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Dzogchen, Chinese Buddhism and the Universal Mind - Kumararaja
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Kumararaja


Then with the fifth century, there came a veritable flood tide of translations of Buddhist Sutras. In consequence, the method of analogy was abandoned. This new system of accurate translations from the Sanskrit into Chinese was largely the work of the great Kumarajiva (344-413 CE). Of Indian descent, he was a native of the Central Asian trade city of Kucha. When the Chinese armies of the T'ang dynasty overwhelmed previously independent Kucha, the forty year old Buddhist monk was carried off to the imperial capital of Ch'ang-an, as the greatest treasure among the spoils of their conquest. Nevertheless, despite his Indian Buddhist background, Kumarajiva continued to use a few Taoist terms to express Buddhist concepts, such as yu (existence), wu (non-existence), wu wei (non-action) and so on. But here there was only a superficial resemblance, whereas earlier Buddhism was actually interpreted as a species of Taoism.

However, gradually the interpretation of Indian Buddhism and Taoist spirituality led to the manifestation of the characteristically Chinese form of Buddhism, as opposed to being merely Indian Buddhism transplanted to China. Some Buddhist schools in China remained totally Indian in approach and spirit, such as the Wei-shih Tsung, the School of Pure Consciousness, founded by Hsuan Tsang (596-664 CE). But such schools were restricted to small elite groups among the Chinese intelligenzia for a limited period only and did not reach the average Chinese intellectual serving in the government bureaucracy, let alone the Tibetans. So, Dzogchen cannot be historically from the school of Hsuan Tsang. Tantra in China In general, the development of Buddhism in China, where it had penetrated much earlier, was quite different from its development in Tibet. In Tibet itself, the study of philosophical Buddhism or the Sutra System of the Mahayana (mdo-lugs) was firmly based on translations of the original Sanskrit Shastras or philosophical treatises written by the great Indian masters such as Nagarjuna, Asanga, Vasubandhu, Chandrakirti, and so on. On the other hand and in contrast, in China only the translations of the Mahayana Sutras gained a prominent and enduring place in Chinese Buddhism. This furnished a spirit and an aesthetic to Chinese Buddhism that is quite different from Tibetan Buddhism which is thoroughly permeated with the spirit of the Indian Buddhist Tantras. Fundamentally Chinese Buddhism, and this included Ch'an, is based on the Mahayana Sutras, which, as their essential approach, represent the path of purification (sbyong lam). It is true that some Tantras were translated into Chinese, even a few Anuttara Tantras like the Hevajra Tantra, for example, but the Tantras did not gain a wide circulation or popularity in China, although they did come to be included in the Chinese Canon of Buddhist Scriptures. In particular, the antinomianism and the libertine sexual sentiments expressed in the Anuttara Tantras appear to have no appeal to the Chinese.


At one time a small Tantric school did exist in South China, but its influence was rather limited. This was the Mi Tsung or "School of Secrets," which was founded by the Indian master Amoghavajra (d. 741 CE). His teaching was based on the Yoga Tantras, which had also been introduced into Tibet and enjoyed some popularity in the earlier period before the eleventh century when they were largely superseded in popularity by the New Translations of the Anuttara Tantras. Although this school flourished within a small circle for a limited time, the Mi Tsung, the other schools of Chinese Buddhism, has since been absorbed into Ch'an. But the situation of Buddhism was quite different in Japan where the various transplanted schools of Chinese Buddhism have not merged together, but have been kept separate and cultivated in their pristine and independent purity. Due to the efforts of the Japanese Tantric master Kukei (774-835 CE), otherwise known as Kobo Daishi, the Chinese Tantric tradition was brought to Kyoto and Koyasan in Japan, where this master organized his own school of Tantric Buddhism known as Shingon. This is now the third largest sect of Buddhism in Japan, after Jodo Shinshu (the Pure Land sect) and Zen. The two principal Tantras of this school, employed in their Chinese translations, are the Mahavairochana Tantra (called a Sutra in both Chinese and Japanese versions) and the Vajrashekhara Tantra, which belong to the Charya Tantra and the Yoga Tantra classifications, respectively, that are in vogue among the Tibetans.