Buddhism in Modern Chinese Culture
Buddhism has existed for thousands of years and still has a profound influence on Chinese culture today despite the continued illegality of some religious belief and practice in China. This is most profoundly represented in the existence of the Falun Gong and the communist government’s crackdown on the organization and its rising popularity. Although pronounced and dramatic in relevance to the Falun Gong there are many other aspects of Chinese society and culture that show that Buddhism and religion in general is alive and well and, in many respects, growing in influence in modern Chinese Society.
A distinct advantage of Buddhism as a religion practiced in a controlled environment such as China is that the Buddhist doctrines do not require public worship or elaborate ceremony and in fact the religious practices of Buddhism are ones which can be undertaken without being noticed at all. So as a religion it is an excellent choice for the Chinese in this respect. But it is not just the religious aspects of Buddhism that is firmly entrenched in the Chinese psyche; it is the attainment of ideals and states of mind that are inherently Chinese. Despite this, organizations such as the Falun Gong, whose fundamental doctrines are rooted in Buddhist belief, are targeted by the government as a cult organization and forced underground. Despite this adversity Buddhism is alive and well in China, practiced both within the accepted parameters of the Chinese government and outside of that by groups considered radical by the government. Keywords; Falun Gong, Buddhism, religion, culture
Buddhism Background Information
Buddha is considered to be the greatest of the prophets because he is the only one to have achieved pure and complete enlightenment. Thus he is as much a role model in Buddhism as he is a God-like figure. Early in Buddha’s life (his birth name is Siddhartha Gautama) an astrologer proclaimed that Buddha would be either a great king or a great religious figure. Despite his father’s efforts to create the former, Buddha ventured through the world, sought wisdom and understanding, found compassion and enlightenment and became the latter, a religious prophet.
Buddha’s teachings are vast and complex but there are a number of his teachings and beliefs which form the fundamental doctrine of Buddhism. The first is related to karma. Buddhist's believe that karma, which is the cycle of suffering and rebirth, will revisit us as a consequence of our actions in this or former lives. Ethical conduct of course brings good karma and unethical deeds bad karma. It is important to note that karma is based on the intent of the doer rather than the action. Buddhists believe that every soul lives several lifetimes in a number of possible spheres including Naraka (hell), Preta (a ghost world), Animal, Human, Asura (demons), and Devas or Brahmas which is a good deity. There are other states but that is beyond the scope of this background information as a basis for understanding Buddhism in modern Chinese culture. In addition to the matters of reincarnation Buddhism also concerns itself with Four Noble Truths which essentially deal with human suffering and the path to relief. The path to the Noble Truth is The Middle Way (or Middle Path) which promulgates a moderate path, and an explanation of Nirvana (the goal of Buddhism), and the different possible mental states of being. These different states include the state of nothingness. Nothingness is liberation from objects, stress and the things in life to which we cling. It is important to have a superficial understanding of these basic principals in order to realize how Buddhism is still relevant in modern Chinese culture. Religion in China
The People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949 (Xinping, 2009), with the decree that all people in the Republic of China had freedom of thought, speech, publication, assembly, association, communication, etc… As...
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