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The Impact Of Translated Esoteric Buddhist Scriptures On Chinese Buddhism

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Chapter Summary

The influence of esoteric Buddhist scriptures on Chinese Buddhism is a matter of considerable opinion and debate. The primary problem facing researchers is the general lack of conclusive evidence on how Chinese monks, exegetes, and laypeople responded to these new scriptures from India that outlined the procedures for powerful rituals. Nevertheless, evidence suggests that these scriptures stimulated innovations in Buddhist doctrine, contributed to the already widespread Chinese interest in ritual practices, reemphasized the relationship between the state and the Buddhist church, promoted worship of new forms of Avalokiteśvara, and contributed to rapprochement between Buddhism, Daoism, and popular religions. This chapter briefly assesses the impact of this new strand of Mahāyāna literature and practice in China and presents something of the historical context. Although the connections between Daoism, popular religion, and esoteric/tantric Buddhism are compelling, there is little evidence that shamans and practitioners read or knew of the translated Buddhist materials.

Keywords: China; Chinese Buddhism; Daoism; translated esoteric Buddhist scriptures



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