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Old 07-17-2009, 05:54 PM   #38
Erick Mead
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 13

Allen Beebe wrote: View Post
" ... What kind of intellectual determinations can be made of the eternal Order that is naturally so (honi no dori)? Such terms as creating and the created are symbolic expressions fo Exoteric Buddhism, and we should not indulge in senseless speculation while clinging to the ordinary and superficial meanings of these words...."
"If due allowance is made for the differences in the Sanskrit and Japanese sounds, the Indian origin of the phonetic principles underlying this diagram will be evident. ... Some other sources attribute the diagram to Kibi-no-mabi (141) an envoy who visited China in 716 and 751 A.D. and who is said to have been taught the phonetic classification of the Japanese syllables during his stay in the T'ang capital.
Allen, please see here.

The presence of non-buddhist concepts like "creating and created" in this line of Buddhist teaching -- stemming from that time and place --- is not an accident nor a "superficial expression." A lot less than mere "speculation" is needed to understand their presence in this context.

The indirect influence of Christian thought on Kukai and Tantric thought generally flowing from the 8th-9th c. T'ang capital cannot reasonably be ignored. The "Six Perfections Sutra" Sat-Paramita Sutra formed the basis for an explicit Christian-Buddhist collaboration at the time concerned -- by the monk Prajna --who according to Kukai, himself, gave Kukai the copy of the translated Sat-paramita sutra he brought to Japan. We know that the Sat-Paramita Sutra translation was a collaboration with the 'Nestorian' Christian monks in Chang'an.

The closeness of work on Indian Buddhist texts of mutual interest came to be of a degree that it the Emperor Tetsung bestirred himslef over a translated scripture and specifically forbade further collaboration between the Christian and Buddhist monks -- which were apparently fruitful for both. (Seven volumes of work on this one occasion)

From the above linked document:

A Japanese scholar, Dr. Takakusa, while studying "The Catalogue (of the books of) teaching of Chakya (Buddha) in the period of Chanyuan" (785-804 A.D.), discovered a passage referring to the Christian presence in Hsian [[n.b.-- Chang'an] , and particularly to that of Adam Ching-ching. The passage referred to Prajna, the Indian Buddhist scholar who came to China in 782. It stated: "He translated together with Ching-ching, Adam, a Persian priest of the monastery of Ta-Ch'in, the Satparamita sutra from a Hu (Uigur) text, and finished translating seven volumes."50 The Catalogue writer went on to complain that Prajna knew neither Uigur nor Chinese and that Ching-ching knew no Sanskrit nor understood Buddhism, but both were seeking vainglory. He further mentioned that "They presented a memorial (to the Emperor) expecting to get it propagated" but that the Emperor (Tetsung, 780-804) was wise and after examining their work determined that it was poorly done, "the principles being obscure and the wording vague. The emperor then declared that the Ta-Ch'in religion and Buddhism were entirely opposed to each other; Ching-ching handed down the teaching of Mi-shih-ho (Messiah, using the same three Chinese characters as were used on the Nestorian Stone) while (Prajna) propagated the sutras of the Buddha. It is wished that the boundaries of the doctrine may be kept distinct."51 With that the emperor forbade the two from working together further.
One need not read too far to understand that a political concern was evident in squelching what was otherwise a seemingly productive religious/academic collaboration going for the better part of a hundred years. The massive and deadly An Lushan Rebellion which lasted almost eight years during the reigns of Taitsong and Tetsong (his son). Tibet was lost, and a brief Tibetan invasion occupied Chang'an (ca. 763 at the height of conflict, near its end).

An Lushan was a Sogdian general of the Chinese Army. The Sogdians were Persian speaking, and were increasingly Christianized from the 600's. This decree in the aftermath of that conflict was the beginning of progressively critical and xenophobic tendencies (that would remain with the Chinese Empire from that point forward), and culminating in the T'ang's official and brutal expulsion of both Christianity and Buddhism in the mid ninth century --. resulting in the essential extinction of Chinese Christianity and the near extinction of Chinese Buddhism.

The period for which the attribution to Kibi no Mabi is attested is smack in the middle of the period of T'ang Christian influence in Chang'an -- the first works in Chinese of which are recorded as early as 635-641 and already then using Buddhist imagery to communicate the Christian message, and from which rudimentary beginnings they increased in sophisticated use of such language and the Silk Road's syncretic spirit.


Erick Mead
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