly limited to an incomplete understanding of reality.

     As Taixu saw it, however. Buddhism has the potential to remedy this lack, because it is completely compatible with science since it is based not upon an untenable belief in a creator god, but upon an "eternal, unlimited, and absolute conception of the spiritual and material phenomena of the Universe."[66] Buddhism alone among religions "does not contradict scientific truth but rather confirms it."[67] In addition to this more abstract compatibility, Taixu attempted to show that many contemporary scientific theories confirmed specific points of Buddhist doctrine. In his eyes, modern astronomy confirmed the Buddhist cosmology with its millions of worlds existing in limitless space and time, and Einstein's theory of relativity confirmed Weishi idealism.[68] Taixu felt that Buddhism could even directly inform scientific theory, as seen in an article in which he argued that a controversy in psychology could be resolved by the teachings of the Surangama Sutra.[69]

64. "Science and Buddhism" 41.

65. "Science and Buddhism" 47.

66. "History" 22.

67. "History" 30.

68. Wing-tsit Chan, Religious Trends in Modern China, (NY: Columbia University Press 1953) 88-9.

69. Taixu. "Xingweixue yu weigenlun ji weishenlun," Haichaoyin wenku 1:1 (1933): 78-84. For further discussion of the connection between Buddhism and psychology see: Taixu. "Xingweixue yu xinlixue." Haichaoyin wenku 1:1 (1933): 60-78. In seeking to connect science and the Dharma, Taixu occasionally stretched his point, as in a discussion of evolution in which he appears to conflate biological evolution with transmigration ("Principles" 34).




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     Ultimately despite its valuable contributions and points of correspondence with Buddhadharma, the proper role of science is as an adjunct to Buddhism which can complete its deficiencies by providing a more comprehensive view of the universe. In Taixu's view. Buddhism can explain all the truths investigated by science,[70] but the truths of the Dharma are beyond its scope.[71] Thus although Buddhism completes science, "science... can never be the main support for Buddhism although it may act as a valuable auxiliary and much may be expected from uniting the two methods of investigation."[72] For all its merits, science remains firmly subordinate to Buddhism.

     Taixu takes a similar tactic in dealing with Western philosophy, although his treatment of this subject is somewhat less consistent than his treatment of science. At times he gives it credit for approaching the truths of Buddhism, while at other times he treats it as little more than a two thousand year mistake. For instance, in a lecture given in France he described the entire history of Western philosophy as a sort of progressive descent into error. As Taixu saw it. Western philosophy began with the Greeks who sought principally to investigate noumenon. Over the centuries, however, philosophy gradually digressed from this original and proper aim and fell into endless controversies, impeding any real progress. According to Taixu, the origin of the fault lay not in the attempt to penetrate the nature of noumenon, but in the methods used. Noumenon cannot be known by mere analysis and debate. It can be apprehended only

70. "Principles" 39.

71. "Science and Buddhism" 42.

72. "Science and Buddhism" 47.




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intuitively through meditation and awakening.[73] This is the same criticism that was leveled at science, though philosophy is given less credit as a useful mode of knowledge.

     Because Buddhism takes the true realization of noumenon, i.e. Thusness, as its starting point, its teaching is a "clear perception of things freed from all illusion" whereas "philosophy is an erroneous perception based on illusions."[74] The core of Western philosophy's problem lies in what Taixu sees as its point of departure -- the assumption "that the men and worlds before our eyes are a reality." From this erroneous axiom philosophers attempt to identify the "original substance" which undergirds that reality; sometimes identifying it as Mind, sometimes as Matter, sometimes as a Mind-Matter dualism. Ultimately, "in thinking of this sort, vagueness and error enter in at the very beginning; hence, howsoever [philosophers] search [they] cannot come to the truth."[75] Thus Buddhism returns philosophy to its original aim by correcting the fundamental errors found in philosophy's method and assumptions.

     Elsewhere Taixu was more generous regarding philosophy. He saw some schools of Western philosophy current in his day as beginning to approach the truths of Buddhism. As he understood it, Neo-Kantianism, New Realism, Pragmatism, Creative Evolution, and Emergent Evolution all took the nonexistence of substance as their point of departure. What then is the nature of the phenomena we see before us? According to New Realism they are "logical constructs" (translated into Chinese as lunli

73. Taixu, "Philosophy and Buddhism," T'ai-hsü: His Life and Teachings, ed. Chou Hsiang-kuang (Allahabad: Indo-Chinese Literature Publications 1957) 48-57. [Hereafter: "Philosophy"]

74. "Philosophy" 57.

75. Pratt 403.




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goucheng), according to Pragmatism, "intellectual symbolic constructs" (zhishi diaocheng). In Taixu's view, this parallels almost word for word two terms used in the Weishi school of Buddhism, respectively, "that which is produced by causes" (yinyuan suocheng) and "that which is manifested by consciousness" (weishi suoxian).[76] Even conceding this, however. Western philosophy is still only groping blindly at what Buddhism saw clearly from the very beginning -- the emptiness of phenomenon. It can hardly approach, let alone rival, the truths of Buddhism.

     Likewise, non-Buddhist religions are given credit for approaching truth in some respects but in other respects have fallen into serious error. Taixu revealed the core of his view on other religions in his gloss of the word used to translate that Western term into Chinese -- zongjiao. To analyze the phenomenon, Taixu broke the term up into its component characters. Zong refers to the inner spiritual experience had by the religious practitioner. This is common to all religions and thus the experiential aspect of religion is universally legitimate. Jiao refers to the ways in which this experience is explained to others though doctrines and creeds. This is the aspect which varies from religion to religion and which can be in error.[77]

     Although Taixu conceded this core of truth to all religions, he thought that in the case of Christianity error predominated. In an essay entitled "There is No Need to Either Reform or Destroy the Christian Church," Taixu argued that the religion has "run its course and is dead."[78]

76. Callahan 163.

77. Callahan 165. This gloss does not strictly conform to the lexical definitions of these two characters.

78. Millican's phrasing.




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In his view it is fundamentally flawed in that it is founded upon three core superstitions: God,[79] the soul, and Christ. In light of Thusness, these three doctrines are utterly untenable."[80] If all things arise according to the laws of karma, where is there room for a creator? If all things are impermanent and empty, how can one have a soul? And if one's salvation rests on one's own understanding of the Buddhist doctrine, how can Jesus save? Taixu not only found Christianity distinctly inferior in its metaphysics, he also felt that it overemphasizes faith at the expense of understanding.[81]

     Despite these serious inadequacies, Taixu did feel that Christianity has some strong points. He advised his students to study the religion, because it has some very "good and helpful ideas" particularly in regard to "true compassion and self denial."[82] Taixu also thought highly of Christian institutions such as hospitals and schools, however, he saw these sorts of endeavors as, at their root, common to all religions and not the product of a genius unique to Christianity.[83] Thus what little merit Taixu saw in Christianity was, like science and philosophy, subordinate to that of Buddhism. And significantly, what he saw as meritorious was the religion's ethical teachings and the institutions though which it had applied them.

     The final category, moral forms of knowledge, which included

79. Taixu actually conceded the existence of the Christian God, just not as Christians conceive of him. Taixu placed him in Indra's heaven atop Mount Sumeru approximately on a level with the Heavenly Kings, but below the "high ones" of Taoism and Brahmanism whom he placed in the Antariksa heaven and Brahmalokas (Taixu 284).

80. Millican 333.

81. Abbot 79.

82. Karl L. Reichelt, Truth and Tradition in Chinese Buddhism (Shanghai: The Commercial Press 1927) 302. (Hereafter: Truth and Tradition)

83. Millican 333.




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Confucianism and Taoism, received better treatment than Christianity because as Taixu saw it, they deal primarily with ethics and avoided doctrines such as the "soul" or a creator god. Taixu himself emphasized ethics, as we shall see, thus moral knowledge is compatible with the Dharma and can even act to prepare people for the higher doctrines of Buddhism. For instance, Confucianism's emphasis on "right conduct" and "adjusting to circumstances"[84] paved the way for the introduction of Buddhism to China. Its humanitarian attitude prepared the way for an understanding of the Bodhisattva doctrine. Taoism also played a role in the introduction of Buddhism, in that its naturalistic philosophy prepared the Chinese character for a "simple and disinterested way of life."[85]

Taixu held that Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism could also cooperate productively in the establishment of modern Chinese culture. This endeavor would be "established upon a foundation of Buddhist faith." It would "use Laozi and Zhuangzi to solve worldliness," and "take Confucius and Mencius as a model for the whole of human morals," and in the end "return to Buddhism to free people's natures."[86] Exactly what Taixu meant by this and how he thought it would work in practice is unclear. The important thing to note is that these three could aid in the task of renewing China, but only by being firmly subordinated to Buddhism. This brings our discussion around to the more practical systems of Taixu's day, which were often employed in hopes of effecting this renewal.

84. Callahan 166.

85. "History" 24-5.

86. Shi Xuming 36 (translation my own).




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Harmonizing Modernity with Buddhism:
Political Ideology

     In early twentieth century China a multitude of different systems were being bandied about as the solution to the numerous ills which beset the country as it entered the modern era. Constitutional monarchism, anarchism, communism and many other "isms" all had their adherents. In Taixu's opinion, however, although such ideologies sought to alleviate suffering and institute just government, they were in a certain sense doomed to failure because,

"these 'isms' have been worked out by minds that have not been perfectly free from the three basic evils... Any remedy or means of cure for the present troubled world worked out by minds which are not free from such evils will only increase the troubles instead of checking or preventing them."[87]

These basic evils are the "egoistic passions" that Taixu saw running unchecked in the modern world. According to Taixu, the way to rid "isms" of these evils, of course, was Dharma. Thus, like the various modes of knowledge, political ideologies also find their completion and rectification in Buddhism.

     Of this mass of political systems, the only one to become the official guiding ideology of the nation in Taixu's lifetime was Sanminism (Sanmin Zhuyi). This system took as its foundation the "Three People's Principles" of Sun Yat-sen: People's Livelihood, Democracy, and Nationalism. Of these three, People's Livelihood (minsheng zhuyi) was a rather vague principle often identified with socialism, although Sun Yat-sen himself disavowed class struggle and supported limited capitalism and

87. "Statement" 178.




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land redistribution. Democracy (minquan zhuyi, literally "People's Rights") entailed popular sovereignty and an administrative apparatus modeled after American Progressivism. The final principle. Nationalism (minzu zhuyi), meant first an anti-Manchu, then later an anti-imperialist stance."[88]

     Although these principles seem positive on the face of it, Dayuan, one of the most prominent writers in Taixu's journal Sound of the Sea Tide, wrote:

"The principle of Peoples' Livelihood of the San-min-chu-i [Sanmin Zhuyi] lies in seeking clothing, food, and shelter sufficient to daily life; but this develops the poison of desire. The principle of Democracy lies in strong competition sufficient to sustain life; but this develops the poison of anger. The principle of Nationalism incites one nation to oppose another people; this develops the poison of ignorance."

To cure these three poisons Sanminism needs to be "Buddhicized" (fohua). As Taixu saw it. Buddhism must serve as the "guide," Sanminism, the attendant.[89] Precisely what this means or how it would be accomplished is unclear from the materials available, but it is clear that, according to Taixu, to actually uphold its three principles, Sanminism must be corrected by Buddhadharma.

     Sanminism's chief ideological competitor for the hearts of the people was socialism. As Taixu saw it, the chief aim of socialism was to

88. John K. Fairbank, Edwin 0. Reischauer, and Albert M. Craig, East Asia: Tradition and Transformation, Revised Ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1989) 780. Romanization of the terms found on pages 745-46.

89. Callahan 166. Given the clear parallel between this statement and Taixu's statement about "isms" and the venue in which it was presented it seems reasonable to take it as a reflection of Taixu's opinion as well as Dayuan's. Further, Taixu himself said that "Buddhism is the ultimate goal of Sanminism and Sanminism is Buddhism put into practice" [C. Yates McDaniel, "Buddhism Makes its Peaces with the New Order," Asia 35:9 (Sept 1935): 541].




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break up the capitalist monopoly on the means of production and thereby ease the sufferings of the proletariat, whose position had been weakened in the modern world as machinery eclipsed labor in importance.[90] Although Taixu approved of this aim insofar as it arises from compassion for the laboring classes, he had serious qualms regarding socialism's methods. Taixu saw it as a mistake to focus all attention upon the environment and ignore the individual because inequality arises from greed as much as economics. Further, he felt that socialism ignores the workings of karma. In his view, the different classes are reaping different karmic rewards and retributions, and more importantly, according to the law of karma, a bloody revolution will bear bloody fruit which could easily lead to warlordism or mere mob-rule. Finally, socialism makes the mistake of attempting to eliminate "mine" without first eliminating "me." Since, from the Buddhist perspective, grasping at objects as one's own derives from the illusion of ego, it is impossible to truly eliminate private property without destroying the false sense of self. Accordingly, socialism merely removes the material objects while leaving the fundamental mistake uncorrected.[91]

     Like other systems of thought, socialism can be rehabilitated by an application of Buddhism. Taixu held that rather than focusing solely on the environment, socialists must begin to correct individuals. This can be accomplished by upholding the five precepts and practicing the ten virtuous deeds, and by recognizing that the roots of all outer conditions lie in the mind. Most importantly, the ultimate obstacle, the illusory self,

90. Taixu, "Yi fofa piping shehuizhuyi." Taixu fashi wenchao, ed. Wang Ming Fu, Xie Jian, and Zhang Shanchang (Shanghai; Zhonghua 1927) 312. [Hereafter: "Shehuizhuyi"]

91. "Shehuizhuyi" 314-6.




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must be cut off and overcome.[92] On the balance, Taixu felt socialism's "hopes are virtuous. But although it has this aim, its actions and practices are not quite right... [It requires Buddhadharma to] elucidate selflessness, impermanence, suffering, and non-purity."[93]

     Thus we see yet again that in Taixu's vision socialism -- like science, philosophy, religion, moral knowledge, and Sanminism -- is essentially compatible with and perfected by Buddhism. Though all have their usefulness and merits, they lack the comprehensive view of the Buddhadharma and must be corrected by it in order to achieve their aims. At this point, we might begin to suspect that the compatibility and subordination of these various systems of thought is of greater priority for Taixu than their individual traits and characteristics which he occasionally gives rather limited attention. In harmonizing the modern world with Buddhism, Taixu's priority was harmonization and subordination, in harmonizing Buddhism with the modern world, however, Taixu's priorities lay elsewhere.


Harmonizing Buddhism with the Modern World

     In order to harmonize Buddhism with the modern world and enable the Dharma to meet the needs of the time, Taixu reoriented the teachings and laid overwhelming stress on ethical aspects of Buddhism. To do this, he employed a technique with very deep roots in the Chinese Buddhist tradition -- the panjiao. Panjiao's were used by such schools as

92. "Shehuizhuyi" 316-7.

93. "Shehuizhuyi" 317 (translation my own). It is interesting to note that Taixu was considerably less forgiving when speaking of actual rather than abstract socialists. He once called the Communist party "simply a devil mob of wild beasts and poisonous snakes" (Callahan 167).




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Tiantai and Huayan to "divide the teachings" (which is what the Chinese term literally means) and arrange them in a hierarchy. Atop this hierarchy sat the teachings of their own school, naturally, as the most perfect and complete expression of the Buddha's teaching. Although it obviously derives from this historical model, Taixu does not refer to his systemization of the different schools of Buddhism as a panjiao but rather as a panshe (literally: "division and assimilation"). Taixu used this variant term because he saw his aims as more egalitarian and sought to distance himself from the hierarchical aspect of traditional panjiao's,[94] although elements of hierarchy do eventually emerge in his final version.

     Over the course of his career Taixu formulated three different panshe's. The first, formulated before his period of seclusion, was quite simple. Taixu divided the schools of Chinese Buddhism on the basis of his distinction between zong and jiao, that is, between the inner spiritual experience and the way that experience is taught and expressed to others. Unsurprisingly, Taixu identified Chan, which has always emphasized direct experience, as zong, while Tiantai, Huayan, Weishi, Madhyamaka, Pure Land and the Esoteric school were all classified as jiao.[95] In contrast to traditional panjiao's, the division here was based on function rather than relative truth of the doctrine. Further, among the jiao, no ranking was made whatsoever.

     While in seclusion he developed a more sophisticated schema which incorporated the Vinaya school in addition to the seven schools just mentioned. The number of categories in this systemization was greatly increased in an attempt to show the way in which the different

94. Shi Xuming 12.

95. Shi Xuming 11.




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schools relate to one another. This panshe may be represented by the diagram on the following page:[96]



96. Shi Xuming 12 (translation my own). For another good English translation see Blofeld 124.




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Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter IV: Harmonization

     In essence, Taixu saw these eight schools as "eight jewels in a single ornament."[97] That is to say, he considered them equal in realization but different in their practices; therefore, he thought one should not exalt one at the expense of the others. I have found no systematic explanation or justification for the categories used in this schema. Some seem fairly clear such as the designation of the Vinaya school as the "foundation." Others are more difficult to understand, such as the distinction between wisdom (zhi) and knowledge (hui), which are usually treated as synonymous. It may simply be that Taixu drew some of these distinctions for the sake of symmetry. Whether they were drawn for this reason or not, such hairsplitting categories indicate a powerful urge to accord every school its own proper place and function within the overall structure.

     Up to this point the categories Taixu used have not necessarily denoted a hierarchy. Taixu's final panshe, however, did contain hierarchical elements which he utilized in the service of harmonizing Buddhism with the modern world. This third panshe was formulated in 1924.[98] It was his grandest synthesis of the various Buddhist teachings, and the most important for our inquiry. This panshe Taixu extended the logic of his previous panshe's to its ultimate conclusion, organizing all schools of Buddhism of every nation and every vehicle, but according higher standing to those of East Asia. Most importantly, however, it justified Taixu's emphasis on ethics.

     Taixu classified all the schools of Buddhism according to three categories: "teachings" (jiao), "principle" (li), and "practice" (xing). The

97. John Blofeld, The Jewel in the Lotus: An Outline of Present Day Buddhism in China, (Westport, Connecticut: Hyperion Press 1948) 123.

98. Chou 9-10.




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first category, teaching, is further divided into the three "periods" (qi) and three "departments" (xi). The three periods refer to the three phases of the development of Buddhism in India. Taixu divides these epochs according to which form of Buddhism he saw as dominant, rather than according to events or specific dates. In the first period, the Hinayana prevailed while the Mahayana was in concealment. The precise nature of this "concealment" is unclear, but it almost certainly refers to the traditional Mahayana view that its doctrine was preached by Sakyamuni but then hidden in one manner or another for the first few centuries. In Taixu's second period the Mahayana predominated and the Hinayana was secondary. With the onset of the final period, the Mahayana came to prevail while the Hinayana went into concealment. Within the Mahayana during this epoch the Esoteric schools -- the schools which emerged out of the Tantra movement -- came to predominate, while the Exoteric schools -- the earlier schools of the Mahayana -- became secondary.[99]

     The second subdivision is related to the first. Taixu's "departments" each refer to a canonical language and by extension the areas and schools which utilize it. One department emerged in each period according to the form of Buddhism that was dominant at that time -- the Pali department when Hinayana was ascendant, the Chinese when the Mahayana was ascendant, and the Tibetan when the Esoteric school was ascendant. This threefold division of Buddhism is one which we will see again later in our discussion. This first category of "teachings" may be outlined as follows:[100]

99. Shi Xuming 13-4.

100. Shi Xuming 13-4 (translation my own).




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Chapter IV: Harmonization


The Three Periods

The Period in which the Hinayana prevailed and the Mahayana was concealed
The Period in which the Mahayana was predominant and the Hinayana was secondary
The Period in which the Mahayana prevailed and the Hinayana was concealed, and in which the esoteric predominated and the exoteric was secondary

The Three Departments

The Department of the Pali Language
The Department of the Chinese Language
The Department of the Tibetan Language

     Whereas in this first category, Taixu arranged the various forms of Buddhism according to their historical origins, under the second category of his panshe, "principle," he arranged them according to their metaphysics. This category, like the first, is divided into two subcategories -- the three degrees (ji), and the three schools (zong). The three degrees refer to different explanations of the "principle," or "metaphysical principle," of each.[101] The term "degree" therefore seems to connote progressively deeper understandings of this "principle." The first degree is the common Dharma of the five vehicles (Heavenly, Sravaka, Pratyekabuddha, Human and Bodhisattva Vehicles). This common Dharma is "conditioned arising" (yuan qi), the idea that all

101. Shi Xuming 13-4.




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things arise according to causes and conditions. The second degree is the common Dharma of the three vehicles (Heavenly, Sravaka, and Pratyekabuddha). This refers to the three signs (san yin), which have traditionally been seen as the doctrines which a Hinayana sutra must contain to be considered legitimate -- no self, impermanence, and Nirvana.[102] The third and final degree is the special Dharma of the Great Vehicle -- the doctrine of the state of bhutathata (yi shi xiang), the oneness of Thusness,[103] which denotes the undifferentiated oneness of the Buddhanature. This doctrine has traditionally been regarded as the sign of an authentic Mahayana scripture.

The three "degrees" also seem to refer to three progressive degrees of spiritual attainment that result from each. According to Taixu through the common Dharma of the Five Vehicles one can "rid oneself of evil and practice good and thereby advance the happiness of the human world." By means of the common Dharma of the Three Vehicles one can advance to "gradually awaken, cut off delusion and realize truth, and liberate people from their sufferings and vexations." Finally, through the special Dharma of the Great vehicle, one can "suddenly awaken, at once become a Buddha, and perfect the realization of one's nature."[104]

Taixu distinguished the three "schools," the second subdivision, by their three different formulations of this special Dharma and arranged them progressively according to the depth of their explanations.[105] This category bears resemblance to the panjiao's of Tiantai and Huayan. The

102. It is not entirely clear why this common Dharma is ranked higher than the one that precedes it.

103. Deng Zimei 3-4.

104. Deng Zimei 3-4 (translation my own).

105. Shi Xuming 13-4.




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first school, the "School of the Wisdom [that Discerns the] Empty Natures of Dharmas" (Faxing kong hui zong), refers to the Madhyamaka or "Three Treatise" (San Lun) school.[106] This school taught that all phenomena or dharmas, are empty of an independent self nature and come into existence only as the result of causes and conditions. Taixu felt that this school offered the most "concise view and practice." The second school, that of the "School of the Mind Only [Nature] of the Characteristics of Dharmas" (Faxiang weishi zong), or simply Weishi, taught that phenomena are empty in that they are all products of Mind. He felt that this school had a particularly good explanation of karma.[107] The final and highest school is the "School of the Perfect Enlightenment of the Dharmadhatu" (Fajie yuanjue zong) which refers to the Tiantai and Huayan schools.[108] These two schools taught the unobstructed interpenetration of phenomena. This classification both reflects and reinforces the overwhelming importance Taixu accorded emptiness as the essence of the Mahayana. It also reflects his propensity to vary his explanations of this principle, for although he placed the "School of the Perfect Enlightenment of the Dharmadhatu" at the top of this hierarchy, he attributed some merit to the other schools as well. The category of "principle" may be summarized as follows:[109]

106. Although this school is not explicitly referred to as the "Three Treatise School," several things support this identification. On page 15 of Shi Xuming Zhongguan is used as a synonym for this school. Zhongguan is the name of the most important of the three treatises, and Zhonglan xing jiao is another name for Madhyamaka. Further, in his second panshe Taixu classified Madhyamaka under the category of nature (xing), and the subcategory wisdom (hui).

107. Deng Zimei 6.

108. Shi Xuming 13-4.

109. Shi Xuming 13-4 (translation my own).




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Chapter IV: Harmonization


The Three Degrees

The Common Dharma of the Five Vehicles
The Common Dharma of the Three Vehicles
The Special Dharma of the Great Vehicle

The Three Schools

The School of the Wisdom of the Empty Natures of Dharmas
The School of the Dharma Character of Mere Ideation
The School of the Perfect Enlightenment of the Dharmadhatu

     The final division of the teachings, "practice," is most important for our inquiry. Taixu followed tradition in dividing the history of Buddhism into the three ages of the Dharma, each lasting one thousand years, however, he deviated from tradition in asserting that in each era there is one vehicle which is the most appropriate expedient means for that time. By practicing these vehicles one may advance to one aspect or another of the Great Vehicle,[110] which he seemed to view as synonymous with the Bodhisattva Vehicle.[111] Taixu saw this vehicle as not simply an expedient device but the true path to enlightenment and thus the ultimate destination of all vehicles.[112] Therefore, in the Period of the True Dharma

110. The precise nature of these aspects is unclear.

111. This identification is based on a passage in "History" (30) in which he speaks of the practice of the Human Vehicle leading to the "ten stations," which is presumably a translation of the ten bhumi. However, this apparently contradicts the inclusion of the Bodhisattva Vehicle in the Five Vehicles. It may be that it is identified as one of the Five Vehicles insofar as it is a path of ethical service dedicated to advancing "the happiness of the human world," but identified with the Great Vehicle insofar as it leads to ultimate realization. Or Taixu may simply be inconsistent on this point.

112. Deng Zimei 4.




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one relies on the practices of the Sravaka Vehicle (Shengwen cheng), that is, Hinayana Buddhism, and advances to "producing the heart" of the Great Vehicle. In the second period, that of the Counterfeit Dharma, one relies on the practice of the Heavenly Vehicle (Tian cheng) and advances to "obtaining the fruit" of the Great Vehicle.[113] Taixu's use of the term "Heavenly Vehicle" deviates a bit from tradition. Traditionally it refers to practices which secure rebirth in one of the various heavens, but Taixu uses it to refer to Pure Land and Esoteric Buddhism.[114] In the final era, the Period of the Termination of the Dharma, one relies on the practices and fruits of the Human Vehicle (Ren cheng) and advances to the practice of the Great Vehicle. Like the Heavenly Vehicle, the "Human Vehicle" is a traditional term, but, as we shall see, Taixu accords it unprecedented importance. This final division may be outlined as follows:[115]


The Period of the True Dharma in which one relies on the practices and fruits of the Sravaka Vehicle and advances to producing the heart of the Great Vehicle.
The Period of the Counterfeit Dharma in which one relies on the practices and fruits of the Heavenly Vehicle and advances to obtaining the fruit of the Great Vehicle

113. Shi Xuiming 13-4.

114. Deng Zimei 4.

115. Shi Xuming 13-4 (translation my own).




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Chapter IV: Harmonization

The Period of the termination of the Dharma in which one relies on the practices and fruits of the Human Vehicle and advances to entering the cultivation of the practices of the Great Vehicle

     By way of summary, we may combine the three categories and outline the whole panshe as follows:


The Three Periods

The Period in which the Hinayana prevailed and the Mahayana was concealed
The Period in which the Mahayana was predominant and the Hinayana was secondary
The Period in which the Mahayana prevailed and the Hinayana was concealed, and in which the esoteric predominated and the exoteric was secondary

The Three Departments

The Department of the Pali Language
The Department of the Chinese Language
The Department of the Tibetan Language


The Three Degrees

The Common Dharma of the Five Vehicles
The Common Dharma of the Three Vehicles
The Special Dharma of the Great Vehicle




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter IV: Harmonization

The Three Schools

The School of the Wisdom of the Empty Natures of Dharmas
The School of the Dharma Character of Mere Ideation
The School of the Perfect Enlightenment of the Dharmadhatu


The Period of the True Dharma in which one relies on the practices and fruits of the Sravaka Vehicle and advances to producing the heart of the Great Vehicle.
The Period of the Counterfeit Dharma in which one relies on the practices and fruits of the Heavenly Vehicle and advances to obtaining the fruit of the Great Vehicle
The Period of the termination of the Dharma in which one relies on the practices and fruits of the Human Vehicle and advances to entering the cultivation of the practices of the Great Vehicle

     Taixu's identification of the Human Vehicle as the expedient means for our era was the crux of his attempt to bring Buddhism into harmony with the modern world. He held that, today, if one practices according to the Lesser Vehicle one will be "reviled as negative and escapist," and if one practices according to the Heavenly Vehicle one will be "slandered as superstitious" (we might notice a parallel here between the risks associated with the practice of these two vehicles and his critique of contemporary Buddhism). Thus, although they actually rank higher than the Human Vehicle in his three "degrees," Taixu felt that in today's world these




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter IV: Harmonization

vehicles are not only no longer expedient but can even be a hindrance to practice.[116] Elsewhere, however, Taixu seems to indicate that the human vehicle's expediency is largely in regard to popular teaching,[117] which seems to indicate that he thought the other vehicles were still valid but no longer appropriate for most. An interpretation supported by the fact that Taixu said that the common Dharma of the Three Vehicles can lead to gradual awakening and that he occasionally encouraged certain esoteric practices.[118]

     That notwithstanding, Taixu maintained that in today's world the ethical approach of the Human Vehicle (sometimes also referred to as the Buddhism of Human Life) is most appropriate. The heart of this vehicle lay in adopting and implementing the five precepts and the ten virtuous deeds. According to Taixu, this practice yields several fruits. First, such ethical action will lead to the purification of the human world and the establishment of a "Pure Land among people,"[119] for each person "must go and serve society, and seek society's benefit."[120] Also, it can lead the practitioner to "discover and strengthen... hidden qualities" which will eventually lead to the Bodhisattva Vehicle and on to Buddhahood.[121] But for the majority, for whom achieving enlightenment is too difficult to accomplish in this life, the Human Vehicle also holds forth the promise of a better rebirth.[122]

     Taixu thought that in the past many had neglected this vehicle and

116. Deng Zimei 4

117. Shi Xuming 14.

118. Deng Zimei 6.

119. "History" 30.

120. Deng Zimei 5 (translation my own).

121. "History" 30.

122. Millican 331. See also Deng Zimei 3-4 and 6.




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mistakenly taken a single practice, such as meditation or recitation of the Buddha's name, as the whole of practice. They "did not know that all practices which benefit the masses of humanity are the karmic foundation of Buddhahood... [whereas] neglecting and not doing them cuts off the seeds of Buddhahood."[123] Thus the ethical orientation of the Human Vehicle is essentially a social one in Taixu's view. It is also important to note that this is not an exclusively monastic form of practice. Monastics and laity, people of all levels of society can practice the Human Vehicle in order to move closer to liberation.

     In the context of Taixu's Buddhism of Human Life the threefold summary of Buddhist practice -- sila, samadhi, and prajna -- took on an interpretation which differs slightly from tradition.[124] Taixu's definitions of the terms are fairly standard. In his view, sila comprises maintaining the five precepts, accumulating merit, and rendering aid to all sentient beings; samadhi is the practice of concentration; and prajna is the wisdom "derived from meditation, from thought, and from strict mental discipline." The significant departure from standard interpretations is that rather than treating them as separate but mutually complimentary, or subordinating samadhi to prajna, Taixu makes sila the most critical element of the triad and subordinates samadhi to it. Both sila and samadhi, according to him, are related to conduct, and "if you fail here you fail in all." Sila alone is insufficient to ensure proper conduct for one may be outwardly virtuous but have a "wayward heart." According to Taixu, by the practice of samadhi one may unify the mind and bring the heart

123. Deng Zimei 4 (translation my own).

124. Recall that these three are also the "tools of the Buddhist scholar" discussed above.




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into accord with one's actions and thus perfect one's ethical conduct.[125]

     Taixu also gave his emphasis on ethics a metaphysical justification derived from the key Mahayana doctrine of emptiness. As he applied it to the realm of human relationships, emptiness meant that anything one does to others, one is ultimately doing to oneself.[126] The realization of this principle has never been more urgent in Taixu's view than in the modern era, for,

"we are living in an epoch when all nations are becoming more and more interdependent and this alone should suffice to show that humanity is a whole. To help others is to help oneself, and to hurt others is to do oneself a double injury, and yet, we find all nations today living in mutual distrust and preparing for war under cover of apparent peace. Such a policy is not only inhuman, it shows a lack of intelligence."[127]

Since the individual cannot exist without the group and the group cannot exist without the individual, it is the responsibility of all to practice ethical action and bring humanity closer to the ultimate goal of the Buddhism of Human Life -- a Pure Land among people.[128]

     This reorientation of Buddhism to emphasize ethical practice is the key to this second part of Taixu's harmonization. The fundamental problem of the modern world is one of ethics. Thus by laying such stress on the ethical teachings of Buddhism, Taixu brings to the foreground what he considered the most critically important aspect of the teachings. He justifies this through his panshe, and grounds it in his metaphysics. By selecting the Human Vehicle as the upaya of our times, and justifying it with the doctrine of Thusness, he also attempted to avoid the

125. "Meaning" 694.

126. Callahan 161.

127. "History" 29.

128. Deng Zimei 5.




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"negativism" and "superstition" which he felt characterized the Sravaka, Heavenly Vehicles, and also contemporary Buddhism. Having now completed our examination of Taixu's theoretical work, we can turn our attention to his "application" of that theoretical work to the social world.




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter V: Application

Chapter V


     Although Taixu wrote broadly on theoretical matters, he was not satisfied with merely theoretical formulations, for as he saw it, "Buddhism puts the emphasis on actual conduct in life, on living the truth."[129] The reform of existing institutions and the establishment of new ones occupied much of his attention throughout his career. These endeavors closely reflected the theoretical underpinnings which have been the object of our discussion until now. Indeed, although I have classed these efforts as "application," in a certain sense they may also be seen as a continuation of his attempt to bring Buddhism into harmony with modernity. Many of his institutions and plans incorporated modern organizational techniques and other methods. Although many plans were never implemented and more than a few projects failed, Taixu's institutional reforms and innovations are a key element of his thought. The problems he saw with Buddhism were in large part institutional, thus institutions could not be ignored. In addition, he contended that the problems of the modern world cannot be solved through mere talk. In short, the logic of Taixu's theories demanded a movement.


Sangha Reform

     One of the aspects of his movement that Taixu was never able to implement was sangha reform. He began writing on this subject while in seclusion on Putuo Shan and continued to develop new blueprints for reform throughout his career. Their variations aside, his plans had two

129. "Meaning" 694.




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Chapter V: Application

goals in common: to efficiently organize the sangha, and to improve the quality of monastics. In 1915 he wrote "On the Reform of the Sangha System" (Zhengli sengjia zhidu lun), and in 1918 published it in the first issue of the Bodhi Society Journal (Jueshe jikan, later renamed Sound of the Sea Tide, Haichaoyin).[130] In this essay Taixu called for eliminating commercialism and illiteracy, fostering higher intellectual and spiritual standards, requiring productive labor,[131] simplifying ceremonies, and devoting monasteries to meditation and research.[132]

     This would be accomplished in a reorganized institutional setting. Taixu advocated the establishment of seven "model monasteries" (zhong mofan conglin), and eight "special monasteries" (zong zhuan xiu conglin)[133] each devoted to one of the eight sects incorporated in his panshe of the time. In addition to these exemplary institutions, a certain number of regular monasteries would be established in each province and there would be preaching chapels in every city.[134] Above these would be an umbrella organization called the "Garden of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha" (Fo fa seng yuan).[135] This organization would include bureaus of propaganda, lectures, and publishing, as well as benevolent associations, orphanages, reading rooms, and a school system culminating in a college.[136] Located in the capital, a national monastery would stand alongside the university and would include a museum for Buddhist

130. Welch gives the name of this journal as Bodhi Society Miscellany (fueshe zongshu). Boorman has been followed instead.

131. Callahan sees this as a purely pragmatic solution to the problem of economic support (Callahan 179), while Tsu sees it as an antidote for laziness (Tsu 507). Taixu himself seems to have seen it as a way to counteract otherworldliness (Ruji 10).

132. Boorman 209.

133. Millican 328.

134. Tsu 507.

135. Ruji 10.

136. Millican 328.




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Chapter V: Application

images and a library for scriptures and treatises.[137]

     In 1930 Taixu published his "Outline for Establishing the Sangha" (Jian seng dagang) a major revision of his earlier program. This program was comparatively modest. It advocated dividing the sangha into four groups corresponding loosely to different phases of the monastic career. The first group would be that of student monks. Entering the monastic life at the age of eighteen directly after graduating from high school, student monks would spend two years studying the Vinaya and ceremonies before taking their bhikku vows. Afterwards they would undertake four years of "common" (putong) study, three years of "high level" (gao deng) study, and finally three years of "advanced study" (canxue, literally: participation study). The second grouping was "professional" monks. This group included those occupied in the temples and related institutions. The third grouping, termed the "virtuous monks," referred to abbots, the elderly, and hermits. Finally, the fourth, "miscellaneous," group consisted of those who prove unable to uphold their vows and are reassigned to supporting institutions. Productive labor was omitted from this plan, because Taixu had concluded that it simply wasn't proper to the monastic role. Taixu's focus in this plan was to foster what he referred to as "the monastic character," particularly through faith in the three jewels and study of the paramitas.[138] The meaning of the term "monastic character" is ambiguous, but may be inferred from this proposal. From the emphasis on education, particularly in the Vinaya, we can see that it entailed high educational and ethical standards. The latter is reinforced by the fourth miscellaneous category for those who were

137. Tsu 507.

138. Ruji 13.




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unable to maintain their vows.

     In 1931, Taixu made a series of more practical proposals. He suggested limiting entry into the sangha and gradually eliminating the incompetent. Construction of new temples was to be halted in favor of restoring old ones and establishing charitable institutions. He suggested licensing temples and clergy and compiling accurate statistics on Chinese Buddhism. He advocated employing influential and talented monks to handle educational administration. Finally, he urged the expansion of monastic education.[139] This, like all of his plans for sangha reform, went largely unheeded and wholly unimplemented.

     His efforts in this area failed, but the logic behind them is clear -- to meet the needs of the modern world. Buddhism required a modern clergy. Though his proposals for reorganizing the sangha varied, they all sought to impart modern efficiency. Explicitly or implicitly each of the plans required a degree of centralization and universalization. In place of the nearly complete autonomy of the monasteries of his day, Taixu sought to establish a universal system and standard. He also sought to improve the monastics themselves, to improve their moral character through the Vinaya, and their understanding of doctrine through education.


Monastic Education

     Education was one of the most important aspects of Taixu's reform plan, and also one of his most successful. In contrast to his efforts at sangha reform, in the area of monastic education Taixu not only formulated idealistic plans but was also able to implement them. The

139. Ruji 13.




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importance of education flows logically from Taixu's theoretical work. The essence of the Mahayana is Thusness, and the distinguishing feature of Buddhas and bodhisattvas is their understanding that doctrine. Thus it should come as no surprise that Taixu put a great deal of effort into educating people in doctrinal matters. He did not stop at doctrine, however, but also included modern secular subjects in his curriculum. This was both a reflection of the stress he laid on non-Buddhist forms of knowledge and a practical measure for his movement.

     Although his efforts in education were on the whole quite successful, Taixu's grand plan in the area of education, the World Institute of Buddhist Studies (Shijie foxueyuan), was never fully implemented. He did, however, give the organization some nominal existence by designating each of his already established Buddhist academies as a different department of the institute. For the most part, each department was named for the language in which its students were to specialize. For example, the "College of Buddhist Teachings" was to serve as the Sino-American department; the "Sino-Tibetan Institute" (of course), as the Sino-Tibetan department; Minnan, as the Sino-Japanese; and the Institute of the Pali Tripitaka, as the Pali department. Wuchang, however, served as the library.[140]

     Taixu's plan was typically inclusive. The curriculum fell under four headings -- research on the teachings (more properly art and literature), research on doctrines, practice, and the realization of fruits. The last of these is rather unclear. The "realization of fruits" is certainly the result of "practice," but it seems strange that he should have included

140. Shi Xuming 25.




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Chapter V: Application

it in the plan for his institute. At any rate we can say that Taixu did not intend to exclude traditional spiritual practice for the sake of purely academic research. These four may in turn be divided up as follows:[141]

Research on the Teachings

Collection of Buddhist Ritual Implements
Verification and Classification of Buddhist Historical Materials
Correction through Textual Criticism of the Buddhist Canon
Compilation and Editing of Buddhist Books
In the Areas of

India, Persia, Java, etc.
Ceylon, Siam, Myanmar, etc.
China, Japan, Korea, etc.
Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia, etc.

Research on Doctrines

The Hinayana Schools of India
The Mahayana Schools of India
The Synthetic Schools of China
The Research Schools of Europe and America[142]

141. Shi Xuming 26 (translation my own). For a complete but poor translation see Chou 13-14, for a partial but more accurate translation see "Meaning" 695.

142. Millican ("Meaning" 695) calls this "new groups in America and Europe who a studying Buddhism," and Chou (Chou 14) "the Recent Schools of Europe and America." Thus it is unclear whether this refers to groups of Buddhists, or to groups of academics. Shi Xuming has "Research Schools" (yanjiupai), thus it seems the latter is more likely.




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Chapter V: Application


The Grove (lin) of Discipline and Rituals -- the universal precepts of the Bodhisattva, and the precepts of the other seven classes of disciples
The Grove of Meditation -- all of the zhiguan of both the Mahayana and Hinayana as well as of the Chan School
The Grove of Esoteric Dharani -- the one mudra and dharani (yi yin ming) as well as the limitless mudra and dharani (wuliang yin ming),[143] etc.
The Grove of the Pure Land -- Sukhavati Pure Land, or Tushita Pure Land, etc.

Realization of Fruits

The Fruit of Faith -- Researching the Teachings and Doctrines
The Fruit of Virtue -- Receiving and Upholding the Precepts and Vinaya
The Fruit of Samadhi -- Practicing Meditation
The Fruit of Prajna -- Practicing Surpassing Meditation (xiu sheng changuan)

Which correspond to

143. My translation here is tentative. "The dharani of one seal and the dharani of limitless seals" is another possibility.




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Chapter V: Application

Although the academies which Taixu actually established fell considerably short of this ideal, they were among his most substantial contributions to Chinese Buddhism. He founded seven academies throughout China and graduates of those academies founded at least five well known academies of their own.[144] Some of Taixu's academies, such as the Buddhist College for the Study of Tibetan and the College of Buddhist Teachings in Beijing closed down almost as soon as they were opened.[145] Others, however, proved more durable, such as the Sino-Tibetan Institute (Hanzang jiaoli yuan) in Chongqing which stayed open from its founding in 1931 until the Communist victory in 1949. This academy accommodated as many as a hundred students at a time and served as Taixu's base of operations during the war.[146] This longevity is certainly attributable in part to the fact that it was subsidized by the government as part of its Tibetan policy.[147]

     Without a doubt the most famous, well respected, and consequently best documented of his academies were the Wuchang Buddhist Academy (Wuchang foxueyuan) in Wuchang (one of the three cities which today make up Wuhan) and the Minnan Buddhist Academy (Minnan foxueyuan) at Nan Putuo Monastery in Xiamen. By examining these two institutions we can begin to see what the application of Taixu's program looked like in concrete terms.

     The Wuchang Buddhist Academy was Taixu's first foray into pedagogy. Founded in 1922, it was the first Buddhist educational institution to refer to itself as a "Buddhist academy" (foxueyuan), but by

144. Wei-huan, "Buddhism in Modem China," T'ien Hsia Monthly 9:2 (Sept 1939): 148-9.

145. Welch 197-9, and Chou 12.

146. Welch 199.

147. Callahan 176.




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1945 almost all such institutions used the term and to one degree or another adopted its methods and curriculum.[148] In 1925 there were seventy students enrolled, all of whom were middle school graduates,[149] including both monastics and laity.[150] These students and those of later classes graduated with the title "Dharma teacher" (fashi), a term traditionally reserved for older, venerable monks and abbots. This reflects the importance that Taixu placed on doctrine and the understanding of doctrine. According to one source "most of the educated monks of [the time had] graduated from this Academy."[151] The Academy also boasted one of the "four most complete" libraries among Buddhist academies,[152] holding 40,000 volumes.[153] It remained active until "political shifts" in the region caused it to be shut down and occupied by soldiers (a common fate for Buddhist institutions at that time) around 1933.[154]

     When Taixu established the academy he modeled its curriculum after that of the Buddhist universities of Japan,[155] which covered topics such as Buddhist history, texts, doctrines, and ethics,[156] as well as secular subjects. Instruction at the academy made use of modern pedagogic techniques including textbooks[157] and blackboards (especially important given the proliferation of technical vocabulary in Buddhism and the large number of homophones in Chinese). Students each had their own copy of

148. Welch 107.

149. Earl H. Cressey, "A Study in Indigenous Religions," in Petty, Orville A. ed. Laymen's foreign Missionary Inquiry: Fact-Finders Reports: China Vol. 5 Supplementary Series Part 2. (New York: Harpers 1933) 709. [Hereafter: Cressey]

150. Ruji 11.

151. Wei-huan 147.

152. Yearbook 1445-6.

153. Callahan 174.

154. Cressey 709.

155. Ruji 11.

156. Abbot 79-80.

157. Truth and Tradition 302.




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the text under discussion and took notes on the lecture. Buddhist services were also considered part of the curriculum and were held daily with Taixu himself regularly taking part.[158]

     The curriculum also had a more practical side. It included what we might think of as a pastoral practicum. Taixu brought his students into close relationship with the local laity.[159] On weekends, they would go to the Hankou Right Faith Society across the river for practical exercises in preaching which would take place in the lecture hall or street chapel. Oftentimes Taixu himself would lecture there, and afterwards the audience would break into small groups in which students from the academy would answer questions and give short lectures of their own. Taixu would also take students along on his lecture tours.[160]

     This practical component reveals a key point about the character of these academies. Although Taixu laid great stress on understanding doctrine and certainly accorded it intrinsic value, he was not in the business of training academics but rather of generating the human resources for his movement. After graduation he wanted his monastic students to spread out to reform temples or work in monastic education themselves, and his lay students to return home to practice the Human Vehicle, organize lay societies, and generally promote the movement.[161]

     Taixu's other highly successful academy was Minnan. Originally founded in 1925 by the abbot of Nan Putuo Monastery (where it was

158. James Bissett Pratt, "A Report on the Present Condition of Buddhism," Chinese Social and Political Science Review 8:3 (1924): 25-26. [Hereafter: "Present Condition"]

159. Karl K. Reichelt, "Buddhism in China at the Present Time and the New Challenge to the Christian Church," International Review of Missions 26 (1937): 159.

160. Abbot 79-1.

161. Ruji 11.




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located),[162] directorship of the academy was taken over by Taixu in 1927, and was entrusted to one of his students in 1937.[163] Before it was forced to close in 1939 by the Japanese advance,[164] Minnan produced more Dharma teachers than any other Buddhist academy in the country.[165] Holmes Welch, who interviewed a former student at Minnan, says that the many of the characteristics of this academy may be generalized to Taixu's other academies.[166] If this is the case (and it seems likely that it is since the picture presented of it is entirely consonant with what we know of those other academies), then an examination of Minnan can fill in the blanks left in our discussion of the Wuchang Buddhist Academy.

     When Taixu took over the academy, he immediately set about making changes both in the form and content of the course of study. Under his direction, written entrance exams were instituted along with diplomas and a regular grading system.[167] Students were not lectured to by a traditional red-robed monk seated on a dais before the hall, but rather by modern style instructors who were often laymen. As in Wuchang the lecturer made use of a blackboard and students took notes, but Welch's informant adds that students also responded to questions about the reading, answering in their own words rather than with catechistic formulas. Morning and evening services were observed but there was no formal meditation practice or recitation of the Buddha's name. Rather than observe the traditional rest days of the lunar month, Taixu's students

162. Wei-huan 148.

163. Callahan 176.

164. Welch 111-2. It was revived briefly after the war.

165. Wei-huan 148.

166. Welch 112-3.

167. Sixty percent was passing




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rested on Sunday after the modern fashion.[168]

     Initially Minnan offered a six year course of study. It began with three years of the "common course" (putong ke). This entailed eighteen hours a week on secular subjects -- six hours of traditional literature, five hours of Japanese, five hours of history and geography, and two hours of psychology. Far more time was spent on Buddhist material -- three hours of Buddhist history, and thirty hours of Buddhist texts. The content of the latter changed over the years shifting from the curriculum that was borrowed from Japan and that focused on the best known sutras, to a curriculum focused on treatises and commentaries, particularly works on Weishi, hetuvidya logic, and Abhidharma. Until the mid-thirties the common course was followed by a specialized course (zhuanxiu ke), but it was discontinued for lack of students and replaced by a preparatory class -- the Buddhist Academy for Fostering Orthodoxy (Yangzheng foxueyuan). This curriculum also entailed three years of study including traditional literature, geography, and basic Buddhist texts.[169]

     A final point about Taixu's efforts in education which deserves special mention is his "study abroad program." Over his career, he managed to send a number of students abroad for further study. The short lived Buddhist College for the Study of Tibetan was founded specifically to the prepare its students for further study in Tibet, Though, ten students from the college's only graduating class set off for Tibet,[170] only three were allowed into the country. This included Fazun[171] who later became dean of

168. Welch 111-2.

169. Welch 112-3.

170. Welch 198-9.

171. Yearbook 1446.




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Taixu's Sino-Tibetan Institute,[172] In the forties Taixu turned his attentions southward. In 1940, he secured government assistance to send three monks to Ceylon and India for study, and in 1946 sent two more monks to Ceylon as part of an "exchange" with the Mahabodhi Society.[173] Taixu also sent students to Japan, Burma, and Malaya.[174]

     To summarize, Taixu's educational program embraced modern pedagogic methods to instill an in-depth knowledge of many facets of Buddhism, and a good familiarity with secular fields of study. It also had a practical dimension, training his students to organize and preach to the laity in order to propagate the movement. Lastly, it had an international dimension, reflected in the plan for the World Institute for Buddhist Studies, in the language instruction at Taixu's academies and his attempts to send them abroad for further study. These three points both reflect Taixu's theories and lay the practical foundations for his movement. Not only does the curriculum coincide with Taixu's view on the role of doctrine, the practical training in preaching reflects the ethical emphasis of the Human Vehicle. Giving the Dharma has always been regarded by Buddhists as a particularly meritorious action, and an important way for the sangha to interact with the laity. Furthermore, the ability to preach, and knowledge of modern subjects, particularly languages, was important to the propaganda efforts which we shall discuss shortly.

172. Wei-huan 148. This academy achieved greater success in sending its students to Lhasa than its predecessor (Welch 199).

173. Shi Xuming 27-8.

174. Callahan 176.




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Lay Societies

     Although some laymen attended Taixu's Buddhist academies, most participated in his movement through the lay societies. Although his lecture tours seem to indicate that many lay societies were affiliated with him, or at least sympathetic to his cause, there is little information available about most of them. The only such organizations which are well documented and have an explicit affiliation with Taixu are the "Bodhi Society" (Jue she) of Shanghai (later of Hangzhou) and the "Right Faith Society" (Zhengxin hui) of Hankou (across the river from the Wuchang Buddhist Academy).[175] The individuals who joined these organizations came from "all walks of life" but the well-educated and the upper classes were disproportionately represented. They attracted "merchants, lawyers, doctors... officials... and students."[176] They were the "intellectual classes" who had "always risen to the majestic heights of the true doctrine." This was the class of society with the education necessary understand the essence of Buddhism, and also the class that had been most deeply influenced by modernization.[177] It was only natural that Taixu would aim his message at them and draw his supporters for their ranks. Indeed, these organizations came to be among Taixu's chief organs of reform and his primary financial backers.[178]

     Taixu, together with two laymen, founded his first lay society in

175. This organization is referred to by many different names in English language accounts. However, given the similarities of the descriptions and the fact that no account mentions more than one lay organization in Hankou, it seems safe to conclude that they are all one and the same.

176. K. L. Reichelt, "Trends in China's Non-Christian Religions," Chinese Recorder 65 (1934): 763-4. [Hereafter: "Trends"]

177. Hankou, for instance, was the modern industrial and commercial section of the Wuhan area (Cressey 660).

178. Wing-tsit Chan 85.




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Shanghai shortly after emerging from seclusion in 1918.[179] Dubbed the Bodhi Society, the organization's early aims were comparatively modest by Taixu's standards -- "to propound the essence of Mahayana Buddhism,"[180] and to research Buddhist teachings and meditation. To this end the Bodhi Society published a periodical, the Bodhi Society Journal (Jueshe jikan).[181] Membership required sympathy with the organization's aims, acceptance of the three refuges, the four vows, and the ten virtuous deeds, and also diligently study of the sutras, observing fasts, practicing meditation, and performing charitable works.[182]

     Two years later, Taixu founded another Bodhi Society in Hangzhou and shut down its predecessor in Shanghai.[183] The society's journal also moved to Hangzhou and was renamed Sound of the Sea Tide (Haichaoyin).[184] In Hangzhou, the requirements for membership were more elaborate. These included "rules for self improvement" -- that one take the three refuges, the four vows, and "examine into good knowledge, investigate [one's] own heart, study Buddhist Law, [and] practice the doings of the [bodhisattvas] in order to perfect [one's] body and wisdom;" and "special and constant practices" -- meditation, right speech, study of the Moheyin Sutra, recitation of the Buddha's name, etc.; as well as "things done at convenience" -- "worship and penitence, cultivation of good deeds, as opportunity comes." They also reserved one week each year for recitation of the Buddha's name, and one week for meditation, as well as

179. Boorman 209.

180. Hodous 10.

181. Boorman 209.

182. Tsu 504.

183. Callahan dates this organization at 1917 (Callahan 176) but seems unaware of its previous incarnation, thus Boorman has been followed.

184. Boorman 209.




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observing Sakyamuni's birthday together.[185]

     The Hangzhou Bodhi Society, however, was not only devoted to the fostering and expression of piety, it was also an active social organization in the city. It operated a primary school, a hospital for the poor, and distributed free literature. The society was also influential in local monastic affairs, giving financial aid to two monasteries, effecting a change in sect affiliation in one, and cooperating in the selection of at least five abbots.[186]

     The Right Faith Society in Hankou was even larger in scope than the Bodhi Society. Founded by Taixu in 1922,[187] by 1933 its membership had soared to 30,000.[188] To accommodate a membership of this size, the Right Faith Society had extensive facilities. It occupied a "large and excellent building of its own," which included a sizable auditorium, a temple, a lecture hall, reception parlors, and office space.[189] The rooftop even had a crystalline sarira surrounded by mirrors and electric lights.[190]

     Within the walls of this impressive facility, the association conducted an equally impressive range of activities. It is not known if the society had guidelines regarding practice as did the Bodhi Society, however, it did sponsor group observances. These included well attended lectures on the sutras, as well as observances of the birthdays of

185. From the organizations "regulations" as translated by Millican (Millican 330).

186. Callahan 176.

187. Holmes Welch dates the founding of the organization at 1920 and attributes it to its first president Wang Senpu (77-8), granting Taixu a "key role" (312 n.). Pratt splits the difference, dating it at 1921 ("Present Condition" 23).

188. Boorman 209. Here, again, Welch differs placing the membership at only a tenth the figure quoted here. Pratt corroborates Welch's figure as of his visit in the early twenties. The larger figure may simply represent ten years of growth.

189. "Present Condition" 23.

190. Abbot 81.




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Sakyamuni and Guanyin.[191] When Pratt visited in the early twenties, the society maintained a place outside the city for lay meditation, and had regular religious services in which laymen chanted the sutras under the guidance of a monk.[192] Perhaps the most interesting religious activity sponsored by the society was its "street chapel" modeled after those of Christian missions. In his biography of Miaoji, a Wuchang graduate and later convert to Christianity, Reichelt describes it thus:

"A new and interesting scene was revealed when darkness fell. A door had been opened wide and people from the street poured into the preaching chapel where an imposing statue of Amitabha stood at the rear. The niche where the image was set up was brilliantly illuminated by electric bulbs. The radiant figure of Amitabha and the music from the organ soon had its effect and the hall became completely filled. A sermon began followed by testimonials from the students [from the Wuchang Buddhist Academy] [193]

     The Right Faith Society also organized a number of charitable activities. Among these were services for the poor which included a clinic staffed by Western style and traditional doctors who volunteered their services, an associated free dispensary, a free primary school for local children, free coffins, and donations of food for the New Year's celebration. The society also donated money to a home for widows, and provided disaster relief such as soup kitchens for victims of fire, and dispatching boats and supplying food in times of flood.[194]

     Both the Right Faith Society and the Bodhi Society acted as more than simply social clubs for the pious. They encouraged their members in

191. Welch 80.

192. "Present Condition" 23. Three monks resided on the premises for such purposes. They had little to do, however, with the daily operations of the organization (Callahan 175).

193. Abbot 81.

194. Welch 79.




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Chapter V: Application

spiritual cultivation and held lectures and other activities in order to improve their understanding of the Buddhadharma, as taught by their founder Taixu. Most importantly, however, they were active in the community. Rather than limiting their religion to the "other-world," as Taixu accused other contemporary Buddhist's of doing, they planted the seeds of Buddhahood in the way he thought most appropriate to the times, namely, social service.



     Another important way in which the lay societies participated in Taixu's movement was the propagation of the Dharma through publications and lectures. Taixu referred to this work as "propaganda," not intending the negative connotations that have accrued to the word since his time. As he said in his address to the East Asian Buddhist Conference, Buddhist doctrine must be preached to the "masses... in the market places, on the highways, in trains and on boats, in soldiers barracks, hospitals, factories, and prison wards."[195] This effort to bring the doctrine to the masses may be usefully divided into domestic and international activities.



     Without a doubt the crown jewel of Taixu's domestic propaganda efforts was his journal,Sound of the Sea Tide. This was the only institution he founded which outlived him, having been removed to Taiwan after 1949. Sound of the Sea Tide had the highest circulation of

195. "Statement" 181.




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Chapter V: Application

any Buddhist periodical and was widely regarded as the highest in quality.[196] The magazine dealt with a wide variety of topics. Any given issue might contain articles on the sutras; on Chinese, Western, or Indian philosophy; on psychology or comparative religion,[197] even physical science.[198] It also published reform pieces and testimonials,[199] as well as "extensive correspondence" between Taixu and others on various points of Buddhist doctrine.[200] Oftentimes lectures originally given at the Wuchang Buddhist Academy would later be reprinted here.[201]

     Outside of Sound of the Sea Tide and the nine other, less famous, journals associated with his movement, Taixu also published widely on his own. These writings tended to focus more narrowly on Buddhism than the pieces which appeared in Sound of the Sea Tide. The most important of these writings included An Introduction to Buddhology (Foxue gailun), Origins of the Most Eminent Buddhist Sects (Fojiao mingzongpai yuanliu), The Influence of Buddhism on Chinese Culture (Fojiao duiyu zhongguo wenhua zhi yingxiang), Philosophy (zhexue), and The Essential Discourses of the Buddhist Patriarchs (Fochengzong yaolun).[202] These works were "very popular with the younger generation."[203]

     Another method of domestic propaganda was Taixu's lecture tours and so-called "revival meetings." Taixu lectured far and wide across

196. Zenryu Tsukamoto, "Japanese and Chinese Buddhism in the Twentieth Century," Cahiers d'histoire mondiale 6:3 (1961): 601.

197. Millican 329.

198. See Haichaoyin wenku., 1:1 (1933).

199. Tsu 505. For an example of a testimonial translated into English see "Diary".

200. Millican 329.

201. Callahan 175.

202. Boorman 210.

203. Yearbook 1448.




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China. These lectures often dealt with famous sutras and sastras and related them to the Buddhism of the Human Vehicle. They included the Lotus, the Avatamsaka, the Cheng weishi lun, the Surangama, the four Pure Land Sutras, the Fanwang Jing, and others. Notably the two texts which most often served as the basis for his lectures were the Heart Sutra and the Vimalakirti.[204] Other times, his lectures dealt with the relationship between Buddhism and other fields such as philosophy, science, economics, and social reform. Such was the case in his lectures to students at Zhonghua University in Wuchang and West China Union University in Chengdu, both of which, interestingly, had Christian affiliations.[205]

     In making these lecture tours, Taixu made use of modern media techniques and Christian formats which led some foreign observers to refer to them as "revival meetings." Judging from the coverage in Sound of the Sea Tide, these revival meetings occurred in most major cities. The magazine served to publicize such events before the fact and also encouraged follow up by publishing news accounts, reports on successes, and stories of social work that resulted from Taixu's visit.[206] Two accounts by foreigners living in China describing revival meetings conducted by Taixu and his disciples are available. The first was related to Professor James Pratt by A. J. Brace, a secretary for the Chengdu Y.M.C.A. who felt that Taixu's movement had "seriously hurt" his organization's drive for new members. According to Brace,

"in the summer of 1922 disciples of the famous Monk T'ai Hsu journeyed from Shanghai to Chengtu... to bring the modernized message of Buddhism as taught by their master.

204. Deng Zimei 4.

205. Welch 68.

206. Callahan 173.




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Their coming was the occasion of great rejoicing, and a real revival of Buddhism was the result. They had been heralded for more than a year and their way prepared by a wide circulation of T'ai Hsu's popular magazine "Hai Chao Yin"... Very carefully edited articles had prepared the people for the visit of the missionaries, and the new message found a ready response even before their arrival. It brought a message of peace for troubled days, and the magazine clearly stated that the new message was destined to lift the sublime teachings of the Mahayana Doctrine for the help of the people tossed about in the sea of modern doubt. The message was essentially spiritual and taught... three propositions, (1) a real desire to reform monasticism, (2) a plan to reconstruct Buddhist theology along lines of modern philosophy, (3) to use the teachings of Buddha to elevate the people and improve social conditions... The opening meetings were attended by large crowds who listened attentively to the new program, and large numbers voluntarily enrolled themselves for the daily course to be given. In fact, a real program was gotten out, much like a university course... and fees charged... Then daily the large hall in the Public Garden... was thronged with auditors to hear the public addresses, and classrooms were filled with eager students... A thorough course was given in the history of Buddhism, what it had done for the world, and how it had become accrued with many superstitions. Now all was changed. The old simple story of the Enlightened One and how he found the way of salvation was declared. Idolatry was opposed, and in bygone days it was tolerated only as an accommodation to the weaknesses of ignorant people. Now education was to be stressed, the priests had always been ignorant. A Buddhist university was to be established. The monks were encouraged to be busy as learners and servants of the people rather than follow the lazy lives of the past. The mercy of the Buddha was taught and enjoined... Most emphasized were the daily hours for fasting and reflection. A real revival was effected along these lines.[207]

We find a similar, if briefer and less detailed, account from Reichelt of a revival meeting held in Hankou ten years later.[208]

207. "Present Condition" 383-4.

208. "Trends" 736-4.




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Chapter V: Application

     Thus from his publications and lectures we can draw several generalizations. Taixu's domestic propaganda efforts made extensive use of modern methods to persuade the masses. He made use of his publications both to make his message known and also to hold the movement together and keep up enthusiasm by publishing news from groups around the country, particularly success stories. Further, he used his magazines to publicize his lecture tours and revival meetings. The latter borrowed from non-Buddhist models, including Christian groups university courses. Unsurprisingly, the message presented stressed the key themes of Taixu's thought -- the harmony of Buddhism and modernity, the Human Vehicle, the "essence" of the Mahayana, monastic reform, improved Buddhist education, social work, etc. Further these domestic efforts seem to have been well received.



     Taixu was not content to limit his efforts to China, however, and began to look to spread the faith in the West as well. His motives in this seem to be twofold. First, to unite all the world "that {Buddhism} may become a compass, as it were, for the human mind.[209] Second, he hoped that given the trend toward Westernization in China, by influencing the West he might in turn influence his own country. The starting point of this project of converting the West would be the more modest aim of changing the thinking of Western scholars regarding Buddhism.[210]

     Taixu seems to have viewed unifying the Buddhist world as an important step towards the goal of converting other nations. In one of the

209. "History" 29.

210. Shi Xuming 23.




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Chapter V: Application

lectures given on his speaking tour of Europe and the U.S., Taixu spoke on the "three centers" of Buddhism -- Ceylon, Tibet, and China. Each of the centers was a vital node of its particular variety of the Teaching -- reflecting the "three departments" from his third panshe. Although the Lesser Vehicle lacked "the full scope of Mahayana doctrine," esoteric Buddhism was tainted with Brahmanism, and Chinese Buddhism "[showed] signs of decline... nevertheless, the foundations [were] unshaken, and with the collaboration of Ceylon and Tibet it should be possible to create a world-wide center."[211] Reflecting his panshe, in which East Asian forms of Buddhism were accorded higher standing than other forms, China was obviously to take the leading role in this scheme, while the other two centers were relegated to supporting roles. Taixu didn't explicitly state the reason for or the significance of this "world-wide center." Given the fact, however, that it is referred to by that name rather than, for instance, "pan-Asian center" which would be more geographically accurate, and that this passage is immediately followed by a discussion of propaganda, it seems likely that this center is intended to serve as the foundation for a "world-wide" missionary effort. This is supported by an earlier statement to the East Asian Buddhist Conference in which he referred to spreading Buddhism in the West as the "inalienable duty of Asiatic Buddhists."[212]

     Taixu's efforts to unite the Buddhist world began with his World Buddhist Conference. Though the first conference was apparently impromptu -- Taixu was visiting Kuling and giving a few lectures, and when others, such as Professor Ensai of Japan, and Ludwig Reichelt, arrived they also delivered addresses -- the second was more formal. There

211. "History" 26-8.

212. "Statement" 179.




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Chapter V: Application

were official Chinese and Japanese delegations and Reichelt again attended. Claims were also made for participation by other famous Chinese monks and scholars as well as Westerners, though the veracity of these claims is uncertain.[213] The participants discussed exchanges between China and Japan, relations with Southeast Asian Buddhism, unification of the world's Buddhists, and organizational details.[214] According to what Taixu told Reichelt, the purpose of the conference was fivefold -- to promote the Dharma among Asians, to lead Chinese Buddhists to conform to and influence society, to make contact with followers of other religions, to show Christians that Buddhists are not all immoral, ignorant, and superstitious, and to influence Western countries "because Buddhism has something very valuable to give the world."[215]

     From this sprang Taixu's World Buddhist Association, though it only ever existed on paper. Its "Chinese branch" sent a delegation to the East Asian Buddhist Conference held in Japan in 1925, the year after the second conference in Kuling.[216] At this conference Taixu delivered an important theoretical paper, "On Alayavijnana,"[217] as well as his "Statement to Asiatic Buddhists," a stirring manifesto on Buddhism's role in, and duty to, the modern world.[218] While in Tokyo, Taixu also took the

213. Welch, unsurprisingly, treats them as simply false. Although his assertion that Dixian and Yinguang, who were intellectual opponents of Taixu, could not possibly have participated as claimed is persuasive, his claims regarding Liang Qichao and R. F. Johnson are more problematic. Reichelt tells us that these and "other" individuals sent "letters of regret at forced absence" [Karl L. Reichelt, "A Conference of Chinese Buddhist Leaders," Chinese Recorder 54:11 (1923): 667 (Hereafter: Conference")]. Since we do not know whether Reichelt saw the letters and since we do know the identity of Welch's informant in this matter and he does not mention any letters, it seems best to simply conclude that the evidence is uncertain.

214. Welch 55-7.

215. "Conference" 669.

216. Welch 58.

217. Chou 11.

218. "Statement."




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Chapter V: Application

opportunity to visit many important Buddhist institutions and speak to "eminent Buddhist scholars" including Nanjio, Takakusu, and Suzuki.[219]

     Taixu was also able to travel to the West in 1928, where he lectured in France, England, Germany, and the U.S. He had hoped to establish European chapters of his World Buddhist Association on this trip, but the results were disappointing. His lectures were generally more successful. Though given mediocre reviews in France, Taixu was well received in England and the U.S.[220] His lectures were later published as Lectures in Buddhism in 1928. In them he stressed Buddhism's universality and its compatibility with modernity, discussing such familiar topics as science, Western philosophy, and Christianity as well as modern ideals such as progress.[221] In England in addition to his lecture dates, he met with Bertrand Russell to discuss problems of Buddhist philosophy. In the U.S. he lectured at Columbia, Yale, and other universities[222] and attended an "East and West" luncheon in New York held "to promote world peace and racial, religious, and cultural unity." There he spoke on Buddhism as "the tolerant, receptive, universal faith which is essential to the realization of world unity."[223]

     Ironically, Taixu was next able to carry his message of unity abroad during World War II. From November of 1939 to May of 1940, Taixu traveled to Burma, Malaya, India, and Ceylon. His trip was subsidized by the Nationalist government because they hoped that his tour would help

219. Chou 11.

220. Welch 59-60.

221. Reprinted with a biographical preface by the editor in T'ai-hsü: His Life and Teachings, ed. Chou Hsiang-kuang (Allahabad: Indo-Chinese Literature Publications 1957).

222. Boorman 209.

223. "Urge Cultural tie with the Orient: Delegates Representing Eastern and Western Religions Unite in Movement to Promote World Peace," New York Times, March 6 1929.




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Chapter V: Application

to drum up support for the war effort.[224] Thus through his trips abroad and his conferences Taixu was able to begin to work towards his ideal of a worldwide movement though he was not able to realize that dream in his lifetime.

     Though the international propaganda effort had some basic points in common with its domestic counterpart, it also varied in some respects. In both cases Taixu made use of modern methods and aimed his message at the educated elites. The content of Taixu's message abroad, however, tended to stress the universality of Buddhism and its compatibility with the modern world, and gave less emphasis to ideas such as the Human Vehicle and sangha reform. Apparently, Taixu felt the former themes were the most important to make known in the world at large. Also to effectively spread the Dharma in the West, Taixu felt that the Buddhists of the East must first be united. To this end he held conferences and set up world organizations. These efforts bore little fruit, but the logic behind them stands out clearly -- to solve the problems of the world. Buddhism must be spread worldwide.

     Here the logic of Taixu's application reached its ultimate conclusions. In each area, Taixu utilized modern methods in an attempt to institutionalize certain elements of his thought. The great emphasis on education, both through formal education and through publications and lectures, reflect the supreme importance of doctrine. Taixu's intended audience, the educated and the upper classes, also reflects this. The content of his propaganda is a logical outgrowth of his treatment of non-Buddhist forms of knowledge. The ethical reorientation of Taixu's

224. Welch 63.




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thought finds expression in the emphasis on observance of the Vinaya and preaching for monastics, the social service of the lay societies, and the content of his propaganda. Finally, the unity among Buddhist nations sought by Taixu reflects the scope of his panshe and the worldwide scope of his concerns. These institutionalizations also helped to build up the infrastructure and resources necessary to support the movement that Taixu required to adequately address the two sets of problems that he saw in the world around in him.




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter VI: Analysis

Chapter VI


     Having completed our discussion of the three parts of Taixu's program, we may again turn our attention to the problems that he identified. By this point it should be clear that the steps of Taixu's program -- reduction, harmonization, and application -- are closely related to, and build upon, one another. Now we must ask whether they address his two sets of problems. First, do they deal with Buddhism's superstition and otherworldliness, with the Buddhist clergy's self-interestedness, ineffectual practice, reclusiveness, ignorance of worldly affairs, and familialism? And second, do they deal with the modern world's moral crisis, factionalism, and natural disasters? With a few ambiguous exceptions that could perhaps be resolved with further investigation, Taixu's threefold program addressed all of these problems.

     Taixu's treatment of superstition as a category is rather ambiguous, which creates some problems for analysis. Nevertheless, Taixu clearly did deal with this problem, and the way in which he did so may shed some light on his view of "superstition." He definitely included idolatry, and linked this to taking bodhisattvas to be mere "idols." Taixu's theory lays out a different understanding in which bodhisattvas are to be seen as "great minded beings" rather than intercessory spirits or cosmic saviors. One should not worship but emulate them, for such "great-mindedness" is something to which all can aspire. The way to achieve this, in Taixu's view, is by understanding the Buddhist doctrine and putting it into practice. Furthermore, for Taixu this practice revolves around ethical




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter VI: Analysis

action in the social sphere and has little to do with "idols."

     Taixu's treatment of science also bears on this problem. Taixu granted scientists authority in describing the phenomenal world and believes that its methods can serve to correct superstition. We might expect then that Taixu would have advocated a union of some kind. As we have seen, Taixu did in fact make moves in this direction, such as integrating science in his hierarchy of knowledge. He further suggested that the scientific methods of inductive and deductive reasoning could aid the Buddhist scholar, and that "much my be expected from uniting the two methods [of science and Buddhism]."[225]

     We might then further expect that Taixu would have included science in his propaganda and educational efforts. Although as we have seen, Taixu did lecture on science and Buddhism and ran articles on science in Sound of the Sea Tide, except for two hours a week of psychology, science was absent from the curriculum of his academies. This may simply have been due to economic factors. We know that Taixu was plagued by money problems, and psychology, lacking any lab equipment, would be a comparatively cheap science to teach. On the other hand, this may be related to his theoretical approach to science. Taixu accorded a good deal of merit to science but he also saw it as firmly subordinate to Buddhism. Thus perhaps he did not regard it as important that his students have a detailed, practical knowledge of science, so long as they had an appreciation for it method. In the absence of any direct evidence supporting either of these possibilities, however, we are simply left with this incongruity.

225. See note 72.




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Chapter VI: Analysis

     The final way in which Taixu's thought dealt with superstition is through the Human Vehicle. This vehicle, in Taixu's mind, is the most appropriate expedient means for our age. As we have just mentioned, it focuses on ethical action as practice rather than anything that might involve idols, but it applies to this problem in another way as well. If one were to neglect the Human vehicle and practice according to the Heavenly Vehicle one would be "slandered as superstitious."

     Taixu's phrasing here, combined with his vague treatment of the category of "superstition" in general, suggests some interesting possibilities. Taixu embraced the Heavenly Vehicle in his panshe as an important part of Buddhism, and even ranked it above the Human Vehicle in his three degrees. He also occasionally encouraged its practice, and included it in his educational plans. Thus, Taixu's concern in this regard seems to be with appearances. Practicing according to the Heavenly Vehicle has validity but it may result in others viewing the practitioner as superstitious. In Taixu's day, many held just such a view of Buddhism. One thinks of Hu Shih's polemics against Buddhism and many Christians' accusations of idolatry. Thus perhaps we should not be surprised that idolatry was the only element which Taixu explicitly identified as superstitious. "Superstition" may have simply been such a loaded word that Taixu felt it necessary to distance himself from it.

     We see something similar at work in the second problem Taixu identified with Buddhism -- otherworldliness. He connected this problem with the Lesser Vehicle. This vehicle, like the Heavenly Vehicle, was incorporated in Taixu's panshe above the Human Vehicle in the three "degrees," and taught in his academies. If one practiced according to this




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter VI: Analysis

method, however, one would be "reviled as negative and escapist." These sorts of accusations were also common regarding Buddhism, and Taixu appears to have wanted to distance them from himself and his movement. We need not necessarily, however, interpret this as a crass attempt to improve his image or vie for "status" as Holmes Welch charges. Except for the Bodhisattva Vehicle, all vehicles are expedients in Taixu's conception. Given that Taixu explicitly sought to bring his message to the modernized segments of society and that these were in fact the people who were making these sorts of accusations, it is entirely consistent with Taixu's thought, and the Mahayana tradition, that he should adopt the expedient means most appropriate to the times and the intended audience.

     Taixu's concerns regarding otherworldliness do not seem to arise solely from expediency. Whereas he generally dealt with superstition in only very general terms, Taixu linked the problem of otherworldliness specifically to what he felt was Buddhist's lack of interest in education and social service, two areas in which he did much theoretical and also practical work. On the theoretical side, he addressed this problem through the Human Vehicle. The heart of this vehicle lay in ethical action. In Taixu's thinking, this is a form of practice which is necessarily engaged with the world, for "all practices which benefit the masses of humanity are the karmic foundation of Buddhahood... [whereas] neglecting and not doing them cuts off the seeds of Buddhahood."[226] This is further supported by his application of Thusness to human society. If it is impossible to abstract oneself from the group or to save oneself without saving others,

226. See note 123.




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Chapter VI: Analysis

as Taixu contended, then aspirants must view their spiritual progress as being intimately linked with the well being of their fellows.

Several points of Taixu's application relate to the more specific problems of lack of interest in social service and education. On the monastic side, we saw that both Taixu's earliest grandiose plan for sangha reform, and his last more practical suggestions included instituting charitable services, thus constructively engaging monastics with society. He achieved the same effect in a more traditional way by requiring his students to preach and otherwise engage with the laity. The laity, for their part, engaged in the community through the lay societies. As we have seen a considerable portion of the resources of these organizations were directed at social service, from education to medical care. Thus we can see that Taixu sought to root both halves of the Buddhist community firmly in the world.

Much the same points of Taixu's thought and program apply to the problem of the clergy's self-interestedness. Obviously the recognition of one's interdependence, and the practice of the Human Vehicle stand in opposition to self-centeredness. But we might also consider here the emphasis that Taixu placed on the Vinaya and fostering the "monastic character" in his plans for sangha reform. Furthermore, in his second plan and in his final series of suggestions he advocated actively removing those who could not meet these standards. Thus Taixu's program included not only theoretical, but also very practical ways of dealing with this issue.

The problem which was least clearly dealt with by Taixu's program was that of ineffectual religious practice. Since Taixu did not explain why




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Chapter VI: Analysis

he thought their practice was ineffective it is difficult to say whether it has been addressed. Taixu made some connection between this failure and the division of monks into sects, but it is unclear whether the connection was causal. If it was, then Taixu's emphasis on practicing all schools as seen in his panshe's and his plan for the World Institute of Buddhist Studies addressed this. On the other hand, the problem may have derived from laxity, in which case we might conclude that it was dealt with by his sangha reform. Alternatively, if it derived from the practice itself we might conclude that it was addressed by his introduction of the human vehicle as a new upaya. Finally, if it derived from ignorance (since Buddhas and bodhisattvas are characterized primarily by their understanding of the doctrine), then we might conclude that it was addressed by Taixu's program of monastic education. Although one or more of these possibilities may have been the case, in the absence of any direct evidence we cannot conclude that any of them actually was the case.

     The next problem, the reclusiveness of the sangha, seems very similar to the charge that it was otherworldly. We may say briefly, then, that Taixu's doctrine of the Human Vehicle, his ethical thought in general, and the preaching and social service that he advocated all address this problem. Taixu, however, also connected this accusation to a more specific point. He claimed that this reclusiveness had led the government and ruling classes to slight the monastic community. Thus we can see that in addition to being a reflection of his emphasis on doctrine, Taixu's targeting of the educated and upper classes also addressed this perceived slighting. In addition, he had apparently cultivated good relations with the government since it financed the Sino-Tibetan Institute and his




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter VI: Analysis

wartime trip to Southeast Asia. Thus, Taixu dealt with this problem directly by reaching out to those portions of the population that he felt failed to respect the sangha.

     The problem of monastic ignorance of worldly affairs is also dealt with in a direct manner. The logical way to deal with ignorance is education and as we have seen this was an area that Taixu gave a great deal of attention. We have seen that a substantial amount of time was spent in Taixu's academies on secular subjects such as history, and geography, which would impart a greater understanding of "worldly affairs," although it occupied far less of his students time than their Buddhist courses. Taixu's propaganda efforts also bear on this issue, for those who Taixu was not able to educate directly through his academies, he sought to educate through his lectures and magazines which often dealt with contemporary ideas and issues.

     Because of this ignorance of contemporary ideas and issues, Taixu felt, the sangha had been unable to appeal to modern minds. He dealt with this both directly, by reaching out to those groups most effected by modernization, and indirectly, by training his students to do so. It is important to note here the methods that Taixu used. To appeal to modern minds, Taixu used modern mediums. He spread the word through lecture tours, "revival meetings," magazines, and schools which made use of current pedagogical methods.

     The final problem that Taixu identified with Buddhism was excessive "familialism." Several points of Taixu's program address this. Although the details of his proposals changed over the years, each of his plans for sangha reform sought to impose a universal standard and a




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter VI: Analysis

degree of centralization upon the almost completely autonomous monasteries and temples which he saw as acting like independent clans. The educational aspect of these plans would also bear on this by setting up a counter-structure outside the traditional hierarchy. Rather than being trained in their home temples, Taixu wanted monks educated in the more impersonal academies which they would enroll in immediately after entering the sangha. In these academies more meritocratic mechanisms were in place -- entrance was determined by examination, and grades were awarded. The title of Dharma teacher was granted, not for rising through the traditional, familial monastic hierarchy, but for completing a formal education. The educational institution would thus have a strong claim on its students which would disrupt the familial structure. However, it is also conceivable that monk's loyalties to the academy they attended would create similar problems. Thus this particular way of addressing the problem is potentially problematic. On a more concrete level, the participation of the Bodhi Society in the selection of several local abbots indicates that Taixu sought to disperse power in this process, placing it in the hands of the broader Buddhist community.

Given that one of the results of this problem, according to Taixu, was private ownership of property which ought to be held commonly by all Buddhists, we might expect to find a call for the collectivization of monastic property. Such a call, however, is surprisingly absent. It appears likely that Taixu never made such a proposal because it would almost certainly have been rejected. Although this study has dealt almost exclusively with the ideas of his mature period, i.e. after his seclusion on Putuo Shan, it is worth noting that he entered seclusion because his early




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Chapter VI: Analysis

reform ideas, which had been heavily influenced by socialism, had been rejected. Further, each of his unimplemented plans for sangha reform was more modest than the last. Thus the evidence suggests that Taixu's motives in this regard were practical. For all of his plans for ideal Buddhist institutions, Taixu wanted to make actual changes to concrete institutions.

     Whereas the problems with Buddhism were to a large degree institutional and were addressed largely by Taixu's application, the problems with the modern world were more fundamental and were addressed primarily by Taixu's theory. Taixu felt that in the modern world humanity's egoistic passions ran unchecked, as seen in the first World War. The rise of science had undercut traditional ethical systems based on a theistic worldview. As Taixu saw it. Buddhism was compatible with science and thus, as he put it, "he who loses religion through science can learn how to find it again through Buddhism."[227]

     Taixu's system of ethics naturally relates to the problem of factionalism as well. The ethical injunction of the Human vehicle stands in sharp opposition to the constant struggle Taixu saw among nations, races, and classes. Furthermore, according to Taixu's metaphysics, such factions are ultimately empty, and therefore, it is impossible to gain anything through such struggle. Since in his view all phenomena, including human beings and their various factions, are bound together in the web of cause and effect, he held that the only way to actually improve one's position was by helping one's fellows.

     This necessity of helping one's fellows also addresses the final

227. Hamilton 167.




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Chapter VI: Analysis

problem Taixu saw with the world, the unavoidable suffering which occurs due to natural disasters. Naturally, on the more abstract level, providing aid to those who have fallen victim to natural disaster would fall within the ethical injunction of the Human Vehicle, but this is a problem which Taixu dealt with on a more practical level as well. Hankou, the city where the Right Faith Society was situated, was frequently ravaged by flood and fire due to its location directly on the banks of the Yangzi and the wooden buildings crowded together in some sections of town. The Right Faith Society provided relief in such emergencies including free soup kitchens and dispatching boats to rescue the stranded.

     Good works, however, were not of themselves sufficient. The key problem that Taixu identified with the modern world was not simply the existence of suffering but the underlying dynamics which too often cause it -- our egoistic passions. The problem lay in the attitudes that gave rise to destructive behavior, therefore Taixu felt that he had to change the way in which people saw the world and each other. For this he needed propaganda.

     An outgrowth of this need was the overwhelming importance of propaganda in his program. As we have seen, Taixu spent a great deal of time personally engaging in these efforts. His lectures, teaching, "revival meetings," "street chapels," conferences, and publications all served to spread his views on issues he felt important. But he also used other elements of his program to further this goal. He took care to train his students in the art of preaching and brought them along on his own lecture tours where they could both assist and observe him. The lay




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Chapter VI: Analysis

societies also acted in a supporting role. They were the actual publishers of the magazines in which he aired his views, they often provided the venue for his lectures, and also financed most of his activities.

     The sheer scope of his activities is also an outgrowth of the importance of propaganda. As he saw it, the problems with the world were universal problems of human nature, thus his propaganda had to reach all people. Here too, other elements of his program served to further this aim. Through his panshe, conferences, and trips to Japan and Southeast Asia, he sought to unite the Buddhist world in order to spread Buddhism beyond Asia to the West. He also prepared his students for this task by teaching them foreign languages and sending them abroad to study. On a more theoretical level, he consistently stressed the universality of the essence of Buddhism. A universal conception of all phenomenon is logically as applicable in the West as in the East. Furthermore, he applied this same principle in his harmonization to deal with many of his potential ideological rivals including science. Western philosophy, and socialism. In the case of Christianity, Taixu not only subordinated it in his hierarchy of knowledge but also co-opted its institutional innovations by borrowing from Christian models for many of his organizations and activities. Thus he had begun laying the intellectual foundation of the missionary effort he hoped would ease the sufferings of the world.

     The sufferings of the world are a common concern for religious thinkers and many have developed elaborate theories to address the problem but have gone no further. Taixu, on the other hand, although he certainly had his idealistic plans and visions, was not satisfied with merely




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World

Chapter VI: Analysis

theoretical formulations but sought to bring about concrete change in the world. If occasionally Taixu was not entirely systematic or clear in addressing the problems he identified, perhaps we should not be surprised for this has been characteristic of his thought all along. He was certainly a thinker who was concerned with the big picture first and foremost. Though there were a few ambiguous points and a few surprising omissions, in general Taixu's threefold plan of action did attempt to address his two sets of problems. Thus although he may have indeed had "a flair for self-promotion" as Holmes Welch alleged, we can see that Taixu used this flair in the service of a coherent program and body of thought which addressed a specific set of concerns. Certainly this offers a better explanation of why many Chinese Buddhists today still find him compelling and significant.




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World




Glossary of Romanizations and Chinese Characters










advanced study







Fajie yuanjue zong


School of the Perfect Enlightenment of the Dharmadhatu



Dharma teacher

Faxiang weishi zong


School of the Mind Only [Nature] of Dharmas

Faxing kong hui zong


School of the Wisdom [that Discerns the] True Nature of Dharmas



Sound of the Dharma




Fo fa seng yuan


Garden of the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha




Fojiao xiejin hui


Buddhist Association



Buddhist academy



high level



Sound of the Sea Tide







Hanzang jiaoli yuan


Sino-Tibetan Institute










Jian seng dagang


Outline for Establishing the Sangha






Jinshan si


Jinshan Monastery




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World



Jue she


Bodhi Society

Jue she jikan


Bodhi Society Journal





Lunli goucheng


logical constructs



Lu Peilin


Lü Peilin











People's Livelihood




Nan Putuo si


Nan Putuo Monastery










putong ke


common course

Putuo Shan


Putuo Shan



Ren cheng


Human Vehicle



Three Treatise

Sanmin zhuyi



San yin


three seals

seng zhong



Shengwen cheng


Sravaka Vehicle

sheng zhong





Shijie foxue yuan


World Institute of Buddhist Studies




Tian cheng


Heavenly Vehicle




Tiantong Si


Tiantong Temple



Mind Only

Weishi suocheng


that which is manifested by consciousness




wuliang yin ming


limitless mudra and dharani









Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World





xian zhong







xin zhong







xiu sheng changuan


practicing surpassing meditation

Yangzheng foxueyuan


Buddhist Academy for Fostering Orthodoxy



research schools

Yi yin ming


one mudra and dharani

Yi shi xiang



Yinyuan suocheng


that which is produced by causes

Yongfeng Si


Yongfeng Temple



original nature



Zhengli sengjia zhidu lun


On Reform of the Sangha System

Zhengxin hui


Right Faith Society









zhishi diaocheng


intellectual symbolic constructs






Zhonglun xing jiao


Zhonglun xing jiao

Zhong mofan conglin


model monasteries

zhuanxiu ke


specialized course



zong zhuanxiu conglin


special monasteries







Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World




Works in English

Blofeld, John

The Jewel in the Lotus: An Outline of Present Day Buddhism in China. London: Sidgwick and Jackson 1948.

Callahan, Paul E.

"T'ai-hsü and the New Buddhist Movement." Harvard University: Paper on China 6 (1952): 149-188.

Chan Wing-tsit

Religious Trends in Modern China. New York: Columbia University Press 1953.

Chou Hsiang-kuang

A History of Chinese Buddhism. Allahabad: Indo-Chinese Literature Publications 1955.

Chou Hsiang-kuang

T'ai-hsü: His Life and Teachings. Allahabad: Indo-Chinese Literature Publications 1957.

Cressey, Earl H.

"A Study in Indigenous Religions." Laymen's Foreign Missionary Inquiry: Fact-Finders Reports: China. Vol. 5 Supplementary Series Part 2. ed. Orville A. Petty. New York: Harpers 1933.

Fairbank, John K., Edwin O. Reischauer, and Albert M. Craig

East Asia: Tradition and Transformation. Revised Ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1989.

Hamilton, Clarence H.

"Buddhism" in China. ed. Harley Farnsworth Macnair. Berkeley: University of California 1946. 290-300.

Hamilton, C. H.

"An Hour with T'ai-hsü, Master of the Law." The Open Court. 42 (1928): 162-169.

Hodous, Lewis

"The Buddhist Outlook in China." Chinese Student's Monthly 21:6 (1926): 9-11.

Kuan Chiung

"Buddhism" The Chinese Yearbook 1936-1937. Shanghai: 1937.

McDaniel, C. Yates

"Buddhism Makes its Peaces with the New Order." Asia 35:9 (Sept 1935): 536-41.




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World



Millican, Frank R.

"T'ai-hsü and Modern Buddhism." Chinese Recorder 54:6 (1923): 326-334.

Pratt, James Bissett

The Pilgrimage of Buddhism and a Buddhist Pilgrimage. New York: 1928.

Pratt, James Bissett

"A Report on the Present Condition of Buddhism." Chinese Social and Political Science Review 8:3 (1924): 1-32.

Reichelt, Karl K.

"Buddhism in China at the Present Time and the New Challenge to the Christian Church." International Review of Missions 26 (1937): 153-66.

Reichelt, Karl L.

"A Conference of Chinese Buddhist Leaders." Chinese Recorder 54:11 (1923): 667-669.

Reichelt, Karl Ludwig

The Transformed Abbot. London: Lutterworth Press 1954.

Reichelt, K. L.

"Trends in China's Non-Christian Religions." Chinese Recorder 65 (1934): 758-768.

Reichelt, Karl L.

Truth and Tradition in Chinese Buddhism. Shanghai: 1927.

Robinson, Richard H. and Willard L. Johnson

The Buddhist Religion: A Historical Introduction 4th Ed. New York: Wadsworth 1997.

"T'ai-hsü" Biographical Dictionary of Republican China edited by Howard L. Boorman. New York: Columbia University Press 1971.


"The Meaning of Buddhism." trans. Frank Millican. Chinese Recorder 65 (1934): 689-695.


"A Statement to Asiatic Buddhists." The Young East 1 (1925): 177-182.

Tsu, Y. Y.

"A Diary of a Buddhist Nun." Journal of Religion 7:5/6 (Oct 1927): 612-18.

Tsu, Yu-yue

"Present Tendencies in Chinese Buddhism." Journal of Religion 1:5 (Sept 1921): 497-512.




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World



Tsu, Y. Y.

"Trends of Religion and Thought in China." New Orient II (1933): 321-29.

Tsukamoto, Zenryu

"Japanese and Chinese Buddhism in the Twentieth Century." Cahiers d'histoire mondiale 6:3 (1961): 572-602.

"Urge Cultural tie with the Orient: Delegates Representing Eastern and Western Religions Unite in Movement to Promote World Peace." New York Times, March 6, 1929.


"Buddhism in Modern China" T'ien Hsia Monthly 9:2 (Sept 1939):140-155.

Welch, Holmes

The Buddhist Revival in China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 1968.

Welch, Holmes

"Changing Attitudes toward Religion in Modern China." China in Perspective. Wellesley, MA: 1967. 77-97.


Works in Chinese

Deng Zimei

"Ershi shiji zhongguo fojiao zhihui de jiejing: renjian fojiao lilun de jiangou yu yunzuo (shang)" Fayin 166 (June 15, 1998): 3-9.

Deng Zimei

"Ershi shiji zhongguo fojiao zhihui de jiejing: renjian fojiao lilun de jiangou yu yunzuo (xia)" Fayin 167 (July 1998): 16-22.


"Taixu dashi de jianseng sixiang," Fayin 145 (Sept. 1996): 10-14.

Shi Xuming

"Taixu dashi shengping shiji," Lengyan jing shelun yu yanjiu. by Taixu. Zhonghua 1969.


"Xingweixue yu xinlixue." Haichaoyin wenku. 1:1 (1933): 60-78.


"Xingweixue yu weigenlun ji weishenlun" Haichaoyin wenku.. 1:1 (1933): 78-84.


Taixu fashi wenchao, ed. Wang Mingfu, Xie Jian, and Zhang Shanchang. Shanghai: Zhonghua 1927.




Taixu: To Renew Buddhism and Save the Modern World



Additional Readings

Works in English

"Buddhism" in China Handbook 1937-1945. New York: Macmillan 1947.

"Chinese in Appeal for Shift by Gandhi: Chungking Newspaper Asks the Extreme Action be Avoided." New York Times. August 8, 1942.

"Chungking Meeting." Time (June 14, 1943): 50.

Hamilton, Clarence H. "Buddhism Resurgent." Journal of Religion 17 (1937): 30-36.

Haydon, A. Eustace ed. Modern Trends in World Religions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1934.

Hodous, Lewis. Buddhism and Buddhists in China. New York: Macmillan 1924.

Kuan Chiung. "Buddhism" The Chinese Yearbook 1935-1936. Shanghai: 1936.

Millican, Frank R. "Buddhist Activities in Shanghai." Chinese Recorder 65:4 (Apr 1934): 221-227.

Pratt, J. B. "Buddhism and Scientific Thinking." Journal of Religion 14 (1934): 13-24.

Reichelt, Karl K. "Special Work among Chinese Buddhists." Chinese Recorder 51:7 (1920): 491-497.

Tai Ping-heng. "Modern Chinese Buddhism." Chinese Recorder 56 (1925): 89-95.

T'ai-hsü. Lectures in Buddhism. Paris: 1928.

Tsu, Y. Y. "Buddhism and Modern Economic Problems." Journal of Religion 14 (1934): 34-43.


Works in Chinese

Taixu. "Zizhi Zhexue." Haichaoyin Wenku. 1:2 (1933): 1-10.


Chapter I: Introduction

Chapter II: Problems

Chapter III: Reduction

Chapter IV: Harmonization

Chapter V: Application

Chapter VI: Analysis Appendix