Huiyuan also enjoyed enormous popularity among the gentry of South China, for it was to this group that he primarily directed his literary efforts. Some thirty of his works, in the form of letters, essays, prefaces, eulogies, or inscriptions, are extant. Unlike Dao'an, who primarily wrote commentaries for the Buddhist clergy, Huiyuan addressed issues that most concerned the gentry: rebirth, the immortality of the soul, the doctrine of karman, and the nature of the dharmakāya. His previous classical training made him successful in explaining these concepts in terms of the philosophical outlook of the Chinese elite, which at the time was dominated by xuanxue ("dark learning") speculations into the underlying source (ben ) of phenomena. That he never once quoted a Buddhist sūtra by name but made numerous allusions to the Confucian classics attests to his fervent desire to bring Buddhism into the mainstream of Chinese spiritual and intellectual life. Modern scholars have identified certain areas in which Huiyuan's understanding of important Buddhist concepts deviates from that of the Indian texts. They have attributed this both to his concern to present Buddhist notions in a form comprehensible to the Chinese, as in his postulation of a cosmic soul (shen ) as a means of explaining the process of rebirth, or to his frank inability in some instances to master the subtleties of Buddhist doctrine. This is particularly evident in his treatment of the Mādhyamika concepts introduced into China by Kumārajīva. Huiyuan's correspondence with this, perhaps the greatest of all Buddhist translators, is one of our richest sources of information on the development of Buddhist thought in fifth-century China.

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Among Huiyuan's many accomplishments, his devotional group probably had the most enduring influence on Chinese Buddhism. In 402 Huiyuan and 123 lay and clerical disciples gathered before an image of the Buddha Amitābha and made a collective vow to be reborn together in his Pure Land. Huiyuan's devotional group served as a model for the lay-based Buddhist societies of the mid-Tang and Song periods, the most well known of which is the White Lotus Society of the early twelfth century. This group claimed to take its name from that of Huiyuan's confraternity; modern scholarship, however, has shown the name to be of later origin. The deliberate evocation of Huiyuan's legacy some eight hundred years after his death, however, attests vividly to his enduring prestige in the Chinese Buddhist community. His influence continues to be acknowledged by the Pure Land traditions of both China and Japan, which have traditionally regarded Huiyuan as their founder and first patriarch.
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HUIYUAN (334–416), more fully Shi Huiyuan or Lüshan Huiyuan, Chinese Buddhist monk. Born to a literati family named Jia in Yanmen (Shanxi province), Huiyuan went to Henan at the age of thirteen to study both the Confucian classics and the Laozi and Zhuangzi. When he was twenty he met the eminent Buddhist monk Dao'an (312–385), whose personality and explanation of the philosophy of the "perfection of wisdom" (Skt., prajñāpāramitā ) impressed him so much that he embraced Buddhism and became his disciple. He remained with Dao'an for twenty-four years, residing mostly at Xiangyang. In 378 the invading Qin army forced master and disciple to separate. Huiyuan went south and eventually settled on Mount Lü in Jiangxi, where one of his colleagues from his days in Xiangyang, Huiyong, interceded on his behalf to have the Donglin Monastery built for him around 384. He remained there until his death thirty years later.
In the year 404, Huiyuan wrote a treatise On Why Monks Do Not Bow Down Before Kings (沙門不敬王者論).[4] This book symbolized his efforts to assert the political independence of Buddhist clergy from the courts of monarchic rulers. At the same time, it was a religious and political text that aimed to convince monarchs and Confucian-minded ministers of state that followers of Buddhism were ultimately not subversive. He argued that Buddhists could make good subjects in a kingdom due to their beliefs in retribution of karma and the desire to be reborn in paradise. Despite the Buddhists' reputation of leaving their family behind for a monastic life, Huiyuan stated "those who rejoice in the Way of the Buddha invariably first serve their parents and obey their lords."[1]
†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Contents in www.activeherb.com is for information purpose only and are written to our best knowledge and expertise for the scientific accuracy. They are not to replace the advice of your physicians. The research cited in our contents are published in scientific journals and have not subjected to the FDA evaluation. We reserve the copyright to protect our contents. Any reproduction without in its entirety and without explicit credits to ActiveHerb is prohibited.

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