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Master Xuan Zang's Life of Discipline, Experience atSangharama and Views on Vinaya



Parallel abstracts

According to Master Xuan Zang's life of discipline, and his records of experiences at Sangharamas at various places during his journey to the West in seeking the dharma, we may summarise the Master's view on vinaya into four points:1. He was able to adjust the vinaya to adapt to time and environmental conditions of different cultures and customs in various countries. He did not fall into the trap of dogmatism. For example, he agreed to the adjustment of the month of rain retreat, and the styles and sequential arrangement of the Sangha order according to circumstances without fear and hesitation.2. While he tried to adapt the vinaya to different circumstances, there were higher principles that he set his foundation upon. Although there was a lack of information in the current texts with regards to the complete view of the principles that the Master based his view on, from the decision he made under many circumstances, we could conclude that there were two main principles, namely, ‘to prolong the righteous dharma’ and 'to protect life'. These were the two highest principles that the Master based his judgment upon in his study of precepts and making behavioural decisions. Thus, no matter how he tried to adapt to the environment, he always insisted not to drink alcohol or eat meat.3. As a Mahayana practitioner, when confronting dogmatism among the practitioners of Sectarian Buddhism, he applied the 'classification of teachings' method. He saw these teachings as 'gradual teachings' that were not ultimate. It was obvious that the impact/influence of the 'gradual teachings' was more than the context of its teaching only.4. Throughout his life, Master Xuan Zang had met a lot of people. He had seen the kings of both big and small countries in India and China. He was treated with great respect and honour. However, he was never too proud of himself. He did not attach to the worldly fame. He devoted himself wholeheartedly in seeking the dharma, learning and promoting the dharma, and translating the sutras. He cared a lot about the unfair treatment that Buddhists encountered and tried his best to fight for the right for Sangha members so that their dignity could be preserved. While having a great sense of gratitude towards the kindness of the kings and teachers that he met, he upheld firmly the principles of 'prolonging the righteous dharma' and 'protecting life'. He devoted himself wholeheartedly in the venture of propagating the dharma and guiding sentient beings.




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