Hua-yen Buddhism,The Jewel Net of Indra by Francis H Cook

Hua-yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra

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Hua-yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra
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This book is about a Chinese form of Buddhism called Hua-yen (Flower Ornament). The present book is divided into eight chapters. Ch.1 The Jewel Net of Indra; Ch.2 The Hua-yen School; Ch.3 The Indian Background of Hua-yen; Ch.4 Identity; Ch.5 Intercasuality; Ch.6 The Part and the Whole; Ch.7 Vairocana; Ch.8 Living in the Net of Indra. The book contains exhaustive notes a glossary and an index.



This book about the world view of a Chinese form of Buddhism called Hua—yen (Flower Ornament) is the result of about a decade of serious, uninterrupted study of the various forms which Buddhist thought and practice have taken since their origins in India in the fifth century B.<:. During the six years when I was a graduate student in the Program in Buddhist Studies at the University of Wisconsin, I became increasingly attracted to this important and hitherto neglected system of Buddhist thought. As scholars do, I staked out the territory in which I wished to do my future explorations, and for the past several years, I have devoted most of my time to the translation and close study of Hua-yen materials. I have come to admire Hua-yen philosophy greatly. It is out of this admiration for such a grand and satisfying world view, as well as the considerations below, that this book grows, in the hope that Hua-yen will prove to be so equally interesting to both specialists in Asian religion and those nonspecialists who for one reason or another find the study of Buddhism to be a fruitful use of time. Keeping in mind the mixed nature of readers of books of this sort, I have tried to be as thorough and accurate as such a study demands without burdening the nonspecialist with a heavy freight of scholarly apparatus. For specialists, I have used notes wherever necessary and placed them in the back of the book. On the assumption that the subject is itself both interesting and convincing, I have avoided the temptation to overinflate the language with professional or intellectual jargon in an attempt to further elevate the subject.

There are several reasons why I decided to write this book. First, as already indicated, Hua—yen Buddhism is a fascinating and intrinsically interesting subject. Although it may be the deluded fancy of a person who has spent too many nights pondering over the meaning of seventh-century Chinese Buddhist texts, I would like to believe that the picture of existence described in Hua-yen literature is truly beautiful, grand, and inspiring. What is more, we are assured by wise men of the Hua-yen tradition that we do in fact dwell in such a universe constantly, though we are hardly aware of it. For the reader with a working knowledge of Western philosophy, religion, art, and science, the Hua-yen world will prove to be not only new and different, but challenging, and not at all self-evident. The reader is going to have to perform the very difficult task of opening his or her mind and making it flexible. But the rewards of this effort will be a new understanding of a view of existence which is exciting in its possibilities. Even the reader who can appreciate only slightly such a view of things will have taken the first step of that journey which Hua—yen texts refer to as “entering the Dharma—dhatu.” To the reader whose mind is forever made up that reality lies in tables of statistic showing the proportion of third—generation Irish in Boston who own television sets, the Hua-yen description of the true nature of things is going to seem to be sheer nonsense. He is going to laugh, but to paraphrase Lao-tzu, if he didn’t laugh it would not be worth serious consideration.

Another reason for writing this book is that I hope that it will add something to our knowledge of what Chinese Buddhism was, and how it developed. Some excellent studies of pre-T’ang Chinese Buddhism have appeared in Japanese and Western languages in the past few decades, and some notable studies of T’ang culture in certain areas have now appeared also, but next to nothing has been written yet in the West on this form of Chinese Buddhism which has been acknowledged by Oriental religionists and students of Chinese culture to be the high-water mark of Buddhist philosophical effort. One consideration, then, is the obvious one of attempting to describe Hua-yen Buddhism carefully and accurately. At the same time, we need to know much more about how Hua—yen came to be what it is. What are its connections with parent Indian thought forms? I-low, if at all, is it related to indigenous Chinese systems of thought such as Taoism? While it is not my purpose to deal explicitly with the question of adaptation and assimilation, I hope that some light will be shed on them.

Finally; a third reason. I wonder if the Hua-yen world view can be seriously considered as an adequate, satisfying description of existence. Perhaps, again, it is the lamentable result of too many nights of coffee, pipe smoke, and small Chinese characters, but 1 have come to ask myself if the structure and nature of reality as shown by the Hua—yen masters is, after all, that remote and implausible, despite the vast gulf that separates our own time and place from T’ang period Chinese Buddhism. Western presuppositions have brought us to a world view vastly different from that of a Chinese Buddhist of the late seventh century. Moreover, the Hua—yen view of existence is a religious and ethical view, finally, and modern Western man, despite his pious protestations, has no real understanding of, or concern with, religious values anymore. But, with regard to the former problem, are we not just as separated from the worlds of Plato, Jesus, Shakespeare, and Bach? The world of Jesus two thousand years ago on the eastern end of the Mediterranean sea (and really an Oriental world!) has practically nothing in common with Western culture of the twentieth century. If a man living in London were to discover the Hebrew Christian Bible manuscript for the first time today (and hence we would not be heirs to that tradition), translate, and publish it, the world view as divulged by that old book would certainly appear to be as implausible, irrelevant, and perhaps silly as that given in Hua—yen books. In other words, the plausibility or cogency of an idea is not always necessarily intrinsic to the material, but often seems to come from familiarity.

That Jesus, Plato, or Shakespeare, or even nineteenth—century Romantic poet. can communicate with us over the distances in time and place is partly due to the unbroken tradition stretching from them down to us. Put in another way, they make sense to us, have meaning to us, because they have become part of what we are. Without that unbroken tradition, it is, it must be agreed, difficult to seriously confront an alien tradition.

But familiarity does not make an idea true. The only real test of an idea is the effect it has on our lives, the way it helps us to organize our experience in a satisfying manner, in the general manner in which it forcibly shapes our thought and conduct. If a man’s thoughts can do this, they can transcend the centuries. The reader must, therefore, put aside his cultural prejudices and bigotries and ask himself seriously if the Hua—yen picture of existence is ipso facto false or incredible .simply because it is the product of a race of people and a time so different from his oWn. This is difficult to do, but in the ability to journey courageously outside one’s own intellectual and cultural parish lies the only hope for a true civilization.

Why, then, should Hua—yen not present its case along with that of all the other philosophies that vie for our attention? The poor Western citizen is confronted with a real clamor of competing voices; he is implored to accept Science (or “Scientism”), Marxism, Capitalism, Cartesianism, Atheistic Humanism, Behaviorist Psychology, Positivism, Neo-thomism, and Consumerism, as well as any one of several dozen new, modern varieties of Christianity. Often, we make a choice, frequently out of exhaustion, but oddly enough, when we choose, we always choose the close at hand, for we feel that there is something alien and irrelevant (and maybe unsafe) in a philosophy created by Orientals or someone else not more or less just like us. Lately, it is true, a few have turned to Zen or Tibetan Tantra, and a few have expressed admiration and respect for Native American Indian beliefs, but these are still statistically tare. When a man gives his heart to some new philosophy, it is because his heart has been there all the time. There are few real converts. Thus, he turns to Marx, sensitivity training, or Billy Graham. They are familiar and the change is not radical. So, here is Hua-yen to offer its voice. At one time, such a suggestion would have been intellectually risky, but I am encouraged by certain developments in the last few decades, in the increasing interest in Whitehead’s process philosophy and in the increasing willingness to consider the implications of Einstein’s theory of relativity, both of which bear startling similarities to Hua—yen, in great part if not wholly, and in spirit if not in language and intent. These developments have helped in no small way to make such a book as this feasible.

The reader may be forewarned that Hua-yen thought is difficult to understand, and without a reasonably good grounding in the basics of Indian Buddhism, much of the richness and beauty of Hua-yen will be lost. I have tried to help by including one chapter on the most important Indian Buddhist ideas to have some effect on the formation of Hua-yen, but considerations of space preclude any more lengthy discussion. For the serious reader who wants to pursue Hua-yen as well armed as possible, I would recommend some of the excellent books on general Indian Buddhist ideas now in print.

Buddhism has had a long and extraordinarily rich history, spanning 2,500 years in time and half the globe we live on. From its birthplace in India, it has traveled steadily east to enrich the cultures of first China, then Japan. Now, it would seem that the movement has reached the troubled shores of America and Europe in the middle of the twentieth century, where serious groups of Western Buddhists have sprung up all over. The uninformed reader would undoubtedly be startled to learn just how many Buddhist groups there are now in Europe and the United States. We are still in the position of saying and believing absurd things about this religion, the impact of which we are just now beginning to feel to any extent. Part of the value which this book may have lies in the fact that almost all (but not all) these forms of Buddhism look to Hua-.yen for their philosophical foundation. This is particularly true of Zen, which is now the most widely spread form practiced. While Zen and some other forms are “practical” in that the main emphasis is on doing, rather than believing, reading, etc., the very truth which is the goal of this practice is precisely the view of things taught in systematic fashion by Hua—yen. If we are to cease believing and saying the silly things we do about Buddhism, we will have to have a much better understanding not only of the things it does (i.e., meditation) but of its goal as well. One of the elements of this understanding is the Hua—yen description of the world as seen by the enlightened. If the reader can understand the Hua—yen vision of reality, he will be better able to understand not only the more profound experiences of his Chinese and Japanese brothers, bLit also of those closer Western brothers of his who have given their hearts and minds to Buddhism. Perhaps this is as good a reason as any for the following pages.

The primary source for this book is a treatise called, in Chinese, Hua—yen i—ch’eng chiao frn—ch’i chang. In the pages that follow, I will refer to it as the “Treatise.” It was composed by Fa-.tsang, the third patriarch of the Hua-yen school, at the end of the seventh century. Although there are several versions of this text, I have chosen that of the Taisho Shinshü Daizökyö, which is the Japanese edition of the Chinese collection of Buddhist literature. It is an excellent text and any deviations from other versions which it shows are minor and inconsequential. This text is number i 866, in volume 45 of the Taish5 edition, occupying pages 477—509. Wherever I have quoted from this text, I have indicated the source by showing the page and register within square brackets, thus {So2bl, and such references are always only to the Treatise. Other sources will be cited in the notes. I have also relied heavily on three of the most useful commentaries on Fa—tsang’s Treatise for my own reading and interpretation of the text.

1. Kegon go kyo sho shiji ki, in three volumes, composed during the Nara period in Japan. It is the oldest of the commentaries in either Chinese or Japanese. The text exists in the Taish5 Shinshü Daiz5kyö in volume 72, Dai Nippon Bukky5 Zensho, volume io, and Bukkyo Taikei, volumes 13 and 14.
2. Tsüro-ki, by the Japanese monk Gyönen. Only 39 of the original 72 volumes are extant. Texts are in the Taishö, volume 72, Dai Nippon Bukkyü Zensho, and volumes 9 and in, and in Bukky5 Taikei, volumes 13 and 14.
. Wu chiao changfu len chi, a Sung Dynasty commentary by Shih-hui. Texts exist in the Manji Zokuzöky5, 2.8.3, and in the Bunko Taikei, volume 14.

I am indebted as well to the work of numerous Japanese scholars, for whom Hua—yen Buddhism is as familiar as, say, Methodism is for many in the United States. Their work, on historical and doctrinal matters, is indispensable to the study of Hua—yen. Wherever such a debt exists, I have so indicated.

My debts are, as a matter of fact, almost as extensive as the interrelationships described in the Hua—yen treatises. Professor Minoru Kiyota, my friend and teacher, first made me aware of the importance and value of Hua-yen thought, and had he not encouraged me to look into it, as well as to learn the Japanese necessary for its study, there would be one fewer book on Buddhism. Professor Richard Robinson was a very severe critic, constantly asking those embarrassing questions which made me return to the Chinese again and again. His insistence always on accurate readings of primary source materials made success possible.

His death in 1970 was a terrible loss for Buddhist Studies, as well as a personal loss. A generous Fulbright Fellowship for study in Japan from 1966 to 1968 made it possible for me to acquire many hard-to-get materials, to have a year and a half of luxurious time in which to do nothing but study Hua-yen literature and to meet and talk with authoritative Japanese experts. Among the later, I am especially grateful for the friendly help and support of Professors Makita, Nagao Gadjin, and Kajiyama Yuichi, of Kyoto University, and my friend and fellow researcher Aramaki Noritoshi of the Institute for Humanistic Studies, Kyoto University. The memory of many fruitful and pleasant hours in their company is one the few treasures I am greedy enough to hand on to. Finally, my wife Betty contributed immeasurably to my being able to pursue Buddhist Studies while in graduate school and in Japan. Though her help took many forms, it would have been invaluable if for no other reason than that she has always supported me in my belief that the study of Buddhism is worthwhile. My debts extend beyond these, also, but where do they end? May the help of all these earn them countless kalpas in the Tushita Heavens.

An earlier work, C.C. Chang’s Buddhist Teaching of Totality, is the first full-length treatment of Hua-yen thought in a Western language, but I have several reservations about some of its interpretations. Yet it can be recommended for its sympathetic discussion of the general outlines of Hua-yen cosmology. The reader could do no better than to read it before taking up this book.




Preface ix
1. The Jewel Net of Indra
2. The Hua-yen School 20
3. The Indian Background of Hua-yen 34
4. Identity 56
5. Intercasuality 67
6. The Part and the Whole 75
7. Vairocana 90
8. Living in the Net of Indra 109
Notes 123
Glossary 139
Index 143

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