Buddhism

The spread of Buddhism throughout China sparked diverse responses from many individuals. Scholars from varying backgrounds and religions had differing opinions about Buddhism and multiple factors influenced their viewpoint. Factors such as what class they are from, what religion they are, and what events are happening at the time.

Documents 2 and 3 are written by Chinese scholars who are in support of Buddhism and seem to be trying to inform others of the positives of Buddhism. The authors of Documents 4 and 6 are Confucian and part of the Tang court, and because of that they are against Buddhism. Documents 1 and 5 come from Buddhists (Document 1 is supposedly the first sermon preached by the Buddha himself) who are in favor of Buddhism. Chinese scholars are intelligent and literate, causing their viewpoint to be held in high regard.

Because of this, Chinese scholars may have been able to influence others opinions. This is evident in Document 2, where Chinese scholar Zhi Dun tried to calm the people of the nation down and stick to their religion even when times are hard (Asian Nomads invaded Northern China during his period). Zhi Dun may have been trying to soothe the people by emphasizing on the spiritual side of Buddhism because he didn’t want the peasants to rebel.

Similar to Document 2, Document 3 features an anonymous Chinese scholar who was defending Buddhism and trying to convince people to convert. In the form of a Q&A session, this Chinese scholar defends Buddhism and provides answers to difficult questions such as why Buddhism was never practiced by the sages of the past and Confucius. Both Documents 2 and 3 has authors that support Buddhism and gone out of their way to promote the religion. Documents 4 and 5, in my opinion, are clearly written by biased authors who are anti-Buddhism.

Han You, a leading Confucian scholar and official and the Tang imperial court, mentioned that since Buddha’s sayings contain nothing about the ancient kinds and did not follow Confucian tradition, it is an evil and later generations should be spared from this “evil”. Tang Emperor Wu in Document 6 basically reiterated on this statement. Both authors believe that the spread of Buddhism is corrupt and that it is damaging to the public. However, both authors are part of the Tang court are also Confucian, so perhaps they are trying to resist Buddhism so that the new religion won’t overpower their authority.

By speaking badly of Buddhism, they might convince the public to remain with Confucianism. Documents 1 and 5 are both very interesting. In fact, Document 1 contains the first sermon preached by the Buddha himself. Document 5 is written by a Buddhist scholar who is also favored by the Tang imperial household, which is quite distinctive. These two authors are unique individuals, and both support Buddhism. However, while Zong Mi supports Buddhism, he is also open-minded and respects both Confucius and the Buddha.

He refers to them as perfect sages since their teachings lead to the creation of an orderly society. He differs from the rest of scholars in that he is basically neutral and doesn’t side with one religion over another. But even though these two authors are pro-Buddhism, there is a certain “voice” missing. I think a Buddhist peasant could contribute his opinion. Since he is from a lower class, he has the perspective of the religion from a poor person’s point of view and could have different feelings about it compared to higher class people such as Zong Mi and the Buddha.

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