Cultural Change of Indian Pure Land Buddhist Teaching in Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism

Chen, Shu-chen, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
lang, Karen, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Germano, David, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia

This work intends to illustrate the cultural change in Indian Pure Land teaching manifested in Tibetan and Chinese Pure Land praxis. Indian Pure Land teaching originated from the concept of buddhanusmrti in which practitioners yearned to encounter the Buddha and hear his instruction first hand. When the teaching was transmitted to Tibet which had predominantly tantric culture, the Indic original general orientation of seeking rebirth in the Pure Land of any deity was retained and the teaching was incorporated into Tibetan Buddhist tantric framework. At the same time, the Tibetan Seminal Heart tradition offered a practice in which practitioners may accomplish becoming a Pure Land creative Buddha themselves. In the case of Chinese Pure Land Buddhism, the teaching was reduced because buddhanusmrti practice was predominantly interpreted as the recitation of Buddha Amitabha's name for the sake of attaining rebirth in His Pure Land. Concurrently, there are Chinese Buddhists who consider Pure Land is nowhere but in the mind. In contemporary Taiwan, Chinese Buddhists reconcile the two interpretations by aspiring to establish "a Pure Land in the Human Realm" in the here and now. Furthermore, upon comparing Pure Land teaching from the Chinese and the Tibetan tradition, the major difference seems to lie in the relationship between self (the practitioner) and other (the guru or deity) and have a cultural basis. The Chinese seeks assistance from the other-Amitabha Buddha in order to take rebirth in His Western Pure Land while the Tibetans visualize themselves as Amitabha Buddha Himself and thus abolishing the boundary between self and other. In the Tibetan Seminal Heart tradition, the adept goes even further to achieve the realization of being this primordial creative Buddha of the universe thus there is only Oneness in the All ultimately. This work contributes to the recording of the history of Buddhism in Taiwan and the inquiry into the relation between self and other in South Asian religions.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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