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By Jamie Hubbard

Despite the typical view of Buddhism as non-dogmatic and tolerant, the historic checklist preserves many examples of Buddhist thinkers and activities that have been banned as heretical or subversive. The San-chieh (Three degrees) was once a well-liked and influential chinese language Buddhist flow throughout the Sui and Tang sessions, counting strong statesmen, imperial princes, or even an empress, Empress Wu, between its consumers. In spite, or maybe accurately simply because, of its proximity to strength, the San-chieh circulate ran afoul of the gurus and its teachings and texts have been formally proscribed various occasions over a several-hundred-year historical past. as a result of those suppressions San-chieh texts have been misplaced and little information regarding its teachings or background is offered. the current paintings, the 1st English learn of the San-chieh flow, makes use of manuscripts chanced on at Tun-huang to check the doctrine and institutional practices of this flow within the better context of Mahayana doctrine and perform. by way of viewing San-Chieh within the context of Mahayana Buddhism, Hubbard unearths it to be faraway from heretical and thereby increases vital questions on orthodoxy and canon in Buddhism. He indicates that a number of the hallmark principles and practices of chinese language Buddhism locate an early and specific expression within the San-chieh texts.

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The Beginning: Decline as Polemic T he buddhist tradition of its own decline is a vision of a world in which chaos and strife would reign where the Buddha-dharma had once flourished. This vision is well represented in the Nik„ya, Ãgama, Vinaya, commentaries, Mahayana, and tantras, and it later helped to fuel both the doctrine of the Pure Land schools and the millenarian hopes of Buddhists throughout Asia. One of the most fascinating aspects of this strain of Buddhist thought is the view it affords of the interplay between religious doctrine and historical environment, for in the situations that gave rise to these ideas we can see many of the struggles of the early Buddhist communities, both for doctrinal purity as well as for simple survival in the face of hostile war-lords and monarchs (although even the latter is used to underscore the importance of doctrinal purity).

On the basis of the teaching of tathagatagarbha, Buddhanature, and the holistic vision of the Hua-yen Sðtra, these four Buddhas were taught to be four aspects of the “Universal Buddha” inherent in all sentient 92 Practice in Accord with the Capacity, 121–24. 105b. 475s; see chapter 8, 205–208. 105b. On Universal Respect see also Nishimoto, Sangaikyõ, 319–20, 326–27. 28 / hsin-hsing— a buddhist heretic? 96 In these teachings (detailed in part 3) the all-pervading truth of the dharmadh„tu is seen to be the reality of all phenomena and all sentient beings, even as they exist in samsara; hence they are to be revered as Buddhas at this very moment.

92 The fact that the various practices relating to food come ³rst reµects a central concern with the rules for receiving alms and eating in the San-chieh community, and, inasmuch as I have no knowledge of Hsin-hsing or his followers practicing the dhðta relating to dwelling, perhaps indicates a preferential order as well. 94 Universal respect The practices described so far—various forms of meditative exercise, penitential rites, regular periods of daily worship, and the ascetic practices of the dhðta—all serve to locate Hsin-hsing in the general context of Buddhist practices popular in the northern dynasties during the late sixth century.

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